Jan 312009
 

New Zealand…..Just like Lord of the Rings:
Volcanos

So New Zealand’s tourism focuses on beautiful scenery and ”Extreme” activities, often mixing the two. Taupo is second only to Queenstown for it’s adrenaline based activities. Walking around town you get the feeling you’re in a Mountain Dew commercial with all the bungy jumping, sky diving, black water rafting and jet boats ads around. Actually the black water rafting sounds pretty cool. It’s just like white water rafting, but you’re in a cave. I’m staying away from that one just because I’m cheap, but otherwise it sounds like fun. I wasn’t much interested in the rest, but there’s some beautiful scenery and I did want to check out some of the trails around here. So yesterday morning John, an Irish fellow I met at the hostel, and Morgan, a friend of a friend from Bellingham, and I caught the bus up to Tongariro National Park to hike the 11 mile Tongariro Crossing.

I spent nearly a full day being decidedly unextreme playing music by the river:
River

The Tongariro Crossing is supposed to be the best day hike in New Zealand and they’ve got quite an infrastructure set up around it. Our bus was one of at least 8 others that were at the trail head in the morning. They drop you off on one side of the trail and pick you up on the other allowing for a spectacular one way hike. There were over 100 people on the trail, so it was a bit of a zoo, but still completely worthwhile. The hike takes you up past Mt Ngauruhoe (Mt Doom from Lord of the Rings), across the South Crater, past Mt Tongariro, the Red Crater and Emerald Lakes and then down the other side of the mountain through a great beech forest. The scenery was breathtaking, especially when you were near a steaming sulfurous fissure. I opted out of climbing to the top of Mt Ngauruhoe, it was all I could do to just finish the hike after spending the last 3 years being mostly sedentary on the water. It was really the first tourist thing that I’ve done in New Zealand and well worth the effort.

Morgan and John fixin to summit Mt Ngauruhoe:
Morgan and John fixin to summit Mt Ngauruhoe

John and I taking a break after climbing the Devil’s Staircase:
John and I taking a break after climbing the Devil's Staircase

New Zealand…..ROCKS!!!:
NZRocks

The Emerald Lakes, very sulfurous, but beautiful:
The Emerald Lakes,

I think that Morgan and I will be checking out a Renaissance Fair today. There’s a bunch of people in armor walking around town, it’s gotta be fun. Then it’s off to Wellington tomorrow.

 Posted by at 11:53 am
Jan 282009
 

Lake Taupo, that peak on the right is Mount Doom from the Lord of the Rings, somehow it’s a lot less sinister with the sailboats in the foreground:
LakeTaupo

The last leg of my journey south was an interesting one. I ended up staying with Arek and Iwona for 5 days. Yesterday Arek gave me a ride to the end of the motorway south of Auckland, which was an excellent spot to start hitching and got me well on my way to Taupo. Turns out that there’s almost no freeways in New Zealand. The main roads are all 2-4 lane undivided highways that still go through the middle of every town along the road. This makes for great vibrant downtown cores and is also nice for someone carrying a bunch of gear not having to walk from freeway off ramps to get downtown.

So Arek drops me off at a rest area. He’s got to try and reset his faulty computer to try and get overdrive back for his trip home. While he’s on the other side of the road, 5 minutes after I put out my thumb I get a life from 3 guys in the middle of a birthday celebration for Duane, who’s about ready to go off to the army. They’re only going 20km down the road, but what the hell? A ride is a ride. Well, I end up going back to Duane’s dad’s farm and just join in for the birthday celebration. So I end up spending the day playing drinking games with a bunch of 20 year olds and spend the night in an old caravan in back of the farm. I didn’t make it that far, but it was a certainly a good day. The only sketchy part was getting back up to the caravan in the pitch dark surrounded by a bunch of pig hunting dogs that would just as soon bite your leg off as look at you. We’ll just call that an adventure.

Playing Kings Cup in the caravan with Duane, Raymond and Mathew:
KingsCup

My home last night, not much to look at but you can’t beat free and the great hospitality:
Caravan

Gordon and Duane feeding the pigs all the leftover produce from the Pak and Save:
Pigs

This morning Duane’s dad, Gordon, treated me to some coffee and after feeding the pigs gave me a ride to south of Hamilton which put me well on my way. Then it was a Samoan lady, Leena, her daughter that picked me up in their beautiful luxury car with the leather seats and gave me a ride all the way to the backpacker hostel here in Taupo. Again, I was only on the side of the road for 10 minutes or so before getting a ride right where I’m going.

