Friday, December 28, 2012

Ask and ye shall receive

Ask and ye shall receive.

Stop saying what you don't want and start saying what you do want.

What if it was that simple to achieve the things you desire? What if I told you it was?

Stop for a moment about the things you say, think, feel, and do. Are all of these things in harmony with one another? Are there times when you want something, but your actions don't show it? Have you ever felt something, but didn't say it? Is it possible that in order to truly get what you want, your desires, that every part of you must be pursuing it equally?

If you have doubt, hesitation, or any other emotion chances are you won't be successful. An easy way to remind yourself of the importance of intention is as simple as remembering to always state your desires with an affirmative “I am” statement fully believing you are worthy. Live as if you have already achieved what you set out to accomplish.

I am success. 
I am love.
I am greatness.
I am beauty. 
I am healthy.

Followed by “And I intend to receive the abundance that is here, now.”

It is imperative that the thoughts you have are in line with your desires. Your thoughts determine the outcome, regardless of your actions. Your actions are just the outward expression of your thoughts.

So how do you obtain the things you want and need? You must be aware of your inner self at all times.

Look at it from this perspective. You get in return what you project to the world. Are you often angry, sad, lonely, jealous, greedy? Then chances are that is what you will get in return.

On the other hand, are you happy, loving, caring, generous? Then that is what you will get in return.

Next time you are upset rather than let your emotions guide your feelings, let your feelings guide your emotions.

You can't control circumstances, but you can control how you react to them. Rather than be upset because someone does something to irritate you, instead use this as an opportunity to grow personally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Maybe you want to scream at someone for making you feel upset, betrayed, lied to. Did that really make the problem better? Did you feel good by lashing out? Did it make the other person feel good? Most likely not. In fact, it probably made things worse. Either for a short time, or maybe longer.

Rather than belittle someone, next time choose to let it go.

At the grocery store when someone is fumbling around and taking too long don’t get irritated. Instead take a moment to thank them for teaching you patience. When someone says something you disagree with, thank them for teaching you understanding.

You will find that the way you project yourself to others, is how they will project themselves towards you.

Do you take others for granted? Then they will take you for granted. Do you lie, cheat, or steal? Then they will lie, cheat, and steal.

You have the ability to choose your destiny. You alone have the ability to choose your emotions.

As was stated before, stop saying what you don't want, and start saying what you do want. Intention responds to your desires, your desires are what you project to the world. If you recieve pain and suffering that is what you are asking for. If you recieve love and understanding that is what you are asking for.

So next time someone annoys you don't respond in kind. In the end you will get the same treatment in return. Instead be positive.

Life is simply what you make of it. Do you want to be happy or sad? Angry or joyful? You get to decide.

Making others feel good about themself will in turn make you feel good about yourself.

How we treat others is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves. Remember that next time you feel the urge to put someone down.

You are only on this earth for a short amount of time. How do you want to feel? How do you want others around you to feel?

I believe the following example expresses exactly what we all hope to realize.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes. 

Charles R. Swindoll

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life

Imagine the following scenario. There is a field of energy all around you. Within that field there is a force that you can't see, but deep within your inner self you can feel it. If conditions are right you can even tap into it. This unseen force holds the key to your intention, your purpose in this life. Some people may never realize this exists, others may only have glimpses of it, but there are others still that have the ability to harness this power anytime they choose.

The amazing thing is that it is always there, always waiting for us to access it. The best part is that it's easy to do, if you know how. The thoughts you have can draw you closer or push you further away. You decide by how you choose to view life and the circumstances around you.

We all have a purpose. Everything ever created was done so with intention. You are no different. Whether you believe it or realize it, you were intentionally created. It is your responsibility to determine that reason and pursue it with passion.

Once you acknowledge this intention it can provide you with everything you desire. It is there for the taking. The question is how do you utilize this energy and how do you access it? You know what it is that you want out of life, but how do you make it happen? Whether it is love, fame, fortune, health, etc. But how do you ensure this becomes reality and not just dreams?

You believe in yourself and express your desires to your friends, family, co-workers, God, but somehow you still find yourself lacking fulfillment. You may achieve one, two, or even all of those things, but still you don't feel satisfied. Once you achieve something you want more. So why is it sometimes you are successful when other times you are not?

It is important to remember the following: "Your thoughts must be in harmony with your intention."

You have this voice in your head, your ego. It is always having a constant battle. You tell yourself you want something, then something goes wrong. Immediately that voice in your head says it happens for a reason, it wasn't meant to be, you're not worthy. Whatever the case may be, you have convinced yourself that you don't deserve the thing you desire. Next time you see something you want you are reminded that last time you got your hopes up you failed. Again your dreams fall through. This recurring cycle is never ending. Some people give up completely, others make excuses but keep trying, and then there are those that always seem to get all the breaks. Nothing ever goes wrong for them.

You are just as smart, just as deserving, just as hardworking, so why do they succeed while you fail? Do they know something that you don't? In a word, yes. They simply know something that you don't. Next time things go well for you remember what you did. Next time things don't go well for you remember what you did. Notice if there is a difference.

At some point during the process there was a voice in your head talking to you. It was telling you how great you are. Then there were those times when it was holding you back. Yesterday you were the most qualified, but now you are worthless. What changed?

Have you ever wondered why sometimes you succeed at seemingly impossible tasks while other times failing at the easiest endeavors? What made you succeed? What made you fail? Furthermore, what was going on in your head? That little voice, your ego. What was it saying to you? Was it giving you advice or giving you doubts?

If you really think about it the answer is simple. The times you succeeded and the times you failed had one difference. One major difference to be exact. Harmony. Harmony in your thoughts, your words, and your intention.

Your inner voice told you it was possible and you believed. There was never any second guessing, questioning, doubts. It wasn't that you tried hard or were more deserving. It was you. It was always you. You just had to believe in yourself.

There is no secret ingredient. All it took was for you to set a goal, believe it possible, and allow your thoughts to be in harmony with your intention.

So why do you succeed? Your thoughts were in perfect alignment with your desires. There is no outside force keeping you from achieving your goals. Intention only knows infinite possibilities, abundance. There is no limit to what you can achieve. There is only a limit to what you believe.

The day that you are able to mold these two together, your thoughts and your intentions, will be the day that you no longer wonder what might have been. You will have everything your heart desires.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reaching Enlightenment

In case you are interested to know what it feels like to attain enlightenment this is my experience.

Whenever I close my eyes I see a tunnel of bright white light emanating from my forehead between my eyes. At the end of the light I see a young beautiful woman in a white robe walking towards me surrounded by a yellowish halo. I have a strange feeling of floating.

The upper part of my body from my chest up is really heavy, but extremely light at the same time. It’s as if my body is asleep, but my mind is wide awake. I almost have to tell myself to move.

I have a feeling of multiple thoughts coming into my mind from everywhere. I am aware of everything. I can take the thoughts of others and apply them to my own life to find meaning.

It’s as if I’m psychic. I can think something and then it happens. Where others see, but don’t understand, I am able to see and know. It is a sense of power and invincibility.    

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Win 2 Free Tickets to Aruba Contest

After my recent success with winning a trip to Abu Dhabi I decided to give it another go.

I am currently vying for a chance to win a free trip to Aruba. The trip includes the following:

1st Prize Vacation for two to Aruba, (Value of USD $5,500) including:


Credit of value of up to $1,000 sponsored by Carib Media Marketing Consultancy & Development N.V.

·       6 night stay at Renaissance Aruba Resort & Casino
·       1 week car rental offered by Budget Rent a Car

Dinners at:

·       Simply Fish
·       Las Ramblas
·       El Gaucho
·       Matthews Beach Side Restaurant
·       Papillon
·       The Blue Lobster


·       De Palm Island Sightseeing Tour
·       Sail & Snorkel Cruise offered by Pelican Adventures
·       Horseback Riding tour from Rancho la Ponderosa
·       Kayak tour offered by Aruba Kayak

There are also prizes for 2nd and 3rd place. As of right now the contest has been going on since August 15th and only has 5 entries. I think my odds of winning are excellent.

