Thursday, January 1, 2009

12/31/2008 - Must. . . Stay. . . Left. . .

Out of bed today early again. A little packing, shower, dressed, and heading for the bus. It is beautiful today. I am on my way to pick up my rental car which is in downtown Auckland, just a fifteen minute express bus ride and a five minute walk.

IMGP1002.JPGThe rugby fields across from the hotel while walking. The sun doesn't feel right after the last few mostly-dreary days.

Picking up the car is ridiculously easy. I am in and out in 15 minutes, now pimping a late-90's Nissan Bluebird - a car that truly causes envy in men and lust in women.

IMGP1007.JPGYeah, that's my whip. It was a little hard to drive what with all the constant staring, and the drooling by envious passers-by made the roads slick.

I got the full insurance. It felt nice when, as the guy was about to walk the car with me denoting all the damage, he looked over the contract and said "Oh, we don't have to do that. Everything is covered, anyway." Carte blanche for some rally action, I think, or at least some Dukes style river jumpin'.

I start out my driving in New Zealand at a higher level than I would have liked, driving downtown Auckland back to North Shore.

IMGP1003.JPGDowntown Auckland. Better pictures of downtown Auckland have been taken. However, it does demonstrate some of the amenities on the 1998 Nissan Bluebird, including AM/FM cassette STANDARD, and a real-and-truly speedometer. Also, interior lights.

It is surprisingly easy as long as one keeps the "left" mantra going. The worst part of it is that it feels like you are driving in a mirror - every part of your brain says that your body should be on the left hand side of the lane, not the right. Luckily, the gas and brake are the same as a normal American vehicle. The turn signal controls, however, are on the right side of the wheel.

So, no problems, check out of the hotel, and hit the motorway. The motorway in New Zealand is no different than anywhere else, just that it doesn't go as far. I decide to stop in Hamilton just for kicks, and to get my hair cut and my work visa and permit paperwork sent off. Manage to find a real mall that takes care of all of this.

IMGP1004.JPGThe 'Fro has been tamed, alleviating severe neck pain. This picture is really to use as a compare-and-contrast, as 90 minutes later. . .

IMGP1005.JPG. . .I was out here in Waitomo, very close to the Blackwater Rafting.

The drive to Waitomo was very scenic, mostly farming, but getting more and more rugged. After checking in at the campground, I had quite a few hours left to kill. Talking to the host, there is a nice trail that runs around the area of the caves - about 3.5 miles each way. Sounds good.

IMGP1009.JPGThe rock here appears to be built out of Lego Granite - it's all in layers and brick-like patterns. Oh - I also bought a very small, very light day pack. Guess the color. (I'll give you a hint - it's the same color as a certain common rind-covered citrus).

The trail run was beautiful. Ranging from steep hills to flatter valleys and winding from forest to pasture, it was almost deserted and the terrain was very varied.

IMGP1012.JPGThis is called The Lookout, but I'm just not sure why.

IMGP1015.JPGThis looks like the ruins of an old wall, but it's just terrain that's been eroded to the natural rock.

IMGP1014.JPGTrying to get artsy with this, but didn't really succeed. Essentially more rock.

Interestingly, the trail winds through active cow pastures and active cows.

IMGP1017.JPGIn a stark contrast to the herd of cattle that followed me a week ago like I was the Messiah, these cows took a decidedly Jewish view - I was respected, but also viewed with some distrust. These are the kinds of things that run through my head as I exercise.

IMGP1018.JPGYou almost expect someone to be fishing with their back against a tree in this picture. So relaxing.

The trail ended up at another loop that went through Waitomo cave country.

IMGP1024.JPGThe path winds through caves. Note a severe lack of warning signs and rails. This held true with one exception. . .

IMGP1026.JPGApparently, they just leave poisonous bait out for possums. I feel a Darwin Award coming on for some little kid. I love New Zealand.

Knowing that I would see plenty of caves tomorrow, I held off on extensive pictures and started back.

IMGP1025.JPGThis one stopped me in my tracks.

By the time I made it back around 7:30, it was still blue sky and hot. A welcome shower later, and it was dinnertime.

IMGP1027.JPGPasta, water, and chips. What every growing boy needs.

By the end of dinner, New Zealand's weird weather patterns had manifested again - it clouded over completely and started raining. At this point, rain is really hammering the tent. Going to be a wet New Year - Huzzah!

I am NOT staying up for it. So sleepy. . . Adios, 2008.


  1. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Have fun in the caves!!

  2. I am no literary expert but based on your writing style I would say that you have perused a Douglas Adams book a time or two (perused actually means study intently for those who felt it meant a light once over). I’m waiting for same Lake Woebegone references to creep in.

    I see you made it to the birthplace of black water rafting. It looks like about the coolest day trip you can do. Take plenty of pictures. Speaking of rafting I’ve been further researching the middle fork of the Salmon in Idaho. It looks like all kinds of magic.

  3. Prospero Ano (there should be a squiggle above the n but I have not figured out how to do this with the English language keyboard) -- I think this meens "anus" without the appropriate modification!) Nuevo!!!!

    To Justin Cox, I've been applying for a permit for the Middle Fork of the Salmon for years -- unsuccessfully. Similar to a lottery only the odds are a little better. If you decide to apply, put in for an extra boat and we would try to go -- if you don't mind some old folks along. Great trip.


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