what a flip of the coin!

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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Taupo
November 28th 2009
Published: November 29th 2009
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Let me start by saying that I do get your comments on here, and I love them! I don't know if they show up on everyone's or it's just mine. Keep them coming! As you know, it's hard to respond every time, but I do read them every time.

We were on our second night of camping in Mount Maunganui (main gan oo ee). We were on the beach most of the day and got pretty red on the backs of my legs. The sun is really intense here and as much as we lathered on the sunscreen, still managed to get a little toasty. We camped in the same spot, which felt like we were camping in peoples backyards, but it worked. We were up the next morning and on the move to Rotorua (roto roo ah). We headed straight to the I-Site (info site) to find something to do the next day. We decided on white water rafting! Also were able to book our place for the night.. a campground a little outside of town near Blue Lake. When we booked the rafting we got a free ticket to a place called Hell's Gate. We didn't really know what to expect because it was something all about geothermal activity. Which of course we know what is, but do we really? 😊

We pull up to Hell's Gate and walk past this huge Maori mask, take a few pics with the touristy stuff, and are immediately back to the state of confusion. You walk through the gate and see a bunch of boiling pools, steam coming from everywhere and a path for you to follow. It looked like what I imagine would happen if the world came to an end. It was so weird. The Earth is literally bubbling up and is about to blow. We were confused as to how they knew where to put the path. It felt like we were going to get sucked in a bubbling pit at any second. Sulfur and a bunch of other gases were coming up, so it stunk pretty bad. The Maori people still actually bathe in this stuff because they say it has healing powers. Some of the pools are too hot to get in though. One of them, the Devil's Cauldron, was really thick bubbling mud. The Earth was starting to cave in around it. Another, of which I can't remember the name, was violently splashing water into the air. We took a quick pic and got away. It was really cool, but really bizarre. Plus, we were about the only ones walking around so it was even weirder. We stuck our hands in the pool they still bathe in and it felt really nice, minus the smell. However, on the other side of the pool is a big bubbly spot.. how do they know it's always going to bubble in the same place? How long have these things been bubbling? Was it really real or do they turn it off at night? Can you tell this blew my mind? ha.

Next, we went for a quick hike in The Redwoods. A huge forest of Redwood trees from California. They brought them over some time ago just to see if they would grow and boy do they. They were sooo tall. Who knew we would come over here and be such tree fans? 😊 I am going to upload some pics on fb and possibly here so you can see just how tall they are. They covered everything.. felt like the tops of them were in the clouds. They have really soft bark, which was interesting because they are such massive things.

Have I mentioned that we are going to write a book - "Traveling New Zealand for Dummies" We have countless entries and hiking through the Redwoods only produced more. We followed the signposts looking for a quarry and ended back on the main road. We just laugh at ourselves because why wouldn't that have happened? Still, never saw the quarry. Trees were cool though. ha. Shortly after, we made it back to camp, talked with the guys - who made their to a different surf spot earlier in the day, only to find that the surf wasn't that good. Misery loves company. 😊 Also, the wind took Smiths board and smashed the front a little bit so they were a bit frustrated. We told them about white water rafting and they wanted to join. We were getting ready for dinner and realized we needed to go back to the grocery. Pull up, start getting our stuff out, and out walks Smith. We parked a spot away from each other. So funny to see a familiar face in such a not familiar place. We made our way back to camp, but by this time it was really late. Eliza and I decided we were just going to wash all our veggies and have a random dinner. She had the saddest salad and I had celery and salsa. The light in the kitchen was attracting bugs so we had to get out of there. We were able to shower, hang out for a little, and then to bed. The boys put their tents up with ours and called it a night. This is our 3rd night of camping now, car and tents.