In order to participate I had to enter a video about what I would do to get to Aruba. I used videos I created from my travels around the world explaining that I would bike, hike, paddle, or fly. My theme was that I would do "Whatever It Takes!"

To win I need votes, likes, comments, shares, tweets, and pins on my youtube page and the official Facebook page. Details for how to vote are below and what I need to win.

The contest ends October 15, 2012 and I will be notified that I won on or about October 17.

If you would be willing to vote for me please do so. Below is the youtube video I created.

You can like, share, pin, tweet, and comment. Each will count as a vote. Below is the Youtube page you can view the video at.

On the Facebook page you can select my video. It's by William Gray. You can vote, like, share, comment, pin, and tweet. They all count as a vote.

Facebook Link - Aruba Video Contest "Whatever It Takes"

If you have pinterest and would like to pin, repin, like, or comment please do so at this link.
Please click all the links you are able to. Everything counts as a vote. it's very easy and very fast! I have always returned votes quickly. Thanks!

The winner will be based on tallies of all the votes, tweets, pins, likes, and comments on the various pages.

You are able to help on all the pages, but only vote once. Doing both is awesome! Be awesome!

Travel Contests

I recently learned about signing up for contests online. I always like winning free stuff so I figured I should give it a shot.

Usually I would just send in my email and other personal information and hope my name was drawn. It usually wasn't. I just wasn't having any luck I guess.

My main focus was on free tickets, a GoPro, or other really popular items. As such, my chances of winning were slim.

Usually I just used Facebook to sign up from posts that companies I have "Liked."

I was just about to give up on these contests, but took a chance. The contest I signed up for on Gore-Tex. The prize was an Outdoor Research Jacket worth $450. I was just about to go to New Zealand in the winter time and this was going to perfect.

I didn't really know my chances, but I had to try.

About 2 months later, early May, I received an email saying that I was the winner of a random drawing from Gore-Tex. I had no clue what they were talking about. The email stated that the original winner failed to notify the contest committee in the necessary time so they had to redraw.

I was the winner! How exciting for me! I still didn't know what I had won so I looked at the description in the email and had to look it up online. The jacket looked really nice. I was really excited because I was considering getting a new jacket before the trip and now I wasn't going to have to. Awesome!

I responded immediately with my address and other necessary information and waited for my prize.

The company ended up ordering the jacket from a company called MooseJaw based out of Canada. It arrived just a few days later.

It was really cool. Since that time I have been trying really hard to win more contests. I will be compiling a list of my winnings so far and eventually share my secrets with others.

Stay tuned to see my list grow.

Vayama-Etihad Airways "Abu Dhabi Trip Winner"

I want to thank everyone that took the time to vote and comment on my photo for the Abu Dhabi trip. I don't know how many votes I got, it never showed, but I had 108 comments. The closest competitor had 18.

Thank you very much!

Below is the winning photo! It was taken during a sunset near Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. It is on the North Island in the central portion about an hour and a half south of Taupo.

I learned about the contest through Facebook and I strongly recommend others that like winning free things sign up for them. People do actually win!

I have to use the two free airline tickets by October 31, 2013. I am going to be flying to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates in November of 2012. My hope is to be able to by a ticket for a two week trip. During that time I will be visiting Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Dubai.

The plane tickets are about $400 in order to include the other 3 countries, however, to fly there myself would be about $2,500. I think it will be worth the small investment.

The trip I won only includes the two free tickets, so all other expenses I will have to cover. Based on my knowledge of cheap travel I'm planning to spend about $1,000 total. The accommodations are somewhat expensive in this part of the world.

I would like to go in November due to weather. I went to Dubai in June of 2010 and that was a mistake. It was 110 degrees everyday with 99% humidity. It was unbearable.

I will be posting information about my trip plans and information about each country in the near future.

I wish I had known about these contests sooner. I am now going to be a professional contest winner!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Vayama-Etihad Airways - Trip to Abu Dhabi

On July 31, 2012 - the day I returned from my One Man, One Journey trip to Australia and New Zealand in search of adventure - I entered a contest to win two free round-trip tickets to Abu Dhabi on Etihad Airways.

The contest rules are posted here:

The rules were to like Vayama's Facebook page, the sponsor of the contest, and submit your best vacation photograph. I had just returned from my trip and one of my favorite pictures was of myself pretending to drop a ring into the top of "Mt. Doom" in Tongariro National Park in New Zealand on the North Island.

The ring was taken from "The Lord of the Rings Risk Game" that I have. My brother carried it with him on a lanyard for the entire trip specifically so he could get this picture.

As we were leaving in the evening after a day of hiking there was a beautiful sunset so we pulled over on the side of the road to get pictures. He pulled out the ring and the photography began. Of all the pictures that were taken this one was the best.

It shows me dropping the ring from a few miles away, but with the right angle and proper stance it was possible. Naturally, by completing this task I was able to save Middle Earth from destruction and destroyed the eye of Sauron and the Orcs.

On another note, I had entered another contest on Facebook a month before we left for New Zealand. It was on the Gore-Tex page to win a jacket from Outdoor Research. Ironically, I wore the jacket almsot every day of our trip and can be seen in this photograph.

The person that actually won didn't respond in time so I was the lucky recipient for their misfortune. I am in the running for a few other Facebook contests as well and hopefully I will be a finalist and the ultimate winner of those too.

To help me win this photo contest I need your help, the help of your friends, family, children, grandchildren, co-workers, and anyone else you know.

All you have to do is click the link below and select "vote" for my photo in the green box. Share the link with all your friends. You can vote 1 time per day from August 31-September 9. The winner will be chosen on September 10

You are also welcome to leave a comment if you like.

Thank you in advance for all of your help and support! The link is below:

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

New Zealand - Abel Tasman National Park Night Timelapse

The following video is from our campsite in the Abel Tasman National Park in New Zealand on the South Island. We spent 3 days kayaking, hiking, and camping in the National Park from July 5-7, 2012 during our "One Man, One Journey" documentary project.

The Abel Tasman National Park is one of the best multi-day hikes in the world. The majority of people that visit the park hike the trail in 3-5 days. We decided that we would kayak the first two days and hike the third. 

The coastal areas have beautifully secluded beaches and coves that are only accessible by boat, which is why we decided to kayak the first part. We also wanted to have the opportunity to experience the trek from the shoreline, which is why we decided to hike the final day of our adventure. 

While we were kayaking we saw a plethora of bird species and a number of seal colonies on the islands a few miles off the coast, which are only accessible by kayak or private boat. To only hike the trail we wouldn't have been able to see these areas at all. We also navigated into small coves, walked on secluded beaches, and explored sea caves. 

The Abel Tasman National Park was one of the activities I had been looking forward to the most on our trip and it was well worth it. The weather had been a little rainy and cloudy leading up to our July 5 departure, but even a late night earthquake on July 4 in Motueka wasn't going to keep us from enjoying our stay in New  Zealand and the Abel Tasman National Park. 

Luckily the weather cleared up nicely and was more than perfect the entire time we were hiking and kayaking in the backcountry of New Zealand. Even though it was winter time in the Southern Hemisphere it was still between 50-65 degrees in the daytime and not much cooler in the evening and night. 

We brought all of our own camping gear; tent, backpacks, sleeping bags, and sleeping mats, which we stuffed into our kayak. We also had all of our camera equipment to capture the entire journey. 

Although there were a few mishaps along the way; high waves, pounding surf, exposed rocks, and seal attacks, we were able to manage our way 15 miles along the coast to our ultimate destination. 

The entire trip was very enjoyable and brought great happiness to me when we were able to depart from our  kayak for the last time. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 17 - Waitomo Caves

July 17 - Waitomo Caves

The last couple of nights it had been raining off and on, but last night I don’t remember it raining at all. The weather had pretty much cleared up by the time we went to bed around 11:15 PM. We had a big day ahead of us so we woke up pretty early. Andy got up at 6 AM and I stayed in the tent until about 6:20 AM. He went to the bathroom and put his contacts in. I knew it would take him awhile to get ready and it would only take me a minute.

When I got up Andy was getting the food out of the car to take to the kitchen for breakfast. We had a piece of jelly toast, a banana, our 2 pears, and a kiwi each. We also had some free tea somebody had left for others to use.

