#12 - "rotten" rotorua, rockin waitoma, & relaxing lake taupo

Taupo Travel Blog

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Lunch in Rotorua at the Fat Dog Cafe. That's Belinda eating our delicious paninis!

*****DAY FIFTEEN (Wednesday, December 17th) - "ROTTEN" ROTORUA*****

Belinda and I took a bus from Hamilton to Rotorua at 10am this morning - we got in around 12:30 or so and the first thing we needed to do was to sort out her car stuff.  She needed to do some finalizing of details of what work they were going to do, etc. She really handled the whole thing SO great.  It wasn't cheap to do everything she needed to do, but she had a great attitude about it.  It was going to be what it was going to be and she had to pay it.  So she dealt & then let it go.  So great - very impressive.

Bubbling, stinking mud in Rotorua.

We checked into our hostel "Cactus Jack Backpackers".  Oy vey.  It was like we were on a ride at Disneyland!  It was SUPER cheesy and there were tons of guys sitting around drinking, smoking, etc.  Our room was HILARIOUS.  It was called "Madame Fifi's Bordello" - there was a sign right outside & our whole room was painted in pink and had pictures of dancing girls.  There was a bunk bed and that was basically ALL that fit in the room!  (M - I was thinking that you would have DIED!!! It was definitely NOT a Four Seasons)  Anyway, we dropped our stuff off & then went to go check out Rotorua.

Fat Dog Cafe rocked!!!  We split two paninis - one was tuna & the other was some pumpkin thing.  SO yummy.  After that, we walked to the park that was supposed to have all the thermal, bubbling areas.

Oh yeah.
  It was cool to see some of the bubbling, hot mud - but honestly, it wasn't all that....and it STUNK.  ROTTEN EGGS EVERYWHERE.  So, Belinda and I just walked around a park and ended up sitting down and chatting the day away.  We didn't really see much of Rotorua, but we couldn't really figure out what else we were supposed to see.  So, we had a lovely day just sitting on the grass in the sun! 

After that we went back to the hostel and checked e-mail.  That was when I got some very sad news.  Alice Sternin, the camp director from Che-Na-Wah, where I grew up, had passed away.  :(  I was SOOO sad and just sat there with tears streaming down my face.  It was really hard to hear that news being so far away.  She was SUCH an amazing woman and I am soooo lucky that I had a chance to know her.

That's our room. Our *whole* room.
  She is really responsible for some of the best memories of my life (the ones I was crying about on the bus the other day!)  My family has known Alice and her family forever and she is really like family.  She was the director of Che-Na-Wah when my dad was at camp.  And Alice and Lester's daughter, Ronnie is good friends with my mom & dad.  And I went to camp with Ronnie's kids.  Leslie (Alice's granddaugher, Ronnie's daughter) is a good friend of mine and my heart totally goes out to her and to the whole family.  "Bells are ringing, whistles blow...she is always on the go...so how our hearts are always turnin, she's our little Alice Sternin".  That was the song we used to sing for her whenever she would stand up in front of camp for announcements.
Getting ready to go down a 27m drop!
  I love you Alice!!!!! 

I have to say, it was really nice to be traveling with someone that I knew for more than one day.  Belinda was great listening to me talk about Alice and letting me cry. :(

We went out and got some comforting noodle soup and then called it a night because we had an early day the next day.

Okay, so if you are still with me and have been reading these blogs, tell me that "Flat whites are the BEST!" the next time you write to me!  I do love hearing from people!  :)

*****DAY SIXTEEN (Thursday, December 18th) - ROCKIN' WAITOMO*****

We got our bus today at 7am and headed off to Waitomo!  We were so excited - we actually figured out how to get to Waitomo & then to Taupo in the same day.

So much fun!
  We first thought we'd have to go back to Rotorua - but we didn't!!!  Woo hoo!

