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Journal Entries

Throughout our vacation I would type up notes on my phone. Though ubiquitous the wi-fi was much slower than I expected. The resulted in app errors that prevented me from uploading full-resolution images. C’est la vie.

Things left behind

November 12, 2014

It’s 56° and 4am tomorrow in New Zealand right now. No snow. Thank goodness.

I begin my time-traveling adventure in just a few hours.

I’ll miss my wife, friends, devil-rat-dog, and family. But dad and I are going to have an excellent time. We’ll make great memories, meet cool people, and sample kiwi brewed beers.

Big thanks to my beautiful wife for the love-note-a-day left in my carry on. I look forward to reading each one as I tramp about NZ.

Bold Adventure

November 12, 2014

On the same day I’m starting my 8,137 mile trip (Duluth, MN to Auckland NZ) to experience New Zealand the Philae lander has arrived at it’s final destination (317,000,000 miles from Duluth) to experience a comet.

The view from my window’s seat is far less dramatic than Philae’s. Far more mundane. Far more earthly. But still amazing.

I am flying across the world at the same time that humanity’s robots are spread across our solar system laying the foundation for our species’ future.

Despite our penchant for self-destructive behavior this lucky family of two-legged beasts, made up of the remnants of ancient stars, is little by little learning the way home, and the secrets of our solar system’s history.

Take that dolphins and octopi. You may be smart and self-aware, but you still haven’t built vehicles to even get you onto the land. Let alone the upper atmosphere. We’ll send you a postcard from Europa.


Welcome to New Zealand Lite

November 13, 2014

Day 1 = success.

Our goal was to stay awake from arrival (6am, Auckland time) to sundown to bypass any jet lag. Our hosts, Simon and Michelle, are doing a fantastic job of keeping us busy with exploring or entertained with excellent conversation.

Simon took us for the light version of his Welcome to New Zealand walking tour (just 9.4 miles), and it was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Welcome to New Zealand photos and route

Through the bush

Across the golf course

To the beach (that’s a volcano!)

Along the shore

A quick stop before…

Ice cold craft beer.

Our walking route on Google Maps

Total distance: 15.17 km (9.4 mi)
Total time: 4:26:35
Moving time: 3:47:04
Average speed: 3.41 km/h (2.1 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 4.01 km/h (2.5 mi/h)
Average pace: 17:35 min/km (28:17 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 14:58 min/km (24:06 min/mi)
Max elevation: 116 m (381 ft)
Min elevation: 15 m (49 ft)
Elevation gain: 388 m (1274 ft)
Max grade: 28 %
Min grade: -46 %
Recorded: 11/13/2014 2:14 PM

Around Auckland

November 14, 2014

Dad and me in the Winter Garden near the Auckland Museum.

Dad and I woke up early (no jet lag, thanks to our hosts) and enjoyed a pleasant walk along the beach to the Rythm Café. There we snagged a much-needed shot of caffeine and the best muesli bar I’ve ever had. Tomorrow I hope to get down to the beach for sunrise. The view of the volcano, Rangitoto, is simply awesome. I’d love to snap a photo or two from the beach before our time in the big city comes to a close.

The afternoon was a bit overcast, so we toured the incredible Auckland Museum. Highlights include a full-size reconstruction of a Moa, a massive collection of Maori carvings, and the coolest indoor volcano I’ve ever seen.

From there we took a quick walk through the Winter Garden conservatory before heading to the downtown waterfront.

All in all its been another delightful day.

I climbed as high as the highest root!

Sky tower behind two boats I can’t afford

A library in a shipping container amongst the boats. Awesome.

Black Sand and Big Waves

November 16, 2014

Dad and I are trying to figure out selfies.

Today we loaded up the van and drove to the famous black sand beach. We parked at Piha and tramped over rocky ridge after rocky ridge. It was probably the best hike I’ve ever done. Although it was only 4 miles long the steep climbs and descents gave me an incredible workout.

Upon our return to Auckland, we were joined by Simon’s family for our final meal together in NZ. Leaving Auckland is bittersweet. We have learned so much from our host and enjoyed their company immensely. Our grand adventure starts today, though, and we are eager to explore the north island.

Updates from this point forward may be less regular – it will all depend on WiFi.

Friends, family and incredible vistas.

View from the top.

View from the bottom.

The way back – Simon is that speck in the corner.

Keep Left

November 17, 2014

The view from and old woodworker’s shop.

Driving on the left is an odd feeling, and when you throw in roundabouts, rain and a narrow winding road along the Coromandel coast (with only inches centimeters of the shoulder between you and the sea) things get – exciting!
All in all the diving went well. Spending time as a passenger during our first few days acclimated me to the experience. I did have to concentrate much harder on driving (no radio, hands at 10 & 2, no ogling at the misty mountains or vibrant turquoise sea, and no sipping L&P Soda while on motion). That just meant I pulled over more often to take it all in.