We needed to get up early because we had a 2 ½ hour drive to Waitomo Caves to do a 7-hour Lost World Adventure. It includes abseling into a cave down a 100 meter drop and then walking, swimming, and climbing for the next 7 hours. It includes lunch and a bbq dinner. The total price was $356 NZD, which included a 20% discount since I booked it early. It is by far the most expensive thing we are doing in New Zealand, but it’s also one of the things I have been looking forward to the most.

The tour started at 10:30 AM so we wanted to leave around 6:45 AM to be there in plenty of time just in case something were to happen or the roads were bad from all the rain. We were told they were really windy roads in the middle of nowhere so we also didn’t know how long they would take to get through.

After breakfast it was about 6:55 AM when we left. We were going to get there around 9:30 AM and have plenty of time to get things sorted out. We needed swimsuits, a towel, and good walking shoes. We were hoping we would be able to bring our gopros, but on other things we have done they haven’t allowed them. Most likely to force you to buy their photos.

The town of Waitomo is about 160 kilometers northwest of Taupo. We had considered staying in Waitomo, but due to the weather and the good deal our campground was giving with the stay two nights, get one free. It meant we would have to get up early and have a long drive back at night, but we felt like this would be best considering we were going to have to go back south to Tongariro anyway. It gave us a nice central location for visiting Rotorua, Tongariro, and Waitomo.

The drive to Waitomo was really cool. The sun was just coming up when we left and there were some really cool pinkish and orange clouds in the distance. The weather said it would be drizzling rain in the morning and then clear up, but the skies were mostly clear as we left.

As we drove and the sun came up we got to see some really cool scenery. The drive was actually one of my favorite parts of New Zealand so far. There were lots of rolling green hills with sheep and exposed limestone rock. It was really pretty. I didn’t do any video though or pictures because I wanted to save my battery and card space on my gopro for the cave tour. We will be going back the same way, but it will be dark at that point so we won’t get to see anything.

The drive passes through a couple of tiny towns, but other than that we were basically in the middle of nowhere with very few people, houses, or cars around. We must have drove pretty fast because we made it just before 9 AM. We were extremely early. We actually missed our turn the first time we drove by and had to turn around. As we got close to the actual building for the cave tour we were going on we drove passed that too. On the way back up the hill after turning around we drove by it again. The third time we finally saw the right turn quick enough and turned into the parking lot.

We were really early so we just sat in the car for a few minutes. There were two other cars in the parking lot, but both of them were probably workers it seemed. There was no reason for anyone else to be that early. I was thinking it could be someone doing an earlier tour as well I guess. Andy had to go to the bathroom so he did that. I just sat in the car for a few minutes and decided I needed to pee also.

I don’t know where he went, but I thought he went inside the building. I just ran across the parking lot into the woods. It was really wet and muddy from all the rain so I had to find a place to go hide. There was a trail so I went down it a little way. It didn’t seem like anyone would be going down it at this time of day so I just walked a few yards off.

I came running out of the woods as Andy came back. He asked where I went and I told him there was a trail. I’m sure he knew where I went because he said there was a bathroom right there. I probably went farther then just going inside the building.

I went back to the car and

To be continued...

July 16 - Rotorua - Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

July 16 - Rotorua - Whakarewarewa Thermal Village

This morning I got up around 7:15 AM. We wanted to leave early to get to Rotorua to do a Maori village tour and a rafting trip. The tour started at 10 AM and was about a 1 ½ hour drive to get there. We needed to leave by 8 AM in order to get there on time.

It was raining a little bit during the night, but the tent did a good job of keeping us dry. Andy went over earlier and made himself eggs, fried potatoes, and a piece of toast. I just made eggs and a piece of jelly toast with a cup of tea.

For most of the drive it was rainy and foggy. As we got closer to Rotorua the rain let up, but it was still really cloudy. We drove passed a few of the other things we were considering doing later in the week, Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, which included thermal pools and geysers, and Whanganui Thermal Park. It also included thermal pools and geysers. We planned to do both, but since we were adding the rafting it was going to make things become more expensive.

When I was doing research for the trip I didn’t find anything that said Whanganui cost money, but after seeing a few brochures I realized it did. I knew Wai-O-Tapu was around $32 NZD, but if we bought tickets at the I-site we would save 10%.

As we got to Rotorua we saw Te Puia. It was supposed to be right near the Whaka Village we were going to, but we didn’t see it. We drove passed the turn off because we didn’t see the road. I thought we had gone too far so we turned back. On the way back we found the turn and got to the Whakarewarewa Village around 9:20 AM.

It was raining pretty hard so we just sat in the car for about 10 minutes. We eventually went inside to find out about going on the tour. The tickets were $30 per person and included a tour and Maori show. Since we had 30 minutes to wait around we looked around the museum about the history of the village and the tour operators.

Whaka Village has been welcoming visitors since people started living in the area, but over the past 100 years it has become a big business. The museum was more of a lobby area with information. Most of it was dedicated to the women tour guides and how the village and guiding has changed over the years.

Each sign discussed a decade and the changes that took place. Women have always been the guides for the tours. Very little training was required in the early years, but as more tourists began to arrive the guides needed to be able to give more information outside of just showing the geysers. The government of New Zealand also wanted a piece of the action.

Eventually they required licensed guides, which competed with locals for money. Many times the locals were able to convince tourists to use them instead. They did this by being able to share information about living in the village that others wouldn’t know. They also were more personable.

The government also wanted to make money. Eventually this led to a feud between the various groups giving tours. The gates were locked on one part of the park and haven’t been opened since. This was a few decades ago. Nobody knows who locked the gate.

Over the years the price has changed quite a lot. In the early 1980s it was $2 for a tour and only $1 to enter the city with no tour. Today it is $30 for the tour, and going into the village without a tour didn’t seem to be an option although there was nobody watching the gate and it looked like anyone could cross the small bridge to enter the town.

Today more than 500,000 people visit the village each year. Rotorua has more tourists than any other part of New Zealand. That is probably because of it’s proximity to Auckland. I was thinking that these people must be millionaires unless the government takes most of the money.

The museum was pretty interesting. Before we went outside to go to the place where the tour was supposed to start we put our rain covers on our bags. At about 9:50 AM we walked across the street to the place where we were told the tour would begin. A few people were inside a small building and asked if we were going on the tour. A lady came over and asked if we wanted to get some jackets for rent because it was raining. She said they were long and would cover our legs, otherwise they would get wet. We told her we would be fine.

Two other people came over a few minutes after us. They were sitting in the museum as we were walking around. They looked and sounded Russian to me, but could have been from somewhere else. They were wearing the trench coat jackets. They basically looked like white trash bags. They were $2.50 NZD to rent to wear a trash bag for an hour.

We were waiting on a few more people to show up. A couple of Chinese people got out of a van and joined the tour. We were all directed to go back to the museum and we would start there. We went to the car and left our bags. I thought it would be a hassle to carry around in the rain and I didn’t want to do that.

Two girls showed up as we were walking back. A few of the people went to the bathroom before we started, including Andy. We had to wait a few extra minutes for the Chinese lady to get back before we could start.

The tour guide was an older lady. She was probably in her mid-50s to early 60s. She started out by telling us a lot of the information we had read about in the museum. She then told us how we were going to be visiting her house and seeing how the local people live their lives.

In my mind I was thinking we were going to be going into her home and seeing her family there. I thought that would be kind of strange to live there and have strangers looking at you. It seemed like a zoo or something to me.

We all went outside and it was slightly raining. The guide just stood in the rain under her umbrella as she talked. She was giving way too much information and way too fast. I could barely keep up. The first thing we came to was a bridge with an arch spanning it. There were two figures carved into it. One was of a soldier and the other was a Maori warrior.
When I first saw it I thought she was going to explain how the soldiers conquered the Maori. Instead she was telling us that the soldier was representing the men that fought in World War 2. The Maori warrior represented the men that were Maori and died in battles.

Fighting has always been a part of Maori tradition so it made sense for them to go to war when given the opportunity. The arch was dedicated in the 1950s for the soldiers that had died in World War 2. A few names were carved on the upright beams.

