"Not all who wander are aimless. Especially not those who seek truth beyond tradition, beyond definition, beyond the image."

Sunday, March 19

Home sweet home!

The girls (that includes Mills) and Russel have made it safe and sound back to 29a Monowai!! We were dancing in the car for the last stretch of the ride b/c we were so super excited about getting back and seeing our long lost flatties! Connor P...check. Sarah F....check. Misty...check. New, cute, orange cat....check!! There is a Pom (one Philip Dickens) missing from 29a but after he gets his fill of the Common Wealth games in Melbourne, he'll be back with us! For the time being, he was nice enough to hand his room and oh so comfy bed (our old room and bed) over to me and mol! So, for the next few days, we'll be here--catching up on email, doing laundry, unpacking and repacking, cleaning the heck out of Mills (who has been such a trooper for the entire trip and must have an inch of dust built up inside and out from all the gravel, dirt roads she oh so ruggedly conquered)...and just enjoying time with the flatties!!
Just a note that we "fell back" last night so we are now only 17 hours ahead of EST and you guys should be ready to "spring forward" soon so then we will only be 16 hours ahead of you! A little confusing but I'm sure you'll get it!! Oh, I almost forgot to write about the last few days of our trip! I'll try to keep it short! We did a trip in the Waitomo caves which involved getting dressed in a RIDICULOUS outfit, abseiling down a shaft to a huge cave below, floating around in the dark and getting an upclose look at all the glowworms (which were awesome! It looked like a planetarium), squeezing ourselves through some small limestone formations, and then rock climbing oursleves back out of the cave! All in all, a great trip!! We then made our way back to Taupo where we took a plane 13,000 feet above the lake (and it was such a clear day we could see clear across to the coast) and flung ourselves out. See mom, aren't you glad you didn't know about it until AFTER I was safe on the ground? That's gotta be worth something!!! It was awesome!! I reackon even better then the first jump (on my 18th b-day). This time around, I had a better grasp of what was going on and was able to focus more on the fact that I was falling at 170mph to the ground below. A great feeling, really! Molly loved it and spent the rest of the night beaming (after having a few glasses of well deserved wine) "I jumped out of a plane". It was awesome and one day I'm going to convince the big bro to do it...no sense arguring ry, it's gonna happen. :). The next day, we lounged by the lake before driving over to Turangi--got an early nights sleep and woke the next morning at 5:30am. We were shuttled to a dropoff point of the Tongariro Crossing (a tramp that is listed as 7-8 hours that takes you over 2 active volcanoes, to an altitude of over 1600 meters, down to the craters, past the crater lakes, and over the hot springs) and started the day long tramp before the sun even came up. By the time the sun came up, we were about an hour along and had a beautiful view! The most difficult part of the Crossing came soon after that and we spent a couple hours climbing over the loose, steep terrain. By the time we reached the top, the temperature had dropped a ridiculous amount, the fog had rolled in, and we were straining to stand up aganist the wind! Before long, we had layers of clothing on, complete with gloves and hat! We reached a part that is known as the scree slope and we basically dug our heels in and slide down. The weather cleared a bit a few hours later and it was a great view but I think the challenge of it was the best part. We got to the end nearly 7 hours later and are still feeling the fatigue in our legs!! Okay, I think that pretty much covers it!! We have a hungry Sarah F here that we need to feed!! Hope all is well!!

Love and miss you!!
PS-feel free to call the house number (64 4 934 4580) for the next few days!

Monday, March 13

Boats, boats, and more boats :)

Hello again! We've made it to the well known surf town of Raglan on the west coast and I thought I'd take some time to give some updates! We've done lots since the last time I wrote, got a nice luxurious stay at the Hyatt Hotel courtesy of Mols sister and husband and actually got dressed to go out for 2 meals. It was a nice change! Took the ferry to Waiheke Island (off the Auckland coast) where we hired bikes (and when i say hired, I mean we got them free!! Sweet!) And rode out to Vineyard Valley for some vineyard tours and wine tasting. Lets just say that riding back down the steep gravel driveway was a bit of a laugh! Once again, I can't possibly get into all that we've done but I have to write about the boats. About a week ago we got out to the tiny town, (its more of just a marina) of Tutukaka and planned a dive trip out to the Poor Knights Islands. It's ment to be the best diving in NZ and we just couldnt pass it up. Though, we werent expecting too much b/c NZ really isnt known for its diving spots. It was an all day trip with two dives and the weather couldnt have been worse! It was raining down on us the whole day and choppy is a huge understatment. The company we were with was the only company that went out that day. Neither me or mol are susceptible to sea sickness but we were definitley feeling it that day. But enough of the bad stuff! Once we got under the water, it was amazing! We decided to go with a guide and she was totally kickass! We were only in a group of four and we had a blast! The color was amazing and a huge 5 meter (tip to tip) Manta Ray gave us a little visit. They are super rare here and it was the buzz on the boat. One guy even burned both his tanks on the first dive. Back on the boat it was freezing and raining but it wasnt long before we were back in the water for our second dive--which was even better than the first:) We swam through a tunnel and were able to surface on the other side of it in this little cavern type thing. It was beautiful!

