Greetings from lovely Lake Taupo, NZ. Just so y’all know, we did our laundry and are cleaner than we were when Ryan last wrote, although he’s so right in saying that you just can’t help but feel a little scuzzy after living out of a backpack for three months. Eveything has a road-weary funk about it. And for some reason I have a thing against laundromat washing machines. It’s the same as my issue with bath tubs… so many people putting their dirty bodies and things in there and then mine go in and sit where their dirt was… I can’t think about it as we are about to go sit in a natural spring mineral bath attached to our room. More on that in a bit… Anyway, we don’t smell too bad. The seal colony in Kaikoura was pretty great, they were everywhere. The thing about seals that you can’t tell from cute pictures is that the smell really bad. I mean, gag-worthy bad. Worse than two travelers. I have my scarf (the one i bought in amsterdam) and I use it to wrap my nose up and protect it from that awful, fishy, foul funk that wafts right over the feces covered rocks and right into your olfactories. Ryan was much more of a seal enthusiast than i was. He got right up close and growled back at them as if to say, ” Your stink doesn’t scare me! Smile for my camera!” Meanwhile I was a length behind with my scarf over my face trying not to breathe. Along the comony there was a nature hike that had a high road and beach walk. We did the high road first which entailed walking along a wind swept cliff, through a cow pasture avoiding all of the cow pies, climbing over pasture fences and trying not to scare the sheep which by the way are EVERYWHERE. Really cute though, lots of little lambs running around and plenty of baa-ing to be done. Talking to the animals is somethinig that Ryanand I have found be most entertaining. We talk to every animal we come across. I sing songs about little dogs and we have decided that for every animal there is a different way to say hello. Like a different inflection or tone of voice. I think we have both gone crazy. It may be a way for us to keep those acting skills sharp. We’ll have a fringe show next year. After working our way through the pasture and taking in the seascape we decided to descend the cliff on (literallly) a goat path roughly 30 meters down and then walked along the empty rocky beach. Empty except for more sheep and seagulls and oh yeah, seals laying around. It was a great little walk and we finshed it by hanging on to a limestone wall when the tide started coming in and having a mini adventure climb to get back to the parking lot. It sounds scarier than it was but I want you all to be impressed. It was after our walk through the cow pie pasture that we knew there was no way to avoid doing laundry and spent the evening running from our room to the in house laundry room. Dryers overseas are not only teeny tiny but they take FOREVER. Doing 2 laods takes all night. Our room had a microwave so we ate microwaved dinners and ramen noodles for dinner. I forgot how good ramen is when you’re eating on the cheap. In the AM we headed out of town toward Picton to catch the Ferry to the North Island. We realized we’d made a huge mistake in not returning our rental car before catching the ferry because it coast us and extra 120 $ NZ to put the dumb thing on the ferry with us but live and learn. Tip for fellow travelers there. We’d heard that the Ferry between the two islands wasa really pretty right and everybody was right. It takes you through the sounds and so you have lots of great scenary of rocky cliffs and tree covered rocky islands. No sealife on view though. We’re spoiled from our boating in Australia and now expect that whales should be jumping around our boats at all times. The ride was about 3 hours and dropped us off in Wellington with just enough time for us to find a place to stay for the night and then run back down the street to the Wellington Sports Cafe to watch the rematch of the NEw Zealand All Blacks and the Aussie Wallabies in the Bledisoe cup rugby tournament. We had seen part of the first match and wanted to cheer for NZ because of the Hacka (the warrior chant/dance). Also we named our NZ rental car “the Hacka” and even more because we’ve found that cheering against Australia is really fun. Like cheering against the Yankees. Grabbed a couple of sandwiches and some locally brewed beer and watched the game with a stnaidng room only crowd atthis sports bar in dowtown Wellington. Happy day because NEw Zealnd won! And Ryan figured the game out a little more and so we actually knew what was going on. Kind of. Wellington is sometimes called Wellywood because it’s the movie making capital of New Zealand mostly because Peter Jackson based the productions company for the Lord of the Rings movies here. Wellington also has a lot of theatre and music scenesters and the people look a little like Seattle-ites. (i don’t know what they are? Seattlers?) Lots of counter culture which makes for great coffee houses, pubs and pizza places.The Pizza we tried was from apizza Luce looking placecalled Hell and features seven deadly sins named pizzas like Wrath(spicy) and Greed(like a supreme). Funnily, the veggie pizza is called Purgatory. The pizza was great by the way. There’s also the Te Papa museum which is the national history, science, art and culture experience of New Zealand. They have everything from whale skeletons to a simulated earthquake room and Maori history. We went on Sunday (yesterday for us, today for all of you back home) and it happend to be the last day of The Lord of the Rings exhibit. We checked it out and wound up spending 2 great hours wandering around looking at props and costumes from the movie as well as watching behind the scenes documentaries and filming technicques and models of sets. Neither of us were huge fans of the movies, they were good fun but we didn’t go see them dressed as hobbits or elevs or anything but the exhibit was great and made me realize that it was probably the biggest “project” ever in movie making history. I’ll concede that as movie making goes,LOTR probably did deserve a few Oscars afterall. After the museum we wander around welly a bit, decided it was lovely and headed out of town late in the afternoon toward Mt. Taranaki, Mt. Fuji’s lookalike. Unfortunately we got there at dusk and a cloud was hiding it. Woke up this mroning and the cloud was bigger and so no sighting of Taranaki for us. Driving in the North Island is just a pretty as the South, just not as dramatic or isolated. Lots more rolling hills and stubs of ancient volcanoes covered in bright green grass. That’s the best part about driving ourselves, just loooking out the window and pulling over if we see a great opportunity for a walk or photo. And lots of sheep to sings songs and say hello to. Today we left the elusive Mt. Taranaki and heaed inland for Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in New Zealand occupying the most violent volcanoe in the last 5000 years. The lake is the crater filled with water. All around the area runs something called The Thermal Highway which is a road with stops all over the place for natural hot springs. I’ve read that there can also be a suphuric smell along with all those hot springs but nothing smells like eggs yet. Our hotel is situated on a hill overlooking the lake and apparently right on top of some thermal springs as well because the landlord showed us to our room and then opened a door with a big empty tub outside it and showed us how to fill the tub. He said it takes about 2 hours to fill and that the water just seeps up out of the ground at 55 degree C. That’s like 140 F! We’re going to start filling it when we get back to the room and sit in it until we’re pruny or faint! Tomorrow brings some kind of obstacle course that Ryan read about with giant swings and other games for overgrown kids like us. New Zealand loves to play outside and that’s just fine with us. I’m still a little worried about that Gromit or whatever he is, that Scmeegol thing, “the precious” but no sign of him yet other than at the Lord of the Rings exhibit. I’ve still not eaten bacon and I’m off the beef for the time being too, we’ll see how long I last on that one… it’s hard to eat an animal after you’ve sung to it and fed it a bottle. But I’m feeling a little anemic so it might be time for a fork and a cow.
Peace and love, miss you all, 2 weeks and we’ll be home!
posted Monday August 2006