In which Molly the (future) librarian returns from her travels, catches a cold, and gets graded.

As I sit here, in all my stuffed-up sinus-y glory, waiting for my clothes to be done washing so I can hang them to dry, I thought, “Well, about time I updated that blog, eh chaps?” Correct reply, “Right-o.”

We’ve come home from our adventures…and my, what adventures they have been! I’ll start at the beginning, since that’s where all stories start. Unless it’s ‘in medias res’…but that would just be silly.

June 21, 2012. Road Trip Day One. The Beginning: Wellington to New Plymouth.

After a leisurely breakfast of pancakes with another expat, and some piano time, a last minute check of my belongings, and a swift clean of my room, Amy came home. We left after she had finished her exam and packed all her stuff. Yes, yes, she hadn’t packed before we left. We’re (read:she’s) all about last minute. So, I stood in her doorway and said yes (and more often NO) to what she packed. We were only going for a week, but she still brought about 7 pairs of shoes… I think. All cute, and for what I had in mind for the vacation, rather on the impractical side. Such is the life of the perpetually overly prepared American!

With her bags packed, the pillows stowed, and the doors locked, we sardined ourselves into the car and were OFF. It started to rain, in the typical winter Wellington fashion. I took it as a sign that the city was just trying to tell me not to worry about leaving. “Don’t worry, Wellington, I think I can handle a week away from you. It’ll be rough, but I think I’ll manage. It’s not you. It’s me. I just need a break,” I said to the cloudy, drenched, wind-wracked city. We entered the motorway and zoomed off.

Glorious freedom! The first bit of the trip goes so fast. The road takes you by hills and this crazy road that is next to the wave-beaten shore; you look to the left and you can see the waves crashing into the shore mere yards from you; threatening to overcome the barriers and wash the car into the hillside. Because there was a storm kicking up, the waves were incredible. They were that slate/steel gray color that the ocean takes on during high seas, slamming against the rocks, flooding the black-sanded beach, while the gray clouds above seemed to swirl and broil. It was awesome. Amy told me, in really bad weather, the road we were on often gets flooded and shut down. I believe it.

Amy drove about a ¼ of the way and then we swapped. Heart pounding, I got behind the wheel, changed the position of the seat and the mirrors, put the car into gear, and I..was…off! I didn’t stall! I was driving on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road, and shifting all at the same time! How badass am I? I also stuck very strictly to the speed limit, just in case. I had been hearing some horror stories about NZ cops, so I didn’t want to give them any kind of ammunition to pull me over or put me in jail. [That bit about ammunition is a bad joke, since NZ cops don’t carry guns. *badumkrst* They may not carry, but they do have night sticks and an overly evolved sense of power and importance. BOOO. Abuse of power….no Molly, no mini-rants.]

So, I drove for about an hour and then we swapped again. It was getting dark and rainy, but we made it to New Plymouth around 6:30.  I even drove into town and all the way home! Through roundabouts and everything! Be proud! We walked in, very tired and a bit bedraggled, and put our bags down. Hugs all around from Claire, Anne, and Barbara. Then it was dinner time. I tried one of my first NZ delicacies on the trip…smoked fish pie. It’s like a casserole, topped with mashed potatoes. It was delicious. Sounds strange. Was glorious. Probably because it was made with all sorts of creamy and buttery goodness…mmmm, artery clogging deliciousness.

Then, dessert and tea. This was my second NZ delicacy: PAVLOVA. Now, let me tell you, [though most of you already know, some better than others] my life revolves around food. The places I visit are almost defined by what I eat there. Italy? Best goat of my life in Stigliano. England? Lavender cream on fluffy, buttery scones. New Zealand? Pavlova. Don’t let the Australian’s try to fool you, it’s a NZ thing. But, don’t get me started on that one.  It was so delicious. It was crispy and sweet merengue on the outside with a spongy sweet egg whitey thing on the inside, with chocolate shavings and kiwi fruit and whipped cream on top. Nom nom! Delicious and decadent (and horrible for me…as anything really delicious is).

