Start, stop, start, stop…….!! January 24, 2020

Today started out just hunky dory, we did some early morning exercises, scarfed down some breakfast and hit the ground running. Arriving at Lake Taupo at about 11:30, we were stopped and told “sorry, you can’t check in yet.” Time to find lunch. We shared a plate of loaded potatoes (we need to teach seasoning to this country—bland food) and discussed our next steps. Starting again we found a local visitor center where we got quite a bit of information on hiking in the local area. Dave found out that this weekend in nearby Taupo, Billy Idol, George Thorogood, and Creedence Clearwater Revisited were playing a concert. “Sorry, no tickets available”, another stop!! But then, woo hoo!!! Start again: while we were discussing trails, a representative in the visitor center got a text. Someone is ill and not going to the concert. Is there anyone who was interested in the tickets. Dave leaped at the opportunity. “How much?” he asked. ……………Screech! The brakes were hit again – another stop. Sorry Dave, these tickets are only for employees of the visitor center. He was unable to get a job at short notice.

We wandered around the grocery store to see what options we had for dinner and kill a little time until it was 2 pm and we could pick up the keys. Starting off again, we headed off to pick up the keys at the local gas station for our next AirBnB. We arrived at the station and they advised us, “Sorry, we don’t have the keys. Maybe the owner is at the house.” Another screeching halt!!

Starting off again, we headed to the accommodations and we finally connected with the local host and were able to get into the room.

Finally in the room, the internet starts, then stops, then starts, then stops, then starts, then stops. Needless to say, it is not the easiest way to blog when you have sporadic internet access. Oh well, we will head out and get some groceries for the next 11 days. Success occurred when we started dinner. We had tacos, something we were finally used to having, and only stopped when we were completely satiated!!!

Olympics activities in Rotorua, New Zealand 01/23/2020

The day started out by mentally preparing for the “Olympics” in Rotorua. While we have completed the sport of luge in Lake Placid, both during the summer and winter, we were still not prepared for the luge in Rotorua. After a gondola ride up to the top of the hill, we got in line to get the instructions from the “coach” or attendant before racing down the first course in the racetrack. Dave quickly picked up speed and rounded a corner overtaking Kathy, zipping in and out he passed several slower “athletes” to find himself down at the bottom before Kathy could catch up. After a ride up the chair lift, we decided to try a more difficult run. Dave, again being the gentleman, let Kathy get a head start and then promptly passed her as he sped down the hill (weight can be helpful at times!) This time Kathy and Dave both passed slower riders, but Dave still managed to beat Kathy to the bottom of the hill!! Another run, another attempt for Kathy to try and redeem herself! This time, the “expert” track was decided upon that required the “athlete” to navigate obstacles and occasionally catch air as the luge flew over bumps in the track. Kathy, ever cautious, was passed by rider after rider and Dave waited patiently at the bottom for Kathy to reach him….dead last!! Kathy and Dave then decided upon a scenic run where we meandered down through the shade. One last run, Kathy opted out and Dave took the expert run so that he could risk it all to achieve maximum air!!! He came back with no bumps or bruises and did not overturn his luge. Success!!!

Then it was time to find some mellow activities. A walk through Kuirau Park where we had the opportunity to view multiple geothermal features. We were able to sit and stick our feet in a manmade geothermal pool (one that was a bit cooler) and watch the tourists (us included) marvel at the warmth.

Winding down, we visited Government Gardens where we saw black swans, pied cormorants, Australasian swamphens and some apparently lost Canada geese. It was interesting to walk around the gardens, read the historical information, and watch the people play croquet. It was a great way to end our last full day in Rotorua!!

The Grinch in Rotorua New Zealand 01/22/2020

The Grinch you say? Stink, Stank, Stunk! That is the description of  much of the air in Rotorua is as the sulfur from the geothermal features lingers in the community. Like the Grinch, although Rotorua has a big heart and lots of big trees!!

