In Kaikoura, Jim signed up for the dolphin swimming and I signed up just to watch, since I am not “confident” in the water and it is stinkin’ cold. The next morning we got up early to go and it was so windy and wavy that they said if you ever might get seasick, you’d definitely get sick today. So I cancelled, and Jim cancelled too. So that was a bummer, but oh well. Kaikoura itself was gorgeous, too.
We’re seeing finally that there IS an advantage to being in NZ in the summer and not the winter, like it is now….I always thought it was great to be here now, in the fall/winter, because there are no crowds. But some of the activities are not running and are just COLD! Anything to do with water is frigid. And there is no reason to go to any of the beaches.
So we drove back to Christchurch and spent the night there.
That night we went to a semi-final rugby game of the “Super 12″ between the Canterbury Crusaders (home) and the Storm from South Africa (don’t know anything about them). It was funny because a lot of people were dressed in the team colors, had painted faces, had foam hands and swords and other stuff. It was SO cold but it was neat. I thought that rugby seemed more exciting that football because football stops so much. But I realized that in rugby it gets boring too because they get in the big huddles and just shove around and don’t move a lot. And that happens like every 5 seconds. The neatest part was seeing a sport that is foreign to me and seeing all the people excited about it. (What a profound thought.)
The next day we returned our rental car and set it up so we’d pick up another one in Auckland.
We flew to Auckland, the rental company picked us up and we got the car, which was exactly the same as the old one!! Cool!
We took to the open road and went straight to the Waitomo Caves, which are famous for their glowworms. The next morning, we signed up for a cool caving tour (Here is a link to what the exact trip consisted of) where you abseil into the cave (lower yourself with a rope and a harness attached to you), tube on the water, fly down a wire, and abseil up a waterfall and other stuff like that. I was worried because I met a few girls who said it was awesome, but SO FREAKING COLD. I was getting more and more worried because I am one of those people who is always cold. Not to mention, I can’t swim. (Tour companies always say, “You don’t have to be able to swim, just be confident in the water.” I say, if you can’t stinking swim, you aren’t confident because you are worried about drowning, for god’s sake!)
So anyway, at the last minute I tried to book some different tours that were “dry” tours, but none of them had enough people signed up to go. So the time came and we went to the office and they gave us all cold, damp wetsuits, booties, and jackets to wear. It was a nightmare putting those disgusting, wet things on. I had a brilliant idea to put my already-wet booties under the hot water faucet so at least they would be warm when I put them on. That turned out to be a fatal mistake as they got cold immediately and I had more water than normal in my booties the whole time to make my feet icy.
So we all put on these ugly suits and then white plastic boots and helmets with lights on the front. They put a harness and all sorts of hooks and loops on our legs and waists. It was freezing and horrible.
We got in the van and went to the cave and they showed us how to abseil. Next they started to lower people into the cave (abseil), which was like 100-feet or 100-meter (or something) hole straight into the ground. I wasn’t worried about the abseiling, but I think I knew in my heart the whole time that I couldn’t do the whole thing. I was in physical pain in my feet and other parts of my body that were absolutely freezing, and I knew in a short time we’d be walking in water and climbing up a waterfall with water in your face and swimming in the same ice-cold water. There was NO way. So I told the people I wasn’t going to go.
Everyone went in the hole and finally another group came out and they took me back. When I was in the hot shower I was shivering so hard I must have looked like I was having a seizure. God.
Jim about to abseil down the cave. Way to pose, eh?
So, while I waited to Jim to come back, I actually drove the car a mile down the road to try to go to the glow worm caves myself, but I couldn’t fit it in before he was finished. Then I went to some little cave museum. And then I went back to the place and Jim and the group was done. (The whole thing took about 4 hours).
Everyone said it was awesome, but yes, COLD. Jim told me I made the right decision because at one point they were swimming in water that you couldn’t touch the ground on. Since I can’t swim at all, and the cold water would have killed me…it just would have been a bad time for all.
So we had to start driving to make it to the next place. So we had gone to Waitomo and I didn’t even go to a stinking cave!!! I was so mad at myself and what happened. I should have known from the beginning that I couldn’t do the water thing. We decided that on the way back, we might try to go to Waitomo again so I can do a tour there. There are lots of caving options and plenty that are dry and still fun.
So that night we drove to “National Park,” a town that is a jump-off point for the Tongariro Crossing, which is called the best one-day walk in NZ. You walk up a mountainy thing and see volcanic craters and awesome blue lakes and lots of cool stuff. However, the walk is 6-7 hours long and a lot is uphill. Of course I knew I would have a tough time but I knew we had to go.
So that night we went and bought a packed lunch for the next day. We got out all our warm clothes and packed a small bag with water and sunscreen, etc etc. We had to get up at 6:30 because the bus there was so early! I got up fine but then Jim started saying that maybe we didn’t need to go and that we’d see similar stuff other places. So he sorta talked me out of it (it wasn’t tough to do) and we didn’t go!! What losers! Everyone you meet says how great the walk was and how much it was worth it. We just aren’t into walking. It’s so boring.
A view of a volcano in Tongariro National Park (while driving away)
So, then we drove to Lake Taupo… getting into geothermal country! On the drive there, we got perfect views of the volcanoes we would have climbed on the walk. Then we got to the lake (the deepest in NZ I think. And the biggest too, maybe?) and it was gorgeous. We got the hostel, ate our packed lunch from the walk we didn’t go on, then drove to a place called “Craters of the Moon.” You just walk around a hilly field and there is steam coming out of the ground everywhere. It was pretty neat!!! It made me excited for Rotorua, where we go next…. We’ll be able to go to mud pools and hot springs spas and stuff!
Then we saw a small waterfall/rapids that was an amazing light-blue color. You see the most amazing blues in this country!
Then we came back, I did the laundry, Jim took a nap, and then we made dinner. They have the BEST thing here… Uncle Ben’s rice that comes in small packets. You boil water, throw the plastic packet in, and 15 mins later, pull the packet out and it’s done. You don’t have to measure or anything, and it was the perfect amount for both of us. Maybe they have it at home, too. It was great. We mixed it with a store-bought frozen stir-fry and drank it with the wine we bought in the south island.
Tomorrow we’ll head to Rotorua. We’re flying thru the North Island! After Rotorua, we might go back to the caves and then to Auckland and we’ll have time to go north to the Bay of Islands, and then any extra time in Auckland, then to Rarotonga!!