And then, it was bed time, since we planned an early start in the morning, driving to Matamata to Hobbiton.

June 22, 2012. Road Trip Day Two. New Plymouth to Hobbiton to Rotorua.

Our day didn’t start out as early as we planned, but we definitely got out on time. But first, we stopped and I got to watch my first Rugby game! Sure, it was a Saturday boy’s school game (where we watched Claire and Amy’s cousin James), but it was pretty cool. And, though we left before it was over, James and the boys won! Woo.

Then in the car and we were off. And Amy drove like mad to get us to Matamata. We reached the tiny town and were greeted with the best sign.

Yes. Many pictures were taken. It was awesome. We grabbed a quick lunch at a little cafe, where the woman at check out called me out as an American. Because, “Lots of Americans come here. For the Lord of the Rings…Where are you from? I have a cousin in California. Do you know her?”  Yes. I get that a lot. No, sorry. I live on the other side of the country. It’s quite large, you know. But, hey, at least I’m making friends.

While we waited for the bus, we posed with many of the hobbit themed things. Like this:

Yeah. I’m a wizard. What of it? So much awesome. Then a huge bus pulled up. We got on…with 2 other people and were off.  The tour was amazing. It was so cool. I loved hearing about the stories from our tour guide, Ben, who helped out with the movies. It was really cool to hear the little tidbits about backstage work. The set is unreal. The little hobbit holes, are so cool. Sure, they aren’t actually furnished, but, damn, do they look it.

Look how big I am. AGH I’m a giant! Hobbits are so cute!

And then you have the opposite. Look how small I am!

Proportions are FUN! Is this what math is used for? Wow, I should have tried harder! Look what you can do with Math, kids! Molly the (future) librarian says, “Stay in school. Learn math. Build ridiculously awesome movie sets. Get famous!” Yep. Then, we got back in the car and drove another hour or two and arrived in Rotorua! That was an adventure in itself. Keep in mind, we were doing all this with a map. Expert navigators FTW:

It really is amazing we didn’t get more lost.

But, we found where we booked our backpackers…realized we got a bit scammed, and checked into the legit one across the way. Then we grabbed some dinner, went to the grocery store and got ice cream, milk bottles (lollies), and magazines, and holed up in our room. Yeah, we’re that awesome. It was fantastic. Then we passed out. We planned an early and fun-filled day.

June 22, 2012. Road Trip Day Three. Rotorua to Taupo, via Hell’s Gate and Whakawerawera.

We got up super early and rose with the smell of sulfur0–a smell associated with Hell and the thermal pools that Rotorua is known for. We looked out the window and saw steam rising from almost everywhere in the distance. It was crazy. We grabbed breakfast and then negotiated our way to Hell’s Gate. We passed through the gate:

and into an apocalyptic wasteland (which I mean, being a place called Hell’s Gate, seems appropriate):

We walked along the pathways, avoiding the hazards. We passed hot pools and steaming waterfalls. We passed acidic mud pools and pools so hot they could boil you alive. We went through steam, crunched our way across the barren landscape. There was nothing. Just the bubble and hiss of the mud and steam. There were no birds singing. No bugs chirping or wirring. Nothing. Just the steam. Intense.

After our walk, and our introduction to the native practice of wood carving, it was mud pool and sulfur spa  bathing time. I was so excited about this part. We got in our bathing suits and jumped into the warm and deliciously squishy mud.

Aren’t we so cute?! All covered in mud. Mmmmm, mud. Then it was a horribly freezing cold shower (to get our body temperatures down….at least that’s what they said. We think it was the people who worked there’s way of entertaining themselves.) Then we jumped into the wonderfully warm sulpher bath. Oy. It was so glorious. We became putty. We relaxed SO hard. It was glorious. Then shower, and back to the car and off to the living thermal village of Whakawerawera. (Please keep in mind that in Maori “WH”s are pronounced like F’s. So that’s more like Fakawerawera. And that’s not even the full name. That would be insane to say. Well, we got to the village and had a traditional Hangi.

