Saturday, 20 February 2016

Hip To Be Square

Day 200- We knew what the goal was for the day. We got to Lake Taupo and found a pub that was playing the NFC and AFC championship games for the NFL. Well, that is to say that we found a pub that was willing to switch the channel off cricket to the the games for us. Mike was very happy to have some NFL time and a nice draft beer to top it off.


We spent the rest of the afternoon at the pub watching the back to back games. After, we headed over to a free campsite called Reid's for the night. It was packed but I can understand why. Most sites were a stones throw away from a rushing river and it was a very popular spot for kayakers and travellers alike. All the visitors were happy to share the space. 

Day 201- We knew we'd be spending a few extra days in Lake Taupo because we had a show to catch, so we enjoyed our free time and hit the cafes to catch up on the blog. Not before we faught the fast moving current in the river with a swim. The water was cold and crispy and clear!

I also took the free time to shower... yes it does require 'extra time' when it has been a couple days... I also died my hair, although it didn't work, so I guess I will just have to embrace the greys! 

Day 202- It was a splendid rainy day which gave us more guilt free time to work on the blog, without feeling like we were missing out on local activities. After we'd exhausted all the free wifi in town and the rain cleared, we spent the afternoon at the golf course. 


For $50 dollars, we got a set of clubs and nine holes of golf for both of us. As I was playing one of my worst games ever, we heard someone yell "FOUUUUR". Of course I responded by yelling back "FIVE" seconds before a little white ball fell down inches from my face and burried itself into the wet ground at my feet. Mike's jaw dropped and we both started laughing instantly. 


The ball at my feet was the infamous 'FOUR' ball and no it didn't roll. The ground was wet from the morning rain so the ball stopped where it fell. That is how close I came to getting a golf ball right between the eyes! The man who hit the ball ran around the corner, relieved to see us both still standing. 

After golf we went to the theaters in town to watch the new Tarantino flick, The Hateful Eight. While we waited for the movie to start, Mike and I noticed two very cool looking older men sitting in front of us. They were very 'rock and roll' for their age and I soon realized they must be two of the band members Mike and I came to Lake Taupo to see. We were a bit star struck after we confirmed that it was in fact two of the main rockers. We said hello at the end of the movie and chatted about the movie a bit. They loved it and actually thought it was funny. I enjoyed the story and felt like it was very Quentin. Mike wasn't a huge fan because he thought it was too much like past movies and a little cheesy. The movie was insanely gory and I struggled to watch several scenes. 

I needed something to take my mind off of the bloody horror that we just witnessed so we ended the night with the movie White Chicks while we cooked dinner. Afterwards we returned to Reid's campsite to sleep. So basically our day consisted of golf, hanging with some old rockers and watching movies. Pretty chill all in all... 

Day 203- Was all business and no time for shenanigans. We had to get organized for the next few days by filling up all of our water jugs, replenishing our ice supply, grocery shopping and submitting my claim for my doctor visit. I also had to get some research done for Nepal. All of our wifi time had been going to the blog and my planning sessions were falling to the way side. After we got some emails sent for an excursion in Nepal, we hit the road to see Huka Falls. 

Huka falls makes up multiple waterfalls that drain Lake Taupo. These mighty falls create a volume of flowing water that reaches upwards of 220,000 litres per second. 

After the falls we went to our secret spot to cook dinner. During the last week, we'd found a parking area that had a free wifi hotspot, so we spent most nights cooking dinner while streaming movies or music. On this particular night we had the added bonus of hearing one of the performers for the show we were anxiously awaiting, doing her sound check. We enjoyed her powerful raspy voice and cooked up some spicy chicken fajitas. 

Our last task of the day was to visit the natural hot springs. A short drive out of town brought us to the Spa Thermal Park. These hot springs consist of extremely hot water streaming into the larger river near by. At the point where the two meet it creates a lovely hot tub temperature pool. However, before we turned into the thermal park, we pulled over on the highway to capture one of the most beautiful vistas. The view of the river from the highway was stunning and really showed how untouched much of New Zealand remains. 

We parked outside of the gate because a sign showed them closing at 8 pm and we didn't want to risk getting locked in for the night. We walked along the beautifully manicured grassy fields until we arrived at the river. A gentle trickling waterfall poured into the river and steam rose to create a misty atmosphere. The steam was created by the hot water running from the waterfall and mixing in with the cold river water below. I tried getting a photo but it was too steamy, so this is all I have to remember it by. 