Anyway - so we were driven out to Waitomo Rap, Raft & Rock Adventures.  We chose this one because we could get a chance to abseil, to do some black water rafting, some rock climbing and that we'd get to see the glow worms in the caves!  There were six of us in our group, plus our guide Paul.  It was hilarious the outfits they put you into.  We had to wear wet suits, with our caribiner gear stuff, and then these sweatpant things over the wetsuit and then gum boots!  I was looking hot.  :)

It was such an amazing experience!  It started with a 27m (90 feet-ish, right?) abseil.  I had never done that before and I was definitely a bit nervous.  I have some pictures of the experience that you'll get to see here.

Just kickin it, black water rafting.
  The abseil down was amazing.  Once you are doing it, you realize there's really no way you can fall & I was surprised I actually wanted to fall faster than I was falling!  I tried to take in the scenery around me - it was AMAZING.  I was abseling into this little cave & the walls were covered in ferns and tropically looking stuff.  When you get to the bottom, you have to clip out of the harness and then slog across the river to the other side and wait for everyone to get down.  Once everyone is down, the caving experience begins.  We spent the next three-ish hours hiking through caves, through this river, up & down rocks all over the place.  The COOLEST part of all were the glow worms.  They were literally EVERYWHERE.  Paul had us turn off our lights and we let the cave just fill up with the glow worms!  I kept reminding myself that this was REAL - not some ride at an amusement park.
All those little lights are glow worms. SO cool.
It was SO cool.  The black water rafting part was a tad disappointing because it's basically just floating along on an inner tube.  It was cool when we shut off our lights and could see the glow worms while we were floating though.  I think I thought it was going to be more rapidy or something.  Nonetheless, it was still cool.  Then, at the end, we rock climbed up a 20m wall to get out.  I LOVED this part.  I had only ever rock climbed at an indoor climbing wall so it was great to be outside! 

Definitely a very cool adventure.  Oh-  and at the end, they gave us the most delicious chicken soup. (okay, it wasn't that great - but it sure tasted delicious after all that rap, raft & rocking)  I would highly recommend doing this.

The rest of the afternoon was total BRIAZZ.
A new reason for people to call me Rocky....hahahaha. Okay, that was bad.
  Two of the people we rafted with were able to give us a ride to where we needed to catch our next bus, I was able to get a flat white at a cafe near the bus stop, they ended up GIVING us these delicious brownie bites, and then when we were thinking "hmm, I wonder where our bus is" - it was RIGHT there across the street.  BRI - AZZ.

Everyone on the bus to Taupo was defintiely sleepy.  I dozed in and out several times on my way over there....but I woke up JUST in time to see the lake in the distance.  I was SO excited to get to Taupo.  The lake and the mountains make me so happy.  I also realize that these mountains are small in comparison to what I'll see on the South Island - but I am totally loving the scenery changes. 

We arrived at the Tiki Lodge and were SOOOO happy.

Woo hoo! After the rock climb - I LOVED that part!
  We had a HUGE room to ourselves - WITH a bathroom in the room with a shower.  SOOOO awesome.  The whole hostel seemed very clean and nice as well.  We were very pleased with all of our decisions that day! 

And then, to top it off, we had the BEST dinner.  We went to Pimento.  OMG.  SOOOOO good.  We split (you know how much I love splitting & I love that Belinda likes to do it too & that we have similar tastes!) a delicious fresh fish dish and then this warm roasted vegetable w/quinoa dish.  The veggies were beetroot, kumra (sweet potato), potatos, tomatos,....seriously every single bite was such goodness.

On our walk home, I had remembered that Dan Gerson told me to go to a bar called On Tap & to ask for J.J.  So, on our walk home, I saw On Tap & went right in and of course asked for him.

JJ (the owner of On Tap in Taupo & Dan Gerson's friend) & me.
  Such a nice man!  And such a BIG man - he is 6' 6".  Holy moly.  He proceeded to buy Belinda and I some Baileys drinks.  So nice.  :)  We chatted with him & with the bartender, Grant.  They were getting ready to close in about an hour and head out to do some karaoke.  You know I would normally have been right there with them, but I was SOO pooped from our day - I had to call it a night. 