She told us by crossing the bridge that we would be entering her home. Across the bridge we came to a few small buildings on the right surrounded by thermal pools letting off lots of steam that smelled like rotten eggs. The whole town smelled terrible. I was wondering why anyone would want to live in a place like this.

The buildings were originally used as a place to store food, but are no longer used. They are just there to show what the buildings would have looked like in the past. They just looked like small barns about 10 feet by 5 feet. It was still really cloudy and rainy so I didn’t get any pictures.

The town itself just looked like a bunch of old shacks with one street that had nicer looking buildings that might be a movie set in Hollywood or a street in Disney World. At least that’s how they looked to me based on the bright colors and shape of the buildings. They all had porches and lots of windows.

Most of the homes I could see weren’t that nice. I thought with all the visitors they would have tons of money and have nicer homes. Maybe they kept it looking that way to look more traditional or maybe they just didn’t want to tear everything down and rebuild it.

There weren’t many people living in the village anymore. There were only about 60 people left. The oldest resident was 90, and the youngest was 16 months. The year before the oldest resident died. She was 116 years old. I was guessing that most of the people worked in the village as part of the tourist trap in some way. Either at the restaurant, as a guide, in the show, selling tickets, or making carvings to sell in the gift shop.

It was still misting pretty hard when we walked to the Marae. It is a large building used as a meeting house for important events such as weddings, funerals, and counsel meetings. There are lots of carvings on the inside and outside of these buildings. We had seen one at the Te Papa Museum in Wellington. We were going to go inside, but the door was bolted shut. The guide didn’t know why and said we would come back later so we could go inside.

She explained what the colors meant, but went way too fast and was saying way too much to fully comprehend and remember it all. The colors used were usually red, white, and black. The carvings depicted different figures with strange faces. Each statue represented a family member and was recognizable by something on the statue. It could be a facial expression or something else.

I don’t remember what each face meant, but usually men are shown with their tongue sticking out. This is a way for the men to intimidate an opponent. They also make their eyes stick out. Women will make their eyes big too, but they don’t stick out their tongues. If they do it means they are interested in someone as a mate. That was the way to know if a statue was male or female.

The most important event in Maoridom is death. If someone dies in the village then everything is put on hold immediately. If the Marae is being used for a wedding then it is stopped and the body of the deceased is placed in the Marae. If the person is a commoner than their body is placed in the Marae for three days before the funeral.

The first day family members visit. The second day friends visit. The third day is the funeral. Only men are allowed to talk inside the Marae, but outside the women control the community. If the person that dies is of more importance, such as a chief or someone that died in battle, than they are left inside for 5 days. This allows for dignitaries to travel to see the body.

That was basically the only thing I retained from all of her explanations of the Marae.

To be continued...

July 15 - Taupo

July 15 - Taupo  

We woke up this morning around 7:30 AM. It rained most of the night, but it wasn’t a very hard rain. It was mostly off and on. I was really comfortable and even though it was wet outside, it was dry and warm in the tent all night.

It was Sunday so we planned on going to church. We didn’t know where it was or when, but we figured it would be around 9 AM again. We made eggs and a piece of jelly toast for breakfast with tea. We were anticipating getting free food after church so we didn’t eat too much.

There were a few churches on the map, but we didn’t know what kind they were. The first one we drove to was an Anglican church. It had a Catholic sounding name so we didn’t know. The other one was called Church @109. That was obviously not a real church.

We passed by Church @109 and decided we needed to stop and get gas. When I went in to pay I asked the clerk where a Catholic Church was, but he didn’t know. He knew there was one in town though. We went to the I-site down the street to find out from a map. We weren’t sure if they would be open so early on a Sunday.

We parked on the side of the road and Andy ran inside to get directions. They showed him on the map. It was just down the street and a few blocks away. We never would have found it on our own. We weren’t sure when mass was so we just drove up there.

It was about 8:55 AM when we arrived. There were already a lot of cars in the parking lot so I was thinking it may have started. I didn’t want to walk in late and look dumb. We went inside and there were only a few people there. They were all sitting on the left side and they were all non-white people. They were the choir. I never could figure out if they were Maori or if they were Vietnamese or Thai.

There was a projector with the words of the songs they were singing and some of them were in another language. Not knowing what Maori language looks like I couldn’t tell what it was. It had some Spanish looking words though. For world it said “mundo” and for God it said “Diyos.”

The rest of the congregation was white. It was the biggest church we had been to so far, and it still only held a few hundred people. The choir was practicing before the service started and they were actually pretty good. It was shocking to see that. I guess they weren’t true New Zealanders though so it made sense that they knew how to sing and in tune.

The service was exactly like we have at home. There was really nothing different at all. Some of the songs were even the same and they sang in the right tune. They did have a few other songs I had never heard too though.

Afterwards we were hoping for some food and our prayers were answered. There was a table of chocolate cake cut up and a section of banana bread. This service had many more people so I didn’t think we should pig out like we did in Hokitika a few weeks earlier. I saw some kid go get some coffee or tea so I walked over too.

I asked if it was free and the kid passing it out mumbled something. I don’t think he knew English very well. I took some coffee and then walked over next to the wall. Andy got some coffee too. Nobody was taking the cake and I wanted to go get some. As I was about to do that some old lady came up to talk to us. She seemed really excited that there were visitors.

She asked where we were from and how long we would be in the area. We talked for about 10 minutes. She said she was going to be going to Central American in a few weeks. She said to Panama and Honduras. Then she was going to the northeast to Boston. She said she was going to the central part, but obviously she failed geography.

I was watching people take all the cake and wanting for my chance to get away so I could get some too. I wasn’t really paying attention to what she was talking about at this point. She said something about coming over to her house later to talk about traveling and meeting her husband. I wasn’t’ sure what she said so I asked her to repeat that.

She said we could come Monday or Tuesday. I didn’t really want to waste time doing that, but I didn’t want to be rude so I told her that we weren’t sure what we would be doing and when we would be back in town from all of our activities. She said that we should go ahead and set a time because she likes to have a schedule of things.

Crazy old lady. Obviously I don’t want to go to your house. She said it would be fine if we couldn’t make it, but I felt like I should agree to go. We said we would go Tuesday at 7 PM. I was hoping she would at least have dinner or some kind of dessert for us. She wondered around for about 5 minutes trying to find a pen to write down her address on a piece of paper.

As she was walking around asking for a pen some other old guy came up to talk to us. He knew about Texas from a book he was reading, but hadn’t been there. The crazy lady came back and told him that we were going to come to her house on Tuesday night. He looked at her like she was nuts.

We got her address and said goodbye and left as quickly as possible. I am not looking forward to Tuesday night. What am I going to talk to a crazy lady about? If she had a hot daughter or grand daughter that would be there than maybe it would be worth it.

It was about 10:30 AM and the weather was still bad. It wasn’t raining, but it was cloudy. We didn’t really know what we wanted to do so we went to the I-site to get some information. We walked around and looked at the brochures to figure something out.

There were brochures about free things to do in Taupo and things to do on a rainy day. Most of them sounded lame. I eventually asked one of the ladies working at the desk. I was mostly trying to get information about Rotorua and Tongariro National Park.

We had a few brochures about Rotorua and local geysers and Maori Villages to visit. The villages we were considering in Rotorua were Te Puia and Whakarewarewa Thermal Village. The letters “Wh” are pronounced like an “F” sound in Maori. Both of them had geysers, mud pools, and thermal pools, but Te Puia was much more expensive. Whakarewarewa was a living village. Meaning that Maori people still live there and go about their daily life. The tours show people about the way of life and history of the place.

The lady at the counter said that Whaka was worth doing when we went there. We also wanted to know about local geysers and hikes to do. I asked about a few other thermal areas as well. She said that Orakei Korako was really good and worth doing, but Wairakei Terraces was a waste of time and money.  She said we could do Orakei even in bad weather like today and that it would be worth it.

We were also interested in a few other places. I had planned on doing Wai-O-Tapu and Whanganui thermal areas in the Rotorua area too so we asked about those. The Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland had a 10% discount if booking in Taupo’s I-site. In the end both of the places seemed very similar so we were just going to need to decide based on price. We were considering doing both though if time permitted.

