Ok, so my bad for not posting this one earlier, but here is the last of my New Zealand trip. If you want to read from the beginning, click here.
Hello All! Greetings from Tauranaga, New Zealand. I'm in a hostel right off the coast: I can smell the salt air and hear the ocean, and I can't believe I have to come home in 2 days... agh!
Anyways, yesterday afternoon I visited the Rotorua Museum and enjoyed the special exhibit of paintings "The Face" - a bunch of portraits ranging from 1400s to present day art. Very cool. Also in the museum was an exhibit about New Zealand's efforts during World War II which I had never known about (Sorry Kevin, they don't teach us NZ history in the States).
Afterwards I witnessed a Maori wedding and the traditional dress which was kind of cool, it was being held in the gardens of the Museum and I walked out into it accidently on purpose:) I would have been able to continue to watch but a group of English tourists also came over to watch and they weren't exactly quiet so we all were asked to leave. (SIDENOTE: I know people think Americans are the rudest travelers but in my experiences in the past two weeks, the Bristish run a very close second... everytime I've got a good angel on a photo or I'm enjoying a quiet moment or whatever... the damn British tourists come thundering through. They're also quite snotty and rude to Americans - I got attacked on my wine tasting tour about George Bush. I just ignored the guy b/c he was drunk but still. RUDE)
Then I walked down to the waterfront park where they were holding a charity concert. I'm not certain who the charity was but it seemed to be a big deal as there was 100s of people there. I had gotten in line to get drink and I placed my order and the guy behind me said, "Are you from the US?" in a voice that only a southern boy could have. He turned out to be from Panama City, Florida and he goes to the University of Florida... he was so excited to met someone else from the US. He's over here for his last semester and has been traveling about for 3 weeks - says he hasn't seen any other Americans. I think he's a tad bit homesick. He was also at the concert by himself so we hung out for the rest of the night. Nice Kid. The concert was for the finalists of the New Zealand Idol's first season so it was sugary pop music but at the end they had an amazing fireworks show. It was a charity but also in celebration of today which is Waitanga Day (I know I've misspelled that - sorry) which is kind of New Zealand day - the day they were given their rights. They had Maori dancers there so I was able to see Haka (pronounced huk - a) which is the Maori War Dance again which is exciting every time.
This morning I got up early and went to pick up my rental car ( yes, I gave up on the whole bus thing b/c I kept getting queasy and it would ruin my day plus the bus time tables were not cooperating with my desire to see as much as possible in the last couple of days). So I'm doing pretty well driving on the wrong side of the road... now if I could just remember that the blinker is on the other side and quit turning on my windshield wipers everytime I try to turn! But it's been nice to drive b/c I can stop at anytime. Plus I got a great deal - they needed the car back in Auckland by Tuesday morning so I only have to pay for the gas and insurance... no rental fee. Good stuff.
I left Rotorua and stopped at Hell's Gates... named by George Bernard Shaw... who must have been a big baby b/c I wasn't impressed. It was a gathering of thermal pools which were cool to see but not scary. It was on the way to Tauranga so it worked out well and I got some good pictures. Then I stopped at Kiwi360 which is a kiwi fruit farm and bought my lunch... yummie stuff.
Next was the town of Tauranga which is a seaside town and port. I dropped my stuff at the hostel and headed on to the town of Mr. Mauranga (again misspelling this but I don't have my book with me). It's the next town up the coast and has a mountain on the pennisula which you can hike. That was my plan but when I got to the beach entrance, there was a Surf Lifeguard Competition going on.... grandstands and everything so I stopped to watch that. It was so cool. I have never seen anything like that... the surf was huge and they were swimming in it like it was nothing! I stayed there for a couple of hours... just long enough to get a little color (I put on sunscreen every 30 minutes but the sun is INTENSE).
Then I tried to go on up the mountain but they had closed off the trails b/c the helicopters (ER and TV) for the competition were landing on the coast side so no dice there.
So I went back and drove out to McLaren Falls - had a nice little hike up to some very wimpy falls but still enjoyed myself with the scenery and the flowers.
Then I drove over to Minton Road Lookout which was AMAZING... you could see FOREVER. I drive past it tomorrow again on my way into Auckland so if it's clear I'm going to go back up there for hopefully some better pictures b/c this afternoon had gotten hazy.
And so now I'm back at the hostel and I'm about to go search for dinner. Tomorrow, I'm making my way back to Auckland up the Corramandel Pennisula (again, spelling) and whatever else catches my eye. One of the girls I met in Wellington lives there and she emailed me to met up for dinner so I guess that takes care of my last night here.
Alright folks, you'll probably hear from me one more time before I'm back on American soil. And just in case you missed it, The All Blacks won the Sevens Rugby Tournament which is a HUGE deal and all they're talking about here.
And the Simpsons trully is the most universal TV program... it's always on over here - every hostel I have stayed at, someone is always watching the Simpsons...
Love you all!