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The Pursuit of Leisure Don't expect too much, and you won't be disappointed.

Somewhere there's a gum boot floating around New Zealand

NEW ZEALAND | Monday, 18 May 2009 | Views [1163] | Comments [4]

Last night in Auckland around 11 p.m. (6 a.m. Houston) on a Monday. I was hoping to get up on the SkyTower tonight to get some good pics of the city at night, but it's been quite rainy all day and visibility would not be good. But unpredictable weather is just a natural part of being here.

Today I went blackwater cave rafting in Waitomo with the Legendary Blackwater Rafting Co. It's basically like whitewater rafting, except instead of being on a river above ground, you're deep underground; and instead of paddles you use your arms and legs; and instead of a raft you use your body. I was actually pretty nervous even though I'd done it before (or maybe BECAUSE I had done it before) with another company in Greymouth in the South Island 5 years ago. Probably the scariest thing I ever did back then, but the thrill was definitely less the 2nd time around.

Went through the very uncomfortable process of putting on wet socks and full body wetsuit complete with elbow and knee pads. Then they drove us out to the caves. We had a brief abseiling lesson and some trial runs, and then it was down the hole.

It was a tight fit going down (~110 feet) bumping the walls and then having to wedge myself through the crack, but it was over soon enough. Then we each got a turn on a descending zip line in the dark and whisked farther down into the cave. The first "what am I doing?" moment came when I was standing on the ledge holding a floatation tube against my back, and then just jumping off and landing in the underground river below.

The whole thing wasn't that bad at all. It was exhausting naturally and I have cuts all over my fingers, but I definitely didn't have the whole fear vibe like last time. Walked through some passages gripping the walls for safety, got in the tubes and had to paddle or use ropes nailed against the wall to navigate, lay flat on top of the river and floated down on our wetsuits (definitely my least favorite part), and then crawled and squeezed and climbed up some waterfalls to get to the top. During the last waterfall, as I climbing and lifting my right leg against the current, my right gum boot completely slipped off near the top of the waterfall and was washed away and lost forever. Of course. no one else in my group suffered such casualties.

We had 2 guides, and they were so quintessentially kiwi - the way they talked and looked. The guy Josh was Maori, and at one point when we were huddled low in a tight hallway, started reciting these beautiful lyrics to a poem. This other tourist in my group couldn't hear and said, "WHAT?" The look on Josh's face was priceless. The other guide Snappy was a short-haired frosted-tipped girl with a lip ring. She mentioned going running with her dog afterwards (as if the 5-hour caving trip wasn't enough), and sure enough while I was waiting on the bus to head back, saw her whiz by with 6-pack exposed and dog in tow.

On the bus while waiting for everyone else I started talking to this kid Casper from Denmark who was doing his year off before college.  He had also been to Australia, and he told me about all the bungy jumps he's done and all the mountains he's climbed and what he intends to do... and he's only 18!  I thought I was doing a big trip by taking 3 weeks off, but it pales in comparison to everyone else's that I've talked to: 3 people that I've met were doing their working holiday for at least several months; other people that I've met were vacationing for 5 weeks or more.  So when I tell people that I'm here for 2 weeks, they say, "Oh so you're just here on holiday then."  I need to find some Americans to talk to so we can all sigh together.

Tomorrow morning I am taking the bus and heading to Taupo and staying at Go Global Backpackers.  It is the 2nd new city I'm doing (apart from Waitomo today).  I was hoping to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (3 volcanoes near Taupo... one of them was Mt. Doom for your LOTR geeks), but during the useful exchange of travel information among other backpackers today, found out that it's already snowing and dangerous on the track, so it's unlikely I'll be able to do it.  So I'm hoping the weather is good in Taupo for just general sightseeing (Casper told me that it was raining when he was there and thus very boring for him), but that's the unpredictable fun of NZ.



Ah Diana...I am trying so hard to feel bad about your "lack" of vacation time...whoops can't chat now, I have to finish filling out my timesheet. Nah, sounds like you are having a blast! Be safe.

  Bradley May 18, 2009 11:28 PM


Awesome... just awesome...

  Huy May 19, 2009 12:19 AM


Ah Diana...I am trying so hard to feel bad about your "lack" of vacation time...whoops can't chat now, I have to finish filling out my timesheet. Nah, sounds like you are having a blast! Be safe.

  Bradley May 19, 2009 4:52 AM


oh my gosh, i think i just figured out where who i am and where i'm from! i think i must be a kiwi stuck in an am-err-ican's life! and i was just looking at a book called new zealand for ex-pats...

  brent May 19, 2009 7:48 AM

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