– Denton, Texas to Hahei, New Zealand  to Taupo, New Zealand –

You’ll have to bear with me, as this post will probably be a long one. I’m calling it day one, which I guess makes the marathon of travel that it took me to get to New Zealand counts as day zero. I don’t even know. It was definitely more than 24 hours, and by the end, I was barely functional, which is why we definitely aren’t starting the blog posts from there.

Still, I feel like some of the things that happened on Thursday/Saturday could be considered interesting, so I’ll do a quick run through of how I got here and why I am here.

KEEP LEFT! in our rental car

To begin, Mark had an IIPC conference in New Zealand last week, so he came to New Zealand on November 8th. I didn’t leave until the 15th, when his conference ended. Ever since we heard the location of this particular conference, and its convenient timing right before Thanksgiving, we’ve been planning our little trip to New Zealand together.

I left for the airport around 5:00pm on November 15th, and my giant airplane left for Sydney (a 16.5 hour flight) around 8pm. Because Sydney is +17 hours from DFW, it was about 6am in Sydney when I arrived. That’s 6am Saturday, for all of you guys playing at home, and wondering what happened to Friday. I don’t even know.

My plane was a giant Airbus with two stories, and it was only half full, as the flight requires so much fuel that they can’t also fill the plane with passengers and have the airplane be able to fly. It’s just too much weight. I had an extra hour delay in Sydney, so I didn’t leave there until 11:30am local time.

Saturday night burger place

From Sydney, I flew to Auckland, New Zealand, to meet Mark. It’s only a 3 hour flight, but Auckland is two hours later than Sydney, which is +19 hours from home. It was 4:40 when my plane landed, and it took forever to clear customs. By the time I made it out of the baggage claim area and to Mark, I think I might’ve been a zombie. It’s really a marathon of flying.

We didn’t care to stay in Auckland, so Mark packed me in up in our new rental car, which he picked up while waiting for me at the airport, and bundled us off to the north in the direction of Hahei, where we were planning to stay the night.

Cathedral Cove

On the way to Hahei, we stopped for dinner in Tairua, where we had late evening veggie burgers and enjoyed the spectacle of a man driving down the main drag in the tiny town with his car making the absolute worst screeching sounds I’ve ever heard. I couldn’t believe the thing could be making that sound and still be moving, albeit at a crawl.

We finally arrived in Hahei at around 9pm to discover that while our accommodations for the night did have a private bathroom, as promised, the bathroom was outside of our bedroom and not attached, meaning you had to walk outside to get to the private bathroom. Is that weird or what? It was not the ideal end to a very long day (or two?).

Bundaberg also makes other delightful drinks

Thankfully, by Sunday morning in Hahei, all was better. After a nice sleep, everything was suddenly much better. Mark and I were out of bed at 6am to go for a run and see the outdoorsy sights in the little town. We chose Hahei rather specifically because there are several interesting sights nearby.

Since we were just out running, we don’t have great photos, as we didn’t have the camera, but we headed out to one of the local attractions: Cathedral Cove. You have to walk or run out there anyway, and the exercise always helps me acclimate to the time change better, so we didn’t miss the camera too much. It’s definitely a pretty beach, and the trail leading to it is lovely, especially since it is spring here in New Zealand.

Hot Water Beach

When we finished our run, we showered in our weird bathroom outside our hotel room and then packed up to take a look at our other stops in town. First we went back up to the overlook for Cathedral Cove to take some distant photos, which you can see above. Next, we drove down to the beach to take some photos of the ocean. The sandy hills along the water are absolutely covered in gorgeous orange and yellow flowers, which is really quite nice.

On our way out of town, we bought some Bundaberg sodas and some water for our trip. They don’t really do iced tea, or iced drinks at all here, which is a bummer for me, but my soda was nice, I do have to say. Bundaberg is mostly a brand of ginger beer, especially at home in the US, and it is very good ginger beer, but they have a lot more soda flavors here in New Zealand and over in Australia, where the company is based. If you ever come across these, they are definitely worth a try. The apple cider in particular was delicious.

Indian food for lunch

Another attraction in Hahei is the Hot Water Beach. New Zealand has a lot of geothermal activity, and is home to several volcanoes. The Hot Water Beach is basically a tourist attraction on a big beach on the Pacific side of the island where hot spring water runs down to the sand.

The phenomenon only occurs in the space between the reaches of high and low tide, so it is only available for a few hours a day. The hot was basically runs down into the sand from the hills above, and visitors then dig big holes in the sand, then allow them to fill with warm water to create their own private bathing pool. In the photo, you can see dozens of people crowded into a tiny stretch of beach, digging sand holes to sit in. It’s a little funny to watch, honestly. We hadn’t planned to participate, but it was fun to see.

Mark in a big tent

From Hahei, we drove south along the coast. New Zealand is an interesting place. It is at once tropical, especially close to the ocean, and foresty, especially more towards the interior. It isn’t uncommon to see palm trees and evergreens mere feet from one another. And despite it being late spring, almost summer, the weather is still quite cool, with high temperatures in the 60s today. It is shorts weather, but sometimes you need a light jacket.

A lot of the roads down to Tauranga were quite windy, and by the time we got there, we were starving and a little carsick from all of the rapid switchbacks. Another interesting thing about New Zealand is the fact that they have basically a universal speed limit, which is 100 kph for the whole island. It can go lower than that, but it doesn’t seem to go any higher very often.

