Ducky's NZ Trip - North Island

Jan 8

More trouble with the camp stove

The next day, we flew back to Auckland. I had let the camp stove air out overnight, but it wasn't enough to totally placate the airline attendants. They kept trying to insist that it was really dangerous to have even fumes even in the cabin section even in a ziplock baggie. I didn't follow the physics they were using, but with appropriate bats of the eyelashes, and some phone calls to some superiors, I was finally given permission to take it on the plane.

When we got back to Auckland, Hala went off to see a doctor to get the stitches out. I went to the art museum, then to this neat aquarium (Kelly Tarlton's) where the people are in an acrylic tunnel that went UNDER the fish! It was an amazing display, with large stingrays, "crayfish" (a variety of lobster with no claws), schools of fish, etc. etc. I was impressed.

Photo by Hala Fauzi

From there, I had a warm, sunny, pleasant walk back along the waterfront. (Hala took this photo on our first day in Aukland, when it was overcast. *MY* walk was nice.)

Kiri On The Quay

When I got back towards town, I saw a sign saying, "GET YOUR KIRI TICKETS HERE". ?!?!? I had tried to get tickets through Bass, and they had told me it was sold out! So I went in to see what the deal was. Kiri Te Kanawa was going to be singing on an outdoor stage on a wharf. All the land-based seats were sold out, but there was a black-tie cruise with dinner on a boat that would be parked in the water closer than the land-based bleachers! And it left in about fifteen minutes!

I walked up, told the man that I dearly wanted to go, but that I didn't have any other clothes. He sort of looked at me in my sneakers, short-socks, bright blue cycling shorts, and purple cycling jersey that I'd been sweating in for four weeks, got this bemused smile, and said he'd see what he could do. He got on the cellular and started phoning around, and in five minutes they had a red skirt and a white blouse for me. Boom. I was there!

It was quite a riot being on the boat in sneakers and having waiters offering me champagne, canapes, etc. We also had a scrumptious buffet as we taxied into position. Meanwhile there were a bunch of other boats having their own parties - grilling burgers, drinking beer, and having a grand old time. There were also a fair number of "bandits"; people pulling up in kayaks, dinghies, and what-have-you. I even saw one guy on a swimming-pool lounge raft!

Te Kanawa, of course, was spectacular. Night fell as she sang, and it was just magical. Thousands of people were sitting there in rapt attention as the stars shone, the boat rocked gently, it was a warm night with a soft, cool breeze....aaaaah. For her fourth encore (out of five), she sang Summertime ("and the living is eaaassyyy") from Porgy & Bess. It just happened that at that moment the waves were rocking the boat just in time to the music. I swear it was like slow dancing at the prom! Aaaaaaahhhhhh....

It turned out that Hala got to hear her too: there were shops and so on overlooking the quay, and Hala was in one of them. (Heck, people were in the parking structure across the street to hear!)

Jan 9

Hala and I split up the next day - she went north to go scuba diving and to get massively seasick; I got up early and went south to start on a trip that Hala would follow on a day later.

Spelunking & Glowworms

My first stop was in Waitomo to go spelunking. After about an hour of instruction, my group of six rappelled down a 34 m shaft to a cave. This was made even more exciting by a bee that had gotten trapped down the shaft. It had gotten down far enough that my helmet light was brighter than the egress. It kept buzzing around my head until I finally turned off my lamp and descended down a 34-meter shaft on a rope in the dark!

After flying via a "zip-line" (a pulley on a horizontal rope, used to take us over a river), we grabbed innertubes and jumped into a (cold!) underwater river. We went swimming / paddling / walking upstream for a ways, looking at rock formations and so on. We were wearing full wetsuits and galoshes and a helmet, and I was quite happy about all that protection. I'd always thought of water wearing rocks to smoothness, but here the water honed the limestone into really sharp, nasty bits!

After a while, the guide had us all link up our innertubes, get in, and turn out our lights. She then pulled us back to the zip-line spot in the dark, very slowly. On the ceiling were thousands of little blue lights - glowworms. They spin lines of web and attract lost insects to their death with the glow. It was like a thousand stars, really neat. I ended up seeing other stars: I was at the end of the chain of tubes, and got cracked! My cheek ran into an outcropping. (It was only a flesh wound, however, I'm tough.)

From there we went hiking / climbing / sliding / wriggling through holes and up waterfalls and etc. to the surface. Whew! Working against a wetsuit for all that time was hard work!

English Lessons

Hala was not with me, but it happened that Karim, a French/Moroccan guy, was on basically the same program as me for three days. It was nice: I had someone to hang out with despite Hala abandoning me. He had just had seven weeks of English training but badly wanted to learn English. So I more-or-less spent three days teaching him "Uh-huh, uh-uh, gonna, didja" and all those other vocabulary words you really need to know to speak the language. (I had a really difficult time explaining the words "sloppy" and "mud".)

Jan 10

The next day, Karim and I caught the shuttle to Rotorua.

Get Volcanic

A 4WD picked us up and jounced us around and up to the top of an inactive volcano. This volcano blew 107 years ago to the great excitement of everybody. The blast opened up a rift 17 km long, and at the "far" end of the blast was a lake. Know what happens when water meets hot stuff? There was a major steam explosion - which was probably more responsible for the resulting devastation than the magma blast.

Three cities were leveled, and the blast moved 2 cubic kilometers of earth vs. 3 cubic km for Mt. St. Helen's and 8 cubic km for Krakatoa. (What is scary is that Krakatoa was a piker compared to the Lake Taupo blast that happened in NZ about 2000 years ago: it blew off ONE HUNDRED AND TEN cubic kilometers of dirt, according to my info sheet. Dan Langille of New Zealand wrote in to tell me that so much dust went up that historians in China recorded the event. If there had been anyone living in NZ at the time, I suspect they didn't live there any more!)

