|Electric Lights .....
Happy New Year! I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. Mine was merry indeed. I checked into the Stamford Plaza Auckland on Christmas Eve and rolled around in 5 Star luxury for 4 days. Perfect Christmas present. Thank you Santa!
It was refreshing to be surrounded by cement, exhaust fumes, police sirens, crowds and chaos! You can take the boy out of the city but you can't take the city out of the boy. Auckland is small and manageable and I managed to take it all in by foot in a few days. What is surprising to me is that when I asked the Concierge for some recommendations on what to do in his fair city he immediately started giving me brochures for getting out of the city? Well it sure isn't NYC! I did the ultimate tourist destination - The SkyTower - and then wandered down the main thoroughfare - Queen Street - and had an amazing lunch overlooking Viaduct Harbour. Sweet. I also managed to take in a movie - Sherlock Holmes - and find a Starbucks. Not just like home, but good enough.
I met up with a traveling friend - Beth - from Colorado who is actually walking most of NZ. She jumped in The Hoff with me for a trip down to the Coromandel Peninsula. We soon found out, when we tried to check into a Holiday Park for the night, that every Kiwi in the two islands had the same plans. I thought Auckland was crowded? Huh, the beach towns are packed. Now is not only their Christmas and New Years break, but their summer holidays too. We wound up in the last spot available in a few places and poor Beth actually set her tent up on a 3 foot by 4 foot patch of grass next to all the camper vans on one of the nights. Whoa. What to do next?
When in Rome. We drove to the beautiful Hot Water Beach (2 hours either side of low tide, you can dig your own hot spa!). We went out for a evening Kayak around the marine reserve and Cathedral Cove. We saw a Blue Penguin and the scenery was spectacular. After an evening meal of boil in the cup noodles we took a short bush walk and saw Glowworms on the way to Hot Water Beach. Pretty cool. The Kiwi version of fire flies (lightning bugs), but they stay lit and light up the dirt in the hillside. We then dug our hot pool and soaked in the, sometimes too hot, water for hours and watched the night sky and socialized with the local wild life.
The following day we took a short drive down to Tairua and soaked up the sun in a sand storm while waiting to book a dive trip to the Alderman Islands. I then went to Whangamata to a real New Zealand Batch at the Beach. A batch is a beach house and some friends I made in Fiji when I was riding out the rain in Nadi invited me to come stay. Stacey and John and children Sabine and Cooper, along with Bex and a few other friends. A full house of incredibly hospitable Kiwis! Absolutely amazing. A hot shower, warm bed, laundry and so much good food I almost forgot I was eating boil in the cup noodles just a day before.
I spent the night and then hooked back up with Beth for the day of diving. The Alderman's are on the Top 10 dive sites in NZ and did not disappoint. We dove the Honey Comb Caves and Orca Cove. So wonderful it is enough to make you forget the water is only 60 degrees!
We both went back to the Batch for a marvelous New Years Eve dinner of freshly caught Cray (Lobster) and fish. Delicious! John's friend Barney had been out for two days free diving and spearfishing for the bounty. We took a walk around the town to see the drunken teenagers staggering sideways and then I was sound asleep by 11 PM. So long 2009 and hello 2010!
Chilling today. Off for a hike to some waterfalls. Tomorrow? Rotorua? Bay Of Plenty? White Island? Taupo? I love options.
Life may be sweeter for this I don't know ..... see how it feels in the end....
I hope you all have an amazing Happy New Year!
Peace and love to all,