I am very happy to write you again even though sometime has passed I have not forgotten to keep in touch. These days I am always on the move and to get Internet service is very difficult. But from time to time I am able to connect my laptop and send messages like I am now. But it is not often but I hope that you appreciate this letter and I want to show my thanks for your friendship by taking the time to give you a detail account of my trip to you through this letter. The first picture I would like to share with you is one of the greatest pictures I have ever seen. My friend Adam from England took it while we were hiking the black sand beaches of Muriwai near Auckland. It is a full rainbow and it is one of the prettiest sites I have seen here in Auckland. A rainbow is symbolic for a promise. It is a promise that I will always try to keep in touch by keeping my letters going out to you to keep you updated of my travels.
Well it is my 10th day in New Zealand and it has been a wonderful experience.
I have hiked the bush of New Zealand, walked the black sand beaches of Muriwai Beach, hiked up Mount Eden; highest point in Auckland, danced with the native New Zealand Maori people in a town called Rotorua, I have experienced salsa dance New Zealand style in the biggest city in New Zealand; Auckland’s entertainment center called the Viaduct Basin, I have sat in natural hot springs created by the hot volcanoes that are found in the heart of the Northern Island of New Zealand in a flowing body of water called Kerosene Creek, I took a cruise across the sound (sound is a body of water that lies between two bodies of land-which took 3 hours) from the Northern Islands to the Southern Islands of New Zealand, driven cross country in a camping van across both the Northern and Southern Islands and now I am in a little town which is world famous for the best sperm whale and dolphin watching in the World called Kaikoura. I am presently sitting in a spa at the hostel that I am staying at which is right across the headquarters of where I will be whale and dolphin watching tomorrow. To put it simply it has been a dream that has been sweetens by the New Zealand’s hospitality which in my opinion is second to none. They are great people who have treated me with the utmost respect, politeness and benevolence.
I will now outline the last few days of my experiences here in New Zealand from Saturday the 23rd of July to the present day which is Friday, July 29th, 2005.
Saturday, July 23rd, 2005
Most of this day I spent writing in my journal and I used this day to reflect on my trip that I have had here in New Zealand. However, in the evening I decided to visit the only Salsa club that I know presently exists in all of New Zealand called, “Wild Fire.
” I was pleasantly surprised that I encountered Latin Americans from all over Central and Southern America. There were also Indians (from India), Japanese, Chinese, Koreans, other Kiwis (New Zealand Nationals) and it seemed other people from all over the world. It was a beautiful spectacle of exchange of cultures, people and friendship all united under the banner of Latin Dance. (See Picture #2 as it is the Latino Band that was playing) It was beautiful and I shared many stories with many great people that I met that night. It was a beautiful night and then I returned to the hostel that I was staying at that time called Auckland’s Central Backpackers. [A focal point of the waterfront is the ViaductBasin, home to Auckland’s fishing fleet since the 1930’s but extensively rebuilt for New Zealand’s defense of the America’s Cup in 2000.
Sunday, July 24th, 2005
This day I decided to start the day with a banana split (yes I know I am very bad) then I took a Ferry/Cruise to the Island of Waiheke. It was a beautiful 45 minute cruise that I thoroughly enjoyed and saw many views of Auckland from a ship and enjoyed a relaxing voyage in the seas that lie within Auckland’s Harbors. I got a late start because I arrived the island around so I only had little day light.
But I made the best of it and hiked the Island to its Downtown area. Before I arrived there, there was a memorial rock dedicated to the military forces that died in service in a park called Alison Park. The memorial had written on it, “WE WILL REMEMBER.”
I stopped there to ponder on the lives that were lost for New Zealand’s military causes and protection of its peoples freedoms. As I continued my hike through the Island of Waiheke Island I decided to have lunch so I stopped at a “Fish ‘n’ Chips” restaurant/stand and I ordered french-fries, fried mussels, fried oysters, fried calamari, fried fish, fried pineapple and a cinnamon donut all washed down with mango juice.
Then I decided to walk down the beach and by this time it was already nighttime and I sat on a swing in the mist of darkness with the ocean waves swiftly rolling in like a magical melody and then one by one stars began to cover the sky until the whole sky was blanketed with stars. By this time it was about …however here in New Zealand it becomes dark at so I was in the darkness and needed my flashlight to find my way back into town. When I decided to return to the heart of the city I decided to watch a movie in WaihekeIsland’s lone theater. There were no chairs only couches and sofas with pillows and everyone basically watched a French film called Après Vous (Antoine saves Louis from hanging himself though in his attempt to get Louis back on his feet, Antoine gets caught in a romantic triangle. Comedy/Romance-Directed by Pierre Salvadori-France 2003 110 minutes) with me all lying down on couches. By the end of this movie the time was so I decided to hike back to the ferry area as the last ferry to take me back to the downtown area of Auckland left at . I took the ferry back to my hostel and arrived there to Auckland about and shortly after went to bed about because I was so tired.