We accomplished everything we wanted for the day and more importantly, we were fully prepped for 'the big show'. 

Day 204- Mike refers to this day as the day he invented time travel. Without knowing so, we were transported back to the 80's and got a look at what partying was like for our parents. Although we were the youngest spectators at the Lake Taupo summer concert, we were just as familiar with the popular songs as most of the 'parents' were.  The concert started at the conservative hour of 11 am and would end nice and early at 6, leaving ample time for its patrons to get home safe and sound before dark... WHEWWWW, do they know how to party or what?! To be clear, 6 pm not 6 am...

The amphitheater was sold out and 14000 people filled the grounds rocking and rolling to the likes of Melissa Etheridge, REO Speedwagon and Huey Lewis and The News. 

Although my friends may not recognize the bands names, I'm sure we have all heard the hits on good ol' 95.9 with Don, Joanne and the Coach. 

Melissa was awesome and she had all the ladies...moms, in the crowd dancing like it was 1993. Her hits include, 'Come To My Window', 'I'm The Only One' and 'Like The Way I Do'.  

Next up and possibly our most favorite performers were REO Speedwagon. Dave and Bruce were the two rockers we met at the movie theather and we felt like we had a connection with them because of it... ya know... cuz we chill and stuff...They've been around since 1967 but their age hasn't slowed them down, they killed it onstage and the whole amphitheater rocked out with them. 

Their classic hits include 'Keep On Loving You' and 'Can't Fight This Feeling'. 


At the end of their performance, the lead singer Kevin threw his guitar pick into the crowd. Mike and another guy were the only two who saw it and they both crawled on the floor, looking for the used pick. 

Mike found it! SAWEEEET!

The last and main event for the evening was Huey Lewis and the News. They definitely had the most recognizable songs and the crowd sang along with youthful passion. I was surprised that I knew most of the words for many of the songs and I had no problem fitting in with the crowd. Huey Lewis and the News are most famous for the Back to the Future song, 'Power of Love' along with the musical version of Ghostbusters. 


The whole day was fantastic and we were glad we extended our stay in Lake Taupo to attend the concert. You know what they say, it's 'hip, hip, it's hip to be square'. 

Day 205- Even though we had an early morning start, we were feeling pretty good thanks to the concert ending at 6 pm. We needed to feel energized for the day ahead of us. We were embarking on a strenuous journey up and over a mountain range, to complete a 19.4 km single day trek. The estimated time for the hike was 7-9 hours, so we packed our bags full with water, nuts, tuna sandwiches and hard boiled eggs. 

Check out Mike's cool new double knee braces. One brace... cool. Double knee brace... Not so much.  Hahaha

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is one of the most popular hikes in New Zealand and the world. It is most well known for passing the famous Lord of the Rings volcano, Mount Doom. It also attracts hikers because of the emerald lakes at the top of the mountain. 

Mike and I wanted to beat the estimated climbing time for the trek so we pushed ourselves to our max from start to finish. The trek was difficult and the first 3 hours were straight uphill with no breaks. The scenery was a great motivator as well as our biggest distraction. 

Usually when people hike they tend to look at their feet for most of the hike and forget to look up. For this hike, we needed no reminders. 

I forget why we were laughing so hard but I'm sure Mike had something to do with it. 

Where else will our feet take us?

Mount Doom was behind the clouds for most of the hike but we did manage to catch a glimps of the peak at one point.

Red rock still showed the effects of past eruptions. We've never seen anything like it. 

A big lake at the top in the distance. 

And of course, my favorite part of the hike, the emerald lakes. To be clear, nothing was done to the photos to make the colors stand out, they are naturally that vibrant. So cool.

The trek down the other side of the mountain might have been the toughest part. It was long and going  downhill is really rough on the feet, toes and knees. While we were walking, someone asked me if I knew what lake was visible at the bottom of the mountain. I didn't have the answer but this sparked a 3 hour long conversation with some fellow hikers who were from Canada on their honeymoon. 

The final section of the trek took us through the forest.

While I took a photo of the stream below, I stood up too fast and the cap to my camera fell into the stream. Oh no!

