Monday, November 30, 2009

What I've learned about Backpacking

When we left Auckland we made the decision to take the plunge into the world of backpacking. We decided against renting a car, even though this would have gotten us to more places but to take the bus and hike whenever we could. We also decided we would not stay at hotels or rent apartments but embrace the hostel world. Todate we think both have been good decisions. We found we have been limited to the places we can see but the hiking and the busing have been amazing as we have discovered the nooks and crannies of the places we have stayed. There is a lot of free stuff you can do if you look hard enough and ask the right people. We have met all kinds of people and have loved the cooking and sleeping arrangements. We have learned some things as we've gone along. Jeans are a bad thing to take. They are way too heavy and take up too much room, for that matter the backpacks are much lighter and easier to pack when the weather is cool rather then warm. We have gotten rid of some things. We have thrown out the sheets we carried and replaced them with a bodem and coffee. It is easier to book a hostel with sheets and cheaper to make coffee then buy several cups a day. We've thrown out some extra socks and t-shirts as we have not been using near as many as we packed. We forgot about the food we have to carry, so planning meals and using up food before we move has been a real art we have had to learn. We are not the oldest people using hostels but seem to be the oldest backpackers, but that is cool with us. The next time we go backpacking we will pack different items but not much less as what we have seems to be the right amount but just a little heavy. All-in-all it has been a great learning experience. Wes

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Delayed in Wellington

Well we've been in Wellington for a few days now, but it has

been wonderful. It appears that flexi-pass holders have some

restrictions when it comes to the ferry out of Wellington.

There are a limited numbers of seats available to us and there

needs to be 36 hours notice for our departure from the North

Island. No worries, as they say, there is plenty to do here

and the people at the hostel have been very accommodating.

They booked our passage, gave us a discount on the extra day

and booked our hostel in Picton as well. We have to stay in

Picton for a night as the bus to Nelson does not connect to

the ferry that is available, no worries again. Wellington is a

windy city and today it surpassed its reputation with winds

steady at 80k and gusting to over 100 at times. It has been

windy everyday but today I had to brace myself while taking

pictures and sometimes even that did not stop me from moving

backwards. We had to find a hiding spot while eating our

lunch. Well it's out of Lampton harbor and through Cooks

Straight and on to the South Island tomorrow so I had better

get things packed up. Wes

Today we spent the whole day on the bus going from Taupo to

Wellington. We went out for dinner because it was so late,

Indian. The drive, although long, was beautiful. We passed by

Mt. Tongariro and Mt. Ngauruhoe covered in snow. There were

many mountains, hills, cliffs, forests and lots of sheep.

When we got closer to Wellington, we drove beside the ocean

for a bit. It was ominous. Wellington is a very cool and

artsy town. Our first full day in Wellington was amazing. We

are staying right downtown on the harbor. We went to the arts

center and saw the works of a famous Japanese artist who works

alot with dots. The piece that struck me the most was the

room with all mirrors on the the walls and ceiling and mirrors

and water on the floor. There were tiny lights in the room

and it looked like they went on for eternity. After that, we

hiked to the top of Mt. Victoria. The hike was steep but the

view at the top was worth it. You could see out in every

dircetion the city, the bay and ocean. The houses here are

built on hills so even the view of the city was unique.

Finally, we went to the Te Papa museum (all galleries and

museums are free) and saw a Colossal Squid that was captured

near the Antarctica. The next day we hiked up another mountain

to catch the cable car to the Botanical Gardens. It turns out

we could have caught the cable car at the bottom. The garden's

were beautiful, especially the rose garden that has as many

colors of roses as you could imagine. There were a number of

observation platforms where you could look down on the city

and sea. We took the cable car down for the fun of it and then

walked to the land and sea museum. I still can't believe that

most of their museums are free. It was a very windy day and a

little cool at times, especially at the top of the mountain,

but another hiking filled and interesting day. Terry

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lessons in Mauri

We left Auckland and headed southward to Rotorua. Rotorua is the second lake discovered by Awara when he landed in the region. Unfortunately it was the largest lake and Rotoiti, the first lake being smaller never developed a community. Now from that little Mauri lesson you should be able to figure out the Mauri words for 'first', 'second', and 'lake'. Rotorua is a pretty interesting place with lots of thermal activity. Many areas have steam vents, bubbling mud and very hot pools. One hot ool we looked at holds a constant temperature of 167 degrees Celsius. This because the minerals in the pool allow the boiling point to be higher. The trouble with all this is that Rotorua is a relatively dangerous place. While you can harness the steam for heating you can also end up with an unwanted steam vent in your driveway or under your house. We saw a few of these and visited a village that is slowly moving up their hill as the ground becomes thinner and thinner. We really enjoyed Rotorua and wanted to stay but Taupo was calling.

