I left Vancouver, BC at 1pm on August 19th and landed in Auckland, NZ at 5am on August 21st. August 20th did not happen, I flew into the future. I started off my trip with lots of touristy stuff; I hit up the aquarium, the natural history museum, the zoo,
and fed a lamb at SheepWorld.
On Tuesday I caught a train into town and then a ferry out to Rangitoto Island, a dormant volcano. I hiked to the top of the volcano and down into the crater, then explored some lava caves on the east side of the island (had to use the flash on the camera to see where I was going).
On Wednesday Mom and I drove out to Piha and climbed to the top of Lion Rock. She wasn't too keen on climbing but I talked her into it. You only live once.
On Thursday I drove 4 hours north to Paihia and found a hostel. I went for a quick afternoon kayak trip down the shore and back and came back to meet my flatmate, a rather talkative Kiwi named David and his lady friend, a Chilean girl named Katie. They introduced me to a few other people at the hostel including Elena from Germany and Fernanda from Brazil. We all went out to the pub and it just so happened to be karaoke night, my favorite. I met a few nice Kiwi lads and a couple of girls from Iowa. After a few beers I ended up singing 'Born in the USA' with the two other Americans which I'm sure was an overly intoxicated performance and obnoxious to the rest of the bar patrons, but it was lots of fun on my end.
The following day David and I woke up
and went on a kayaking adventure in search of Haruru Falls. However, due to a less than helpful map, we never ended up finding them and paddled back home after 4 hours of the most intense upper body workout I've ever had. But alas, so as not to feel entirely defeated, David, Elena and I hiked to the falls (another 4 hour workout) and were victorious. When we got back David and I made some pumpkin masks for the masquerade ball at the pub (his idea). The prize for wearing a mask was a free drink, not sure if it was totally worth the effort.
I've been joining Mom and Dad at church and singing in the choir with them. Last Sunday we sang 8 or 9 songs in a concert after the worship service. Learning 8 or 9 songs from one choir practice was a bit of a stretch for me, but thankfully Dad was singing tenor as well and drowned me out on any of the notes I missed.
Later that Sunday I finally got to experience a "driveway party" that I had heard so much about. This particular driveway party was planned ahead of time, but Mom says if you stand out in the driveway on a nice day with a drink in hand, no fail, people come out and start to accumulate.
We ate sausages (which New Zealanders eat on buttered bread, not hot dog buns), pavlova, bread pudding, meatballs, and drank lots of beer.
Last night I caught a bus downtown and met up with David (from Paihia) for some drinks. We hit up a few clubs, danced a lot, drank a bit, and I ended up crashing at his place as the buses don't run that late and I had no way to get home till the morning.
Tomorrow we're all going to Rotorua for a solid dose of Maori culture and geothermal geysers, and next weekend we're flying down to Wellington for a couple days where I'll get to attend my very first rugby match.
More to come ...