After 6 hours of straight hiking with only a 15 minute stop at the top to eat our lunch, we completed the hike. 

Since the hike finishes at a different location than the beginning, visitors need to book a shuttle transfer back to the starting parking lot. The fee is $30 each and Mike and I hadn't booked anything. Lucky our new friends had parked at the finish line and were kind enough to give us a ride back.

We weren't ready to say goodbye to them yet so we found some natural hot springs close by and went together to soak our sore bodies in the mineral water. The hot water was the perfect finish to our strenuous day. 

We went our seperate ways for dinner and met back up with Kat and Dustin for a celebratory beer at the local tavern. It was great to visit with some fellow Canadians and we hope to catch back up with the newlyweds in the homeland. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Volcanic Landmine

Day 197- A day of driving to Rotorua would take us the morning and had us there for about 1pm. Rotorua is said to be the Vegas of New Zealand, according to Kiwi's. However, not knowing that most Kiwi's have never been to Las Vegas before, you can imagine the disappointment when Mike and his 4 good buddies (including his brother Phil) entered a car 12 years ago on their quest to find this city of sin. Haha I can just see them rolling into town wondering if they had taken a wrong turn somewhere. Turns out it is nothing like Vegas. Instead of lights and nightlife they were met with the strong smell of rotten eggs and coffee shops that close by 5pm. Rotorua is actually a volcanic land mine. Volcanic acitivity around the city is the main attraction for visitors along with unique adventure sports that draw in adrenaline junkies daily. Perhaps it is the adventure based activities of the town that has earned it its Vegas comparison amongst the New Zealand locals. 

Our first stop was the popular exploding geyser at Te Puia. Although when we arrived at the ticket counter we were faced with a problem. The admission to the park was 55 dollars. WHAT? Well that is too much money. What would we see for that fee? Bubbling mud, steam vents and the exploding geyser. We couldn't bring ourselves to do it. I knew there must be another way, so I went online and found a cheaper option. All we needed to do was to park at a nearby hotel, climb over a fence, crawl through the forest and in no time, we'd have our own private viewing of the geyser.


Guess what else? Along the way, we heard some noise in the bushes and discovered steam vents and bubbling mud... and how much did we pay? Nada!

Next stop was Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. This was something we knew we didn't want to cheap out on so we paid the $35 dollars each and enjoyed the steamy walk. Sulphur filled the air and at times it was difficult to breathe through the thick hot steam but the views made it more than worth it. 

The colors that surrounded this wonderland were wonderful to say the least. The green lake below had my attention.

Mike dipped his toe in a running stream and as expected it was hot hot hot! 

Below is a seafoam green lake, I didn't know that water could be so many different colors.

And, of course, the 'piece de resistance'. When a person googles Rotorua, a picture of what you see below is typically what shows up. It was also the reason why we knew we'd pay the admission fee to enter the park. This 100 degree natural hot spring displays a stunning contrast of blue water and red and white rock. This was one of the original pictures that made me want to come to New Zealand. It truly is a magical place. 


After we'd completed our first day of exploring, we drove into the forest. But before we could make our way to our campsite, we had to give Jazz a little TLC. She wasn't feeling well and she told us so by creating a rucus under the wheel. We called the 24 hour road side assistance and they had us in the shop and back on the road within the hour. Nice work Lucky. 


Now that she was feeling better we headed to our free spot, only 30 minutes out of town. It was the closest place we've been to a Canadian campsite and it felt good to be home.

Day 198- Rotorua is known for their adventure sports and there is no lack of options to choose from.  One of the biggest draws in the town is mountain biking. Trails spread across the city in every direction. They even have a ski hill lift that takes people to the top of a mountain where they're released into the wild, onto class 3 to 6 bike trails. I don't have any experience mountain biking but we weren't going to miss out on an opportunity to mountain bike in one of the sports world famous locations. 

We rented our bikes from Mountain Bike Rotorua for $40 bucks each. That gave us two good quality mountain bikes, two helmets and 4 hours of free time to ride. We used all 4 hours!

The trails were unreal and we peddled our butts off to get to the top of a mountain to see a great view. It almost killed me but it was worth it...I think. Whoa, check out Mikes gargantuan muscles!!!! 


