Monday, August 24, 2009

My Last First Day of School!

So, I'm still not caught up on all my summer adventures, but we're going to ignore that right now because....


I had been trying to live in the "school-isn't-really-starting" denial bubble (you know, pretending that the 24th of August was just going to be another late summer day...) for the past couple of weeks, but as my 2:30pm class time nears I realized that I should be celebrating this moment! I already know I don't want to do grad school, law school, or anything-else-school after I graduate this December, so this is it! The last time I'll dread heading off to my first class of the semester. I feel like I've reached a huge milestone (and it's about time, don't you think??).

Monday, August 10, 2009

How much sight-seeing can YOU do in a day??

Also known as New Zealand Day Four - May 27th, 2009!

I decided to make just one post for this day, so therefore this is going to be the longest post I have ever done! Get ready for loads of pictures (and you won't believe how many I cut out)!

Ashley and I had enjoyed our quiet room and slept very well. We were a little sad to leave it, but had great hopes for the other hostels we were planning on staying at.

The Base hostels offered "Sanctuary" rooms - for girls only.

We drove down the block to the Northern part of Lake Taupo to take pictures of the Mt. Dooms (covered in snow), and the cool Maori carving before we started the real sight seeing.

The first stop was at Huka Falls. Ashley and I had read in a book about the falls and discovered that there were hiking trails along the river. Having been in a car for multiple hours a day we decided that an hour hike to the falls would be well enjoyed! We drove to the starting point indicated on our map and walked across a bridge over the river to begin our adventure. We immediately found a little sign that pointed to the two trail options we had. The first option was off to the right; an hour-long hike along the river (what we thought we were going to do). Then we saw the other option that said: Huka Falls - 1 minute. And it pointed to the left. We had parked at the wrong parking lot, but loved the scenery anyway.

Having some extra time to kill due to the unexpected shortness of our hike, Ash and I decided to drive off on some random roads on our way to sight seeing place number two. Along one road we crossed a thermally active area that was full of steam, and further along we ended up at a small farm house. Ashley was excited to see a row of ducks waddling down the hill...

I was excited to see a llama!

I jumped out of the car to stand near the fence so Ashley could take a picture of me with the llama. As she was preparing to press the button Ashley happily announced that there was a second llama! Then, she panicked and went running back to the car when she realized that this new llama was on OUR side of the fence. She even freaked me out to the point that I didn't get near enough the llama to be in the picture with it.

Sight seeing location number two was a small dam. It really wouldn't have been much to see, but three times every morning the dam lets out enough water to fill the little canyon below the dam.

This was the view of the lake/mini-canyon area just before the water was let out:

And this was the canyon after it was full. You can see the color change in the water where it's entering the lake from under our feet (we were on a bridge).

We discovered a 5 minute trail to a lookout point that gave us a view back toward the bridge where we first stood, and spent about 30 minutes just relaxing in the sun and listening to the water rush by until the dam shut off the flow again.

Along the road to our next destination we stopped at some interesting places. Puzzle World looked highly entertaining but when we walked in we were slightly disappointed. It was a little store that sold games and, of course, puzzles. Then we saw a sign for lava glass blowing, and paid the $5 NZ Dollars to watch the guys at work in the workshop.

The first guy was making colored glass threads by heating up the colored glass, pinching it with some large tweezers, and pulling out a long string of glass that cooled almost instantly. He would stretch each thread all the way across the room before he returned to re-heat the blob of glass he was working from. The second guy would dip the end of his pole/tube thing into the clear melted glass, roll it in some of the crushed up colored threads the first guy had made (this made a funky pattern on the finished product), and then go to work spinning and twirling the glass after he had blown some air into the blob. We watched him make 3 or 4 glasses (cups) before we went back into the main store and browsed around the other creative things they had made.

Sight seeing destination number three was Wai-O-Tapu - Thermal Wonderland. Think mini-yellowstone in reagards to hot pots and stinky boiling mud. That kind of thing. We had plenty of time, so I grabbed a map/guide of the place, and played tour guide throughout the park; reading each discription aloud as we passed each viewpoint.

It smelled SO bad! I gagged multiple times upon entering the park; it was that gross. The worst was when the trail was lined by bushes and we were sneak-attacted by a sudden breeze that came from across a few smelly potholes. Eventually however, we got used to it enough to not loose the lunch we hadn't eaten yet.

Some random tree in the middle of the path.

Still not used to the smell here... and some geography of the region.

There were signs all over the park that reminded guests to stay on the designated walking trails... I wonder what happened to the last person who didn't follow the rules...

We turned a corner at one point and saw this random ball of foliage up in the trees... but couldn't figure out which tree it was attached to. Talk about random.

Some of New Zealand's wildlife...

This particular viewpoint was funny. We saw the sign for Bridal Veil Falls (also a place in Utah), and then laughed where there was absolutely NO water running over the "falls."

The colors were so vivid sometimes... I liked this pool because the neon-yellow bubbling sulfer stuff was emptying into a blue-green lake and there was quite a distinction in colors. The next picture is Ashley wondering why there were established trails when the trails were just as wet and soggy as the rest of the ground on the other side of the trailmarkers.

I liked the way this staircase looked, so I told Ashley to dance - it just looks like she's running up.

Lunchtime! We finished driving up to Rotorua and decided to go see a few more lakes (there seems to be a lot of those in New Zealand); these ones were right next to each other and cleverly named Blue and Green Lake. We ate our lunch on a picnic table and were quickly befriended by a little flock of sparrows - some of which would land within an arms' length of us.

We saw a tour bus drive up, and we watched it drive right into the lake! We were startled at first, but quickly realized it was a duck - it was a bus on land, and a boat on the water! It even quacked at us as it exited back onto dry land. No joke.

Of course, we took some time to play on the playground before getting back in the car.

This piece of equipment was my favorite... it's called the Rocktopus, and has four arms that reach down and has a small tire attached to the end that you sit on. You can then rock up and down and spin the thing around, and it's basically a four-way see-saw that spins. I think they should make these in the States... I've never seen them here!

There was however one of these at a park nearby my parent's house when I was a kid that had been taken down because kids kept falling off and getting hurt... so it was fun to re live some memories.

Sight seeing stop number four was the Buried Village. Back in the 1930's this village was buried in mud, fireballs, ash and rubble after a nearby volcano erupted. Quite a few people died. The volcano is still active, but now they closely monitor it with special equipment so they can evacuate the surrounding area whenever it decides to rear it's ugly head. We stopped in the museum first, and then headed outside to see the remains (most roofs had been reconstructed).

There was an optional trail that branched off and went down in a canyon for a nature walk, which we of course wanted to do. We thought the warning sign was hilarious. How dangerous could a trail be? We quickly discovered steep staircases and dense forest and understood a little better why the warning was needed. After a few steps down the staircases we had our first "oh my gosh, we're in a foreign country" moment. The jungle-like forest was beautiful - complete with waterfall!

One of the staircases we descended, and a view from the bottom of the waterfall.

Once we got back to the top we thought it was strange how there was a huge canyon and forest next to the flat area where the village stood. The landscape changes so dramatically!

We then checked in to our hostel, jumped into the swimming pool for a bit (it was a thermal pool), changed into our pajamas and headed to the kitchen to make our dinner. Halfway down the stairs Ashley realized she had put her pants on backwards... it was funny.
And of course, we had to play a couple rounds of phase 10 before going to bed.