I landed in Wellington, New Zealand, got through customs (I had checked yes to almost every question on the form so they had to check out my gear, leftover dehydrated food, shoes, etc) and Charlotte was waiting.  We went cross town on the bus and met up with her husband Tim near the end of his work day.  For reference, I met Tim and Charlotte on the Kilimanjaro trip.  Off we went, up the coast towards Lake Taupo.  On the way we stopped, in true Kiwi style, and picked up fish and chips which we ate on the beach just north of Levin.  This was my Thanksgiving and I was very thankful for my life, my family and friends, this trip and delicious fish on a beach half way around the world from home.  After dinner we swam in the Tasman Sea.  The ocean was rough and my sunglasses came off (why did I have them on anyway) but I was able to dive to the bottom and find them.  Lucky me.  Then we continued on to Taupo, checked into a backpackers and went out for a couple of beers.


Taupo Lake lies in a caldera created following a huge volcanic eruption about 26,500 years ago which ejected 1170 cubic kilometers of material and caused several hundred more to collapse and form the caldera.  The volcano remains dormant but is not extinct.  The next morning, November 23, we took advantage of Taupo’s volcanic nature by going bathing in a hot spring that fed into a river, every once in a while we’d jump into the cold river.  Next, I went to the Taupo Airport so that I could go skydiving (Charlotte and Tim said skydiving was for mad tourists and declined).  I have the mind numbing 15,000ft, 60 second freefall all videotaped and photographed.  What a rush!!!  The chute did not open correctly and Juddy was ready to cut it loose, freefall a bit more and then use the backup chute but it righted itself.  Afterwards we went to Taupo lake to take a short swim but it was too cold, but I did take a few pieces of natural pumice.  We got out of Taupo while all the cyclists were arriving for the annual 100+kms Lake Taupo Challenge.  We passed Mount Ngauruhoe which was used as Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies and Mount Ruapehu which is Charlotte’s mountain and Charlotte’s childhood home.  We also passed the city of Bulls, where the police are Constabulls, the food is delectabull and the shops are incredabull but still affordabull.  At bars you can shoot the bull and at church you are still forgivabull.  The town was unforgetabull.  We were headed to Martinborough to meet up with Nathan and Deborah.  We had a pretty nice dinner and a few beers with a lot of stories told and pleasant conversation.  We had rented a house for a couple of days in Martinborough.


November 24th we woke early had a quick breakfast and prepped our bicycles for our tour.  From noon until 5 we toured about 8 different Martinborough wineries, sampling and purchasing wines as we went.  We had a relaxing lunch on the porch at one of the wineries while we sampled.  This was a fantastic time that was cut short due to the fact that the wineries close at 5, otherwise we’d still be drinking.  Back at the house we opened up a bottle of wine and played backyard Cricket, similar to rules of Cricket but with special house rules necessary due to the small yard and fewer people…and to just keep things moving along and interesting.  Charlotte wants me to tell everyone that I was quite good for a virgin but was commonly referred to as a “chucker” and that I bowled no maiden overs (but that was because ducks were prohibited, nullifying my maiden over!!!).  Deborah prepared dinner while we played, but she came out each round to take a turn batting.  More wine.  We had a fine meal of fresh avocado, salad, grilled steak, chicken, fresh asparagus, onion and other tasty stuff.  More wine.  We finished with a traditional Kiwi dessert of Hokey Pokey (vanilla ice cream with small lumps of toffee).  More wine and conversation lasted until just after midnight when we wished Tim a Happy 30th Birthday.  


On my final day, we went to Kaitoke Regional Park which was used to shoot Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings movies.  We proceeded into Wellington to pick up some All Blacks rugby shirts and grab a coffee and snack before heading back to the airport to sip on tea that Tim made with freshly cut Manuka, hot water was kindly provided at one of the food places for free.  And so ended my sucessful extended weekend in New Zealand.   Tim and Charlotte managed to show me some of the worst places in New Zealand.  In fact, if Lonely Planet made a list of places not to go to while touring it would have included most of the places we visited.  Somehow I still managed to convince them that I had a good, relaxed time as the locals are apparently the highlight of any trip to New Zealand.  Cheers.

New Zealand

November 22, 2007

The value of our life is not solely measured by its length, but also by the depth of our hearts.

And breadth of our experiences.  And indeed the heights that we achieve.