Oh wait...those would be my huge guns. Haha the guy who took this photo must have snapped it just as I was air pumping our victory for making it to the top of the lookout. So I said to Mike, "do you have any tape?" He responded, "No why?", to which I responded "because I am beyond ripped"... bahahahaha. 

Below we're riding through a very dry, lifeless forest.

What an awesome way to spend a day in the forest. By the end of the 4 hours I was exhausted and found it very difficult to finish our last run to the bottom of the mountain. We had crushed around 25km over the 4 hours and I managed to fall 3 times throughout the day with only a few bruises to proove it... and this photo. Mike heard me crash and I yelled "OW", he got off his bike and ran back while asking if I was ok.  I was but my leg was pinched between the bike and the handlebars. Before Mike helped me up he apologized while he took this photo. How rude. I should have punched him with my giant pipes. 


Here is some sweet footage of our adventure. Careful, it's 3 min long!


The toilets at the bottom of the hill had showers, so after a hot strenuous day, we got to clean off. It helped me feel a little better but I was still so sore. We drove around town to find a park to cook dinner and relax in the shade. I was also worried we'd get pulled over by the cops because my guns weren't registered...bahahahahaha

This lovely tree looked like a piece of art.

We ended the night with a shot of coffee at a cool local cafe called Abracadabra that looked like a magical wonderland. We blogged/played Clash of Clans and then we slept..... ohhhh did we ever sleep. 

Day 199- We were still hurting from our bike adventures but we weren't done exploring Rotorua. A local told us that a visit wouldn't be complete without going to the Redwood Forest. We charged up our fitbits and hit the trail for a quick 30 minute walk on a 3.4 km pathway through the forest. A mix of different trees covered the space and they grew taller and taller the deeper we went. 


It didn't take long before we got completely lost and made some secret discoveries. A hand made sign that said Fairy's Grotto pointed into the forest. Weary of getting caught in a fairy trap, we built up our courage and followed the sign into a childs dreamland! So cool and super hidden. 

We continued on what looked like an old bike path but it kept taking us uphill, deeper into the forest. 

I have to admit, I probably wasn't the best company. I was still hurting from our bike ride and every corner we turned took us more uphill. I was angry. I was trying my best not to complain because I knew how exhausting that can be, especially in a situation that is out of anyones control. But I didn't do too well... Mike did a good job of ignoring it and kept his spirits up. Maybe a little too UP!

At least the view was pretty sweet. 

I thought this pathway would make for a pretty aisle in a wedding. A decorated path with natural wild flowers on either side. 

By the time we found our way back to our car, our 'walk' had turned into a 3 hour hike over 11 kms. At least we reached our step goal on our fitbits!

We returned to the showers at the bottom of the mountain bike trails and I washed away all my anger from the day. Our campsite for the night would provide another stunning view and the perfect setting to watch the full moon rise. 

Day 200- WOW crazy to see it in writing. 200 days of being on the road and sometimes it feels like we just left. Where has the time gone?

Our day began with a visit to Kerosene Creek. Kerosene creek epitomizes every travellers dream discovery. Except for the fact that it has already been discovered and a sign leads the way, this spot is nature at its best. A supremely hot stream in the middle of the forest, untouched by commercialism, free to anyone who wishes to experience it.

It only took me 7 months of effort but I am finally learning how to use my camera. 

Below is my attempt to set the camera's 10 second timer and run down the rocky edge to join Mike for a photo in the steaming hot water. Oh well... 

Mike and I made a point of heading to the springs early so we could enjoy it with fewer people. We must have picked a good time because we were the only ones there and got to enjoy it all by ourselves, at least for a little while. Just as we were beginning to overheat, a big tour bus arrived so we left the streem to them and went back to Jazz for some lunch. 

While we dried off in the parking area, a red car peeled out and shot up a ton of dust and rocks right in our faces. Then as the youngsters tried to drive off, they lost control and ran right into the tour bus, smashing the headlight and crushing the bumper. We knew they weren't going to stick around as they put on their reverse lights and skidded away once more. Luckily, us and two other guys stood by and caught their license plate. Time for ol' officer Keith of the Pinto Police task force to call it in! No criminals get away when we're on the clock. I tried to get a photo but the dust covered the cars getaway. 

Rotorua was full of excitement and we felt thoroughly pleased with our visit. It was time to head on our way, we had much more to see and time was ticking.