Sunday, October 9, 2011

New Zealand trip, days 7 and 8: New Plymouth

Friday, October 7

Today we just hung out in New Plymouth, did laundry, processed pictures from the trip, etc. I took over 450 pictures on the trip to the Bay of Plenty, so just touching them up and slapping a border on them in Photoshop is taking a long time!
At some point in the afternoon, Josh and I set out for a walking tour of New Plymouth. It's what we had planned to do on Monday before leaving for the Bay of Plenty, but the rain encouraged us to make bread instead. New Plymouth is a cute little town on the coast. And it has some gorgeous parks. About halfway to town, we ran into Julia who was coming home from work, so she joined us for the rest of the outing. When we got into town, we walked up and down Devon Street--most of the shops and things are on Devon Street, and I read somewhere that Devon Street is the longest main street in the North Island (possibly all of NZ--I don't remember). Along the way, we stopped in a bakery because Julia was hungry, and I got a bottled lemon, lime and bitters. Growing up, we used to have these drinks semi-regularly, but I had never seen or drunk the bottled version. It was okay--reminiscent of the LL&B we drank in PNG (or made at home in the States), but kinda just tasted like Sprite.

We took the long way back to the house and went through a substantial park. If my home city was half as pretty as New Plymouth, I think I would be much healthier because I would want to walk around outside a LOT. Highlights of the park:
The magical waterfall starting to flow again
after I pushed the button.
  • The Fernery - Basically a large greenhouse with every kind of NZ fern and flower imaginable. There were multiple levels (maybe only two, but it felt like more), lots of rooms, and fountains with dry ice smoke. Extremely serene and lush. Because the floor was covered in wood chips, it smelled a little bit like we were in a huge (clean) hamster cage. I went a little crazy with picture-taking.
  • The Waterfall - When we approached the waterfall, there was water falling from it . . . because that's what waterfalls do. Then a nice man came up and talked with us for a few minutes. Then Josh pointed out that there was less and less water coming down the waterfall. The fall is obviously human-made, so I just assumed they only had the water on during certain times of the day, and it was late enough in the day that it was time to turn it off. It seemed weird, but whatever. But no! It's not just on until a certain time of day. There's a button. A magical button. And when you push it, the waterfall turns back on! It's kind of amazing, really. I mean, where besides New Plymouth could you have the power to turn on a waterfall?

Our evening was pretty relaxed. We made pasta and roasted veggies for dinner and watched a few episodes of Community, which I had never seen but am a little hooked on now.

Saturday, October 8

Today was another low-key day. Julia and I walked in to town to go to the farmer's market that they have every Saturday. We met up with Josh who came from teaching an RPM class, and shopped together for fruits, veggies, eggs, and pita bread. People in New Zealand don't refrigerate their eggs. It's kinda weird, but obviously okay. Then we walked back to the house.

It's interesting to see reactions to rain in various locations. Back home, if it even so much as sprinkles, people break out their umbrellas and sprint from point A to point B, so as not to mess up their hair or get wet. Here, you just kinda deal with it. When it rained on us on the way to the farmer's market, Julia and I did pull out my umbrella because it was raining medium hard. But when we got a light rain on the way back, none of us even bothered getting out our rain gear. It just wasn't a big deal.

Next, Josh and I rode "our" (his and Julia's) bikes up the Coastal Walkway. It's been five years since the last time I rode a bike, so it was a little unnerving to hop back on one and promptly ride through town--on the streets--up hills--to get to the walkway. The Coastal Walkway is exactly what it sounds like it would be. It's a 10 km-long walkway winding up the coast of/near New Plymouth. We passed walkers, skateboarders, parents pushing strollers, children on tricycles, and fellow cyclists. Toward the beginning, it rained on us, but we pressed on and rode all the way to the end and back. And about a third of the way into the excursion, the sun came back out to play. As with everything else we've done here, the view was stunning. Toward the beginning, the sky was gray and the sea bluish-gray and rocky. When the sun came back out, the sky got a little bluer, and the sea a little sparklier. By the end of the ride, my legs were dying but, like everything else we've done, the experience was totally worth the physical discomfort.

In the evening, all the roomies went into town to watch the Irish/Wales game (Rugby World Cup) while I stayed home and enjoyed having the house to myself. There's a takeaway place just around the corner from the Cat Biscuit house, and rumor has it that their fish and chips are the best in town. How convenient! So I called in my order, hobbled down to the corner, and picked up my first ever fish and chips. I also got a crab stick because it sounded interesting. The meal was excellent and included so much food that I couldn't finish it all.

Next week, Josh and I are going to travel some more around the North Island, ending up in Auckland for my return flight on Saturday. So I spent part of the evening looking for Lord of the Rings locations we could potentially visit. What I was most excited about was visiting Hobbiton since they still have much of the set and props set up. But the tour of the set is closed until some time in November, so it's not worth going there just to look at the active sheep farm and go to the Shires Cafe. At this point, it looks like we'll spend some time in Wellington (there are a number of LOTRish things there, and it's the capital so should be cool), then go up north to the area north of Auckland (Josh has heard it's really pretty up there). From my Googling this evening, I discovered that the mountains we saw from Taupo included Mt. Ngauruhoe which starred as Mt. Doom in LOTR. Who knew!?

And that's it for days 7 and 8. I have a lot of pictures from days 6-8 (including video of the boiling mud), but internet restrictions make 2:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. the prime time to upload pictures, and that just hasn't worked well for me. So stay tuned. Pictures will be coming eventually!

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