Off to a Bumpy Start
Once arriving in the Philly Airport, I found out that my flight had been oversold. They put me on the next flight and gave me a $10 voucher. So kind. 5 hours later I was on my way to LA. Landed in LA and Erin was waiting for me which was nice and we went over to baggage claim to find out that my bag was MIA. As of this writing, I’ve been with the same underwear for 4 days straight (don’t worry, they’ve been washed.) Here is my newest pack list:
- pair of underwear
- pair of socks
- t shirt
- long sleeve
Anyhow, I had better get used to this. It sucks but it made me realize that maybe I over-packed after all, because seriously, I’m all good with what I’ve got.
Daniel and Katherina (old friends of Erin’s from Germany who just moved here) picked us up from the airport and have seriously been lifesavers. They allowed us to crash at their place in Hamilton for 3 nights and have shown us so much of the North Island so far. After we left the airport, we toured the harbor and then had a scenic car tour which ended with a 360 degree pan-am view of the bay and city at Mt. Eden, a now defunct volcano. We continued on to Bridal Veil falls, a 165 foot waterfall and hiked down to the base to enjoy the view. Then off to a small surf village called Raglan, renowned for it’s black sand beaches and surfing for all abilities. I quickly stripped down to my skivvies for a swim in the luke-warm water. Ahhh, the fun has begun. I met a Kiwi out in the waves who gave me some great suggestions about what to do and where to go. He is a dairy-farmer and after I inquired what that entails, he smartly replied “I milk cows.” Kiwi’s like to live their lives to the fullest and worry about work afterwards. Sounds pretty simple…I may just try that.
As I mentioned, Katha and Daniel live in Hamilton, which is about an hour South of Auckland. It has been our home for the past 3 nights. Katha took Erin and I to a local iSite (a really sweet information gathering venue in just about every city in NZ) on Wednesday morning so we could figure out what the next step would be. Believe it or not, we found that it’s actually more economical to rent a car then to take the bus and pay for hostels every night, as long as you don’t mind sleeping in a tent. But we still had the issue of my missing backpack and didn’t want to stray too far from Auckland. That afternoon, they took us to the Hamilton Gardens, a huge, stunning park that runs adjacent to the Waikato River. The park is broken down into multiple sections (think Golden Gate) but it’s themed more around different types of gardens throughout the world. We spent over 3 hours walking around, checking out the herb garden and my favorite, the sustainable garden. This garden would feed a family of four with only a 1/2 day of work per week. It takes very little maintenance and upkeep and uses normal household compost to use as soil. It’s pretty in-depth but once up and running, it would be nice to have. Then we walked around the cultural gardens which included the American West, Chinese, Italian Renaissance, and Indian. Very cool to see and made me happy that I will see all of these in person on the trip.
Every day we would inquire into the whereabouts of my bag, but it is very hard to get a straight answer. It’s kind of delaying the “start” of the trip, but it’s been really fun to just hang with Katha, Daniel and Erin. Also, overcoming the jet-lag has been easier with this transition.
Thursday morning we awoke and Katha took us to Rotorua, a town about an hour and half SE of Hamilton. We visited some natural hot springs and the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Park, a geo-thermal hotbed. The smell was overwhelming…think of a long roadtrip with your Uncle and all the windows won’t roll down. You get the idea. Sulphur in the air gave me a terrible headache but regardless, it was great to see. There were huge caribbean-blue green pools with steam rising off. Not the kind you would want to swim in though as the temperature of the liquids were over 150 degrees at the surface and close to 300 degrees at the deepest depths. Due to these kinds of forces the Earth has been changing, particularly in this area of the world. The gases and volcanic activity here have changed the landscape tremendously over the past 1000 years. It just made me think what several million could do. Evolution, anyone?
We hurried back to Hamilton and after some quick research, Erin and I cooked our hosts a nice authentic NZ meal as a way of saying thanks for all they’ve done. I will post the recipes next time I have a chance. It turned out delicious and they even cracked a bottle of wine for the occasion from a vineyard in Germany aptly named “Schneider.” Off to bed early as we got up early to head to Auckland airport to demand my bag. More to follow including pictures…