Since it was raining, we stopped for some touristy shopping in Coromandel Town. The art stores were friendly – we saw some great blown glass, and a cool metal critter in the backyard of one of the shops.

We found accommodation at a beautiful family farm. We drove through two paddocks of sheep and across a stream to get to our little cabin in the woods, and couldn’t be happier.

It was raining less steadily when we arrived, so dad and I decided to hike the nearby trails. That didn’t last long. The trails were very steep and slick with rain. After climbing 450ft nearly straight up both of us were getting nervous about a return trip in the dark. We turned back and enjoyed a New Zealand beer, locally cured meat, and a lovely mild cheddar before turning to our books (and falling asleep almost instantly where we lay).


November 18, 2014

The view as you walk from bay to bay

Today we casually drove South along highway 25 on the Coromandel Peninsula. The landscape is unlike anything I’ve seen or imagined. Every time I look up for a second, I’m awed by my surroundings. Then another incredibly sharp turn appears, and my eyes are back on the road.

One funny thing about driving, so far: the speed limit outside of town is 100k/h. However, more than half of the 100 signposts are followed immediately (100-200 meters) by a posted 65k/h turn (and another, and another, and another…). I’ve found very few opportunities to safely drive the posted speed limit.

I’m getting much more comfortable in the narrow New Zealand roads. So much so that I was able to turn on some music.

While much of the day say spent on the road – we did get out to walk along amazing beaches, hike to a grove of 600-year-old trees, and New Zealand’s quirkiest water park.

The beaches here really are incredible.

Just a typical beach tucked in a bay.

Mountain Climbing

November 19, 2014

The view from the top.

I’ve officially climbed my first NZ mountain: Mount Maunganui.

I guess it’s not actually a mountain. And it was closer to “walking up an occasionally steep trail” than “climbing.” It was pretty tall, though. My phone’s GPS puts it at over 800 ft 244 meters. Which did give me an absolutely awesome view of the port city of Tauranga.

This evening we drove to Lake Taupo, and got a room at a really nice hostel. The room smells like month-old dirty laundry, and the partying pretty people in the room below me show no signs of turning in for the night. But it’s got a mini fridge. So I’ve got that going for me.

The trail to the summit.

Tomorrow: Jet Boats!

One more mountain (and fast boats)

November 20, 2014

We made it to the top!

Mount Tauhara was a spectacular, exhausting hike. The steep, rugged trail started out through a lush pastoral farm before plunging into the bush. There were a few points within the bush that I could see through the vegetation to look over Lake Taupo, but for the most part, all I knew was that the trail went up. This made it hard to determine how far I had come – making reaching the summit that much more rewarding.

But not as rewarding as being stopped on the way down by a group of hikers from Montana and asked if I was Canadian. It must be my friendly attitude and thick accent, eh?

After our descent, we headed to Rapids Jet for a thrilling, wet ride through the Waikato River. I’d show you the pictures, but cameras weren’t allowed.

The only photo I was allowed to take of the jet boat.

A Day of Adventure

November 21, 2014

Today we were tourists and did touristy things. It was wonderful.

Our first adventure was a zip line filled trek above and through the native bush. It was quite nice – both educational and exciting. We lucked out by being the only two to show up for the tour, so we had the forest to ourselves.

Dad is overcoming his fear of heights!

On our way back to town our guides, Julian and Cam convinced us that Zorbing was a worthwhile experience. They were right! We went to Ogo which was started by the inventor of Zorbing.

We’d both recommend each of these attractions to anyone visiting New Zealand.

So long, North Island, I’ll see you again in a week.

November 21, 2014

I’m sitting in the Rotorua airport. Our time on the north island has come to a close. We made some great memories here, and I have a lot of places that is like to return to.

I was going to list the highlights and lowlights of our time in the north island, but there haven’t been any lows. This is a list of places I’d love to spend more time in on my next trip.

The Coromandel Peninsula
We didn’t have to make time to relax on the beaches. I won’t make that mistake next time.

The Bay of Plenty
We decided to travel inland to Taupo, which I don’t regret for a moment, but next time is like to spend more time traveling down the coast.

Free Falling
After zip lining through the forest, I regret not spending more time above things. Skydiving, bungy jumping and paragliding seem like good ideas to me now. I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity on the south island, but I should have committed earlier.

I don’t have many pictures to share today – other than a few from our walk through the thermal pools in downtown Rotorua. Here goes.

