BootsnAll Travel Network

One Adventure after Another!!

My stint with Habitat for Humanity is now over, and after a few days of R&R, I’ve left the group and am now heading out on my own for the first time. I am excited, nervous, and a little confused, but mostly just happy that the real journey has now begun. The Habitat experience was really a great one, but because New Zealand is very westernized and I’ve been traveling with a large group of Americans, I really didn’t feel like I was that far from home.
Since my last entry, we spent another week working on the two Habitat homes, and also had about 4 days of sightseeing. The building was going well, and I got to split my time between both houses, which was nice. On the first house I continued to help with the finish work by installing shelving, prepping for paint, etc. When I wasn’t doing that I was over at the second house helping to build the foundation and getting ready for the concrete slab to be poured. The second house is an “experimental” construction that is built using mortar-less blocks. This is a type of construction that was developed by an engineering student at the University of Auckland, and it was designed to help withstand earthquakes. Unfortunately, we did not get to stick around long enough to see the slab poured and the walls start to go up.
Our time on the building sites lasted a week and a half, and we had one rest day on Sunday the 12th. Over that weekend we did homestays with some of the HFH Board members and their friends. My hosts were Ken and Jill Stevenson. Ken is the Board Chairman of the local HFH affiliate, and Ken and Jill hosted a bbq on Saturday night for all of the builders and our hosts. On Sunday we were taken out on a boat trip by one of Ken’s friends, Bill. Bill has a beautiful boat that has been in his family for close to 50 years. We set off from Pine Harbour to Motuihe Island . Even though it was raining that morning, the trip out was beautiful and by the time we got to the island it had cleared up so we had a nice afternoon of exploring the island and swimming in the ocean. Monday morning it was back to work for three more days of building.
After our last day of building it was time to party, not that we hadn’t been doing any of that already. But now that the work was done I was ready to cut loose. So Wednesday night we started off with a few beers at the motel, and then went down the street to this little pub where we caught up with some of the other HFH staffers and had a few pints. After that it was across the street to the karaoke bar, where needless to say I got up and belted out a few. Most of the bars in NZ close early, but there are a few that are licensed to stay open until 3:00 AM. We got directions to one that was open late and swung by, but the girls I was with didn’t like the looks of the place so we skipped that and went to Wendy’s for some late night grub instead. Thursday morning we packed up and loaded on the bus for our three days of touring.
Our tour was led by a company called Adventure Specialties. Our tour guide was Lindsey, one of the owners of the company. Adventure Specialties provides recreational trips for at-risk and underprivileged youth, but they also hire out trips for other groups to help pay their bills. They have been in business for 20 plus years, and have been working with the Habitat groups for the last 6 years. Our tour included a stop at Waitomo to go blackwater rafting (rafting on tubes through underground caves), a night in Woodlyn Park where they have rooms modeled after the Hobbit houses from the Lord of the Rings movies (they also have rooms built inside a train car and inside an old airplane), a stop in Lake Taupo to go on a jet boat ride and do some shopping. While in Lake Taupo I did my first bungy jump, which was a total blast. After Taupo we went up to Rotorua for two nights at the Lake Plaza Hotel. On Friday night we did a dinner show at Tamaki Maori Village, where we saw a Maori performance with singing and dancing and had a traditional Hangi dinner where all the food is cooked in an underground pit heated by hot rocks. Rotorua is a geothermal hotspot with lots of geysers, springs, mudpools, etc, and the entire town smells of sulfur. Saturday morning we got up and went to Te Puia to see some of the geysers and mud pools, and then left to go whitewater rafting. The raft trip felt pretty short compared to some of the trips they do in Oregon on the McKenzie River, but we did get to go over some good rapids, including a 21 foot waterfall. Our raft was the lucky one that flipped over, but we all made it back in the boat without any problems. I would say that out of all the things we’ve done on the trip so far, the whitewater rafting and the bungy jump have been the best.
Saturday night we took a gondola ride up to the Cableway Restaurant that overlooked Rotorua. We had a wonderful dinner and some great wine, and then went back into town and hit some of the pubs. There are a lot of English-style pubs here, and we started off at a place called the Pig & Whistle. There was a live band, and we danced there for a while until heading off to another bar called the Lava Bar, which was packed full of locals as well as backpackers from the hostel next door. It was fun, but kind of a meat market and didn’t feel that much different from the bars in America. But I guess I liked it well enough because I met some of the locals and managed to stay out until 4:00 AM. On Sunday morning we checked out of the hotel and headed back to Auckland, stopping for lunch in a little town called Tiaru which is known for its antiques and arts/crafts. Our Habitat tour ended on Sunday afternoon, and we headed to the Auckland airport to drop off those that were flying out that day. Kristen and Carina were planning on spending another few days in NZ, so the three of us rented a car with the plan to go back to Lake Taupo and then up into the Cormandel Peninsula to visit Cathedral Cove.