Well for now I am going to stop writing because the spa that I am laying in closes at 9PM and it is and I will enjoy a evening with the locals here in Kaikoura resort where I will be whale watching tomorrow. I will continue my stories either later or tomorrow. Until then. (7-29-2005: Friday ) [Flung across the narrow Tamaki isthmus, Auckland is surrounded by the sea: the WaitemataHarbor and Hauraki Gulf to the north and the east, and the ManukauHarbor and Tasman Sea to the south and west.]
Monday, July 25th, 2005
This day I decided to rent a van with a fellow American named Chris McDonald.
He is an ex-Marine who served in the military for 4 and half years and he spent 2 years in Japan and 7 months in Iraq. He is truly an American hero who was in charge of 40 Marines in Iraq. His rank was Captain and he went into Iraq with 40 men and left Iraq with 40 men. Meaning that none of his men died and he led them on many missions with no deaths even though they had many fire fights with the Iraqi rebels. We decided to rent a bus which has Kiwi’s and Fruit and cakes painted all over it. It is like a 1960’s buses that were used in Berkeley, California in the old days in the USA. The only difference is that our bus didn’t have a peace sign on it. Chris is from Louisiana near New Orleans. He is a true country boy because he grew up in a log cabin in which he got all his water from a well from his land. He is a great American, great military hero and very humble. He is kind of like Forest Gump but a Captain. So Chris and I decided to rent a van for 10 days and we have been traveling with this van for the last 5 days all across New Zealand.
It has been great. We started traveling that night and arrived in the Town of Rotorua at where we slept in an area called the aquatic park next to the downtown area of Rotorua. [Rotorua is the centre of a thermal wonderland of bubbling mud pools, kaleidoscopic silica terraces and spouting geysers. The odor of hydrogen sulphide pervades the city day and night, and has earned it the nickname SulphurCity.]
Tuesday, July 26th, 2005
We were so tired this day that we woke up at and we decided to go to an area called Kerosene Creek which is a hot springs which is heated by lava activity and the water smells like sulfur.
We swam in the water for about one hour and it was great. Before we left to the hot springs I forgot to talk about what Chris and I did for breakfast. We cooked breakfast from our camper van. We had eggs, bacon, toast and fruit with milk. It was a great meal and we ate until we were full. After we went to the hot springs we decided to go into town where we did Interneting for nearly 3 hours and then shortly after we decided to go to bed. We also went to the Laundry room to do laundry. I forgot to talk about what happen to Chris, he fell into a mud hole at Kerosene Creek where half of his body was submerged in hot mud. He was very lucky because it could have taken his whole body and he could have died. It is kind of ironic that such a great soldier doesn’t get hurt being in the Marines for 4 and half years but hiking in the bush of New Zealand he almost dies from quicksand like mud and if it wasn’t for many weeds and grass that he grabbed he might of died. Thank God he is safe.
Wednesday, July 27th, 2005
This morning we (Chris and I) returned to Kerosene Creek where I sat in the hot springs for four hours.
It was great. I enjoyed every minute of it. Chris told me a story about the springs of New Zealand that men after World War II would come to New Zealand for mental, physical and spiritual rehabilitation. The waters are said to have great healing qualities in the water. It could be due to the minerals that are found in the water and couple that with the warm water it creates for great wellness qualities. I experienced a total of five hours of bathing in the hot springs between yesterday and today. It was one of the most rejuvenating times of my life. It gave me energy and power that I have been lacking for many years. This experience in New Zealand has brought me closer to my mind, heart and spirit and the hot springs has encompassed this spiritual rejuvenation.
After going to the hot springs I went to a Maori village where I saw traditional Maori dance, festivity and ate some traditional Maori dishes. Stemmed carrots, kumara (or better known as sweet potatoes), potatoes, stuffing, salad, mussels, fish, chicken, lamb and various deserts. It was simply delicious and I had great meal.
After the meal some of the performers, chefs and bartender of the Maori village took Chris and I out for karaoke singing. It was fantastic. The bartender of the Maori village’s name is Phillip and he is of Maori ancestry and I told him about Chris and my experiences in New Zealand and I also told him that we were camping in the van that we rented and he said that we had to stay with his family’s house in Rotorua where he saved great food from the feast that was served at the Maori village the night before. Thus, Chris and I spent a night with Philip in his families home where he allowed me to sleep in the master bedroom in the house and the home had a beautiful view of a lake and the thermal natural spas that are found throughout all of Rotorua. [After decades of assimilation, Maori language, culture and crafts are experiencing a renaissance among both Maori and Pakeha [New Zealanders descended from European settlers…The best way to experience Maori culture is to attend a performance at a venue such as Tamaki Maori Village…If you want to see how Maori people lived before Europeans arrived in New Zealand, visit this recreated village on an evening tour.