Our trip got rejiggered yesterday when our connecting flight was canceled in Rotorua. We ended up in Nelson on the same day (via bus to Auckland, and flight to Nelson) but not in time to pick up our rental car. So we floundered about some bit and by the time we got our car (today) we knew precisely had to make a sacrifice.
That sacrifice came in the form of skipping our planned night in wine country. We still got a chance to see winery after winery, but we weren’t able to stay long enough to enjoy a proper tour.

On the plus side: seals. Seals are everywhere in Kaikoura (where we ended up finding a room). It is awesome. Tomorrow, before we leave town, we’re going swimming with the seals. Should be fun.

A Lost Day

November 23, 2014

Our trip got rejiggered yesterday when our connecting flight was canceled in Rotorua. We ended up in Nelson on the same day (via bus to Auckland, and flight to Nelson) but not in time to pick up our rental car. So we floundered about some bit and by the time we got our car (today) we knew precisely had to make a sacrifice.
That sacrifice came in the form of skipping our planned night in wine country. We still got a chance to see winery after winery, but we weren’t able to stay long enough to enjoy a proper tour.

On the plus side: seals. Seals are everywhere in Kaikoura (where we ended up finding a room). It is awesome. Tomorrow, before we leave town, we’re going swimming with the seals. Should be fun.

Catching Up

November 25, 2014

The seal swim was fantastic, and Kaikoura was nice (but very touristy). I wouldn’t enjoy it in peak season, but this time of year is quite nice.

We spent most of the day in Kaikoura. After swimming with the seals, dad went on an albatross hunt – which was a great success. He saw five species of albatross, and they were close enough to touch.

From there we drove into the mountains and stayed in Hanmer Springs. A bustling little mountainside town sporting hot springs and more spas than I could count. We didn’t go in for the spa treatment, though. Good beer took the place of a massage.

Internet issues = fewer photos. Better luck tomorrow (I hope).

Abel Tasmen

November 25, 2014

We made it! Back to the north of the south island. We have so much more to do and see, but only a couple more days!

I can never get tired of NZ beaches.

If all goes well, we will visit Farewell Spit in the morning and return to Nelson in the evening…unless we get tied up with action and adventure, of course.

A lonely boat longs for his mistress’ caress.

Seaside Graveyard

Today I Got High

November 28, 2014
This morning I hitched a ride up 2500 feet on this green bugger.

The DragonflyI was towed up in a tandem hang glider and released over the town of Motueka. It was a way better morning pick me up than coffee (my tummy still had butterflies an hour after landing). Now I just need to figure out how to make hang gliding part of my office’s morning stand-up meeting.

From Motueka we continued south to Nelson where we spent the afternoon exploring and shopping in New Zealand’s sunniest city.

Windsurfing until sundown

The Best and Worst of New Zealand

November 30, 2014

It’s our final day here. We’re sitting in Brew on Quay. Enjoying our last kiwi made beers. What better time to start reflecting on the high- and lowlights from my time here in New Zealand.

I’ll expand and edit this (and all of my posts) when I return to the US. The following is just what comes to mind at the moment. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along with our adventures. Over the coming weeks, I’ll also add more photography and short videos. Cheers!

The Best

Kiwis – every native we met was lovely. Kind and eager to talk (brag) about their homeland. If I can find a way to emigrate, I’d be joining a fantastic bunch.

Roundabouts – it took me a few to get comfortable, but I would trade nearly every stop sign and stop light in Minnesota for a roundabout. Safer, Faster, and more fun.

The Weather – in just a few hours I’ll be on my way home to Duluth. The first thing I will miss is the 20°C days(~68° in Freedom units).

The Landscape – Dad and I did a lot of driving on this trip, and every day the landscape was different than the day before, and it was always unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. I am anxious to return with more time… Maybe a year would be enough.

Bread – the regular old grocery store bread is astounding. There are seemingly unending varieties, and each variety comes in a sandwich and toast loaf.

No Pennies – and the currency in general – no pennies means I don’t have to throw coins in the rubbish bin every day. And their government doesn’t waste money minting coins that cost more to make than their face value. $1 & 2 coins are also great, and their bills not only look cool but they’re slightly different sizes and colors for easy identification. I wish the US could get on this bandwagon.

The Worst

I had to think hard about “the worst” since everything was so wonderful. I feel like my best list does need some sort of counterpoint, though… So here goes.

The price of Coca-Cola – $4 for 600ml (~20 oz)? Yeah, naw.

Internet access at hotels – it’s frequently dreadful. Either low speed and limited bandwidth (100-200MB) or not available at all.

Bar seating – of all the bars we visited, not one had a row of stools along the bar. Where are the lonely town drunks supposed to sit?