Here we are, checked out of our hostel in Auckland, waiting to head to the airport. This mood is quite representative of our trip--a man (and woman) without a country, homeless and happy. We're pretty excited to fly back to the states and see our friends and family. But "excited" isn't really the word to describe our feelings for having our own closets, bathroom and kitchen again... But before I get all sentimental and start recapping the trip, here's one more blog about our time on North Island, NZ.
After our 2-week road trip on South Island, we flew north to Wellington. It was a pretty rough day: start of the job search, cold and rainy, and a plane ride so bumpy that I almost cried. But all was alleviated when we found ourselves eating dinner at Sweet Mama's, a fantastic restaurant modelled on the food at New Orlean's JazzFest. I ate the second best crawfish monica of my life. And the po'boy was pretty great too. After dinner we caught up with Nico, our tour guide from Chile's lake district, and his girlfriend Kristen. Always great to see friends on different continents!
We spent a great day in the Te Papa museum, which houses exhibits on all aspects of New Zealand--from Maori culture to geology of the islands. At the right you'll see a Maere, a traditional Maori meeting house. We also caught some of the Wellington International Film Festival--make sure you go see Young @ Heart, a fantastic rockumentary about a group of people in their 80s and 90s singing contemporary rock songs.
The next day we rented another car and drove up to Rotorua to soak in some hot springs and absorb more Maori culture. We took in a show at Te Puia cultural center, which houses the Pohutu Geyser (picture below), the biggest one in the southern hemisphere. At the left is a guy doing the Haka, traditional warrior dance (to try to scare the enemy off the battlefield before the fight even starts). Also pictured below are women dancing with poi, which were used by men for battle training and women for rhythmic drumming. Here we also got to see the rare Kiwi bird, which was a lot bigger than we imagined. Unfortunately we couldn't take a picture of it as they're nocturnal and camera flashes blind them.
Next, we went to the Waitomo glow worm caves. The cave system is dug 130 feet below by underground rivers. A weird moth / maggott insect lives on the walls of these caves and their excrement glows in the dark. The bioluminecense creates an amazing effect that makes you feel like you're outside looking at thousands of stars in the sky. Unfortunately, the glow worm pictures didn't really come out. Below left is a shot of the glow worm larvae, which look like little strands of fishing line hanging down from the caves.
In two hours we board our flight to LA. 4 days there with my nieces, then we'll fly to the East Coast to see our families in Maryland and New Jersey. We'll be back in NYC by the end of the month, but stay tuned for some more blog posts with videos and a trip wrap up. See you soon!