Shed in the redwoods

In any event, we stumbled across a cute little Indian restaurant and bakery in Tauranga, where we had our lunch. It was tasty, and the food was much cheaper than most of the things around here. It seems like all of the prices are quite high, not just in restaurants, but also in grocery stores, even accounting for the exchange rate between USD and NZD.

That done, we were back on the road again and headed to Rotarua, which is a town on the north island known for its geothermal features. We were interested in checking out at least one of the thermal parks, but the ticket prices for what basically amounted to a view of steamy water were outrageous. One place wanted $56 a person. Can you imagine? It is half that to take a whole car full of people to Yellowstone for a week. Crazy.

Pretty flowers

We did check out the Whakarewarewa Forest just outside of town, which is home to 6 hectares of California Redwood trees. We were totally surprised to find them there, and couldn’t figure out how they’d gotten there in the first place. It turns out they were planted in 1901, and have been growing ever since. In fact, the internet tells me that the whole forest was planted to explore the commercial opportunities for 170 different types of tree. The redwoods are protected from harvest, but it seems like some of the other trees are regularly harvested and replanted.

The forest is beautiful, and they have a tree walk there, which is always an interesting sight. If you’ve never seen one, it’s a bit like a pathway built into the trees. The trees will have platforms around them, and long, thin bridges connecting the platforms, allowing visitors to trek through the forest 30 feet off of the ground. We haven’t ever actually done one, as we’ve never really had the desire, but it seems like kids especially really get a kick out of them.

Steamy thermal pools

Outside Rotarua, we stopped at several of the thermal attractions to see if we actually wanted to visit any of them, but in the end they were all too small or too expensive, and we didn’t end up deciding to really see any of them. In one particular spot, we went into the visitor center to check prices and discovered than not only were the tickets crazy expensive, but 8 page children’s books from the gift shop were $28. Keychains were $20. We practically ran out of there. I think our mothers would be proud. It’s a little hilarious looking back, though. I think if we had been excited about what it looked like we were going to see, we would have paid it without a second thought, but really none of the sights seemed that impressive.

Our hotel for the night was in Taupo, which wasn’t much farther down the road, so we continued our leisurely drive down that way, stopping when the mood struck. We still had plenty of time in our day, so we didn’t bother to hurry, and we took a number of roadside pictures.

Huka Falls

Just before we got to Taupo, we stopped at Huka Falls, which is part of the Waikato River. In this area, the water rushes through a narrow canyon and falls down a cliff into a larger pool beyond, where the water is a gorgeous, crystalline blue. We stopped first above the falls for a distant shot, then drove down to take a look at the canyon.

There’s something really cool about looking into that tiny canyon and watching the river rush past to the waterfall. The waterfall itself is small, but nice enough, but the lead-up to it is awesome.

Lead up to Huka Falls

After we finished at the falls, we checked into our hotel, which thankfully had its own bathroom inside the room and everything. We drove just a little way down the road to grab some dinner, but our first option turned out to be closed, so we picked another on a whim. It turned out to be terrible, which ought to be a lesson in not having a back-up option. It was almost inedible. Yikes.

We also went to a grocery store just across the street to pick up something for our breakfast tomorrow morning. With the necessities in hand, we also decided to console ourselves for our awful dinner with some chocolate puddings, which were very nice. It’s not pudding in the American sense, but the British sense- more like little cakes topped with fudge. We were even able to warm them up. It definitely made up for the terrible dinner, as did the tea and milk back in our hotel room. Tonight has been a much happier night than last night.

Awful Kebab Place

Tomorrow we are off to Wellington for the night, with several stops along the way. We haven’t done too much exploring on the North Island, but we are ready to move on, as there’s so much more to see on the South Island. We will be there on Tuesday around noon, I think. I can’t wait. Tomorrow should be nice as well, and our run will be along the lake our town is on. Now all we have to do is hope that the weather holds.

 – Trip Total : 10,228 miles

[ Quickie total tally: 37 miles (home to DFW by car) + 8,571 miles (DFW to Sydney by plane) + 1,339 miles (Sydney to Auckland by plane) + 101 miles (Auckland Aiport to our hotel in Hahei) + 180 miles (Hahei to Taupo) ]

One thought on “New Zealand Trip: Day One”

  1. Ya’ll have visited some really cool places. It’s a beautiful world out there. Love the comments. Very well written. As Mark knows I am a carnivore and would probably eat a little differently but the food you have shown over many of your trips actually looks pretty tasty. Both the drinks looked like they would taste good. The metal trays reminded me of what I would think of as prison trays or what we had in the Army. Metal and easy to clean.

    The river water was majestically blue. Amazing!

    As a side note, we did make the trip to Hanna in Maui years back. Sonja freaked on the outside lane coming back and I mostly got nauseated making that drive both ways.

    Sonja and I are going to buy a small travel trailer (with a bathroom) and start pretty close. There are plenty of places to go in Texas even I haven’t seen. Since we are older we will see how it goes before we stray too far from home. Over the decades I’ve been to every state in the US except Alaska and Sonja hasn’t so we have a lot to see.

    You guys are seeing things few get to experience. What great memories! I’ve been enough places to know that you can only appreciate the grandeur of many places in person. I’m envious.

    Travel safe!

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