Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taupo, Tennis, Tongariro, Tasty Trails, and Tenacious Tramps

So I've come back from a second vacation! Yes, you heard me. SECOND vacation. But this one had a lot of things that had NOTHING to do with camping. A.K.A. we were in an actual house! Hooray! Anyway, here I go.

This was a vacation that we didn't have a house for until about 4 days beforehand. We went to an area at Lake Taupo called Kuratau. We rented a bach of sorts, except it had more than 2 rooms, unlike other baches. For those of you that don't know, a bach (pronounced "batch") is a small little holiday home with basic anemnities. This one was quite good though. It had a garage, TV with Freeview (slight cable, not many channels but more than at home), fridge, stove, and 3 bedrooms. I was in the third one, which was actually a little room off of the garage, and it even had its own ensuite shower, toilet and sink! Nifty, eh?

Our vacation in Taupo lasted 5 days. So what interesting things did I do during those 5 days? Well on the night we arrived, Asher, Jonty and I checked out the tennis courts in the area. There was one by the lake, and 2 in an open field area with a great view of some mountains. But more on tennis later, as we didn't do much that day. Though I actually did test out a new racket that we had bought so we could have more than 1 full-sized tennis racket. I did terribly as usual, but a little better than with the junior-sized ones.

Aaaannyway, on the first full day, we went to Turangi, a small town close to Kuratau. I was going insane over wanting to get 20$ sent to the leader of the Global Game Jam, which I'm going to tomorrow (48 hours straight in Waikato University! W00t!), but after I got that sent I calmed down a bit. We went to the information centre, where we found out about a small trail on the Tongariro River. We drove there, and I was interested in the rapids that apparently weren't too bad for swimming on as long as you got back to the shore. Though all those thoughts flew out the window when I stepped one foot into the water. Z0mg!!! GAH! That water was REALLY REALLY UBER COLD! It was so cold, that when we were walking across a shallow area to a small island in the center of the river (the river wasn't very wide), my feet and legs were numb and hurting from the cold. To add insult to injury, I kept smashing my toes into rocks in the ground, and I lost my balance quite a few times, barely keeping myself from falling in. It's a good thing we didn't go on those rapids, since when we got to that island, we saw the speed of them. They were pretty fast, and if we swam in them, we would probably have been swept away quite quickly. Though I still don't think that was the area the guide was talking about.

We then went on a 40 minute walk along the river, going over a bridge, up some cliffs, and finally going back to State Highway 1 (the highway that goes all the way from the top of the north island to the bottom of the south, it doesn't seem to be very busy for a highway, even though it goes through residential areas) where our car was. The cliffs offered a nice view, but it was starting to rain, and we were eager to get back.

Second day: Sun and laziness. We didn't go anywhere. All I did was play tennis and write in 3 notebooks of mine. Though I played a LOT of tennis. I practiced for a lot of the day, serving, trying to get good topspin power shots (that worked perfectly in practice but in games I completely messed up), trying to get a slice that didn't lob...I spent most of the day at the tennis courts. It was actually very fun to do that though. A good day, in my opinion.

Third day:BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alarm: 5:00 A.M. I get up, silencing my alarm within the first second of it ringing. In a very quick and quiet fashion, I got some clothes on, creeped through the really cold garage, into the hallway and into the lounge, where I turned on the T.V. Why? The Obama Inaguration of course! I watched quite a bit of it, from the first speaking to the people by that woman from Congress (can't remember her name) to Obama walking back into the Capitol. It was a great thing to watch, and I'm glad I had gotten up so early to see it. I went back to bed to warm up a bit since I was quite cold, and ended up falling asleep, quite by accident in fact Then the rest of the day came...