We also asked about Tongariro and hikes to do, but she suggested going to the I-Site in Taurangi or Tongariro National Park and finding out from them what hikes were open and what road conditions were like.

We looked around at a few more brochures and saw some that mentioned rafting. I had been wanting to do some white water rafting, but this was a little different. The one we were interested in was down the Kaituna River and included 14 drops and 2 waterfalls. One of the waterfalls was 6 feet, but the other was 21 feet. It is the longest commercial rafting drop in the world. It sounded really cool and I was really wanting to do it. The trip was only 50 minutes and cost $84 NZD. Based on what we had been paying for things in other cities that sounded really reasonable.

We went to read a few more things on the wall to decide what to do before we left. I noticed a newspaper article of  a group of 16 tourists that had tried to do the Tongariro Crossing in May. They walked on the trail even though they were advised not to by a local ranger. It was very cold and rainy and they weren’t properly dressed.

They considered turning around at one point, but decided to keep going. The weather became much worse and a few of them became disoriented and suffered from hypothermia and frost bite. A group of them went back to get help. A group of hikers tried to help them. They had extra pairs of clothes and food, but the people were hysterical and wouldn’t do what they were told.

The guys trying to help them had to yell at each one of them one at a time to explain the situation. Eventually they got everyone out of there, but it was a dangerous situation. The ranger that let them go was being questioned, but he said all of the people were adults and could make their own decisions about the conditions of the trail. He had done his job and told them the circumstances and they chose to ignore his warning.

I thought it was an interesting article so I remembered it. I also read that one of the things to do for free in Taupo was to get a picture taken in front of the lake. There is a webcam that takes a photo every 10 minutes and posts it online. I thought it would be neat to go do that, but I wasn’t sure if the photo was there for only a few minutes or if it was stored in a database to be seen later.

As we left the I-site we had a lot of good information. It was raining outside, but there were a few things we thought we could still do. We drove down the road about a mile to find the look out over the Lake. The look out was pretty useless. We could see about 20 feet and nowhere near the lake.

A little further down the road was Huka Falls. It was a short walk from the parking lot so we figured we could see that. Usually waterfalls are better during or after rain anyway. Andy needed to go to the bathroom, but it cost $0.50 NZD to use the I-site bathroom and the one at Huka Falls cost $0.20 NZD. He just walked across the parking lot into the woods instead.

There were a lot of cars and people there for such a rainy day. It was about lunch time so we ate peanut butter and jelly, chips, and a cookie for lunch. It was raining off and on as we ate and more people kept showing up. It was the most photographed waterfall in the country probably due to it’s accessibility and proximity to larger cities.

Before we went to the falls I ran over to the woods to pee also. There were still a number of cars so I didn’t know if people were on the trail I went to or not. It was covered in muddy and water, but I wasn’t sure. Normally people don’t hike in those conditions, but to be safe I ran about 200 yards down the trail. I didn’t really get off the trail at all, but was ready to run if I needed to hide.

I ran back and we went to the falls. There was a bridge we had to cross first. Underneath us was a fast flowing river through a narrow canyon. The water was greenish and looked really cool. To the left about 200 yards was the falls. It was falling over the edge away from us so we needed to walk down the trail to be able to see it.

After a couple of minutes we could see the falls. There was a railing and two different lookouts to see the water. When we got there a small tour boat was in the water below looking at the water from about 25 yards away. Only a couple of people were on the boat. They were way too expensive for such a short trip. There view wasn’t much better than ours was.

The falls themselves aren’t very tall or wide, but it was still cool. Across the river was another look out, but nobody was over there. I never saw a trail on that side of the river so I was curious how to get there. I thought it would be good to try and go over there later if possible. We took pictures from both look outs and got pictures of ourselves as well.

Just off the trail from the further lookout was a steep muddy and rocky area that looked like it could be a trail even though it obviously wasn‘t because the trail went to the right on a path or back the way we came on a path. Most likely it was smooth just from water run off, but I wanted to go up it anyway.

I had Andy use his gopro to film me going up and down. It was really slick and I thought I was going to slide down a few times. He went up and down it too and I filmed him as well, but with his T2i camera for better quality.

We walked back down the trail and to the car. We drove by a little road that mentioned a look out so I was thinking that was the look out I had just seen across the river. We wanted to go do a few other things first, but considered stopping there on the way back.

Another free thing to do in Taupo is visit the dam. Everyday at certain times water is released. Apparently this is something interesting to watch and a must-do. Since the weather still wasn’t that great we figured we would check it out.

We were going to try to do the dam at 4 PM originally and go do some other hikes if the weather cleared up. Since the weather wasn’t clear and I didn’t want to walk around in the rain we decided we would go to the dam for the 2:30 PM water release. It was already 2:15 PM and the dam was a few kilometers down the road so we needed to drive fast to get there in time.

As we got there it was 2:30 PM. There was an electric sign with a countdown for the release of the water. It said 30 seconds left when we started to cross the viewing bridge. We had to drive a few hundred meters, park, and run back in 30 seconds. There were already a lot of people standing on the bridge and waiting.

We parked really quickly and ran as fast as we could. A bus had stopped on the one-lane bridge to get a look even though it said no stopping. I started out on the side of the bridge closest to the dam and watched the water start to release. It was slowly flowing out, but wasn’t really that neat.

I thought maybe the other side of the bridge would give better views so I ran over there. It was much better. There was a big gorge down below with a minimal amount of water at this time. This was the thing to watch, not the water coming out of the dam itself. I could see people up on a viewing platform off in the distance. There angle looked much better than ours since they were looking back towards the bridge down into the gorge.

I told Andy I was going to go up there and we ran as fast as we could again. The trail marker said it was 3 minutes to the first platform and 10 minutes to the second. I think I made it to the first platform in about 35 seconds. It wasn’t very far, but the trail was a little slippery and I had to cross exposed tree roots and rocks.

I got to the platform and took a few pictures and videos. The water was starting to fill up the gorge a lot more now. I saw the second platform and thought it would be good to go there since there were no people at it. The one I was at only had a couple of people, but the other was slightly higher. I told Andy where I was going and then took running until I got too tired to run. This part of the trail was much steeper and really slippery. I was sliding around and couldn’t run anymore so I walked the last 75 yards or so.

I stopped once to get a picture from a look out, but kept going. Andy caught up to me and we stayed at the furthest platform for about 15 minutes. To our left we could see the dam, the bridge, the first platform, and the gorge below. To our right was a power plant down in the gorge. I’m not really sure why they release the water when they do, but I assume it’s something to do with generating power.      

I wanted to get a picture of myself with the gorge and everything behind me so I gave Andy my camera and jumped over the barrier fence. It wasn’t very effective. I was about 10 feet from the ledge still, but it gave me a better angle. Andy climbed up on the barrier so he could shoot down on me from above. It turned out pretty well. Andy climbed over the fence and got the same picture.

We had seen enough of the dam so we started walking back to the car. Along the way we saw a wild cat on the trail. There are lots of cats in New Zealand. In other countries, like China and everywhere in South America we saw stray dogs, but there are none here. It’s cats instead. Dogs kill Kiwi Birds so they are really protective about dogs not being on trails. In some places I read signs that said to report any dogs seen on the trail.

We passed a few things that I didn’t even remember seeing on the way. One thing we passed that Andy didn’t remember was a small cave. I had seen it earlier, but didn’t want to stop. When we passed the second time I stopped for a closer look. It looked like there was a piece of aluminum in the entry way. I thought it was an alien spacecraft or someone was living in there.

I kept telling Andy to look at it, but he didn’t know what I was talking about. I told him that he must be blind. I went up for a closer look and pointed right at it. He said that was nothing and that it was just light coming through from the top. I got a little closer and finally realized he was right. It wasn’t anything. The “cave” was more like a rock balancing on top of smaller rocks. We didn’t go all the way inside because we didn’t know how stable the rock was.

