Adventure Sports In Queenstown, New Zealand

Adventure Sports In Queenstown, New Zealand

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.” ~ Anonymous

How do we think an adventure sport gets started?  I imagine that you have this one crazy friend who does something that seems to invite death — or at least serious injury — like jumping off a bridge while attached to a rubber band. Perhaps you are a  slightly saner, financially minded person and you see that he lived after doing this. You think, how can I turn this into a business? How can I find a way so people can do this safely but still feel like they’re inviting death or serious injury? I believe they call this thinking out of the box. You figure it out and hordes of young thrill-seekers come running. It happens that many of these type of people live in New Zealand. This is how  Queenstown became the unofficial capital of the adventure industry.

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Queenstown is a less developed version of Aspen or Lake Placid with about six main streets and a lakefront promenade. (photo by Cordulia Reins)

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Every adventure activity you’ve ever heard of is on offer (river rafting, sky diving, jet boating, bungee jumping, ziplining, mountain biking, sky gliding) and probably several you haven’t (snow-kiting, parapenting, white-water sledging)

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Adventurers inundate Queenstown in the summer the way skiers do in the winter. I began to notice a parade of different types. There is one group  that is rugged and unkempt who is there to do every crazy thing they can afford. They go right to the Nevis Bungee Jump. It is the highest jump in New Zealand You can travel 134 meters in 8.5 seconds,  No heart conditions here. People over the age of seventy-five can bungee jump for free in Queenstown. (?) The second is friends and family who are there to make sure that the first group survives. Then they go on to do more crazy things together. The third group is the trampers- the hikers. They have all the cool gear and are basically using Queenstown as a base for the surrounding  amazing tramps and walks. They might try a packaged tour like jet boating which seems about the wettest but least dangerous adventure.

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I’m kind of the Woody Allen of adventure sports. I like knowing they are safe and maybe in books where other people are having them. I prefer it when you aren’t too wet, hot, cold, hungry or dizzy.  I hit bad weather in Queenstown and activities were cancelled. I didn’t get to test my fear level. I thought that I would feel relieved but I was disappointed. Avoiding danger doesn’t always keep it away. Luckily the world has a lot of adventures for me to find and now I have the clothes and gear so I will have to go find them.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Things I Have Learned In Wellington, New Zealand

Things I Have Learned In Wellington, New Zealand

“Travel ennobles the spirit and does away with our prejudices.’ Oscar Wilde

The National Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, has 36,000 square meters of public floor space, taking up five floors and the size of three rugby fields.

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The museum sits on 150 shock absorbers to protect it from earthquake movement and has enough reinforcing steel to stretch from Wellington to Sydney. The architecture is amazing and admission is free.

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I find that museums are different for everyone. Some people like to spend ages reading all the wall plaques and examining paintings, while others just want a brisk walk to check out the best bits and then go for a coffee or get a tea towel at the gift shop. The Wellington Museum is great because  the methods of display and subject matter vary throughout the museum. There is less of a structure than some other museums to reflect visitors preferences .

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Gallipoli The Scale Of War is a larger than life exhibit that  uses the experiences of real New Zealanders who served, fought and died to capture the human face of what became known as the Great War and the battle of Gallipoli.

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I had trouble with the massive scale of the soldiers which gave it a more Disneyland and less human feel.

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But traveling throughout Australia and New Zealand and being at Gallipoli in Turkey made me also understand that it is still a larger than life experience for these countries.

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Wellington’s waterfront is a beautifully walkable public space, dotted with cafes, parks, sculpture, bars and ice cream vendors.

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Legend has it that Wellington’s well-known Parliament building, the Beehive, was actually sketched as a joke. While some say the architect’s paper of choice was a napkin, others claim it was drawn on a cigarette packet. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Wellington’s compact geography isn’t just handy for visitors; over 18,000 of the city’s residents walk or jog to work and the waterfront is popular with runners. While Wellingtonians may be keen on foot traffic these days, it was a local man – William McLean – who imported the first car into New Zealand in 1898. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Said to have more cafes, bars and restaurants per capita than New York, Wellington is also fuelled by some of the strongest coffee you’ll ever find.

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Home to hipsters, artists and lovers of vintage, Cuba Street is a bohemian haven with some of the city’s most colourful shops, bars and cafes.  Stop at Fidel’s for coffee.

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It’s been said that over one-third (33%) of Wellington residents have a bachelor degree or higher qualification – the highest in the country.

Zealandia is the first award winning fully-fenced urban eco-sanctuary in the world.(photo by Cordula Reins)

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Wellington recently became known because The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy was made there.