We went to the Waihaha river area. Another not very wide river, there were also some small rapids. However, there also were nice amounts of rocks to jump around to and fro, and I spent about 15 minutes exploring the area. After that I saw that everyone else was urging Chrissy to go on one of the boogie boards that we had down some of the rapids. I was still pretty far away so I didn't see it happen, but she did it. She then said "I'm the only one who had the courage to go on those rapids!" or something to that effect. It didn't look like something that was that hard to do, and everyone else was starting to do it as well, so I gave it a shot. When I went down the rapids, I managed to stay on the board for most of the time (which was better than Jonty's attempt, he fell off quite quickly, but was perfectly ok anyway), but then slipped off as I tried to get a rock to grab on to. I couldn't keep my hold on many of them as they were all quite slippery, but after going a moderate distance I managed to get a firm hold, and climb up. Apparently I went farther than anyone else. We got back to the van, and went to the other side of the river where there was a trail. We walked the trail and saw some good views of a large gorge. We were able to go down to the gorge's bottom where the river was, and Jonty and Bella jumped in the water a few times. Now, one thing is really different about these rivers from the Pittsburgh ones: These rivers are NEARLY COMPLETELY CLEAR! Seriously, they were extremely easy to see through. So when Jonty and Bella jumped in, it was quite cool to see their bodies just suspended in the water before they surfaced. On our way back, we ran into 2 North Island Robins, which apparently were an endangered species.

We came back, and Asher and I played some tennis. We came back and found everyone rushing around packing. Why? Well there's something I didn't tell you (muahahaha!). We were planning to do the Tongariro Crossing the next day (as you may have guessed from the alliterative title), and we needed to get as prepared as we could. So we did.

Fourth day: BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! Alarm: 6:00 A.M. This time it was for Tongariro. Everyone quietly had some breakfast, got all their stuff together, and we went out in our van to a campsite. Why? A guy was there who was going to drive our van to the Mangatepopo start area for the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. Van ride to the start...It's still a bit cold. I'm wearing shorts and a short sleeved shirt, remembering a key lesson from my first time: "Start out with light clothing, you'll heat up as you walk. If you start out hot, you'll tire out really easily." And so we went. Going through the lower areas to Soda Springs was a breeze (almost literally, it was cool as a breeze but no breezes were blowing). Then was the climb to the South Crater, one of the hardest parts of the Crossing. Tiring, constant uphill for 40 minutes, but when we got to the top, it was great since the view was so good. I've spoken about the Crossing in my post "A Mountainous Task", so I won't go into as much detail. We went into the south crater, and headed up the way to the high point at Red Crater, taking many a break for chocolate chip muffins, cashews, peanuts, and bits of my very own 250g Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate block. I pointed out my favorite spot, the little area at the top that was perfect for eating as it was ALWAYS warm from the thermal gases. We climbed down the scree slope, me having a lot of fun with it but getting pain in my feet from the scree entering my shoes. We got to the bottom of that slope, had a big shoe-emptying fest, and went past the Emerald Lakes to Blue Lake. From Blue Lake was a long, long, LONG downhill that had good views but a lot of foot pain, all the way to the Ketetahi hut, and later the Ketetahi carpark, where I had a well-deserved rest after 7 hours of walking. With a bit of timing issues, we got back to our bach, where we immediately started to pack. Again.

Day 5: The final day at Taupo. We had finished our packing, and were cleaning up the place, when suddenly, NOTHING HAPPENED! Sorry, had to do that. Anyway, we cleaned, said goodbye to that bach, and drove 4 hours to Hawke's Bay. On the way there, we stopped at a small park area, where I noticed a man tending to a horse. I walked over, and got to have a nice talk about horses and how having a horse was so much nicer than having a motor vehicle. It was a nice chat, and I got to pet the horse Nanu a bit. That felt quite nice. We continued driving until we got to our new area, which was a full house! Yep, the last 2 days of our vacation were going to be spent at a nice house with some extravagant things like a large plasma-screen TV! So what did we do? We went to Domino's. We got 3 pizzas for 20$, thanks to a promotion they were having, and later just did nothing interesting until we all went to sleep.