I wanted to get back to the car so I ran most of the rest of the trail and Andy followed. We got back to the road where we parked. There was a sign that said to not cross the street and to use the cross walk because it was a busy road. It was a road to nowhere with no exit and everyone else that had come to see the dam were long gone. It wasn’t busy at all. I just crossed the street like a dare-devil. I made it safely.

It was about 3:15 PM and we still had nothing to do. It wasn’t raining, but it was going to be dark in a few hours so we didn’t have time to go anywhere and it was still too cloudy to see views of the lake. We had read about a honey shop and free samples. That sounded good to me.

We drove down the road a little ways and found the honey store. It was listed as something to do for free and on a rainy day. I figured we would be the only ones there, but this place was packed. The sign at the door said to come in and learn more about honey than you thought possible. I thought it was strange for two reasons. For one thing I didn’t really care to learn anything about honey, and two, I just wanted free samples.

I was hoping the sample would be on a cracker or cookie or something. When we went in the place was huge. There were the normal souvenirs like wood carvings and glass that we had been seeing, but there was many more things as well. To the right was a small café selling food and drinks, as well as ice cream. The ice cream looked good and I was tempted, but I could get an entire carton of ice cream for the price they were charging for one scoop.

This was also where the free samples were. It wasn’t just honey, it was honey fudge. One of them was Kiwi Nugent, which was white and not very good. It was a small little piece that had to be poked with a toothpick. The other kind was a tan Honey Nugent. It was better and tasted like normal honey.

We walked around to look at some of the other things they had inside. It was warm and smelled good so it seemed worth staying longer. There were hand, face, foot, and other lotions for sale. They had free testers so I tried a few of the hand lotions. They smelled really good. I considered buying some, but didn’t because I was thinking I could find the same thing at home or in a grocery store for much cheaper.

There were also various types of soaps. Thermal Mud soap seems to be popular, but I’m not sure what it smells like or its benefits so I didn’t buy that either. We kept walking and looking at things. There were free honey wine, brandy, and other alcoholic beverages for testing. Andy wanted to try some, but I didn’t really care. To get a test we had to ask one of the people at the counter. That seemed like a hassle since nobody was over there.

As we were looking around I saw an article talking about the benefits of honey on curing diseases and other ailments. I didn’t really look that closely at it at the time since I didn’t feel like reading that much. There was a small section in the corner dedicated as a museum about honey and beekeepers. Again this required reading, but there were displays of the things beekeepers use to gather honey.

There were lots of little things that I had no clue what they were or did. There was a TV with a stupid looking video on showing a beekeeper in action, but I didn’t look that closely at it. To the left was the thing I actually did read. It was a science project a group of intermediate school children did on the effects of honey.

They basically took four different types of honey and put them in a Petri-dish and then put a small amount of bacteria and then kept them in there for a night. They were testing to see which form of honey could fight the bacteria the best. I had no clue honey could do this at all, but it turns out honey has a lot of really good medical benefits.

The most effective type of honey was 10-15% Manuka Honey. This particular type of honey is very expensive due to it’s medicinal uses and is found in only a few areas of New Zealand. I assume it’s found in other countries as well, but I’m not sure. Now that I know about Manuka Honey I plan to look for it at home. I looked for some in the store, but it was $95.

Plain Manuka Honey is pretty effective as well, but the 10-15% Manuka Honey is the best overall. The interesting thing about the honey is that it can be used in a number of ways to cure ailments. If there is a sore on the body it can be rubbed on it and after a few treatments it will heal. If there is a chronic pain or illness it can be cured over time too.

Now that I knew the effectiveness of honey I wanted to buy some. I was also interested in tasting the wine. I hate wine, but it’s healthy and with honey it would only be better. Someone was standing at the counter now so we went over to ask about trying the wine. We had read about a couple of them and decided we wanted to try some of the Honey Meade’s. I read on the description that meades are the oldest recipe in the world.

I was interested in the ones that were most healthy and included Manuka Honey. We tried Winter Honey Meade, a Brandy based ale, and one other that I don’t remember. The Brandy was way too strong and disgusting. It did have 24 karat gold shavings in it though. The other two tasted like wine, but not an overpowering flavor. The Winter Meade was kind of good.

We thought about getting some since it wasn’t too expensive, but I didn’t want to haul it around for the next few weeks. I also thought it would be cheaper at a grocery store or we could get some from the airport as we left the country.  

After tasting those we tried some more free honey samples. This was more of what I was expecting. There were little jars of honey laid out with popsicles stick to dip in them. There must have been 8 or 9 at least to choose from. I didn’t want to take too many so I just tried 3 or 4. There was a sign saying to not let kids have too much so I guessed they didn’t want people just taking it all.

Andy must have tried all of them. I don’t really like plain honey so I didn’t think it was necessary to keep eating them. They weren’t that great anyway. Some were alright, but they had weird flavors. None of them were the Manuka Honey kind though.

As we were trying them I saw the article that I had glanced at earlier. The old guy had been suffering from an ulcer for a really long time and nothing cured him, but after a few weeks of Manuka Honey he was cured. I asked one of the ladies about the honey and she told me all the things I had basically just read.

I figured it would be a 5 minute stop at the-honey store and then we’d go. We ended up staying much longer. I learned a lot more about honey than I thought possible. The sign was right. It was a premonition. There was a wooden cut out of bees where we could put our face through a hole and get a picture taken. It seemed dorky and stupid, but we wanted to do it anyway.

There was a car parked in front of it so we were going to have to put our camera on the hood of the car to get the picture. A family was coming outside as we were getting ready to go over to the sign so we had to wait until they left so they didn’t see us looking like idiots.

Andy just used his gopro for the picture. He set it on a timer, put it on the hood of the car, and then ran over. I’m sure we looked stupid, but it will be a great picture to have. After getting our photograph we were off to our next spot. We weren’t really sure where that was yet though.

We looked at the town map and thought we should go to a park in town that had free thermal pools. We went to them and had to do a short hike across the park to the river and thermal pools. When we arrived there was a guy trying to fly a kite, but it wasn’t very windy and he was standing in a valley surrounded by trees so it didn’t seem to be working well.

The trail crossed a wide open space of grass on a hill, which seemed like the place to be flying a kite since it was much windier. It looked more like a fairway for a golf course than a trail. A few other people were ahead of us and had swimming gear. We didn’t really plan to swim, but thought we could put our feet in the water and get some pictures.

The hike took about 7 minutes. We had to make a pit stop in the trees along the way. The first view we had of the pools was walking across a bridge. The pools were below us and on our right. They fed into the river, which we read was dangerous to swim in because of the current. There were a few guys swimming in the pools and they weren’t very big. They were pretty neat looking though and the water was warm to the touch.

There were little waterfalls connecting the three small pools. There were two smaller pools side by side, and they both fed into a slightly larger pool below, which then fed into the river. We took some pictures and videos and then kept going on the trail. It went up and to the right and led to another set of pools. These were about the same size, but were hidden behind tall grass. There was a trail that led to it and I walked down and saw a few guys swimming in that one as well. The water was coming in from a waterfall, which was much bigger than the ones below, but still only a few feet tall.

I didn’t stay at that one for very long. I was hoping the guys would leave soon so we could get more pictures. Taking pictures with people in them was kind of strange I thought. I kept walking and came to a small footbridge. The water was warm and was flowing from the hillside down under the bridge into the thermal pools.

It was about 4:30 PM when we got to the pools and now it was around 5 PM. I was ready to go make dinner and rest. Andy had seen a spot along the road that he wanted to stop and get a picture on the way back so we needed to leave before the sun went down. It was cloudy so we thought it would get darker earlier than normal.

We only had to drive about 5 minutes back to the entrance of the park. The spot he wanted a picture from was overlooking a canyon that the river was winding through. Most of the pictures I took involved flowers in the forgeground in focus with the river in the background out of focus. I was trying to do some test shots for a little bit. I even did some with video focusing on the flower and then changing the focus to the river. It seemed to work pretty well.

I was tired of doing that so I walked a little further down to get another view. There was a trail right next to where we were walking, but we just walked through the grass since it was closer to the edge and better for taking pictures. I walked through some small shrubs to get closer to the edge and get a few  more pictures. Andy was still at the first spot taking his time. I got my pictures and then walked back over to the car.