I could tell we were going to have a great time in Taupo.  There's just such a great feeling about this town.  It's very open, spacious, clean, and just feels very positive.  SO happy to be here!

*****DAY SEVENTEEN (Friday, December 19th) - RELAXING LAKE TAUPO*****
I actually didn't have the greatest sleep last night for some reason.

I stopped at a thermal hot spring -it was HOT. Not warm....HOT!!! My feet were pink after a few minutes.
  Not sure why....one of those nights where you feel like you really didn't sleep.  Maybe I was overtired?  Anyway, I got up and decided to go on a run to try to wake myself up.  I am so glad I went - it was GORGEOUS out and I really enjoyed running along the lake.  I later learned that I ran on part of the Ironman course!  So fun. 

On my run, I was thinking that I really needed a day by myself.  I was a bit out of it & I wanted to just go at my own pace, do my own thing, and not have to talk if I didn't want to talk.  It was very interesting because when I got back into the room, Belinda said that she thought she wanted some time by herself today too.  PERFECT.  We were definitely on the same wavelength.

So, she headed out and I stayed in the room, just getting my act together.

The beatiful Wakaito river!
  I ended up wandering around town for a bit & then coming back to the hostel to take a nap.   When I was feeling a bit more rested, I decided to head out to Huka Falls.  My parents had been to the Huka Lodge when they were here & they recommended going to get a drink there.  It's a super exclusive, high-end place - so I wasn't sure how that was going to work, but I was going to try.  So, my plan was to do the Huka Falls walk & then pop into the lodge.  The walk looked like it would take about an hour.  Sounded reasonable and easy.  SO, I decided to wear my "fancy" black teva flip flops & to wear my black skirt!  That was the fanciest I've been since I've been traveling.
Still walking...
  BUT, what I didn't realize was that it was more like an hour & a half walk to get there AND it was definitely a hiking trail.  I was getting the STRANGEST looks from people. I was hiking in a skirt.  :)  Hilarious.

Anyway, I did end up making it out there, but then I honestly didn't know how I was going to get back!  The idea of walking back an hour & a half in those flip flops & the skirt did not sound like the most fun.  So, my plan was then to go to the Huka Lodge and call a cab.  :)  Then - it was so strange - I saw this guy taking pictures and I could have sworn I saw him in town earlier in the day in his car.  He looked like a nice guy, so I decided I would talk to him and if he seemed nice & normal, I would ask him for a ride.

Huka Falls!
  Now I KNOW I'm not supposed to hitch hike, so please don't freak out on me.  We ended up chatting for awhile - turns out he's from Israel, traveling on his own for seven months, he was a camp counselor in the US for a summer....so you can see why I felt comfortable with him!  I actually asked if he wanted to join me at the Huka Lodge & try to get in there and get a drink.  So, we drove up to the lodge and the first sign you see is "For logde guests only".  But there was a number you could call for dinner reservations, so we tried the number.  They said they only took reservations from guests.  Such a bummer.  So, we drove in anyway to take a peak - it was definitely beautiful in there!  But, I didn't get to have my drink there!  :(  OH well - we tried!!!!  Sorry Dad - maybe next time!  :)

So, Lavi (that's his name) drove me back to the Tiki Lodge & he was on his way to Rotorua.

Me at Huka Falls! Yes, that was my hiking outfit. I'll explain later when I have time to blog...
  He'll be in Australia & Thailand again, so we may meet up.  Traveling is so much fun!  I already have friends to meet up with in different places.  Very cool.

Belinda had gone to the grocery store to pick up food to make - which was so nice!  She made us some pasta with zucchini, eggplant & sundried tomato pesto.  I bought a bottle of savvie from Hawke's Bay & we just hung at the hostel.  We met a bunch of really nice people that night...Dick & Chris from Holland (who I will now meet up with again down in Wellington & I am going to take the ferry over to Picton with them as well!), Maria (from Austria) and Angie (from Wisconsin!).

Sunset in Taupo.
  We had such a fun night all eating our dinner together & just hanging out on the balcony that has a view of Taupo (not the BEST view - but still a great view!)