Taupo has some similar thermal activity going on as well but to set it apart it has an active volcano just to the south. It is situated beside a like that is 1,100 feet above sea level and is New Zealands largest fresh water lake. When we arrived in Taupo the weather finally broke. Up to now it had been a little dreary and wet but not too cold. For the last two days it has been amazingly hot and both Terry and I have been burn by the New Zealand sun despite multipul applications of sun screen. Yesterday we hiked the botanical gardens at the Top of Taupo. Beside the amazing gardens the view out to the lake was amazing. Today was a great adventure and probably our biggest challenge to date. We went from our hostel through town and out to the Waikato river, hiked through the gorge to Haku and back into town to get a late afternoon bus back. Both the gorge and the falls were well worth our sore feet at the end of the day. Well that's all for now. It still gets cool at night, despite being almost 30 today so I'm headed inside. I will post more picks on face book as soon as I edit them. I am emailing people but they don't always seem to go through for some reason so be patient if you don't always get a response and know I am shaking and cursing this infernal machine for not cooperating.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Our time in Auckland is coming to an end tomorrow. We will be leaving this fine town, the city that should be the capital, for Rotorua. This will mark our slow and pleasant journey to the south island. Our stay in Auckland has been pretty cool. We have stayed at the Shakespeare Brewery and Hotel since our arrival. We had intended to move to a hostel but the rate was so good and the place so fun we stayed. The hotel is an 19th century structure with a pub on two floors and an operating brewery on the main floor. The room is tiny but we think it is cool. The window of our third story room opens to a fire escape that seems like a balcony and I have spend a few evenings out there. There is also a second story patio and I have tasted some of there 'home brews' which are just fine! On Wednesday we hiked to the summit of Rangitoto Valcano on Rangitoto Island. It was quite a challenge as the climb was very steep at times and it poured rain on a few occasions. We felt quite pleased with ourselves when we reached the summit both because we endured the rain and the steeps and felt we could now face whatever our vacation throws at us and because of the reward of beauty we received, an amazing view out to sea and back towards the skyline of Auckland. That evening we found Jana and toured Auckland until we found a recommended Indian restaurant. We all ate until we could eat no more and all had Mango Lassi, what a meal! and a nice visit with Jana.

Auckland is a surprising place. The Asian population, especially Korean, is enormous! We visit the Auckland library for internet access and there are large sections of the library that are dedicated to the Asian population, books, movies and papers, very cool. Auckland is built on several hills, we know because our hotel is at the top of one of many. It's basically up hill no matter what way you approach it. The New Zealander's love coffee! There are sometimes three coffee shops in one block and almost no filtered coffee is served all espresso, ummm delicious.

Some pictures will come soon. We have run into a little technical difficulty but have a plan to resolve it. Be patient. Hey! did you know that you have to go north to find warmer temperatures here? How weird is that?
Bye for now
Wes & Terry

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Last Day in Ontario

Well here we go just coming to the end of our last day in Ontario. We head out tomorrow at 11am to begin our 5 month adventure. It has been quite an eventful day today. For me it started off with a 13K run with my good friend Pam. It really was a good start to the day and gave me energy for most of the day, I feel it waining now but it is 8:30 afterall. From there I layed out all my clothes for the trip, 4 shirts, one pair of pants, sandals and two undies, along with loads of cologne to mask things. I then did the finishing touches on the bathroom, placing the last piece of drywall in place and putting the fixtures up. After a few adjustments all the leaks stopped and the first bath was had. I will enjoy my first shower in 6 days tomorrow, much to my friends and families relief. From there I rolled all our clothes to get them to fit the one back pack we had. After about 30 minutes I went and got another backpack and relieved some pressure. It's really not that bad, the backpacks are not really heavy and after we see Janna in New Zealand the packs will be 50 pounds lighter, eh Joni?! Well I think a hottub is in order and and maybe a bubbly beverage and then off to bed to get a good start on ourtrip. Since we lose a day flying to New Zealand we will talk to you on Tuesday. Love you all Wes

Thursday, November 12, 2009