Saturday, December 09, 2006

Adventures in Kiwi Land - All Rained Out

So here we were, in Tongariro National Park, the home of Mordor. It was here that I realized that I needed to make a quick change in accomodations for the night before we visited the Waitomo Glow Worm Caves. So I tried to make some phone calls.

This is where one of my gripes about New Zealand comes in. In America, you can put two quarters in a payphone and make a phone call. Not here, however. In order to make a call, you HAVE to buy at least a $5 phone card. And how many minutes does a phone card have? $5 = 15 minutes! You have got to be kidding me!

So I bought one. But after 15 minutes of making hurry-up phone calls, I had accomplished nothing. Luckily, I was able to make a reservation on the internet, which the backpacker hotels here in New Zealand provide you at a rate of $2 for 20 minutes. You can imagine we spent a lot of money on that little luxury as well!

The night we arrived in Tongariro, we had the best dinner we would have on the trip. It was a ski / climber pub-type place, with nice atmosphere, and wonderful food! It really reminded me of the kind of place that my brother Matt would probably put together, if he wanted to. There was so much creativity and character in the place; you just wanted to walk around and look at all the decor while you were eating. But it was the food that really made me think of Matt. We paid a pretty penny for this meal, but it was worth it to get at least one excellent meal on the trip.

We slept well that night, until we heard the rain. It rained really hard, and I lay in bed wondering how we were going to go on our hike of Mt. Doom. The answer was--we weren't.

The next morning, the rain just kept coming. There were so many clouds and so much fog that you couldn't see what was happening a block away. How were we going to see a mountain, then? And we were woefully underdressed for a hike. We only brought so many items of clothing to Samoa, and only a few things were appropriate for New Zealand.

So, our backpackers had a huge climbing wall room inside. We went climbing for about 1 1/2 hours instead of hiking. Jessi has been climbing many times before (on dates with other guys), so she decided not to climb and just be the anchorwoman.

I am kind of afraid of heights, so it took some guts to get up there. But once I had done it one time I loved it, and went again and again (until I was just too tired to ty again!).

(Jaydn took that picture. He's a good photographer!) Jaydn got into the act as well. He enjoyed climbing, even though it was difficult. He's always climbing on things at home, so this was second-nature to him.

I can't explain how unbelievably frustrating it is to plan out a vacation day by day and then have one full day be rained out. We even tried to drive into the park and see if we could see the volcanoes, but to no avail. God had planned for rain on this day, and who was I to say it shouldn't be so?

We did get a postcard, and I was going to at least take a picture of the card to show you, as pitiful as that is. But, this is probably better (what we should have seen):

Oh, well. I did find one thing amusing. You know how you frequently will see children crossing signs or deer crossing signs on the highway? In New Zealand, the "crossing" signs look like this:

(This sign is in Tongariro, by the way--hence, the volcano in the background). It's a Kiwi Bird crossing sign. We continued our voyage to Wellington when we couldn't see the volcanoes. We stopped at McDonalds for lunch. Bad idea!

McDonalds apparently is campaigning to be the healthiest "fast, greasy, fattening food" place. With every happy meal, they are giving out a toy that plays a popular song. With the toy, they give you a paper that explains how to do hip-hop dance moves to the song. Apparently, this is to help kids get fit (after they eat their McDonalds hamburger, fries, soda, and ice cream, mind you).

To my dismay, Jaydn's toy played "Mambo No. 5," an annoying song that came out in about 2000. Jaydn enjoyed pushing the button over and over and over, and I quickly explained my aggravation with the song and the toy. This, of course, led to more playing of the song. "One, two, three four five . . ." I would hear for the rest of the trip. (Unfortunately, we made another stop to McDonalds later in the trip, Jaydn got another Happy Meal, and another "Mambo No. 5" toy. He especially liked pushing the button on both toys at different moments so the tunes didn't quite match each other, just to get on my nerves. Over and over and over. Of course, I wasn't REALLY annoyed with Jaydn, I just played along to make him laugh).

The drive to Wellington was filled with stops at small towns, each of which had their own strange "large" sculpture. A carrot, a cookie-airplane, a huge santa claus, etc.--we saw just about everything.

Super large carrot...

Full size cookie airplane. Jaydn liked this one the best.

When you get rained out, you look for anything to entertain. Thank goodness driving in New Zealand is never boring.