We were picked up for white water rafting. The guys were able to jump in and we headed to the Kaituna River. Class 5 rapids (the highest you can do commercially) including a 23 foot drop. Eliza didn't know about the drop until after we booked it. It was a little scary because they tell you all these things that could possibly happen, like the boat flipping over and us having to find the air pockets created by the seats. Going over the drop was awesome. Our entire boat, with 6 people in it, was completely submerged. A little ways down, we were able to jump out and swim around for a bit. The water was pretty cold, but we had on wetsuits (not attractive) and it was fine. As we were getting back into the boat, the "safety" guide in a kayak told me to hop onto the back of his kayak and go down the next bit of smaller rapids. I couldn't get all the way up and sit, so I just held on with my legs hanging off the back. So much fun. Then, the guide in our boat told Eliza and I to head to the front and sit in the bottom. We did... idiots. They paddled us straight into the rapids and water was going everywhere. Such boys. but it was fun. 😊 The river continued on to some smaller, but more dangerous rapids so we had to get out. It was really short, but overall really fun.

We decided it was time to head out of Rotorua, although that might be my favorite place we've been since Paihia, and head over about an hour and a half to Taupo (tow and in cow- poh). I had a delectable bread sandwich for lunch. Although I sometimes like to spice it up and make a bread fold over. 😊 Ben told us about a really cool free camping spot just outside the city. We left before them and were able to create some more entries for our book. We passed signs for hot pools, mud pools, and whatever a geothermal wilderness is. We decided to have a look, the beauty of having a car. We pull down the gravel "road" to find that geothermal wilderness is 30 bucks entry, mud pools track is closed, and hot pools must be staying the night. We laugh, roll our eyes, and head on to Taupo.

As we were going down the road, we got a little crazy and decided it's time for Eliza to get behind the wheel! I still am not sure who was more nervous. We start to pull out and immediately the windshield wipers go off. I tell you, it is so hard to get used to this whole backwards driving thing! It is always funny when something like that happens, because we are still used to right lane driving. We have gotten a little better about the park thing, but sometimes we find ourselves sitting there because neither of us remember which one is supposed to be the parker. It sounds simple enough I know, but trust me, its weird. Eliza did excellent! We even found the campsite, no problem. However, as we parked Karlene Jean, we heard a familiar sound. A sound that is typically heard in the kitchen. Karlene was about to blow. We popped her "bonnet" and to our horror, it was in fact, boiling. So, I'm sure you already know what we did but... I'll tell you anyway... we looked at each other and said "what do we do?" We continued to do this for about next 6 minutes until a nice Kiwi kayaker pulled up to put his boat in the water. He, conveniently, knew something about cars. He had several theories as to what might have happened. We listened, nodded our heads, smiled, and off he went kayaking. We decided to let her sit there overnight and we would take her to the doctor in the morning.

The guys got there, even complimented us on our " camp spot picking" ability, and the night began. It was pretty chilly, especially since we were right on the water. We had a delicious dinner of cous cous, sausage and veggies. Around midnight or so, a van pulled up, out popped 7 people and they immediately got a fire going. We sat at our tents trying to pull the warmth to us, but it wasn't close to working. Finally gave in and went to meet them. They were all Kiwis just stopping for the night on their way to Auckland to see Pearl Jam and Ben Harper. They all had dreads, were super nice, and tried to teach us some NZ slang. Funny.

The next day, our 5th day of camping, was Thanksgiving. We walked a little ways down to Huka Falls. The river we camped on is the Waikato River and just downstream from our site is Huka Falls. They are, supposedly, the most visited natural attraction in NZ. The river is usually 100m wide, but at this point it's only 15m. The water has to squeeze through the 15m and down a 20m drop, thus creating Huka Falls. The water is going so fast. It is hard to even pick a spot to look because the water is flying at such a fast pace. Super blue and clear water with white foam everywhere underneath. Beautiful. See pics. Eliza and I walked a ways around the river and we able to spot the guys setting up camp across the River. We came to a really steep point and decided that it was better to turn around then go through the pain of getting back up it. haha.

We came to town for a bit and I was able to Skype my brother and RP. Was so much fun once we got everything working! 😊 So, if you have skype let me know.. my name is mary.kathryn.sharpe - maybe we can skype too! Dad and Mom, you especially need to get this up and running on your comps. So much fun being able to see home, feels like you're there hanging out with the person.

We went back to the tents to find the boys in the cutest campsite you have ever seen. Yes, it was so cute. It had our tents, a little circle of rocks for a fire, a clothesline, rocks for seats, and even the orange juice chilling in the river. Smith and Ben did well and it was Thanksgiving, so it made it even better.