Before leaving Auckland, we met up with Matt, a holdover from another Habitat team that was in NZ in February. Matt had been traveling around the North Island for the past few weeks, and was staying at Ken and Jill’s as well. Since he had been up to Coramandel, he talked us into going up there instead of Tongariro, which was our original plan. On Sunday night, the four of us were invited to a bbq at Gavin’s, the engineer who had been overseeing construction of the second house we had been working on. Gavin lives with his cousin and his cousin’s wife in a beautiful house near DT Auckland and Mission Bay. On our way to Gavin’s I had my first experience with New Zealand’s finest. I was driving along and as I stopped to make a turn a police car pulled up behind me and flashed his lights. I pulled over and the first thing the officer said was “You’re not from here are you?” I had to smile as he explained to me that the speed limit there was 50 kilometers per hour and that I was doing 75. (The speed limits in NZ are a lot slower than in the US, and not always clearly marked. I was traveling about 75 kilometers/hour on a four lane road, which is about 47 mph in the US. In the US that’s a pretty reasonable speed, but in NZ the speed limit for that road was only 50 kph, or about 30 mph, which in the States would be really slow for a four lane road.) The officer was extremely nice, but I was a little nervous, as I had had a pint about an hour earlier, and NZ has a zero-tolerance policy for drinking and driving. So the officer also asked me to take a breathalyzer test, which thankfully I passed, and then let me go with a warning after explaining to me what the allowed speed limits are in NZ.
We had a wonderful bbq at Gavin’s that night, then left the next morning for Lake Taupo. The girls had made reservations to go skydiving that day. It was about a four hour drive including the stop for lunch, and we got to Taupo about 1:15. We then headed out to the drop zone, where the girls got suited up for their jumps. (Unfortunately, even though I’m licensed to jump in the US, I wasn’t able to jump solo with them since I hadn’t packed my log book with me. I could have paid the $230 to do a tandem jump with them but wanted to save my money for other things.) Carina was visibly upset and nervous, but they both did awesome and were all smiles after landing. At the last minute, Matt decided to go also and went up on the load right after Kristen and Carina. After everyone’s jumps were over we drove to Mt. Manganui and booked into a hostel before driving up the Coromandel Peninsula the next day. In Mt. Manganui we had dinner at a tapas place, and then found a cool little bar to hang out in. The girls had it in their head to get me smashed, so the three of them kept bringing me shots. For some reason they decided to give me shots of Absinthe (not the real stuff, mind you) and I think I had probably 6 or 7 shots that night as well as a couple of bourbons and a few pints. Needless to say, I was feeling good, but somehow managed to stay coherent and upright. Must have been all the training I’d been doing in Eugene before I left. 🙂
The bars here are quite different. There’s not a lot of selection, and I haven’t been able to find anyone who knows how to make a Manhattan. All of the shots are measured, and what we would consider a single shot of liquor in the States is actually called a double here. As for the bourbon, there’s no Knob Creek to be found anywhere. Jim Beam is considered top shelf here, although surprisingly enough I did find one bar that had Booker’s and a couple that had Woodford’s. At the Pig & Whistle in Rotorua they had a whiskey called Slate and I asked the bartender what it was. He told me it was a Chicago Bourbon and I just had to laugh, since most of us know that only whiskey from Bourbon Cty, Kentucky can actually be called bourbon.  I asked him where it was bottled and he said it was made in Australia using a Chicago recipe. My curiosity got the best of me, and I went ahead and ordered a glass anyway since at least it wasn’t Jim Beam.
Tuesday morning we got up and headed north up the Coromandel Peninsula. We stopped for lunch in a small little town called Tairua and I hit the surf shop to buy some boardshorts and a towel. Then we drove about 45 minutes north to Cathedral Cove. After a 30 minute hike down from the car park, we arrived on an absolutely beautiful beach. The scenery was absolutely amazing and we hung out there for a couple of hours, swimming in the ocean and sunbathing before heading to Whitianga to check into the hostel there. The drive up the peninsula reminded me a lot of the Oregon coastline, with lots of tall trees and winding roads. The only real difference is that the beaches are nicer and the water is warmer. Upon arriving in Whitianga we checked into the hostel and then went and had dinner at this really nice Italian place. Since it was my last night with the rest of the Habitat crew before setting of on my own, I decided to spurge a little and have a great dinner. I had the Tuna filet for dinner, with a nice glass of Montepulciano, and tiramisu for dessert. Absolutely amazing!
The next morning the girls wanted to pick up some more souvenirs before flying home so we did some shopping in town before heading back to Auckland. We got to Auckland about 2:00 and stopped by the building site once more to see how things were progressing. The walls were starting to go up on the second house, so I’m really glad we got to see that. After hanging out for a little while we headed to the airport, where I dropped off the others and returned the rental car. I then caught the AirBus back into Auckalnd and got dropped off at the Nomads Fat Camel hostel. It’s your typical downtown hostel, and I booked two nights here while I try and figure out my next move. My plan from here is to head up to Kaitaia where I can hopefully catch a tour bus up to Cape Reinga to see the point where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea collide. I’m not sure how I’m going to get there yet, but I guess that’s part of the fun.