Wellington, is the southernmost capital in the world. Wellington replaced Auckland as the capital city of New Zealand in 1865. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Wellington is located on the Southern end of North Island. You can take the ferry from Wellington to South Island.

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Interislander’s Cook Strait Ferries travel between Wellington and Picton New Zealand.

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The 92km voyage takes 3 hours and has been described as “one of the most beautiful ferry rides in the world.

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I love a good ferry ride.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

For The Traveler

For the Traveler  (photos of New Zealand by Cordula Reins)

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

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New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.

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Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

0447_tongariroWhen you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,1011_okarito_mountain_view
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:0435_tongariro_taranaki_fallsHow you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening a conversation
You want to take in0705_lake_tekapo_bridgeview
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.1021_franz_josef_glacierWhen you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,0828_tsse_cruise_lake_wakatipu
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.0370_wai_o_tapu_champagne_poolA journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,0152_paihia_morning
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.0778_milford_soundMay you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;0954_walk_to_fox_glacierThat you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.0579_abel_tas_np_onetahutiMay you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.0498_winetasting_lookout_hill_cheers

John O’Donohue
from: To Bless the Space Between Us

Special thanks to Cordulia Reins for sharing  her beautiful vision.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

 

Things I Have Learned In Auckland, New Zealand

Things I Have Learned In Auckland, New Zealand

“For those who are lost, there will always be cities that feel like home.”  Simon Van Booy 

Auckland  is called Tamaki Makaurau in Maori. This area is known as the Tamaki plains. It means “Tamaki of a hundred lovers,” referring  to the many battles of tribes for the possession of this desirable region.

It is also known as “the city of sails”. It has more boats per capita than anywhere else in the world.  One in three Aucklanders have a boat.

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Kiwis are among the best sailors in the world. New Zealand won the last  America’s Cup .

The MPI ( Ministry For Prima industries) have serious recreational fishing rules. They want to keep fish available for everyone. There are rules around the number of fish and shellfish you can catch, the sizes of fish you are allowed to keep and where and how you can fish.

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Auckland  has largest Polynesian population of any city in the world. It was originally inhabited by Maori people.

The Sky Tower In Auckland  is the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere at 328 metres. You can hurl yourself off and plummet 192 meters if you are looking for something to do in Auckland. Its called the Sky Jump and it has a certificate of excellence from Trip Advisor which I guess makes it completely safe.

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Parnell and Ponsonby are trendy areas in Auckland full of bars, restaurants and cute stores.

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It is fun to walk around the lively marina and have green lipped mussels. I normally am not a fan of mussels but these are giant and delicious. They are supposed to be really healthy and help with joint inflammation.

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Waiheke Island is a beautiful island 40 minutes away by ferry from Auckland.

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It has become quite expensive in the last few years but still has a relaxed island feel.

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It is known as New Zealand’s island of wine.

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Mudbrick and Te Whau wineries stand out, with their stunning views, great food and superb wine.  

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There are  wine tasting tours or do it on your own.

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You can do it as a day trip as i did or stay a few days as my daughter and son-in-law do. It is one of their favorite places. I  can see why.

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The island is small but not walkable. We toured some art galleries and met local artists.(Gabriella Lewenz Studio Gallery)

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(Waiheke Community Art Gallery)

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We stopped in the little town of Oneroa with plenty of  restaurant options and on to the beach. I would have been happy to stay there with a book for the rest of the day.

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I spent a beautiful day on Waiheke Island with Niki Walker of Ananda Tours.www.ananda.co.nz/ She is fun, knowledgeable and clearly loves this island. Thanks for a lovely day.

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New Zealand’s most famous soap opera, Shortland Street, is filmed on the North Shore of Auckland.

Auckland is the largest as well as the most populous urban area of New Zealand.

One in three adults in New Zealand are obese. Though it is bad for their health, it makes it a great place to go to the beach as opposed to Los Angeles.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first person to climb Mt. Everest lived in Auckland. His number was in the phone book. When school children, did a report on him, some called him up to get the information directly from him. He was happy to help. Eighteen thousand people showed up for his funeral.

Australians love to tell sheep jokes to New Zealanders. New Zealanders laugh it off because they know Australians come from criminal stock. (Ha) They have a good-natured rivalry.

The Auckland Domain is Auckland’s oldest park, and one of the largest in the city.  The park is home to one of Auckland’s main tourist attractions, the Auckland War Memorial Museum, which sits prominently on the crater rim of Pukekawa.

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Pukekawa, is one of the oldest volcanoes  in the Auckland Volcanic Field.