Day 6: We had heard about Food Trails on our way here, and we decided to check out one of the farmer's markets that the Cooks had been to before. We went onto a food trail where we got to see a ton of vineyards, but the main attraction was the farmer's market. Everyone there had various different things, from jams to breads, gelato to knives and cutting boards. And walking all around it was a dog who walked up to ANYONE who had food, begging. I bought myself a croissant (baked at 2 A.M. that morning along with the other hundred or so bread items), which was awesome, and got some gelato. There was also a small wine cellar nearby which we checked out, and it was moderately interesting, but not as good as the market. However, I noticed a dog tied to one of the grapevines, who looked rather neglected by the people passing by. I felt sorry for it, and went up and stroked it for about 10 minutes. Man, that dog was happy to have some attention. After I felt it looked like it was cheered up a lot, we left for a moderate-height peak area where there was a trig station. A trig station...um...It's really hard to describe. It just showed a map of the surrounding area, even as far as Mt. Ruapehu, Tongariro, and Ngaruhoe, as well as a mountain that has the longest name I have ever seen, and I believe it is the longest one-word name in the world. We had some nice views of the many vineyards, and I looked down a cliff that really creeped me out.

As our last destination for the day, we went to a place called Ocean Beach. Yes, as you probably guessed, it was a beach at the Pacific Ocean. Nice name, huh? We stayed there for a while, eating the Mediterranean flatbread with cheese, rosemary and rock salt that David and Chrissy had bought, as well as talking to various people. With that, we headed home, had some dinner, and packed up. Again. Again.

Day 7: Driving home. It was a moderately long drive, but it was probably made much longer by the fact that we made like 4 different stops. 3 of them were in Taupo, and we ended up just about doubling our time on the road. However, one part of it I found quite interesting, and that was Huka Falls. We stopped there before getting some dinner, and I saw this pretty small but really fast and REALLY blue waterfall formed by the Waikato River combined with some erode-resistant rocks. It looked really good, and I really liked the color especially. After more driving (with more stops) we finally arrived home, me with an agonizing 5 days before Global Game Jam, and now my anticipation is nearly over.

Such ends this blog post. I've got to help move around a lot of stuff tomorrow, but I know I'll be just counting the minutes until I can get to Waikato University. After Game Jam I get straight back into school, and that'll be good as well. As for my family situation, I'm going to stay with the Cooks for two more weeks, and hopefully in that time a family will be found. I'm not worried. She'll be right in the end.


Bogdaddy said...

I am unimaginably proud of you Andy! I follow each and every one of your blog posts with Google Earth, and you have been and seen some fantastic things! I even found the tennis court you talked about first!

Huka Falls looks wonderful from the air. I think that NZ is someplace I would absolutely love to go and see and spend a long long time there.

I am very excited to hear about GGJ and everything that you are going to do there. I am not at all worried about your school/grades/family situation and I know that whatever happens, you will have gained much more from the experience than just the grades on the paper.

Keep us up to date as often as you can. It sure sounds wonderful!

scott said...

hey Andy ! haven't responded in a couple of posts but wanted to say wow...what an adventure you're having, seems so 'fluid' %>). glad to hear you were able to view the historic events of the inauguration. what an emotional moment for the US and hopefully a renewed start in a more constructive direction. like to hear more of the game jam thing. came across a new game (to me) that speaks to your mission(?)... it's called 'diplomacy', has varying versions and has been around since about 1940 or so. looks pretty neat....the art of *negotiating* around countries using verbal tools of engagement. currently sold out on amazon. google brings up many, many hits to rules, clubs, etc including a couple of clubs with indexes of tournament games played. it's touted as the diplomats answer to the game 'risk'. let me know what you think if you have a chance to check it out. good luck with the upcoming semester. scott

Mom said...

I smiled throughout your post, Andy. Your descriptions make it almost like being there; I appreciate your creative and thorough expression!

As others have said, can't wait to hear more about GGJ; I imagine you're reveling in it as I write.

I took the day off to watch the inauguration; it was thrilling and historic. I'm glad you made the effort to see it.

Can't wait to hear more, sweetie. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

Love you,

Grandpa said...


Hello Andy,

Just read your interesting blog about your second vacation. The vacations you have taken are certainly active ones with lots of good scenery, Your tennis must have gone up a notch on this trip. So the next thing is back to school ! Sounds like you are enjoying your experience which is good.

Love, Grandpa