Today started out mundane, some exercises and then some housekeeping duties of laundry and grocery shopping. We ran to the mall to mail Asia’s birthday card and a thank you gift to Patti T at AMC for being so helpful!!

Finally, time to play!! For a nice change of pace, we did a long hike through Redwood Recreation Area, which is a forest of California Redwoods planted around the early 1900’s. It was an interesting juxtaposition to see a Redwood tree growing next to a palm tree??? A little Dr. Seuss, hmmmmm? At the top of the trail we stood at an overlook watching a geyser spit out some hot water. Old Faithful it was not, but still pretty amazing. We saw some hot pots of mud and some pools of hot mineral water around the geyser. The walk up and down gave us all the steps and heart points for the day, so it was time for a change of pace. We saw geysers, big trees, mud pots and palm trees all while walking through a forest of Redwood trees.

We next did something that, while not planned, worked out perfectly. We decided we wanted to see the Tamaki Maori Village, which is an entire experience. It was recommended by one of our Airbnb hosts and Trip Adviser rates it as one of the best experiences for tourists. Alas, they were all booked until tomorrow. Deciding to go in and book directly with the operator instead of online was very fortuitous!! As the scheduler behind the desk said, “tomorrow at 5pm is our only time” a driver came in and said, “We can take them, hurry up and the bus will wait for them.” Thank you very much Ngata!!! We got to experience and learn about the culture of the Moari people, the first to arrive here in New Zealand over a thousand years ago, watched Dave be the first eliminated in a game of sticks, saw him perform a tribal dance, and then ate a very nice meal with our tribe. We started out as strangers and ended up as family, just like in the Grinch. Our tribe had folks from Australia, India, the Netherlands, the UK and several from the US. It was fun to talk with them and get, and give, tips about traveling.

Welcome to Middle Earth, 01/21/2020

Today started out relaxed and easy prior to our journey to our next stop. An easy going walk along the water where we had a great conversation with someone from South Africa and had some fun greeting the local canines who were out playing with their masters.

Packing up, we headed off after saying goodbye to our local hosts, who were kind and informative. The location was excellent and the kindness they extended was greatly appreciated.

We started the journey to Rotorua and then did a bit of a detour heading to Middle Earth. Hobbiton is the location of the filming of the Shire in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. We had a two-hour guided walking tour where we had the opportunity to walk the same path that Frodo, Bilbo, and Sam (Kathy’s favorite) walked. We saw the bench that Gandalf and Frodo sat to discuss the “adventure”. Lastly, we “bellied” up to the bar in the Green Dragon Inn located in the Shire where Dave had Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic) and Kathy had a hard cider! Sitting around the table, Kathy gave Dave the Cliff Notes version of the Lord of the Rings as he has never seen the movies. After her abbreviated version he will probably avoid the movie.

Reluctantly leaving Middle Earth, we headed to Rotorua, our next stop in our round the world trip. Finally finding our way to our next lodging, we gratefully unloaded the car and discussed what to do for dinner. We should have stayed in Middle Earth!!! Dinner was a dilemma between making omelets, which might have been the safe choice, or hot sandwich/burger/dogs at a local shop. Deciding upon the burger joint might not have been the best option. Kathy took apart her chicken sandwich and ate just the chicken, leaving the BBQ sauce, ham, pineapple, onion rings, condiments, and buns in their package and opted for the safe option of just chicken. Dave, being the braver sort, tackled his burger that had ham and beets along with his other traditional burger items. Kathy did try “canned” milk. It was vanilla-flavored milk and was sweet without being too sweet. While it was not on her “must try” list, it is not something she would say “never again.”

Time to relax for the day, put up our feet and sit in the shade under the covered patio of our most recent accommodations. The patio is surrounded by lots of green vegetation, including grapevines, which are quite a hit with the various local birds. We even had a short visit from the local tabby cat.