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Rangitoto is a baby volcano in Auckland and is only about 600-700 years old when compared to the other giant volcanoes.

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Auckland is built on a volcanic field. There are about 50 volcanoes in Auckland, all of which were active in the last 600 years or so and 96 per cent extinct. 

The city of Auckland  uses their volcanic craters as sports fields.

Auckland has two harbors on two separate major bodies of water, namely Manukau Harbor on the Tasman Sea and the Waitemata Harbor on the Pacific Ocean.

The Harbor Bridge in Auckland has 8 lanes and the central barrier in the bridge is moveable.

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Kauri trees in New Zealand are among the oldest trees in the world. By the time Auckland became the capital of New Zealand Kauri was being used  for building. It was a prestigious timber to have and nine out ten houses were being built from it inside and out. The supply of Kauri is dwindling so boats and houses made from kauri are worth a lot of money in Auckland. People try to keep them in the family.

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Auckland has a perfect, 100 km of coastline and is home to some of the most stunning beaches in the world.

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You can get a government no interest loan for college if you stop the brain drain and stay in New Zealand. if you leave, the Kiwis say it raises the IQ of both countries.

If you have an engineering degree from the University of Auckland you are guaranteed a job around the world.

Auckland is the breeding ground for the New Zealand Sea Lion, which is the most endangered of the five species of sea-lion in the world.

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A very weird fact is that ‘pigeon post’ is still considered an official posting service in Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. Pigeon post refers to using pigeons to carry the mail. Pigeons were used to post letters between the North and South island before 1908. The stamps are very valuable now.

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In regard to the quality of life, Auckland currently ranks 5th among 218 major cities of the world.

I usually don’t write  about a half day tour of a city but I learned and retained more information with Wayne Thomas of Bush and Beach Tours http://www.bushandbeach.co.nz/, then any day tour I have ever been on. He has a way of passing on knowledge that is sometimes funny and sometimes personal  that makes you remember it.  This is a wonderful welcome tour of New Zealand. I highly recommend him.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

“Everything We Need Is Free.” The Maori In New Zealand

“Everything We Need Is Free.” The Māori in New Zealand

I’ve always been fascinated by the Māori. They have cool tattoos and a great war dance and as indigenous people go, though their lives are harder, they have never been beaten by a European culture.

In Rotorua there are a variety of cultural shows and educational tours to learn about Māori life. Some are smaller and some have better food. They are touristy but you can still learn a lot. Te Po in Te Puia, Rotorua was one of the more touristy yet really enjoyable things I have ever done. We start in the gift shop (of course, I always start there anyway) where there is a nice choice of Māori everything.

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Greenstone is the Nephrite jade found in New Zealand and prized by the Maoris. It is sold all over New Zealand.  Māori tradition is never to keep the first piece of greenstone that you find and to give it to someone else. The objects made from pounami (greenstone) are passed down in Māori families not only linking them to their ancestors but to the maker and nature of the stone itself. In the Māori world, objects speak to their origins: whalebone to the whale, wood to the tree, pounamu to its source river and mountain.It is an acknowledgment of human impermanence, a truth expressed in a Māori proverb: People come and go, but the land endures.

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We walk to the marae (meeting hall).

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   The Māori guide picks his new best friend John (an American from Texas) to lead the cultural interaction. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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 John would have the honor to greet the warriors coming out of the marae and ask for permission to enter by putting down a branch. He  did a great job with his branch and we were promptly invited to proceed through the grounds and enter the marae. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Once seated, the cultural and musical entertainment program began. The Maori group performed some wonderful dances, rituals and songs. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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The haka is a Maori war dance. It is fierce and involves much chanting, stamping of hands and feet and some pretty scary looking faces doing the pukana (that wild eye thing they do). (photo by Cordula Reins)

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But while most people equate the haka with the start of a New Zealand rugby All Blacks match to try to scare the opposition, the haka is also done on occasions to honor great people. One of the most moving things you’ll see is a haka done at a wedding, funeral or when someone has achieved something great.

The only other place to see the haka (unless you know a Māori family) is at one of these shows.  It is the only time to have a chance to learn it. I’m obsessed with the haka, so I thought it was great that so many men ran to do it.  Seriously, how could you not?  (photo by Cordula Reins)

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At the beginning of the evening, everyone had  walked over to just outside the dining hall to take a look as the evening’s meal was being lifted out of the earth oven where it was being cooked in the steam. After the show, we went to the dining tables and learned about our table mates from all over the world while eating kumara and rewana bread. We walked to the geysers in this geothermal wonderland as the sun was setting.

