Rotorua and the Bay of Islands (Jan. 12 - Jan. 24)
Justin Herman. My international friend and lover. We met at the airport in Auckland on 12 January. I came up from Christchurch and he came over from Tasmania. Together we're unstoppable.
Our first destination was Rotorua to see the thermal springs and Maori culture. Not one of my favorite destinations. It's a town where you need a car. Most of the good sights are about 20km out of town and we were cheap. We are cheap. We needed places within walking distance. So one day was spent hiking through a national park full of Redwoods. Even with our typically flawless navigational skills we managed to get lost. I know, you're surprised. So were we. Another day was spent at the "Living Thermal Village" - the original location of Maori tourism. We went on a pretty informative tour and got to see how the Maori people utilize the hot springs - they use the boiling water to cook all kinds of food (eggs, corn, meat) and also collect the hot, overflowing water in communal bathtubs. The water is supposed to be amazing for your skin and sinuses. Full of sulfur and minerals. It smells delicious, too.
Enough of Rotorua. The Bay of Islands is where we spent the majority of our time. And that trip was mostly about the people we met. I have to start with Justin though:
Justin: He likes to talk. He talks about anything to anyone. But it works well, because I can listen. We both have a common love for pasta salads, and I think we had some variation of pasta salad every night for dinner. Once we made a pizza. But the oven didn't work. We microwaved it - it was edible, but didn't come anywhere close to it's full potential. He's an amazing dancer, and when I dance with him I coincidentally look good too. Some might even say we look like professionals. If I ever had to spend a celibate life with a male (because we all know Des is the love of my life), it would be Justin. Hands down.
Manuela: 21 and from Switzerland. Absolutely a beautiful person and sincerely considerate. Probably one of the nicest people I have met travelling. She is an awesome foosball player; she kicked Justin's ass repeatedly. I didn't even try. She danced with us nightly and relaxed during the day with us in the hostel. AND she gave me her National Geographic once she was finished. After that I was in love!
Allie: Beautiful, articulate, and interesting. And from the US. I'm glad Justin took an immediate interest in her, because then, by default, I started talking to her as well. We stayed in the same hostel for 3 nights and she was perfect just to chill out with - it was nice to have someone that wanted to go to a calm bar to relax and listen to live music.
Hester: From Denmark and travelling through New Zealand then later Australia. The first night she arrived at our hostel she came out with Justin and me. That night sealed our friendship. The following day we grocery shopped and cooked dinner together (Justin had already left to return home to the US) and the next morning we woke up and cooked an awesome breakfast of eggs and bacon before I hitch hiked with my new friend, Roland, to Whangarei.
Sebastian (Sebby, Bob): From Ireland and he's coming to meet me in Malaysia! I think just the mention of orangutans (or as Alex would say, "Orange Utans") in Borneo was incentive enough to persuade him to come. Mom and Dad, he's promised to, "get (you) pissed and force (you) to eat the most fantastic Irish stew on.. the.. planet." I'd like to be a part of the stew-eating and beer-drinking, too. Although Justin and I didn't spend much time with him, the three of us have been diligently sending one another random email updates.
Those are just a few of the people that we met. Pahia, the town in which we stayed in the Bay of Islands, is so small. I think everytime I walked down the street I saw someone I knew. It was nice feeling like a part of the town and not just an outsider passing through.