01/20/2020 Whitianga, NZ Risk versus Reward

This morning it was all about the risks versus the rewards!!! After doing some exercises, we decided to risk a drive up a narrow, winding dirt road, where the edge of the precipice was on the passenger side of the car and the driver was comfortably seated next to firmer ground, just to take a hike. Really? Whose idea was that? Okay it was an agreed upon hike, but still someone needs to be the brains of the group!! The reward was we ended up in a charming town called Coromandel where we had lunch. Lunch was another risk versus a reward as we tried some new sandwiches which were so-so and then dessert – YUM!!! It was a raspberry zinger on steroids!! The risk of a new sandwich was the reward of a great dessert. (Jill — pictures of sandwiches just for you!!)

At that point we decided to limit our risk and hike in the local area instead of venturing out trying to navigate another dirt road. This reaped great rewards as we hiked up a beautiful hill which gave us sweeping views of the local area. We saw a Kauri tree that was 1200 hundred years old and was as majestic and proud as only a tree that has achieved that age can be.

Heading back, we decided after a several mile hike that we needed to wind down and relax. Dave had the perfect idea!! A beautiful mineral hot spring resort where we soaked in the hot mineral springs. We chatted with a woman from Toronto who is traveling alone and enjoying her time away from the cold and snow. She was a big NFL fan so had the latest scores of the games played earlier in the day!!

Time to wind down. We had a nice, relaxing dinner and then watched the movie “The Two Popes”, a great way to end the day.

01/19/2020 Whitianga, New Zealand—Hot day—Hot Water Beach

It is sunny and warm here and so the it made for an optimal day to head to the beach. Putting on our suits and grabbing our towels, we headed off to Hot Water Beach. Hot Water Beach is known for the ability to dig holes in the sand (within a narrow window around low tide) and be able to “build’ your own hot tub on the beach from the geothermal features underground. We wandered down to see if anyone had built their own “hot tub”, but on the initial pass we did not find any successful holes. We decided to head back to the car, grab our towels, and find a shady spot along the edges of the beach. Parking ourselves under a tree we laid out our towels and contemplated the waves crashing into the shore.

Getting up the nerve, we wandered out into the surf to play. Dave being much bolder dove right in. Kathy slowly inched herself into the cold waters of the Pacific. After a few more feet the Pacific Ocean knocked Kathy over, and she was suddenly acclimated to the water. Dave and Kathy played and laughed in the ocean. Kathy watched as Dave dove headfirst into the waves and body surfed along the wave into the shore. Kathy body surfed a couple of times but did not stray too far out in the deep end. Tired, we walked back to our towels where we let the warmth of the afternoon dry us out. Getting warm fairly quickly, we decided another romp in the water was just what was needed. A great deal more laughter ensued, especially when Kathy spotted her hair tie that she had lost earlier. Running along the edge of the surf, we were finally able to capture the escaping hair tie!!

Another stroll down the beach to check out the pools, we found a successful pool with a group of people sitting in the hot springs basking in the warm temperatures. They offered to let Kathy to test out the water where she leaned over to test out the temperature. While not cold, it was not exactly hot yet – wrong time of the tides, we guess. We were now thoroughly debrided from the sand, so we figured it was time to head to another place in our adventures.

Somewhat close to Cathedral Cove, we decided to head there for our next adventure of the day. Taking the commuter bus up to the cove parking lot (or “car park”), we did a 35-minute hike down to the cove. The cove was a beautiful arch that you could walk under and get from one beach to another. Amazing view!!! We did not linger long to enjoy the sand or surf as the last bus was a 6 pm and we had only a short time to get back up the incline and back to our car. Well worth the hike.

Dave cooked dinner, meat pies with a salad!! Much more successful than the lasagna!!! Thank you, Dave!!! We rested the balance of the evening as the sun, sand, and pounding surf made us feel like we had been through a washing machine. We had sand in places we didn’t even know we had! 😊