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After a few minutes of drinking hot chocolate and taking photos in front of the bubbling pools and geysers, it was getting colder and we were happy to catch the little “train” back.

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Māori call themselves tangata whenua, people of the land.  Members of the various tribes distinguish themselves from other Māori by referring to the canoe that brought their ancestors to Aotearoa (New Zealand) and to special landmarks such as a river or a mountain.  In other words, they tie their collective and individual identities to ancestors and places. When they are formally introduced, they often will give not only their name, but also the names of their mountain, river and ancestors. (Lake Tarawera)

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Māori philosophy is that  all creatures are kin. All beings have life force (mauri), and all are sacred (tapu). People, birds, fish, trees and weather are all interconnected.

There is power in continually acknowledging ancestors. There is no alternative – to make sure there is success in fishing, long journeys, or handling life’s challenges, you have to trust your ancestors, who include the entire natural world.  Egotism is very difficult to keep up in an atmosphere of constant reminders of all who brought us here, those who make our lives possible today, and those who will follow after us. (photo by Cordula Reins)

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Haere humarie,

JAZ

When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

When Bad Weather Happens To Good Travelers

“The sun did not shine. It was too wet to play. So we sat in the house. All that cold, cold, wet day.”  Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat

I’m a planner. When I plan a trip, I research the weather and I try to travel when the weather in that country is great.  I have always had good weather luck. The bad weather usually clears up before I arrive or begins after I leave. Until now. I just returned from a road trip through New Zealand. It is really the best way to see New Zealand. Whether you are staying in  a different hotel every night, camping or driving a motor home, as long as you can drive on the opposite side of the road, it’s the way to go. (Tongariro National Park)

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The first half of the trip was great. (Hawkes Bay)

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It was unseasonably cold for a New Zealand summer but sunny and beautiful.(Marlborough)

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 We had the ten-hour drive detour because of the damage from the Kaikoura earthquake  (me after ten hours in Methven) .

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I’m not a great passenger or driver so road trip were not words in my vocabulary. 

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Music helped. Prepare your playlists beforehand. Stretching and peeing every time you have a rest stop is useful. Your body will thank you later.  Bring food, snacks and water with you. I’m always prepared to be the lifesaver in a threatening situation.  Work out your anger before you sit in a van for two to four weeks. You don’t want it stuck in your head. If being a whiner is your normal state, try to get it under control. The thing about being in a van for ten hours is that  you are doing something, but you aren’t really doing anything. (Canterbury)

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The great part of road trips is that every day is different. Tomorrow brings new landscapes, new towns, new attractions, and new hotel rooms.  (Lake Tecapo)

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We drove the next day for several hours  to Mount Cook. I was looking forward to taking a helicopter to the top of that glacier. I was ready. I had my glacier hiking gear which I lugged from Los Angeles. The next morning it was raining, windy, and very foggy.

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It was not the kind of rain that was going to clear up in an hour.  It was animals lining up in pairs rain.  This was only the beginning. It rained for the next several days. There was snow on the mountains in summer. Activities were canceled. We kept driving.

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New Zealand  is all about outdoor adrenalin rush activities. There aren’t a lot of museums on the road and if  there are any, they are closed.  It is not fun driving for hours looking at nothing but rain and fog. There aren’t a lot of photographic pit stops. Having ice-cream blended with fresh fruit  served by a cute guy  was the highlight of the day. (Cromwell- the fruit bowl of New Zealand)

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Life’s trials will test you and shape you. When I got to Queenstown after two wet days of driving, I was riding up a mountain in a gondola with a Swiss mother and daughter. I was cold, wet and depressed. The last thing that I wanted to be doing was still sitting. They were smiling.” Why are you smiling?,” I asked. ”We are on holidays. We are having fun. We are happy.”

They were right. Optimism is a choice. It was funny, laughing about the road food, weather and the fact that everything was closed most of the time. Those are the travel stories. I got off the gondola. The view of Queenstown is magical and the rain gives it an other worldly middle earth quality. It took my breath away.

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At the top of the mountain, far away from the US  was a Jelly Belly store. For those of you who don’t know me, Jelly Bellys are my favorite candy. I never leave the country without them but they quickly run out. It was one of those stores with individual flavors that you can mix and match. I took it as a sign from God to get my act together. They were right. I was on holiday – just different from what I planned.  I carefully picked thirteen flavors (They were in packages). The girl told me that if I picked seven more it would be almost the same price (which was high for Jelly Bellys). I can’t resist a deal but I also knew I would make myself sick.  I saw two little boys  and told them it was their lucky day and to choose seven packets of Jelly Bellies. They ran into the store. Their grandparents followed and I explained why I did it. They laughed and the whole family started telling me things they loved to do there when it was raining.