It was locked so I couldn’t get in. Rather than walk back to Andy I just went to stand by a tree and wait. Andy asked where I had gone to get my picture so I told him. He wasn’t going anywhere near what I said. As I was waiting I took a few more pictures of the river shooting through a few tree branches. Rather than just stand around I thought it would be a good idea to climb the tree I was by.

It looked pretty easy and the trunk branched out to two large branches. I thought if I could pull myself up a few feet in between them I could then get up higher. I tried to pull myself through, but the trunk was wet and my feet kept slipping. Holding onto the branches and using just my upper body I was able to pull myself up.

As I stood on the trunk I saw a man and a kid coming in my direction. I was thinking he was going to get me to get off the tree. He never said anything though. I was trying to hide from Andy, but I didn’t go any higher in the tree so there wasn’t much cover since the trail he was on was going to pass right by me. I yelled to him to try and find me and as he got closer he asked where I was as if he couldn’t see me.

I was ready to go, but he wanted to go to one more look out platform. It was behind and to the right of where we parked so I never even saw it originally. It ended up being a decent spot for pictures though. It was about 5:35 PM or so and it was getting too dark to take pictures. I could see a parking lot across the way and thought it would be a good place to go in the morning or another day to get pictures.

We planned on doing the thermal pools tomorrow after we finished our activities for the day. Around 4-4:30 PM would be a good time. It wasn’t too crowded around then and we should be back in town. We went back to the campground and gathered our things to make dinner and do laundry.

We put our laundry in separate machines because we had so many things that needed to be cleaned. They wouldn’t all fit in the same one. We did plan to dry our clothes together though to save a little bit of money.

For dinner we made Irish Beef Stew we bought from a can and mashed potatoes along with a salad. We each had a piece of bread with butter as well. For dessert we had cookies and chocolate like always with a glass of coke.

It was about 7 PM when we finished eating and my clothes were dry. I washed all of my dishes and wanted to go do my laundry. Andy was trying to make me wash dishes that he used and I didn’t want to. I had cleaned the cheese grater once already after using it for salad and he got it dity again from putting cheese in the potatoes. He thought I should clean it. I told him that I had already cleaned it and that I wasn’t cleaning it again.

He also wanted me to clean the spatula he used for cooking the potatoes. I cleaned the pot we used for beef stew so I didn’t plan on cleaning that either. I told him to go get his clothes out of the wash so we could dry the stuff, but he was taking forever. Rather than wait around I just went and did my own drying of laundry. He could wash his own if he was going to take that long.

I went over to the TV lounge and watched TV and played on my computer for a little bit while waiting for my laundry to finish. The TV had a satellite so I had lots of channels to choose from. I just watched Fox News since nothing good was on. It was a morning show. I was trying to figure out if it was a repeat or if it was that early in the morning at home. I guessed it was that early.

I wanted to take a shower so I went and did that. I wanted to be clean before putting on clean clothes. The lights must have been on a timer or turned on by movement because about half way through my shower the lights went out. I could see a little bit because there was light coming in from th outside or a sky light above. I couldn’t tell, but it wasn’t completely dark luckily. I went back to the TV room to continue watching TV and playing on my computer.

My laundry finished around 8 PM so I went to go get it. I didn’t want to dry my jacket or two merino shirts so I hung them on the back of the door knob and counter top. I let Andy use my computer to transfer some of his memory cards. I went back and wrote a little more and planned to watch the end of the movie. Things didn’t work out like that. The movie kept going and going. I thought it was almost over, but I fell asleep and Andy said it went on for about 30 minutes to an hour.  

After the movie ended we went back to the tent to go to bed. It was a little wet outside and rainy. It was pretty warm though. I went ahead and filled my water bottle though just in case. I got back to the tent and remembered that I left my shirts and jacket in the laundry room.

I got there and the door was locked. The sign said they closed the door at 10 PM, but I was hoping it was still open since the kitchen says 10:30 PM and it has never been locked and the TV Lounge says 9:30 PM and we are the ones that lock it around 11 PM.

It was raining so I ran over to the laundry room. The door was locked, but I looked through the window and saw my things on the counter laid out. I planned to get them in the morning before we left since we weren’t leaving extremely early. Especially if the weather was still bad.

I ran back over to the tent. As much as it had rained all day the tent was pretty dry on the inside except on the very edges.

July 14 - Taupo

July 14 - Taupo

We woke up early this morning with the intent of driving to Taupo. According to the map it was about 4 ½ hours north of Wellington. We wanted to leave around 8:30 AM so we could be there in the afternoon and still have time to do things.

We got up around 7:15 AM to have the free breakfast. I had corn flakes, two pieces of jelly toast, and hot chocolate. I went back for seconds and made two more pieces of jelly toast. I was going to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the road, but I felt like I had my share of food for the week.

We had to find our way to the Ace Car Rental place to pick up our second car. We knew the general area where it was on the map, but didn’t know how to get there. We wanted to take a bus, but the bus system in Wellington is horrible. Rather than name the streets on the bus route map or name the stops after the streets, they base it on areas. Certain buses go to certain areas and only run on certain days. It’s a hassle. Some of the bus drivers didn’t even seem to know where they went when we asked. I even heard locals ask drivers if they went somewhere in particular.

We gathered our things and had to bring our bed sheet and pillow case back to the front desk. When we checked out at about 8:30 AM we had to ring the bell for the receptionist. She had been eating breakfast and playing on the internet when we were in the kitchen a few minutes earlier. I asked her what bus would take us to the street we needed and she didn’t know. She said we could walk down to the bottom of the street and get a bus back to the train station and find out there or just take a taxi.

We didn’t want to take a taxi because it would be way too expensive. We were only a few miles away, but the price we thought it would be was around $30 NZD. It was early in the morning and we didn’t see any buses. We figured we would just walk a little ways and try to find a but stop further down. After about 10 minutes of walking it seemed like it would be just as easy to walk the whole way to the train station.

From there we could get a bus or at least ask someone that might know something. My bags weighed about 80 lbs, plus I was having to carry fruit in a grocery bag. Andy said I looked like a turtle since my bag was so huge on my back. At first it wasn’t hard, but after a while the weight was all resting on my shoulders and hurting. I have lost so much weight that the belt around my waist couldn’t tighten enough to rest the weight on my hips like I’m supposed to.

Everything looked small on the map and was easy to get to the few days before, but for some reason it was taking forever to get to the train station. I wanted to stop and get a taxi or find a bus, but I didn’t want to pay the money. I felt like if I stopped walking I wouldn’t want to start going again so we just kept going. It was Saturday morning and the streets were pretty empty. Otherwise it would have been hard to walk through all the crowd of people with our bags on.

I thought I could see the train station ahead of us about 500 yards and I was ready to be there. As we approached it though it wasn’t the train station. We had just been in this area a few days before walking around near the government buildings, but everything was looking the same and nothing looked familiar.

We finally got to the train station around 8:50 AM. I was tired and ready to put down my bag. Our new problem was trying to find the right bus. There were no people at all waiting for buses. They don’t seem to be that popular of transportation. Probably because nobody knows where they go.

We tried to read the bus map that we had looked at when we got to Wellington from the ferry, but it made no sense still. We knew on the Lonely Planet map where we wanted to go, but couldn’t tell where that was on the bus map. It didn’t look anything like it. There were numbers, colors, and lines that didn’t even follow actual streets.

We must have stood there for about 10 minutes. I was ready to just get a taxi. I felt like it was only about 2 miles away and couldn’t cost more than $10 NZD. The bus would have been $2 NZD each, so for a few dollars more I thought it was worth it. We tried one more thing. We went to the main entrance looking for an information center. There was nothing. There was a New World Grocery Store and some small stands, but nothing that would be helpful.

There was a sign that pointed for taxi’s though. I was ready for the taxi at this point. It was already 9:05 AM and I wanted to be on the road driving long ago. There were a line of taxi’s parked and I waived at the first one. I asked him if he knew where Ace Rental was and he made a motion like driving a car, and I said yes. He was obviously from India.