Here are more pics:

Me and the Girls at Motuihe Island 

The girls and I at Motuihe Island. The boat we rode in on is the big white one behind us.

Group Dinner 

Group dinner at the Motel.

Doorways  GV Team on the new deck

Pictures of the GV Team at one of the houses.

Relaxing after a hard days work

Relaxing after a hard days work.

Hobbit Hotel at Woodlyn Park

The Hobbit Hotel at Woodlyn Park.

Taupo Bungy Bungy Jumpers 

Bungy jump at Lake Taupo. 

Whitewater Rafting 

Whitewater rafting over the falls.

Cathedral Cove Hole in the Rock Beach at Cathedral Cove

Cathedral Cove on the Coromandel Peninsula.

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2 Responses to “One Adventure after Another!!”

  1. Laura Says:

    so I see you’ve picked up some Kiwi lingo at the “car park” 🙂 sounds like you’re having fun… ready to go home yet?

  2. Posted from United States United States
  3. admin Says:


    Good on ya for noticing! Sweet as! 🙂


  4. Posted from New Zealand New Zealand
  5. Sean Says:


    Hey buddy, did some snowshoeing yesterday. Seeing the pictures of blue sky, beaches and sunshine down there really pisses me off. Sounds like you are livin it… Have a blast.

  6. Posted from United States United States
  7. admin Says:


    The weather is here, wish you were beautiful! 🙂 And just in case you were wondering, swimming in the Pacific Ocean is pretty fun when it’s the NZ coast and not the Oregon coast. I don’t really feel too badly about missing out on the snowshoeing.


  8. Posted from New Zealand New Zealand
  9. Stacia Says:


    Whoa, that waterfall is impressive, it must be a class V. A bit more extreme than the Deschutes. 🙂 Looks like an awesome time.


  10. Posted from United States United States
  11. Drew Says:

    Damn, it looks like you had a good front-row seat on the raft. Is that where all of you fell out? I would’ve peed myself on the bungee jump.

  12. Posted from United States United States