man, is it cold here! our first day here was a perfect fall-like day, maybe 65 and sunny. but that was short lived, and we spent day two at the auckland museum (excellent) and the night watching harry potter. anyone understand what happened at the end? we feel like we need the cliffnotes.
we then left auckland on monday and headed up to the "winterless" north and wound up driving straight into a subtropical noreaster, whatever that is. this is what it isn't: nice. where is my fiji? my fiji has gone. we managed to survive the cold and rain and visited the historic village of Russell, formerly known as the hellhole of the pacific (lahaina was a nice family town compared to it). these days it is quite a bit less exciting but there's some old buildings to see. we spent most of the day in new zealand's oldest hotel (1847) warming by the fire and drinking mulled wine. we also saw this really neat limestone cave with these bright blue iradescent glowworms all over. we had a great maori guide who showed us stalagmites and stalagtites (stalagtites hang "tight", stalagmites "might" reach the ceiling some day, he explained) and with the flashlight off the cave looked like a planetarium.
next day the rain stopped and the sun even poked out for sunrise and we headed across the peninsula to an ancient forest filled with these giant, native kauri trees worshipped by maori. the most interesting part of the day wasn't in the forest but in a campervan down by the river. sound sketchy? it's worse: http://www.2boys1world.com. all we can say for sure is that marco makes a mean cup of hot chocolate, though the website flaunts his other skills. we caravanned with them the rest of the way back to auckland, through beautiful rolling green hills, sheep, cows, and even a rainbow!
we stopped north of the city in hopes of visiting this open bird sanctuary we had seen on tv, but the weather was too rough for the ferry to run. after we got over our disappointment, it was back to the 1984 one-speakered corolla for another 3 hour ride further south. this time our luck finally changed and the skies cleared and we had our first taste of what the new zealand countryside is supposed to look like. this is what it is: nice. we arrived in the geothermic capitol, rotorua, early this afternoon to the not-so-sweet smells of sulpher (although some of us claim to actually like it). it's a small city built right in the middle of all this crazy yellowstone-esque volcanic activity. tomorrow we will head up into the surrounding hills for some hiking and a look at some mountain lakes, maybe even have a mud bath, then check out some of the maori cultural activities.
so new zealand is best summed up by the 2 tv channels they have here that show all the hit american shows back to back: take everything that's good and filter out anything that's not the best. unfortunately, you pay extra for it, and things cost as much here as they do back home, which we're not used to when travelling. also you can get whatever you need whenever you need it, which takes some of the fun and adventure out of it. but we are staying at places with shared bathrooms, and that's helping to keep it real.
hope all is well, thinking of you,