He started the meter around $3.20 NZD. I was thinking it would start at $0 since we hadn’t gone anywhere. It took about 10 minutes to get to Ace Rental. We would have never found it and it didn’t seem like a route buses would take. It was on a side road to nowhere and had businesses and factories lining the street. I watched the meter the whole time. It seemed like every 20 feet it added more money. In the end it was about $12.50 NZD. We just gave him $13 NZD and didn’t get any change. It was a little more than I expected, but it was fine. We got where we wanted to be.

We went inside to get our car. I had booked with Ace before and got an email saying if we booked twice we could save 10% on the second booking. I didn’t know that until after I had booked the second car so I wanted to ask if we could get a discount. Because we were already offered a 25% discount they couldn’t add the 10%. It was ok though. The car was already only $18 NZD a day. It was really cheap.

We got all of our things in the car and were ready to go at about 9:30 AM. There were a few different routes we could take, but didn’t know how to get to either one of them. Trying to navigate with a map that doesn’t show all the street names makes it tough. It’s even harder when the streets themselves aren’t named.

We originally planned to drive along the eastern coast since I had read it was a scenic drive, but that would take longer. After we heard about the Rivendale Forest being nearby we figured we could drive towards Upper Hutt to see that, but because we had seen it on our tour we figured we didn’t need to stop again.

It looked on the map that going along the eastern side of the country would be faster. I thought it would be flat since it would be near a coast although that theory hasn’t been true at all in New Zealand. I thought the north island would be flatter than the south.

We chose to take Highway 2 towards Napier and then cut across towards Taupo. I wasn’t sure which route would be fastest, but today was just intended to be a driving day anyway. According to the map we had it was 5 hours but he map didn’t say which way to go for that time. It ended up taking much longer.
Along the way I consider having us cut across from Highway 2 over to Highway 1 since it went straight up the middle and the way we were going was sending us off to the east coast out of the way. Just before we were going to try that there was a sign that said the connecting road was closed. That made the decision a lot easier. We were headed for Napier.

The biggest problem with the way we went is that it included a lot of towns along the way so we had to slow down every few miles. It was much different than the South Island where we could drive for hours and not see a town and the ones we did pass through only had a few hundred people. The towns in the north island were much larger.

There wasn’t very many exciting things on the route, but we did go through a town called Dannevirke. There was nothing special about the city, but as we entered there was a sign with a cut out of a big Viking. I should have taken a picture of it since it was so random. I’m assuming it was a Scandinavian city.

When we finally got to Napier we decided we should stop and buy groceries since we were low on everything. There was a Pack ‘N Save, which according to their commercials have the lowest price on groceries in New Zealand. We thought we would check it out and see.

Napier is a pretty big town. It has around 40,000 people. For New Zealand that’s big. The Pack “N Save was packed. It was a Saturday so maybe that’s why. We were able to park right in the front though. We ended up buying a lot of things. Most of the stuff was about $0.20 NZD less expensive than New World, but some of the things were identical in price. We bought basically the same things as always. We got milk, eggs, bread, but this time two loaves, cookies, chips, and things like that. We spent about an hour in there wondering around.. It was set up like a huge warehouse building similar to a Home Depot, just with groceries.

The downside to this place was that it didn’t have bags for your things unless you paid extra, which is probably how they can charge less money. We didn’t buy any bags since we had some left over from New World. For the things that we couldn’t bag we could just rest in the trunk of the car.

From Napier we got back on the highway and left for Taupo. We originally were hoping we could still get there early enough to do something, but now it seemed like there was no chance. We left the grocery store around 3:30 PM. It was another couple of hours before we got to Taupo.

We arrived around 5:30 PM. We were really low on gas and didn’t know where we wanted to stay. I had seen a holiday park in the Lonely Planet so we tried driving there. It was called All Seasons Holiday Park. As we pulled in to the reception area another couple of people had just arrived and were also looking for a place to stay.

As we were waiting I saw a sign that mentioned the Tongaririo Alpine Crossing guided hikes were canceled for Saturday and Sunday due to weather conditions. We had wanted to do it on Monday, the day we planned to leave Taupo.

The goal was to spend two nights in Taupo. Sunday we would see the Lake Taupo area and then Monday do the Tongaririo Crossing. After we returned we could continue north to Waitomo and do our cave tour on Tuesday. Then we would spend Wednesday and Thursday in Rotorua seeing the geysers, hot springs, and a local Maori village.

We asked for a tent site.. It was $20 NZD per night. They asked where we were going next and we said Waitomo, Rotorua, and Tongaririo National Park. They told us if we stayed 3 nights then the final night would be free. Basically pay for 2 nights and get one free. It sounded good, but I needed to look at our itinerary and decide if that would work. To help make the decision I asked them what the weather was going to be like later in the week.

The lady we were talking to didn’t know, but the guy working there said he would check the weather conditions. He said that Tuesday the weather would clear up, and that on Wednesday it would be clear. We went ahead and just paid for two nights. We drove around the corner and parked in the tent site they assigned us. There were only about 4 spots for tents. Everything else was cabins and campervans. A common thing for New Zealand campgrounds.

We sat in the car and looked at our itinerary. I quickly wrote down a possible new plan to see if it would work if we stayed three nights in Taupo. It seemed like it would be a better option to go ahead and book the three nights.

The new plan was to spend Sunday in Rotorua. The weather was supposed to be rainy and we figured if we checked out a Maori village that the weather wouldn’t really matter. Monday we had a few options dpepnding on the weather. We could go to Tongariro National Park and do some hiking, finish Rotorua, or stay in Taupo and see the lake.

For Tuesday we had pre-booked an Adventure Cave Tour in Waitomo. In order to make this plan work it meant we were going to have to wake up pretty early and get back pretty late, but we didn’t think it would be a problem.

Wednesday would now be spent doing the Tongariro Crossing and Thursday we could do more hiking in Tongariro or go to Rotorua, depending on what we did earlier in the week and the weather conditions.

After figuring all of that out I ran back over and booked an extra two nights to save some money. I paid an additional $40 NZD for both of us. I ran back to the car and we  set up the tent. It was late enough now that I was just about ready for dinner.

We made fish in the oven that we bought at Pack “N Save. We also made fried potatoes and a salad. For dessert we had cookies and chocolate. We had bought a bottle of coke so we drank that. I was tired of tea, water, and hot chocolate. I never drink cokes at home, but I needed something else.

After dinner we walked across the street to the TV room. There was a game room connected to it with a pool table and fussball. There were a bunch of teenagers in there making a ton of noise. In the TV room there was a guy and a girl sitting on one of the couches watching TV. The lights were off and I didn’t want to bother them so I sat in the back at a table in the dark with my laptop.

They had on cartoons the whole time they were there. They watched Family Guy and American Dad. After about 15 minutes Andy came in. He was trying to read a guidebook in the dark. There was an open sliding door between the two rooms so some light was coming in, but not a lot. The kids were being extremely loud and it was annoying. A few little girls came in and watched TV a little bit, but they left after a few minutes.

The girl finally got up and closed the doors between the rooms and turned on the lights. They stayed for another 30 minutes and then left. It was about 8 PM. There were two couches and I moved over to one and Andy sat on the other. We charged batteries and wrote in our journals.

I changed the channel to see what else was on. They had a satellite with a ton of channels. I turned on a movie channel and we watched “The Money Pit” with Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore. I had seen it before, but it’s really funny. They buy an apartment and the top floor is being rented by an old lady. She drives them insane and calls the cops all the time for various reasons. She makes them do chores for her an keeps them up late at night.

Ben Stiller’s character is trying to write a book and she just calls him lazy and says he just naps all the time. They decided they are going to murder her by burning the house down. They end up burning up his book and he loses his book deal. In the end it was a scam. The lady, the cop, and the realtor were all in on it.
Around 9:30 PM the guy working at the campground came in to let us know to lock up the room and turn off the heater when we left. After the movie we went back to the tent. It was about 11 PM. It had been raining a little bit while we were in the room, but I didn’t even realize it at the time.

It was pretty warm outside for what we had been used to. It wasn’t freezing on the ground. I didn’t even bother putting a hot water bottle at the end of my feet in my sleeping bag. I felt like I would be warm enough without it.