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I walked back from the gondola to the hotel in the rain. It was Queenstown, full of young adventure seeking people and everything was open late. I found myself in front of Fergburger –  a Queenstown hamburger institution and got in the queue. I forgot for a minute how lucky I was to be in New Zealand and about to have the famous Fergburger.  Rain will do that to you if you let it.

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Fly   safe,

JAZ

Driving To Rotorua, New Zealand

Driving To Rotorua, New Zealand

“There came a time, he realized, when the strangeness of everything made it increasingly difficult to realize the strangeness of anything. “James Hilton, Lost Horizon

In theory, a road trip sounds very appealing. A road trip through New Zealand sounds really cool. Since I get carsick, I don’t have much road trip experience.  I was willing to give it a go to see New Zealand.

An hour and a half out of Auckland is the Karangahake Gorge. It is a great place to go walking and I wish I had spent more time there. There are hard walks, bush walks, easy walks, abandoned mines, railroad tunnels (bring a torch because they are dark and long), river walks and waterfalls. It is a hike (or tramp as they say in New Zealand) through history and nature at its best.

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You start by crossing a big swing bridge. It is always fun crossing a big swing bridge.

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In 1885 it was a prosperous goldmine. By 1920, the gold had run out and there are remnants of the machinery and buildings of a century ago.

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There are mining tunnels that you can explore built into the mountain but you should bring better light than just the torch on your iPhone. We found the train tunnel.

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It was dark, wet and the ground is uneven. I found it mildly frightening because you can’t see a way out.

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At first, it was adventurous using my iPhone torch to hike but it went on for a little too long for me.  I decided to retrace my steps and go walk by the river and find the waterfalls instead.

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We continue on to Rotorua. When early missionaries to the shores of Rotorua stumbled upon the great sprays of water that shoot into the air and the pools of bubbling, boiling mud, they must have thought they were getting a glimpse at the fires of hell itself – a view undoubtedly reinforced by what seems like the stench of rotten eggs that fills the region.

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Rotorua is a geothermal wonderland. There is a strong Maori presence in Rotorua. They saw themselves as the guardians of these lands.

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We go directly to the Hot Spring Pools which are located in Manupirua Bay on Lake Rotoiti. It is only accessible by boat.

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The boat is beautiful and completely refurbished  with an expert crew of women. The captain was pregnant. http://www.purecruise.co.nz

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There are different mineral-rich outdoor pools to soak in. These are fed by a natural spring and vary in heat temperature. They are just meters from the very cold lake edge. It is good to jump in a cold lake to get the sulfur off and close your pores.

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The next morning I opted for a mud bath and massage. How could you not go to a spa called Hell’s Gate? Hell’s Gate is the only Maori owned geothermal park in New Zealand. The English name came from the playwright George Bernard Shaw who visited in the early nineteen hundreds. He said that he was sure this must be the gateway to hell that his colleagues said he would pass through as long as he remained an atheist. The Maori kept the name. http://www.hellsgate.co.nz/

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It is owned by the Ngati Rangiteaorere tribe of Maori who have lived on this special site for over 700 years. It is on a volcanic plateau.

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You start with a walk through the mud pools, erupting geysers and hot springs.

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The signs tell the Maori myths and stories of those pools.

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It takes about forty-five minutes to do the walk.

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I was kind of in awe of the special landscape.

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I went on to the mud bath where I was given a container of mud to cover myself with. (sorry no photos)

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After twenty minutes, you rinse off in cold water and go into the sulfur pools, followed by a massage. Yes, your pores will exude sulfur for the next twenty-four hours from the mud but your skin will be very smooth and the area smells of rotten eggs anyway so no one will notice. It was the best mud bath experience I have ever had and highly recommend it.

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Volcanic activity over thousands of years created large craters that filled with water to form the  lakes throughout the Rotorua region. They are steeped in Maori history.  (Lake Tikitapu- Blue Lake)

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The geothermal theme park of Wai-O-Tapu is about 20 minutes’ drive south of Rotorua,. It is a Maori word and means sacred waters.

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Walking routes around the park take you past bubbling mud, sulphur waterfalls, exploding geysers, giant fern trees, steaming vents and lakes in neon oranges, yellows and greens.

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They are given their color by mineral deposits.

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The  lagoons fizz with steam and orange ,gold and green fluorescent bubbles.

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The park takes on a surreal, dream like quality. I shoot too many photos to remember the strange beauty of it all.

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Fly safe,
JAZ