So, I'm almost caught up!  I just have to write about Saturday the 20th (which is actually the day I'm writing this!), but I'm about to be kicked out of the Internet cafe.  It ended up POURING today, so this was a fun way to spend the day!  I'll write more about today later.

I hope everyone is doing great!!!!  It's been so much fun to write about my travels...I hope I'm not boring you to tears.  :)  Hee hee.  A HUGE MWWWWAAAAHHH to everyone!


*****DAY EIGHTEEN (Saturday, December 20th) - RAINY LAKE TAUPO*****
I started the day with my GREAT run along Lake Taupo!  I love running along the lake - it's been such a great way to start each day.
Dick and Chris in the internet cafe.
  I go on my run & then I get my flat white from the little coffee truck & it's all good.  :)
I came back to the hostel & hung out with Chris, Dick and Angie.  Angie showed us her sky-diving video.  I have to admit, it looks like a lot of fun!  We'll see if I end up doing it...maybe in Queenstown.
So, I really just had a very mellow day.  We went shopping & I ended up making my first clothing purchase!!  An awesome purple-ish fleece zip up hoody from Kathmandu!  I was SO excited.  :)  I think it's going to be a good addition to my wardrobe.
Then, I went to the Internet Cafe to catch up on my blog and it started to POUR!!!!  CRAZY rain!  So I just sat inside most of the day on the computer - it was actually a lot of fun!  Writing the blog is a great way of 1) sharing what I'm doing, 2) reliving it myself and 3) making sure I have it all recorded so I can read back over it again & again & continue to relive it when I'm done with this amazing journey.
Dinner at the Tiki Lodge with Belinda, Jean Paul, Maria & Bernaud. (I may be spelling some names wrong here!)
  :)
Dinner this evening was so awesome!  Belinda's friends (Jean Paul and Bernard) came over and made us dinner - it was this yummy potato, lamb stew thingy!!!  They were so sweet to bring their food & cook for us.  We also tried some yummy Taupo wines. 
Such a nice, cozy day!

