Monday, January 13, 2014

3.1.3 - Into the Wilderness

We are back in Wellington after a unbelievable weekend up in the North Island. Although we have had an awesome time living in Wellington, we were eager to do the coolest thing in Wellington: leave. All Kiwis(New Zealand people) agree the coolest thing to do in any city is to leave and explore the country. So we took their advice and took off! Here is the route we took:

We took advantage of the long weekend and set out Friday morning for Matamata. I know y'all aren't familiar with the random towns in the North Island but I'm sure you're quite familiar with The Shire! About half of our car went on a tour of the perfectly preserved movie set, but Evan and I didn't gobecause it was 75 FREAKING DOLLARS!!! Everyone that did do the tour said it was an awesome experience, but I have to say, the nap Evan and I took was pretty awesome as well. 

There are a lot of sheep here

As we drove up to the Shire we learned one thing: that this country is gorgeous. We have been told that 25% of the population of New Zealand wasn't born in NZ and it's easy to see why, people come to visit and can't help but stay. The most amazing thing about the country from our perspective was how quickly the landscape changed. On our 5 hour drive we went from the coast to the mountains, to a volcanic ash desert, to meadows, to rolling hills and  more. It is a truly stunning landscape.

 - Davis

Mount Ruapehu aka Mount Doom
After the drive from the Shire, we arrived in Rotorua. Most of our car decided to sleep in a hostel there, but Davis and I, being the adventurers we are, headed into the woods to set up our hammocks. Around midnight, we were greeted by a large rodent like creature we dubbed the Lemur of Death. It looked like a gigantic squirrel, who's enormous eyes glowed bright red when a light was shone on them. The worst part was nots its terrifying looks though, it was the horrific screech it made at night. It'd crawl up near us then start screaming for no apparent reason... But despite the crazy New Zealand mammals, we both had a great night sleep in the trees.

When we awoke, we went to the thermal springs and mud pits outside Rotorua. I didn't have very high expectations for this part of the weekend, but it was actually quite amazing! The mud was literally boiling it was so hot, and you could hear the bubbles coming up out of it. The only bad part was the awful smell that came along with sulfur pits and hot springs.

Mud Pots 

The Green Pool 
Lady Knox Geyser
With our nostrils still stinging from the smell of rotten eggs, we then made our way to the north side of rotorua and met up with my long time rafting buddy Josh Dickey. We guided together on the Ocoee, and he taught me a lot of what I know about rafting. Dickey took us down the Kaituna river, a Class V pool drop river that was absolutely amazing. The river is formed in old lava flow channels, so its quite narrow, and incredibly deep, almost 20m in some places. Being used to shallow rocky rivers like the Ocoee and the Nantahala, this was a new experience for a lot of us.

Dickey, in classic raft guiding buddy fashion, showed us an incredible time down the river. He surfed us at every possible spot, and even flipped our raft on a 20 ft waterfall (which happens to be the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world). For a lot of the girls in our group, it was there first time rafting, and I think this river officially got them hooked.

After rafting we weren't done for the day. On Dickey's recommendation, we shot up to Maketu Beach on the Bay of Plenty. It was definitely the "local" spot, and most of the people there were of Moari descent (The indigenous population of New Zealand). After a quick look at the ocean, we went back to the Kaituna to watch some guides run the waterfall in a yearly race. It looked like a lot of fun, and basically turned into a battle to see who could flip the least on the river. Afterwards we went to the Rafting Bum's local hangout and grabbed some beers and dinner with Dickey. It was a lot of fun, and the girls were crushing hard on the local kayakers, one of which had just won worlds a few weeks before.


Bay of Plenty
For our last stop on our trip we went to the glow worm caves in Waitomo. There are actually glow worms all throughout New Zealand but these caves are some of the best places to see them. Evan and I participated in separate adventures. I did a trip called the black odyssey, and it was along the ceiling of the cave, attached ropes drilled into the wall. Evan went on a wet tour through the river system of the caves, climbed up some underground waterfalls, and repelled over 100ft. The two trips were  very different but both of us really enjoyed getting underground.

The weekend was absolutely incredible, but what's even more incredible is that the north island is considered the "boring" part of New Zealand! Evan and I are really excited to get down to the south island and see all it has to offer. We're starting off in Abel Tasman next weekend, and we'll finally get to do some fly fishing, see kayaking, and tramping around the bush.


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God Bless,

Davis and Evan