We went scampering on, around, and in the volcano rift. Of great amusement was "scree skiing" down 170m of 80 degree slope. Scree is loose gravelly stuff. You plant your heel in it, and it slides six to twelve inches before stopping. You take another step, plant, slide, etc., and it feels just like walking - except you are going twice as fast as you normally would! It was great fun, even though we had to dump about seven pounds of rocks out of our shoes at the bottom!

That evening I went to a Maori hangi: a feast of food steam-cooked in the ground. There was also a dance performance and quite a bit of discussion about the Maori traditions and so on. I had worried that it would be real tacky and exploitative, but they did a very good job. They presented everything with gravity and dignity. There is a traditional "haka" (greeting / challenge) that we took part in. Our guide told us that the only legal grounds for murder in NZ is breaking the protocol for a haka! [Of course, he also told us that one moa could feed a tribe (two to twenty thousand people) of Maori for a month, so I do take what he said with a slight grain of salt.]

Jan 11

Missing the bus

The next morning, Karim and I waited patiently for an hour for the Get Volcanic van to show up. It turns out that it showed up and looked for us while we were ten feet away. Nobody told us to watch for the van that said "Kasey's Kapers" on it! (Apparently the tour operators are small enough that they share customers from time to time!)

So instead we rented mountain bikes and tooled around. We went to a farm show where sheep dogs, sheep, cows, etc were showed off. It was modestly entertaining but I had hoped for more.

We also went across the street to a tame forest (sort of the Disneyland version of the NZ wilderness!) where we got to see several rare NZ birds, including a kiwi!
I was really startled by the kiwi: I had been expecting something small-cantaloupe-sized, and the female that I saw was more large-bowling-ball sized! From there, Karim and I had lunch and went back to Auckland via the Thames branch of the Kiwi Safari shuttle.

That morning, I called the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and discovered that I had finally been formally admitted to graduate school. When I checked into our room, I left Hala a message saying, "I GOT IN!"[to graduate school] before I went and had a very yummy supper with Karim. I got back to find a note on my bed saying, "Great! So did I!"[to the room]. I guess I needed to be a bit more explicit....

Jan 12

The next day, Hala went wandering off with a guy she'd met in Westport, while I went off to the War Memorial museum to look at, among other things, Maori war canoes and carved houses. The museum was really nice and worth more time, but I was starting to get nervous about getting out of the country. I had called the freight company and made sure that our bikes and backpacks were in fact in Auckland, still, I was nervous. Good thing, too. We showed up at the airport four hours early and used ALL of it!

Dealing with Airports

Part of the time was spent fiddling with the bikes: taking the pedals off, finding boxes, putting them in the boxes, etc. Part of it was redoing what we'd done with the luggage when I discovered that they could ship my stuff all the way through to Urbana-Champaign (COOL!), but a lot of it was dealing with the @(*#%&(@#$&( camp stove. They decided that if they could smell even a whiff of gas, it was too much. So I spent a lot of time in the bathroom with the camp stove and lots of warm soapy water, ARG!!!! It might not have been so bad if we had gotten some use out of it, but we didn't even use it ONCE.

Will I make it to my first day of classes?

We caught a plane to LAX (with Mike&Cecilia from the Greymouth-> Punakaiki ride!), then I rushed through customs, abandoning Hala, Cecilia, and Mike in my worry about catching my connecting flight. C&M lived in LA, so they didn't have a flight to miss. If Hala missed the flight, she could take another in an hour and be fine. If *I* missed my flight, I'd miss my connection to Chicago and to Champaign, so I was nervous. But by rushing off, on the interterminal shuttle I got to sit next to and talk to a woman who was just coming home to San Diego from the Antarctic, where she had been collecting meteorites!

Hala caught up to me, and we got to SFO, where Mom met me to give me some more clothes and my mail. The clothes were SORELY appreciated; after wearing the same two changes of clothes for a month, I smelled like about seventeen of me.

We got on the plane, and Mom went home. They then decided that they couldn't go to O'Hare quite yet because of weather. They did let us deplane, and we hung around for about forty minutes before hustling off the ground. I wasn't quite sure what I'd do in Chicago, as I only had thirty minutes to make my connection with no delays. Oh well, I'd figure something out, and besides, life was good, I had on clean clothes!

When we got to O'Hare, they told all Champaign passengers to immediately identify themselves on deplaning. We got shoved onto a golf cart, and went zipping down the halls, we passengers beep-beeping and making siren noises! We zipped right onto the plane and right off into the air!

When we got to Champaign we discovered, no surprise, that my luggage was not with us. This was FINE with me. I had a day of clothes in the day pack that I'd bought in NZ, and I really didn't want to hassle with all that stuff in the cold at midnight. I took a taxi to the my friends', collapsed, and started class the next day.



It turned out that spending a month in New Zealand before going back to graduate school was a stroke of genius. I had been worried that I would get to Champaign-Urbana and be totally miserable without my friends, my enormous apartment full of artwork, the nice California weather, and and all of my stuff that is in a storage locker in downtown San Jose.

I missed my friends while I was in NZ, but I was meeting new people and seeing new things (and I was with Hala all the time). So by the time I got to C-U, I'd pretty much gotten over the worst of it.

And when I got to C-U, instead of whining about how I didn't have my microwave, my apartment was miniscule, and it was freezing cold, I was so happy that I had more than two changes of clothes, got to sleep in the same bed every night, and it wasn't raining!

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Copyright, 1994, Kaitlin Duck Sherwood You may reproduce this document in whole or in part without my permission provided that you do not receive money for it, you do not alter it, and you attribute the author (me). You are enthusiastically encouraged to link to it! If you do link to it, please send me email so that I can update you if it moves.