At this point, it had been a while since a shower. I really wanted a shower, but didn't have one. The river was super clear, but super cold. I have never been one to ease into water. Even in the summer, I have to jump all in at once, or it's too difficult. Eliza and I both, headed to edge of the water. So, there we were, on the edge of a freezing flowing river. I was on the edge of a rock saying "should I do it, I can do it, can I do it, I have to do it" with Eliza in the background going "Oh Mary Kathryn I don't know about this" hahaha.. cracks me up. So, deep breath in, and plunge. She said she wished we had a picture of it because I was standing on the rock trying to pysch myself up and she was standing with her hands over her mouth in the background shaking her head. haha. Shock to the system, but once I was in it was OK. I "showered" really quick and hopped out. Surprisingly, I actually felt clean. It was refreshing, but the hard part was now getting my hair to dry. I haven't gotten sick yet mom, don't worry. I know you hate me going to bed with wet hair, I haven't forgotten. 😊

I could think of better ways to spend Thanksgiving, but I was extremely pleased with this one! 😊 All we could talk about was food and what we would be eating and how warm we would be on the couch. Eliza and I had to leave to grocery earlier in the day because we were so indecisive about what to buy. haha, but we made it. We decided that we were going to have a potluck type dinner. Each to bring a different dish to the "table" aka our laps. We had ham, green bean casserole, kumara (sweet potato), corn salad, which were all a little bit off, but incredible nonetheless. A great Thanksgiving I won't forget. A few days before, at Papamoa Beach, we were discussing the strangest things we've ever eaten. Eliza didn't have one. So, the boys being boys, bought her a little treat for our Thanksgiving dessert. Chicken Hearts. You know it, cooked in almost a pound of butter and garlic. We all tried them. Eliza and I could only eat the heart part, couldn't stomach the aorta and other vessels hanging out. haha SICK, I know. But now she can answer the question! 😊 We were hanging around, and a maori man came out of nowhere to see what was going on. He started popping the rest of the hearts in his mouth as if he were eating jelly beans. I would almost rather eat another heart than watch that again.

Friday morning came around it was time to help Karlene Jean. Before we left, I did a cannonball off the edge of our campsite this time into the current and floated downstream a little to another edge, "showered", lost my soap 😞 but was ready to go. It was much better this time because the sun was on the water. We took Karlene around, but were still scared to drive her much longer. We opted for yet another night of camping, night 6 now. Eliza was able to get a hot shower in town, which kept her freakout level to a tolerable point. 😊 There was a HUGE cylcing competition going on in Taupo. We wandered around amongst 12,000 cyclists. It was pretty cool, even though we had no idea what was going on. Bikes and lycra were everywhere.

I was able to Skype home again, however, this time was a mixture of loving and hating it. It was Thanksgiving for ya'll and I was able to see the Turkey and the whole shebang. Along with my fam of course! 😊 So much fun, I really needed smellovision though. Ah.. I am still dreaming of that leftover Turkey sandwich and snuggling on the couch. 😊 Went back to camp and then back to town again. I was able to get a hot shower as well.. makes it all better. Ben had to leave for Auckland so now it was just Eliza, Smith, and I. We couldn't decide what to do (standard) so we flipped a coin.

What a flip! It landed on heads, which meant out for a drink. We walked into the nearest pub and cozied up on the couch, drink in hand. Started "watching" rugby and began talking with the two men seated next to us. This chit chatting lead to a home. An actual home. He offered for us to stay at his house. Now, you have to remember, we are not in the states. I know it is really hard to comprehend, but you really can't say anything if you've never been here. (that sounds like I'm being snotty, but I'm not at all, just trying to keep the worries to minimum) 😊 We were already set up for camp again that night, but told him we seriously might take him up on his offer for the next night! He said absolutely. He also is a captain on a yacht. haha what? I know. Again, what a flip of the coin! We talked to him and his buddy for a while and then moped our way to camp. We pull up to find random people around a fire smack in the middle between KJ and our tent. Eliza decided she'd had enough and crawled into her bed in the back of Smiths car. I wanted to sit next to the fire to warm up before the tent. Smith and I went over, met the 3 guys, and warmed up. Now, I will never be able to explain this, but I am going to attempt. It was one of the funniest things I have done since being in NZ. Again, remember we aren't in the states. I kept reminding myself this throughout of fireside chat. LOL.