Taupo is on a huge lake with beautiful mountains all around. Theres supposed to be good hiking around. I’m not really set up for overnighting in the woods and hiking with my guitar would be less than ideal, but I may just stay in the hostel for a few days and get some day hikes in before heading off for Wellington.

 Posted by at 8:02 pm
Jan 242009
 

Driveway down to Arek and Iwona’s, pretty typical north island landscape sheep and all:
Driveway down to Arek and Iwona's, pretty typical north island landscape sheep and all

I’ve spent the last two weeks holed up on Bodhran nursing a cough and sore throat. I got a little interior varnishing and painting done, but other than that it was pretty much watching movies and staring at the walls. I was sill getting out for my Tuesday night Irish Trad night at McMorriseys and played two small music festivals in town, but other than that I was going stir crazy. So once I was feeling better, I decided to pick up my money and pack up my tent and hit the road.

Out on highway one with my gear fixin to catch a ride south:
Out on highway one with my gear fixin to catch a ride south

Arek and Iwona off Ariel, who I first met in Mexico and sailed with for months in French Polynesia, sold their boat in New Caladonia and were now living in Orewa just a couple of hours south of Whangarei. I figured that’d be a good first destination. I got a ride out of Whangarei no problem once I hiked to the edge of town and made it all the way to within ΒΌ mile of Arek and Iwona’s place. Not too bad! Supposedly hitchin around NZ is safe and easy, so far so good. Arek and Iwona have a car, so yesterday we hit the west coast and checked out 3 great beaches along the Tasman Sea. Other than that we’ve been cooking a bunch of Thai food and making a dent in their duty free liquor reserves.

Arek, myself and Iwona:
Arek, myself and Iwona

Gannet Colony, there were hundred of Gannets and their chicks on these rocks:
Gannet Colony, there were hundred of Gannet and their chicks on these rocks

Quicksand? really!?:
Quicksand

I think that I’m going to spend the next month or so bumming around trying to travel as much as possible spending as little as possible. Tate’s buddy, Deleware Johnny, is at Franz Josef on the south island. That’s my only other definite destination, otherwise I’ll just head wherever the road takes me. I’ve got my guitar, sleeping bag, emergency shelter and a visa card. What more could you ask for?

 Posted by at 9:36 am
Jan 072009
 

View from my Dad’s condo in Bellingham the morning after I arrived:
View from my Dad's condo in Bellingham the morning after I arrived

Sunrise after clearing through the exceedingly cheerful and friendly New Zealand Customs and Immigration departments, stepping out of the terminal to the first rays of light with the sweet smell of vegetation letting the mild temperatures envelope me as I realize that I’ve made it back to Summer. Home is a snow covered wonderland with all my family and friends, but 3 weeks was enough. It snowed 14 inches the day I got to Bellingham and with temperatures that reached into the single digits a few times the snow never went away the entire time that I was back. Fortunately my Dad’s condo is withing 3 blocks of both The Green Frog Cafe Acoustic Tavern and Boundary Bay Brewery, but the snow did keep me from seeing lots of folks back home that I would have liked to visit with.

Nothing like sitting right behind the pilot in an open plane. Did he just say something about an error? :
Nothing like sitting right behind the pilot in an open plane

Getting off the little plane that took me into Whangarei:
Getting off the little plane that took me into Whangarei

So after 27 hours of travel I step off the little 18 person airplane at Whangarei and who should I see waiting for me but Nancy, Madeline and Sophie off Meridian. Well actually they were waiting for Nancy’s parents who were on the same flight, but still what are the odds that within being back in town for less than a minute that I meet someone that I know? Well that’s pretty much the way everything happened yesterday. Silas, the fella that gave Tate and I a ride our first day in NZ, just dropped by the boat to see if I was back yet, then later I went to the Tuesday night traditional jam at McMorrisey’s Pub and was enthusiastically welcomed back, invited to a BBQ tomorrow, invited to play with the band at the opening of a new bar on Saturday and set up with a slot at the busking festival in two weeks. So much for coming back and trying to figure out what to do. My social calender is almost full as it is. Still I don’t really know what I’m doing for the next few months. The plan right now is to go back and work for Western Towboat again during the northern summer. Another good season working on tugs should set me up for another year or two of cruising. In the mean time I need make what’s left of my cruising funds last as long as possible while still trying to take advantage of being in New Zealand. I’m not sure what that’s going to entail quite yet, but I could do much worse than staying in Whangarei with all these great people around. I think that the sailing part of the blog is going on hiatus for a year or so, but I’ll keep it updated with any interesting goings on while I’m revel in the southern summer.

 Posted by at 4:28 pm