Hangi

Is. Delicious. It is meat and veggies cooked in a box. This one was cooked with the steam from the pools, and in the case of the veggies–boiled in the pool itself. So delicious. The meat cannot be cooked directly in the pools, however, as the fat reacts with the other chemicals in the water and can cause an explosion. Dangerous. Exciting. Delicious. Really, all the makings of an epic meal.

We toured the village, watched one of the geysers erupt and then we trouped back to the car again and drove 2 hours to Taupo. We got there, checked into our backpackers, grabbed something to eat, showered and we basically sleeping by 10. We got so knocked out.

June 23, 2012. Road Trip Day Four. Lake Taupo, Huka Falls, The Honey Hive, Three Mountains, National Park, the Parapara Ranges and back to New Plymouth.

We got up early. Then we went to a lovely little cafe. I got a delicious latte and a cinnamon date scone. Holy delicious. Amy got a latte and a savory muffin, while Claire got a latte and a white chocolate raspberry muffin. We ate by Lake Taupo. The sun was shining. It was beautiful.

From there it was off to Huka Falls.

It was so awesome. The rapids were amazing. They were so strong. They actually powered an electrical station nearby, which I found interesting. It was really awesome to see such power. And listening to the thunder and roar of the rapids and the rushing water.

We did a quick nature walk. It was so much fun. I climbed a tree. It was in the middle of the water.

It was super. Then we went to a things all honey. Hives. Mead. Marshmallows. Ice cream. Yes. It was awesome. We got a bit of everything. And honey peanut butter. Glorious. Then into the car and off to see the mountains. Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe.

Here’s a picture:

Tongariro is the flat one on the left. Ngauruhoe is the snow capped one in the center, and Ruapehu is the massive one on the right that is mostly off screen. The pictures don’t do it justice. It was amazing. And the air. It was so crisp and clean, fresh and pure. It was great. I can’t describe it. Surely you look at the picture and say, yeah sure. Looks great. But actually being there was fantastic. It is so beautiful. I hope to go back in the summer and do the Tongariro crossing and to climb Ngauruhoe. Time will tell. Here’s hoping.

After that, it was a 4 hour drive back home. We chose to go through the Parapara ranges. While it was absolutely gorgeous…ugh, hills, twists turns, up and down and around. Being in the back seat…rough. So much gorgeous. Slightly wasted by having my eyes closed.  We stumbled upon this:

A random waterfall! How cool is that?! Then we eventually made it back to New Plymouth where we ate and collapsed.

June 24, 2012. Road Trip Day Five. Waitomo and the Glow Worm Caves.

We woke up late and then it was back into the car for more driving. We had grand plans to stop off at all kinds of other things to break up our trip. But, we were foiled by the weather and high tide. So, it was a straight ride to Waitomo. We stopped at this awesome cafe called The Fat Pigeon. Yum. I got pumpkin soup and garlic bread.  So good.

We got to Cave World. We scrambled into the van and were off. It was twilight tour. It was so cool–literally, about 57 year round.

We saw Moa bones, fossils, and of course…

Glow worms. Those glowing bits…yeah, those are the worms. And that string? That’s how they catch their dinner. And the worms glow because that’s how they attract their food. The brighter they are, the hungrier. And when the worms transform into the adult flies…they have no mouths. So they die either of starvation, or they are eaten by their young. Morbid, eh?

But they are so pretty!

And then back into the car and home to New Plymouth.

Whew.

After that we had birthday parties, and zoo visits and dinners and everything else you can imagine. It was great. Then back to Wellington. I got my first trimester grades back. I did well. Yay! And caught a cold. BOO!

 

Well, that’s all for now. Ciao.

This is Molly the (future) librarian, signing off.

 

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