Feb. 2, 2016
Lake Taupo, NZ, North Island
This whole area is so incredible for both its environmental and cultural significance. It is the oldest national park in New Zealand, encompassing three volcanoes. The site is so imbued with meaning for the Maori that it has been designated as an UNESCO cultural and natural World Heritage site.
Leaving our sweet Hamilton hosts with a case of sauvignon blanc to hopefully dull the pain of our prolonged visit, we finally left Hamilton and headed for the hills. In the last seven days, we had opened bank accounts, navigated bus routes, left-hand driving and cell phone plans. We had shopped for and bought a used van, scrounged up all our camping gear, we had tricked out the van to be a crash pad for half the family (a tent holds the other half) and paid a visit to both our upcoming Raglan and Hamilton neighborhoods (and snuck in a quick weeknight trip to glorious Piha for boogie boarding and fish and chips). We did it all with two slightly homesick kids in tow, in 90 degree weather.
And our first night of camping embodied all the awkward growing pains that come with starting a new groove: missing items, forgotten fuel for the stove, tent shenanigans, rain, the game of tetris to pack the van. I’m sweating again just writing these sentences. But it always comes together in it’s own way. We had sandwiches for dinner and marmite-flavored bagel chips. The back hatch of our Nissan Serena is enormous and doubles as a very effective rain shelter.
Tomorrow we'll take a morning to explore some of the the rich volcanic activity around here (again with the volcanoes!). It will be just a taste since we have a six-hour drive ahead of us. We’ll be back to really explore this area once we are settle into Hamilton, just two hours away. But for tomorrow, we will take a short hike to Huka Falls, on the Waikato River. And then we head to Wellington, on the very southern tip of the north island, for Jake’s Fulbright orientation. From there, we’ll launch to the South Island.
|Welcome to Auckland. Traditional Maori carvings as you enter the terminal from the tarmac.|
|One can find wonderful things in the grocery shops!|
|Our Auckland accommodations were waaaaayyy in the 'burbs. On the plus side, this treacherous zip line in the neighborhood playground provided hours of non-CPSC-approved fun!|
|Sweet murals like this all over the Central Business DIstrict.|
|The coffee in New Zealand is truly a thing of beauty. We have yet to have a disappointing cup. We've spent a lot of energy trying to understand what makes it so good. How are so many people so skilled at making a cappuccino? Deep thoughts.|
|Sometimes, walking through car yards full of used cars can yield surprising finds. At least they finally found a shady spot to stand in while we undertook the drudgery of car shopping.|
|Or the Raglan ice cream culture|
|The beach is a powdery black sand surrounded by high cliffs. And waves. Huge ones. This is going to be our neighborhood beach. I am still absorbing the delicious fact that we will have a neighborhood beach.|
|Our first night of camping. It's raining. And we don't have enough tent pegs to set the fly on our tent. And we forgot to buy propane for the stove so we're eating peanut butter sandwiches. BUT WE REMEMBERED THE WINE THANK GOD SO IT'S ALL OK.|
|The fine art of packing the "trunk" of the van. I photographed it because we need to replicate this geometry exactly to make it fit.|