Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Kicking Back in Paihia

I knew my itinerary, devised to maximize my time in New Zealand, was going to be challenging. Every other day, I was jumping on a bus and going somewhere new. Days in between were jam-packed with tours, museums, hikes tramps and visits to other assorted points of interest. The goal, both here and on all my travels, is always to see as much as possible without totally running myself ragged.

With that in mind, I decided to end my trip on a chill note. My last two days, before returning to Auckland to catch a flight home, were to be spent relaxing on the beach. From Rotorua, I stopped briefly in Waitomo to see some glow worms. No photos were permitted so you will have to take my word for it that they were hella-cool and reminded me of the glow in the dark stickers I had plastered all over my ceiling as a child.

 From there, it was onto the Bay of Islands where I based myself out of Paihia, a laid back beach town with no shortage of bars playing Bob Marley tunes and boat trip operators waiting to take you out on the water.

Friday, January 26, 2018

How to do Rotorua in 5 Easy Steps

1. Walk into a travel office. Any will probably do but I found the people at Rotorua Backpackers super helpful. Figure out what you want to do- easier said than done- and have them create a combo package. This will save you a good amount of money. I opted for the Tamaki Maori Cultural Show ($130), the Wai O Tapu hot springs tour ($82) and a Zorb ($45). Had I purchased each individually, the total would have been $257. The combo price: $175.

2. Kick off your combo. In my case, the first item on the agenda was the Tamaki Cultural Show. It was precisely what I expected: a touristy show with some information about Maori culture followed by a "traditional" meal. Kinda like a luau but with more tongue.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The two best reasons to visit Windy Welly

Before going to New Zealand, I met up with my friend and former boss who grew up near Auckland. I wanted him to review my itinerary and tell me what I should add, delete or expand.  As he went down the list, his memories came flooding back. He gushed about the places I'd be visiting. I was going to love Queenstown. (Note: I did.) I shouldn't miss Rotorua and its hot springs.(I didn't) I had to make sure to do a boat trip around the Bay of Islands. (check) Wellington was ok. (Yeah..wait, come again?)

It wasn't like he was completely dismissive of New Zealand's capital. After all, it still is a vibrant city with a spectacular harbor. He just didn't seem particularly enthused. Except for when I asked "Is one day enough?" That "Oh, yes!" was mighty enthusiastic.

To counter his ennui, and to feel like I was doing adequate research on the topic, I watched What We Do in the Shadows , the hilarious vampire film set in Wellington. At least from the perspective of three undead room mates, the city looked pretty hip to me. That plus geographically speaking, located right at the southern end of the north island, it made sense for me to stop there on my way back to Auckland. Wellington was staying on the itinerary.