Picture 3 maori men, Smith, and myself. 3 maori truck drivers. 2 without their front teeth. 1 who didn't say a word the whole time. I referred to him as the quiet one. The other two were super nice - Don and Gary. They are locals and came to the campsite for hanging out by a fire. Hilarious. I don't even know how to describe this situation. LOL but imagining what you're imagining, makes me laugh out loud and people are looking at me. They offered some advice about Karlene, told random stories, informed us that the NZ slang the other group taught us was not good. After a little bit though, it was time to call it a night.

The next day, yesterday, we fiddled around town, then met up with a mechanic David told us about. David is the guy who offered us a place to stay. Took Karlene in and got a mixed report. She may just have to be monitored, but we're still afraid she's gonna blow. Currently, we have plenty of water and oil. She hasn't acted out today, so we're trying to stay on her good side. After the doc, we called David and took him up on his offer. We almost took a cyclist out. I was watching one direction and Eliza the other. She said "gun it, gun it" ... so I did... and I couldn't see this cyclist flying around the corner. I will never forget the look on her face! I didn't know if I should stop or go or what, but I was dying laughing. We laughed for about the next 5 minutes. Thankfully, we didn't crash her. It was hilarious, even though I felt bad. haha. While we were checking on Karlene, Smith went and checked out our "home". It was a full on go ahead. So excited. A home, with hot showers, walls, a couch, a dog, laundry... oh so nice. After camping for almost a week straight, it was a much needed night. We even had Pizza Hut and Chinese for dinner. Watched a movie and just laid around. How nice. 😊

Today, we woke up to clean clothes and Smith even made pancakes. See pic. Delicious. We have a beautiful day and have sailing with David at 5. The coin, oh that coin, I love it. 😊

So ending on that note... I love and miss you all!

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 32


29th November 2009

Loving Your Entries!
MK- Morgan gave me the link to your blog. I can't believe you are actually doing this. How in the world did you prepare for this trip? I'm in awe!!! Your pictures are beautiful. You need to post one of Karlene Jean. I can only imagine what a beaut she is. Take care. Can't wait to read more of your adventures.
29th November 2009

Skype & Tgiving
SEES! Love the blog, awesome update...soooo funny! It was great getting to see you on Skype, we need to do that again soon!!! I will dig my cam out and have it ready to set up. We really did miss ya'll on Thanksgiving, but you and Eliza both look so great, and like you are having such amazing adventures! The food was soo good, and I missed the lazy snuggling too :) We cried a little bit after we hung up on Skype, just because. It's hard to imagine ya'll are so far away, but I'm really so proud of you!!! I love you, stay safe! Hugs to you and E both!! xoxo
29th November 2009

MK---- I think y'all are being a little too trusting of others --- Do you see the way that man is looking at Eliza in pic # 0384 ? It's slightly scary for her mother. Y'all PLEASE go to a hostel and quit this camping out in the open for any crazy to come along.
1st December 2009

Kat! you are scaring me! find a place to live, stop talking with strangers. Im sure your mom is dying! ha ha poor Judy. Please be careful, i love all the pictures with the posts. My principal dragged me down the hall by my arm the other day, in front of teachers and students. nice, hu? ive got to get out of there. Austin is studying for exams but the girl and the sister wont leave him alone. Im ready for his exams to be over so he can start job hunting, im wanting to move far away!! get me out of oxford! miss you, it was such a tease when you were in Mississippi for a few months... SJE
2nd December 2009

I need to take an afternoon off work to catch up, sounds like your taking full advantage as always...Will I even see you in 2010? or has it already sucked you in? Love you and Miss you, take care and talk to you soon, oh yeah Go Saints, that is the one and only time you will ever see that, thought it might brighten up your day!
28th December 2009

You just never know who will be reading your blog! Sounds like you are having an incredible time with some interesting experiences. Love reading about it all! Ditto on Linda's comments. You two are very trusting! Your pics are beautiful! Keep them all coming!!

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