It was built into a sheltered forest, complete with a market place, meeting house, sleeping houses, store houses and a fortified entrance. Maori performers bring the village alive as they go about their daily business, such as weaving and carving. A highlight is the cultural performance and hangi feast. Visitors receive a formal welcome, and then enjoy a traditional concert and a dinner cooked in an earth oven over hot boulders.]
Thursday, July 28th, 2005
We woke up this morning about where Phillip prepared the food that I had the night before at the MaoriVillage. It was delicious all over again. At the time we said our goodbyes we did it Maori style which is putting the left hand on the opposite person’s right shoulder and they do the same and then with the right hand you shake at the same time and then touch twice by pressing on each other’s nose, whoever one is not suppose to rub noses but press twice only without moving side to side and Phillip made a joke that if you press more than twice then you must marry the person you greet…it is just a joke, but the custom is only to touch twice on the nose.
It is similar to Mediterranean cultures and Latin cultures how we kiss either once or twice on the cheeks. Shortly after we began to drive towards Christchurch. On the way we stopped by what they call in New Zealand mud pools. It is basically super hot mud that boils and makes bubbles and spews upward with a thrust of mud flying in the air every 10 seconds. After we viewed the mud pools we continued our drive toward Christchurch. We drove for nearly 5 to 6 hours when we stopped in a city called Wellington which is where Chris and I would take a ferry that takes 3 hours to go to the south islands of New Zealand. We transported ourselves and our camper van. But for this night we decided to stay the night in Wellington and had a Malaysian/Chinese dinner. I had pepper steak and I did some Internetting. I went to Bed about . [Wellington is a far cry from the stereotypical political capital full of gray bureaucrats. The city’s wall-to-wall cafes, exquisite galleries and state-of-the-art performance venues give it a dynamic and vibrant atmosphere. Cafes spill out onto the waterfront whenever the weather in “Windy Wellington” allows for alfresco dining.
Friday, July 29th, 2005
Chris and I began our morning by getting up at and catching a Ferry that would leave at but we had to buy our tickets at .
We were off to the SouthIslands from to . Then we began heading toward Christchurch. On our way toward Christchurch we stopped at a gas station/restaurant called Flaxbourne Tearooms. There I ate homemade steak and cheese pie and homemade blueberry muffins and it was excellent which I washed down with real fantastic milk hot chocolate. It was one of my best meals for the value that I had in New Zealand. I believe the total price for all that food was about $7.00 American. It was delicious. After eating we continue to head towards Christchurch. As we continued to head towards Christchurch we ran into a city called Kaikoura which is world famous for whale/dolphin watching. [Sperm whales come to feed offshore from the town of Kaikoura. Several boat excursions go out to see them each day, weather permitting, but it’s best to go early in the morning, when the sea is calmest. The deep-diving gentle giants rise up to breathe and stay on the surface for a few minutes, so you can have a good look before they disappear. Whale-watching flights are also available. While you’re there, swim with dolphins, dive with sharks, visit the seal colony, or walk on Kaikoura peninsula.
You can also explore colonial Fyffe House, partially constructed from whale-constructed from whale-mid-19th century, when the town was known for whale-hunting rather than whale-watching.] Because of this great opportunity to see whales, dolphins and albatross we decided to stay the night in a hostel in this city.
The Hostel has a spa and bath tub and I spent about 2 hours in the spa and about 2 hours in the bathtub/shower in the hostel. And I have been writing this letter all night because I had to get caught up with all the events that have been happening here to me in New Zealand. It is now July 30th, 2005 and the time is . I am about to get some sleep and later in the day I will go whale watching. The Hostel that I am at also has daily free soup, free mountain bike riding, fire place, pool table, air hockey table, free bread, and a big screen TV with hundreds of video cassettes free to watch at anytime. I think while I was typing this letter I have watched Severn Years in Tibet, Legends of the Fall, Gladiator and now I am watching Pearl Harbor. I want to go to sleep but I really want to finish this letter. I am excited to share my experiences that I am having here in New Zealand with you. This is the first time that I have ever traveled to New Zealand and it is the 15th country that I have traveled to.
I will be traveling to Australia, Brisbane for about 3 months from August 5th to about November 5th. I will be here in the SouthIslands until August 4th and then I fly from Christchurch back to Auckland where I will be leaving to Australia the next day. Well I hope you have enjoyed this letter and I find you in great health.
MAY YOUR ANGELS ALWAYS BE GUIDING YOU AND PROTECTING YOU IN ALL THAT YOU DO.
With Everlasting Loving Peace,
Noah Patrick Torres
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