It’s finally time – to pack up my bag again and move on from New Zealand. What calls me onward is not a new country, but instead a return to a home that I haven’t seen in months. I would enjoy staying in New Zealand for another six months, but unfortunately a lack of good job options and my non-infinite bank accounts have conspired together, and the clearest course for me is to return home to rest and rebuild my finances before starting out again on another world trip.
For now, what that means is that I am taking my leave of Christchurch. While the city has been amazing to me, I haven’t had the time to see anything of the North Island as of yet, and so I’ve planned out a road trip in order to remedy this.
The dawn broke… and then shattered into a thousand droplets that rained down onto my tent. So I guess the bugstorm did help me out a bit, in the end, since they forced me into setting up my tent versus simply laying out a sleeping pad. That realization didn’t make getting out of the tent any easier though, and it took me nearly half an hour to finally motivate myself enough to brave the rainstorm.
Once I did leave the tent, I found myself in a place that looked a bit like what I had seen the night before – the fog was thick over the road, the rain was drizzling down (not nearly as bad as it had seemed while inside the tent), and everything was coated in a thick layer of “eww, I want to go back to sleep!” Thankfully all of the sandflys that had infested the car the night before seemed to have died, or at least disappeared, and so I was able to stuff my sleeping back back into my backpack without any interference from small flying insects. I didn’t end up packing the tent up though, opting instead of just let it sit in the back seat and hopefully dry out a bit before I got into Auckland that night.
And so, back onto the road I went. The morning wasn’t really much different from the night before, if we’re being honest, except for the possibility of the landscape being even more creepy in the daylight. The sun hadn’t fully broken the clouds and fog by the time I started off again, and so my total visibility was just a few hundred meters. This combined with two other facts to convince me that we, as a planet, were being invaded my alien war-robots: I was driving under power lines, and the fog was still thick around the hills. Why did that convince me of an alien invasion? On the side of the road all that I could make out was the vague shape of hills rolling by, each topped with a large bipedal metal creatures standing guard like great sentinels.
(Ed Note: if you weren’t sure, Ben means that the Electrical line towers were blanketed in fog just enough to look line alien robots on top of the hills that he was driving by)
As the morning wore on, the fog did slowly lift off of the landscape, and I got to see more of the reason why people love New Zealand – the countryside is amazing. The hills and rock outcroppings slowly rolled by as I drove, and I started to notice a strange thing… New Zealand driving distances seem to be off; either that, or the speedometer on the car I was driving was significantly off. I suspect the latter, since its was a rental car, but either way the distance that I was traveling did not pass nearly as quickly as my speed would lead one to expect, and I spent a significantly longer time driving that I expected.
After driving for a few hours I was finally wide awake, just in time to arrive at the town of Taupo. Taupo’s a small touristy town on the edge of the aptly named “Lake Taupo”. What makes the area special are the geothermal vents around the area, and the hotsprings that they feed. As such, my first goal after I parked the car was to figure out where some hotsprings were, so that I could relax in the natural sauna of New Zealand. The i-Site sent me in the right direction, and after a short walk I was relaxing and soaking in a small pool at the side of a large river.
The pool was fed by a stream running out of the hills, in a little waterfall at the far end of the pool. From here, nearly-boiling water heated the pool up, and cold water from the adjacent river helped to regulate the temperature of the pool to a quite lovely level. I wasn’t alone in the pool of course, but thankfully I seem to have a fairly high tolerance to heat, and so I was able to have a small corner all to myself. And thus I spent nearly an hour slowly cooking myself in the pool – sitting in the shade of a tree, my back against a warm rock and the hot stream falling right next to me as I read my book.
On the way back I explored the hot springs park for a quick bit, wanting to stretch out my boiled muscles a bit before sitting back down in the car for the last leg of my trip. I found a thing called a “confidence course”, which appeared to be an amazingly fun obstacle course consisting of 15 or so stations that incorporate strength, climbing, and generally a fear of heights. Pretty much perfectly my thing, and I think I’d like to set one up somewhere, and use it as a timed full-body workout.
Unfortunately I did have to push onwards though, since while I was soaking I had received a few text messages confirming everything about the place I was going to be Couch Surfing for the first few days of my stay in Auckland. First though, I stopped into town and hunted myself down some lunch – Its strange, but until coming to New Zealand I almost never ate sushi, and now I find myself eating it nearly constantly. I don’t know if its just a more integral part of Kiwi culture, sushi shops are more prevalent, or just that Boston doesn’t have many good places to get sushi, but either way I definitely enjoy it, and think that I’ll start making some myself when I get back to the States.
After the above lunch of Sushi and mocha (mocha is the greatest drink ever, FYI) I got back into the car and wandered off onto the main road. It was beautiful, the road was simple, and it was boring. Thats really all there is to say about it – too much of a good thing means that the good thing becomes normal, and normal things start to get boring.
My one distraction on the road from Taupo to Auckland was an encounter with some roadwork. Not a good distraction, you would think – not so for me. You see, I was stuck behind a bus. A bus full of grade-school boys. They looked back, saw me, and flipped me off. In return, I made a funny face straight out of Calvin and Hobbes. They responded in kind, and after less than 30s the entire back window of the bus was full of kids making faces and doing crazy dances while we waiting for the traffic cop to let us pass through. It actually got to the point that I ran out of funny faces to make, had worked through my inventory of horrible disco dance moves, and had started into random fencing moves with my pen… yes. I am a mature man who has a degree in Engineering and has worked for a Top-50 company. But that doesn’t mean I have to act it 😛
What else is there to say of my Great North Island roadtrip? Nothing, to be honest. I arrive in Auckland right when I planned (for once), and me and my Couch Surfing hosts relaxed, chatted, ate some dinner and got to know each other over a glass of wine that I brought as a “thank you for hosting me” present. It was a simple night, where our class was completely at odds with my earlier face-making escapades. Its the dichotomy of my life that I love so much – getting to be completely immature and rediculous one minute, and then sit in an extremely high-class loft apartment drinking wine and discussing international economics the next.