After our trip we drove up to the Bay of Islands where we had reservations on the Rock, an overnight cruise aimed at backpackers. It was another highlight for sure! We loaded up at 5pm, got in our rooms (bunk rooms) met the crew, and our fellow cruisers. It was a young group with the majority of people being Brits. Soon after we started sailing we had a shooting competition with the target being a plastic bottle tied to the back of the boat. Good fun!! After about an hour or two of crusing around the islands (as the sun was settting--it was amazing) we anchored up and started fishing for our dinner (snapper). Mol was the first to catch a fish and she got a free drink for it(but it was too small to keep). I brought up the first keeper!! Me and mol were reeling them in like crazy but most were too small to keep. About half way through our fishing, a pod of dolphin swam all around the boat. If i didn't know better I would swear they were straight out of SeaWorld! They were jumping, flipping, and diving like it was there job. They gave us a good 15 min show, it was awesome!! We had a grin from ear to ear:) We did a bit more fishing before getting ready for dinner. Steak, sausages, salad, veggies, mussels, and the snapper we caught. It was a late dinner and by the time we were done it was almost 10pm and time for our night kayaking trip. Our guide took us out to a spot where the phosphorescent were crazy! For anyone who has read Deception Point, these were the things glowing in the extraction hole. That part of the book made so much more sense after that little adventure. The paddles of our kayaks lit up like they were sprayed with 'glow in the dark'. As the moon went down a bit (around midnight) the more daring of the group jumped in for a night swim (cold, really dark and shark stores...Would you be keen??!) When I went in there were only 2 others in and we did the slowest lap ever around the boat, and this isnt exactly a small boat. It was a bit freaky but such an awesome feeling. After a bit of convincing, Mol joined in---though she didnt bring herself to make the swim around the boat. The phosphorescents were even brighter than before and my body glowed as I swam, i was pretty mezmorized! The next day we had breakfast waiting for us and soon after had another pod of dolphin visit us. They werent as active as the other but got closer and swam right under the boat! Nearly enough for us to reach out and touch them. We crusied around for a bit before anchoring up and taking the kayaks over to an island where we walked up to an awesome lookout, ate our lunch, and did some snorkling. It was a really full trip and we had such a blast! The skipper spent a good amount of time with us and a map---giving us pointers on where to go next.

So we made our way further up north for some awesome scenery and some sandboarding. Sandboarding, for those of you who are clueless is basically sliding down giant sand dunes on boogie boards. The dune we were on was probably about 20 meters high and steep as hell when looking down from the top. But you just have to get a running start and flop yourself down on the board---trying to keep your eyes open and mouth closed before skimming out on the water. Hilarious!! We then decided to take a bit of a detour and drive back to the other coast for another dive trip. We loved it so much we just had to give it another go! The Poor Knights has a crazy amount of dive sights and we were able to go to 2 different places than our first trip. This time around Mol and I went off without a guide. It was awesome! We still cant get over how colorful it was. The first dive had a pretty big surge going on, so it challenged us a bit---but it was only a small little hicup. Saw some great fish, huge rays, and lots of different moray eels. But we were in love with the life on the walls ( I have a new love of nudibrachs!!) It was like nothing we've seen. Another great 2 dives and if we had the time we'd probably do it again and again. We had a drink and some dinner with the guides from our first trip and got the whole scoop on their kickass jobs (as dive masters) We are now back on the west coast with about 7 days to go before wanting to be back in Welly. Next on the list?? Black water rafting (going on the underground tunnels on an inner tube---looking at the limestone and glowworms) skydiving in Taupo, and doing a 7 hour tramp on the Tongoriro Crossing. Before we know it, we'll be back in Welly catching up with the flatties (who we miss too much!), our little Misty (who better not have been replaced by the orange one) and awaiting the Foos family! Hope all is well at home, things couldnt be better here! Ron and Karen, I'm more addicted than I was a few months ago--if thats even possible. Hope you are prepared to handle the fanatic that I'm turning into!