Previously, this was a blog mostly to harass my poor friends and family with the details of my life. Don't worry-- that will continue. However, I'm also going to use this as a terrible forum for dialogue about green tips and eco-revolutions. Hopefully it will be helpful and entertaining...

Friday, October 27, 2006

Fieldtrip and the North of the North

Well hello my dear friends and/or family!!! I have returned from my weeklong vacay to the North of the North (Island) and now I am supposedly getting down to my final studying... we'll see about that. Anyways, here is what I did on my fab vacation!

To start it off, before I even went on vacation, I had my first and last field trip in New Zealand! It was for my geography class, and we basically drove around in a bus to various sites in the Manawatu region and looked at local examples of geological phenomena! LOTS OF FUN! But we did stop by the wind turbines (NOT WIND MILLS, because wind mills are made to MILL flour...) The turbines were HUGE. Monolithic, I would say. It made me really happy that I got to see them up close. I tried to get a picture for scale...


That is the base of the turbine with a school-bus-sized... bus... So, they were large and not noisy at all. GO THE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY SOURCES!!!

After that fun day, I had just enough time to finish packing before Bri and I headed out on our trip. The first place we went was to the Bay of Islands, which is the northern tip of the North Island of New Zealand. On the way there, we went to the Kauri Museum (which was a bit of a dive, but it was cool to see how the Kiwi Pioneers had felled these huge trees... in a depressing kind of way...). I guess I should explain what Kauri is... Kauri is a type of tree that is HUGE. In fact, it reminded me a lot of the wind turbines, which I think is significant in a cosmic sense. Kauri's are just as wide as Redwood trees, but not as tall (I think..) If you are really interested, wikipedia has this to say. After visiting the Kauri Museum, we drove through a national park that has about 75% of the remaining Kauri. The forest was what used to cover the entire top half of the Northern Island, before human settlement...

We stopped to see Tane Mahuta, who is named after the Maori forest god, and is the biggest (via diameter width) Kauri. It is SO hard to describe the magnificence of this tree-- the only thing I can think of, is that it was like seeing the Tree of Life at Disney World, but real. Seriously. Bri and I both said, at the same time, "Holy Shit." Tane Mahuta is believed to be about 2,000 years old... which puts a lot of persepctive on our measly little lives, espcially considering that many of the Kauri trees that were felled in the past were older and/or larger.

This is Tane Mahuta, with wee little people in front of him...








We stopped again to see some younger Kauri trees, and we could get close to these thanks to platforms-- you can't get too close because the roots are very delicate! Here is me showing my hippy side, hugging one of them. Again, notice how INSANELY LARGE it is.



After the long bus ride through the Kauri forest, we ended up in Paihia. Bri and I had a FANTASTIC jog through the town and saw a few different places. On historical notes, just outside of the town is where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, and across the bay is Russell, which was New Zealand's first capital!

We went to a little barbecue that night and then started drinking... and I drank a bit too much, but ended up (eventually) in my hostel bed, safe and sound. The next day we got up (luckily, because I totally forgot to set an alarm :0) for the Cape Reinga Day Trip! YAY!

Cape Reinga is THE northern tip of New Zealand. You can see where the Tasman Sea in the west meets the Pacific Ocean in the east. And when I say "you can see", I DO MEAN you can SEE!!! Apparently it wasn't the best day, but you could still see the two bodies of water smashing against each other. I was so impressed that I took the crappy video below... Forgive the quality...

video

Here is a picture from the tip of the Cape, again showing the insanity of two bodies of water meeting:


















There was a signpost with distances to various destinations, so I took the obligatory photo of myself walking towards LA...




On the way back, we stopped at these huge sand dunes!!! AND WE BODY BOARD-ED DOWN IT!!! AND I WIPED OUT WONDERFULLY! Here is a video:

video

So after that I had the wonderful joy of being covered in sand for the rest of the day! WOOT! It was fun though :) After that, we DROVE along 90 Mile Beach, which was kind of surreal... because now and again waves would kind of hit the bus. 90 mile beach, incidentally, is only about 60 miles. It was guessed at being 90 by some shepherd guy who knew that his sheep could go about 30 miles per day, and it took them 3 days to go along this beach. However, the sand apparently impeded their progress because when it was actually measured, it came out to be only about two-thirds of what he thought! I am so full of interesting historical information!!!

After that drive, we headed all the way back to Paihia and went to sleep early sans drinking. The next day, we had a free morning before heading back to Auckland. We did a fun little trip in a speed boat where we went to see Hole in the Rock and Cathedral Cave! That's right, a ROCK with a HOLE in it! INSANITY!!! Actually, it was pretty gorgeous to see...

Faraway
















and up close


















I got pretty excited


After the boat ride, we hopped back on the bus and headed down the opposite side of the northern part of the island... We got back to Auckland, had some dinner, met up with Allison, and yarn crafted for a bit... The next morning we were up and away again, off to the Coromandel Penninsula, which is south of Auckland. The weather for the trip was horrid, but I'm still glad we did it.

On the way, we stopped to look at the (cloudy but still wonderful) view...















Note the rocky crags out in the ocean!

Unfortunately, the weather was bad enough that we couldn't kayak. We headed over to Cathedral Cove (different from Cathedral Cave, mentioned above) and walked through torential downpours for about an hour to see this site:



I am standing against the wall in the picture above and in the middle of the cove in the picture below...












There were some kids playing rugby in there, waiting for the rain to subside. Which it never did. Afterwards, Bri and I got fruit smoothies and then we drove over to Hot Water Beach. This is one of the top 10 beaches in the world, apparently. It is located on top of TWO geothermal thingies that make the watertable underneath the sand REALLY hot... It was way too cold for us to put on swim suits and dig our own spa pools, so we did what everyone but one crazy girl was doing-- hitched up our pants and dug our feet into the sand. At first, I thought people were just dumb, because my feet warmed up, but only in that "My feet have a small amount of insulation due to sand covering them" way. Then we moved to a place that must have been right on top of the geothermal activity, because the water felt BOILING hot! It burned my little toesies!!! HURRAY! Afterwards my feet were uber soft from the hot water and sand, which impressed me quite a bit.




















At that point Bri and I were both soaked to the bone, so we hopped on the bus and headed to our stop for the night at Paihia. First we did some bone-carving, which was fascinating. We got a bone that was shaped already, but we sanded and polished it so that it looked like real jewelery and not just some silly peice of shaped-bone. Very exciting. I will show it off when I get back.

The next day we got back to Auckland in the early afternoon, giving Bri and I enough time to souvenir shop as well as go to Kelly Tarlton's Underwater World! Which is one of the most impressive aquariums I've been in. Most importantly, it had a penguin exhibit. We couldn't turn the flash on our cameras, but we COULD video it. Note Bri's comment at the end that her pictures aren't turning out! HA HA!

video







Kelly Tarlton was a genuis of a marine biologist and designed this underwater area where you go through a tube through the aquarium... So I got a picture representing with his bust...



The best part of the trip was getting to see Robyn Hitchcock play later that night. I got a shirt signed for Papa Steve and got to be wow'ed by the performance and wit of Mr. Hitchcock and the Venus 3...


On Wednesday we did some shopping all over Auckland, and ended the trip with an AWESOME pizza at the Kiwi Music Bar. Then we loaded back on to the night bus and now I am in the middle of finals... writing a blog instead of studying! I am counting the days until I go to Australia! Details to come...

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