Kia Ora from the Kiwis

Ah, New Zealand. It’s a gorgeous place to go for extreme sports that’s also alive with culture and history. The landscape was so mind-blowing I kept wondering if it was fake. I much preferred nature to populated areas, because kiwis can be “closed off” as one of my NZ-dwelling friends said. I had to laugh, though, cause there are also more fast food joints than you can shake a stick at. I chilled at a mall in Manukau and saw this, which cracked me up:

I know a doggone Church’s when I see a Church’s, Manukau, don’t try to play me.

I did virtually nothing in Auckland and honestly wasn’t too impressed with Taupo. Coming from Minnesota, if there’s one thing I’ve seen plenty of it’s lakes- we have 11,842 to be exact.

I’ll admit, I’ve never seen a lake this pristine, ever. The water was perfectly crystal clear. You literally can’t even see where the shore stops and the lake begins! Incredible. Keep up the good work, NZ! Unfortunately, the locals seemed none too pleased about the tourists, and I was treated rudely a couple of times. Not the best first impression, but I did still meet friendly people, including some sweet Māori guys who shared their beer and knowledge about their culture. If you come here, BRINGS LOTS OF MONEY. I was going to skydive until I had a conference with my bank account and it told me a skydive just wasn’t in the cards for your girl.

Rotorua was definitely my favorite! It was also a quaint little town with a friendly vibe.

Kuirau Park was a hotbed of geothermal activity; there were a ton of boiling pools letting off sulfur gas and steam. There were even foot baths heated naturally by the earth. It’s a fun way to spend the afternoon and open to the public. Be warned though; the sulfuric pools stink! My seven-year-old self would say it smells like one big fart.

Whakarewarewa redwood forest is an absolutely gorgeous (and free) place to hike. There are a number of trails to chose from. I was feelin’ myself, so I chose the second longest; Tokorangi Pa Road, an estimated three 1/2 hours. It took me about five, because I was taking my sweet, out-of-shape time and would stop to rest and take in the scenery on occasion. There weren’t as many bold views as I would have hoped at the highest points of the trail, but the valley was incredible.

There were…a lot of stairs.

IMG_2181
From the top
IMG_2236
From the bottom

Imagine my chagrin when I got through wandering the gorgeous valley and realized I had to climb back up! A kiwi lady was kind enough to give me a ride back into town. May the gods bless her with good fortune, cause my dogs were barking.

One of the main draws to Rotorua is the Māori cultural villages and shows. I was glad I went to Whakarewarewa to directly support their village and culture; apparently another large park had encroached on them, made them promises about using their land and had gone back on them in the name of greed and profit (sounds familiar, don’t it?) so they permanently sealed themselves off from those other folks and use their earnings toward preservation of their way of life. It didn’t get any realer than when I was there; a member of the community had died so there was funeral going on (I expressed my condolences, of course).

Guys. Guys. Have you ever seen anything more impressive than the haka??? Answer: no, you have not. The Pūkana is the bulging of the eyes and protruding of the tongue which is meant to intimidate enemies. Confession time: while it most definitely would have had me running off the battle field, sometimes, with certain gentleman and all that testosterone on display, it could be, well, quite erotic. *runs away and hides*

I didn’t take as many pics of the gorgeous village as I should have cause I assumed I would be walking it again by myself after the guided tour. Not so. Got to talking to my lovely tour guide, A21, and ended up hanging out with her for around seven hours. She treated me to coffee, invited me into her home and introduced me to her family and neighborhood kids. She then invited me to another cultural performance, starring her and the youngsters! I mean seriously, can you beat that?! This is the reason we travel, folks.

There was lots more to explore and I’m glad I got to see so much of this lovely town.

Conclusion: I definitely plan on coming back to New Zealand, and when I do I will be bringing LOTS OF MONEY. METRIC TONS. I’m gonna tourist my ass off. That’s the way to do NZ, if you’re asking my not-so-humble opinion. Just don’t forget to say a few kind words to the locals so they can show you how lovely they really are.

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