I'm A Computer

I'm on a computer that is moving as fast as old school dial up. At least the radio is playing the best of the oldies. Our plans are up in the air but that's the plan. The biggest storm in the world has taken up residence over every part of New Zealand. Wait and see.

I think its time to catch up and edit down: [if you ever want to read the full version or sit in front of a campfire and tell stories, let me know]

9/11/10
Last night we talked with Bryan about the best way to see Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach. We walked into the office like zombies, drained from a day of extreme hiking. I think Denise was already in her pajamas. Even though we wanted to travel to touristy places, they are not easily accessible by car.

Bryan told us to take a tour bus that leaves early in the morning and spend the day doing stuff ... something ... other things ... more stuff ... and we said yes.

We made it from Paihia to the Ancient Kauri Kingdom and Cafe with the "world famous 45,000 year old staircase" in good time. In fact, we arrived at the pick-up spot early. I couldn't find the staircase but I did see a bird crash into the window, trying to get outside from inside the store.

The Harrison's bus arrived, an old coach that reminded me of Shortline in New York. There are 16 of us on a bus for 60, the favorable imbalance of off season travel. Denise and I grab the back seats because they sit higher than the rest. The weather is miserable, rain and fog follow us the entire way. Dennis, the driver, shares every detail of every small town we drive through and those that we don't.

Cape Reinga is at the northern tip of New Zealand, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.  According to Maori culture, this is the "place of leaping" for souls into the underworld. Dennis goes into the history and rituals, capturing all the air in the bus with his story. As he begins a Maori prayer for the dead, I realize I'm suffocating. I turn my focus to the endless white wall of fog. I imagine this to be the veil between dimensions; we are truly at the end of the world. The fog thickens and appears to solidify as we pull into the parking lot.

We have 45 minutes to explore. The weather is unlike anything I have ever experienced. The rain attacked from all directions -- the raindrops were pins stinging my face; the wind blew me to the side and the fog closed in on the path leaving a giant white nothing. There was no one at the lighthouse and I could barely see the ocean below. So I closed my eyes and faced the fury of nature. The discomfort of this moment felt appropriate -- I am alive. I turned around and walked away from the end of the world.

From Cape Reinga we head towards 90 Mile Beach, a legitimate highway but with major restrictions. Drive at your own risk. Don't get caught in high tide. If you get stuck in the sand, you will be washed away. We drive through the rising tide and the landscape changes abruptly from forest to sand. We pull into a stream and Dennis stops the bus. A stream.  He jumps up and mumbles about dune riding ... Ohhhhhhh ...
What?
I jump out of the bus, grab a toboggan and turn to Dennis:
What?
Follow the footsteps when you go up and keep to the side when you go down. The other kids are already running up the ginormous dune, toboggans in tow. Halfway up the hill I realize the dune is much bigger than it appeared.
The first guy goes tumbling down.
Then the next guy.
I make it to the top and what the hell. It's raining and windy and I'm standing at the top of a sand dune in New Zealand. I jump on the toboggan and go, dragging my feet to slow me down from a bazillion miles/hr to a zillion miles/hr.
Soaking wet and covered in sand, my jeans found a whole new level of grossness. Relentless shivering makes the rest of the ride a condition of extremes: everything is perfect and everything is uncomfortable.


9/12/10
While not making plans is liberating and cool, it also gets kind of stressful. Hours and dollars disappear into the internets searching for what happens next.  Without a place to stay, we pack up and get on the road south towards Auckland.

A quick stop at one of New Zealand's awesome I-Sites and we now have lodging in Auckland.

We drive the coastal route -- first to Langs Beach and then Manghaerei Heads. I've been talking up the Cliff Walk for days and hold my breath for good weather. As we pull into the parking lot we see what we see and race to get our gear together. The Pacific Coast is dotted with black sand that turns into rocks that turns into larger rocks that turns into islands that disappear into the horizon.

I sigh as I read the sign for the walk, directing us down the beach to its start but warning us of an impossible return in high tide.
What time is high tide? Right.
We alter our hike, walking the beach and climbing only the first thousand steps to the cliff top. The stairs take us through the brightest greens and blues, sheep on one side ocean on the other.

It's 8pm and restaurants are already closed in Auckland.  Maybe a chocolate bar for dinner ... No! Wait! It's Wagamama! On the way back, we sidetrack for ice cream, chocolate and kiwi sorbet. Mmmm.
But then it starts to rain. My ice cream gets wet. The saddest ever.


9/13/10
Papatoetoe. Whatawhata. It's a driving day and another chance to butcher the name of every town we pass through. And laugh about it.

Things we wonder about:
Is it really that bad to pick up a hitchhiker carrying a surfboard when there is no water in sight?
How do cows stand on the side of a steep hill?
Why do all the cows face in the same direction?
Where are the unicorns?

Anna at I-Site in Auckland is amazing. She set us straight and turned our ??? to !!! Many fun things to come.

To Waitomo.
We arrive at our hostel -- Juno Hall -- located in the middle of nowhere. There are animals outside that I can't identify. I'm a city girl. Alpaca? Ostrich? I need one of those Farmer and The Dell sounds thing for kids. Or is it Old McDonald? Wood paneling and plaid sheets tie the room together. This isn't just rustic, this is roughing it. I make my eyes go fuzzy so that I see the colors not the details.

Using the Internet is better than sleep. But I was so busy updating my blog I failed to notice the huge pile of ants swarming around me ...


9/14/10
Bad day.

Today's entry has been edited to fit your screen.

Glowworms light up the caves and turn the world inside out: the night sky appears below the ground. Glowworms are really maggots. They live for about 11 months and only two days in their adult stage. Forever young and grossly stunning.

I went blackwater cave rafting. It's every fear packed into an inner tube sent down a river into the depths of a cave.

I don't want to talk about it.

I didn't get a chance to thank Monkey for saving me. Shock is silencing.  I don't even know who pulled me from the water. Stuck in the caves though, he talked me through the rest of the trek. I know he does this stuff everyday but it's not everyday that I almost drowned.
Thank you.


9/15/10
Rotorua stinks!
It really does.
Sulfur. 

One of my most favorite things about the trip so far is that I am always surprised.  It is impossible to begin to imagine anything that we sign ourselves up for. It's like everyday is my birthday so everyday I get a present. Today was no exception.

When we arrive at the Zorb place, we see Phil and Rachel who we met blackwater rafting.
"How's your head?"
"I'm fine, thanks." I am fine. Mostly.
They are traveling north and we are traveling south. After exchanging NZ tips, Denise and I change into our bathing suits. It's cold but the sun is warm. We hop in the back of a van and BUMP BUMP BUMP to the top of the hill. Geeeez.
Zydroing is like zorbing except with water. It's also better for people who get sick when flipped over and over at accelerating rates. = Me. When you zorb you are strapped in and roll down the hill with the ball. When you Zydro, the water keeps you from flipping when you roll down the hill with the ball.
The water goes in. Then we slide in through a small opening in the giant plastic ball. Then we roll the hell down a mountain. WOW!

OMG. WTF. ER.


9/16/10
Because I broke my body, Denise and I decide to stay in Rotorua one more day. After we move from our fancy pants hotel to another not so fancy pants hotel down the street, it's a slow day.

When in Rotorua ...

We drive out to Waimangu Volcanic Valley and take an hour long walk through the newest geothermal area in the world.  The rain is on and off but the colors stay unreal. It's like a rainbow melted all over the landscape. New Zealand is the Land of Rainbows.

Everyone is talking about the bad weather. And our plans change like the wind. Again.