*****DAY NINETEEN (Sunday, December 21st) - "BIKING" IN LAKE TAUPO******
I got up and did my morning run again!  Woo hoo!  So fun.  :)  Then, I wanted to make brekkie so I went to the Pak 'n Save & got food for me & Belinda.  I ended up making a yummy egg scramble with broccoli, spinach, & onions!  And we had a fruit salad.  It was delicious, if I don't say so myself!  :)
After "breakfast" (it was actually more like a pretty late brunch by the time it was all said & done) we were all excited to go biking.
Maria, Anna, Belinda & me. :)
  The unfortunate thing was that we definitely got a late start on the day.  The bike shops were either closed for the day entirely....or we just missed them by the time we got there!!  BUMMER!
So, instead - we headed down towards the lake and just hung out on the grass in the sun.  It turned out to be such a nice, relaxing wonderful day!  :)
For dinner, we ended up doing a group dinner that to be honest, ended up being more hassle than it was worth.  It was just interesting to coordinate a group of people that don't know each other that well.  "What do you want?"...."I don't know, what do you want?"..."I don't eat this..."...."well, I don't eat that"..  AH!  If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have just gotten a hamburger and that would have been the end of it!  In the end, we made a yummy dinner of rice, veggies and chicken - and we had enough food for an army!  (It turned out to be a good thing because we ate it the next night after the Tongariro Crossing).
Woo hoo!
  ANYWAY, it was definitely one of those team-building/group dynamics experiences...and the problem was that we were all super tired so it was not as easy to pull together as you would think...but in the end, we pulled it off!  We ended up finishing MAKING our dinner around 9:30pm or so and we all needed to get into bed asap because we were getting up at the crack of dawn the next day....so we all pretty much stuffed our faces & then headed off to bed!  :)  By the way, I LOVED the hostel where we stayed - the Tiki Lodge.  It wasn't super special or anything - it was just nice & clean & the location was GREAT.  I would definitely recommend it!
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Lunch in Rotorua at the Fat Dog Ca…
Lunch in Rotorua at the Fat Dog C…
Bubbling, stinking mud in Rotorua.
Bubbling, stinking mud in Rotorua.
Oh yeah.
Oh yeah.
Thats our room.  Our *whole* room.
That's our room. Our *whole* room.
Getting ready to go down a 27m dro…
Getting ready to go down a 27m dr…
So much fun!
So much fun!
Just kickin it, black water raftin…
Just kickin it, black water rafti…
All those little lights are glow w…
All those little lights are glow …
A new reason for people to call me…
A new reason for people to call m…
Woo hoo!  After the rock climb - I…
Woo hoo! After the rock climb - …
JJ (the owner of On Tap in Taupo &…
JJ (the owner of On Tap in Taupo …
I stopped at a thermal hot spring …
I stopped at a thermal hot spring…
The beatiful Wakaito river!
The beatiful Wakaito river!
Still walking...
Still walking...
Huka Falls!
Huka Falls!
Me at Huka Falls!  Yes, that was m…
Me at Huka Falls! Yes, that was …
Sunset in Taupo.
Sunset in Taupo.
Dick and Chris in the internet caf…
Dick and Chris in the internet ca…
Dinner at the Tiki Lodge with Beli…
Dinner at the Tiki Lodge with Bel…
Maria, Anna, Belinda & me.  :)
Maria, Anna, Belinda & me. :)
Woo hoo!
Woo hoo!
More smelly bubbling mud.
More smelly bubbling mud.
Park in Rotorua where we chilled m…
Park in Rotorua where we chilled …
Yes, this is the hostel where we s…
Yes, this is the hostel where we …
That sign says Madame Fifis Bord…
That sign says "Madame Fifi's Bor…
More of Catcus Jacks, so you can …
More of Catcus Jack's, so you can…
Dinner at Weilins Noodle House.
Dinner at Weilin's Noodle House.
Gum boots for our Rap, Raft & Rock…
Gum boots for our Rap, Raft & Roc…
Trying out our abseiling gear.
Trying out our abseiling gear.
It was GORGEOUS with the sun comin…
It was GORGEOUS with the sun comi…
Our Rap, Raft & Rock crew.
Our Rap, Raft & Rock crew.
Still smiling!
Still smiling!
A shot of the trail I was walking …
A shot of the trail I was walking…
Thats me walking on the Huka Fall…
That's me walking on the Huka Fal…
Across the river - what a nice spo…
Across the river - what a nice sp…
That shows the wall we climbed on …
That shows the wall we climbed on…
More Huka Falls
More Huka Falls
Waikato river.
Waikato river.
My hike to the Huka Falls, along t…
My hike to the Huka Falls, along …
Lavi - the very nice Israeli guy t…
Lavi - the very nice Israeli guy …
The sky at night in Taupo!
The sky at night in Taupo!
Vroom vroom!
Vroom vroom!
My hostel in Taupo.  Love this pla…
My hostel in Taupo. Love this pl…
Belinda making our dinner for the …
Belinda making our dinner for the…
The view from our hostel...I wish …
The view from our hostel...I wish…
Maria (from Austria), Dick (from H…
Maria (from Austria), Dick (from …
Catcus Jacks hostel - I felt like…
Catcus Jack's hostel - I felt lik…
The hot spring.
The hot spring.
Another gorgeous sky in Taupo.
Another gorgeous sky in Taupo.
Gorgeous view of the lake at night.
Gorgeous view of the lake at night.
My favorite - the coffee truck!  T…
My favorite - the coffee truck! …
Lake Taupo!
Lake Taupo!
Maria and Anne.
Maria and Anne.
Maria at the coffee truck.
Maria at the coffee truck.
Swans at the lake.  Swan lake, I g…
Swans at the lake. Swan lake, I …
Joehoe!  (pronounced Yoo Hoo in Du…
Joehoe! (pronounced Yoo Hoo in D…
SUCH a pretty day!
SUCH a pretty day!
I heart Taupo.
I heart Taupo.
Taupo
photo by: carpefunk