Up, down, all around
I have also just finished being a tourist around NZ with my parents and it was a great trip. I feel a lot better now having seen some of the country I'm living in. The first stop was Rotorua, a very active thermal town. Essentially, the whole place is on top of a huge lava dome way under the ground. This heats the groundwater, mixes with chemicals (mainly sulphur which smells just wonderful) and creats boiling pools right at the ground's surface. Our first night there we went walking through a beautiful park and saw hundreds of these thermal water and mud pools. Our second day took us to Hell's Gate thermal reserve. We walked around for about an hour and saw more bubbling lakes, geysers, and egg-salad smelling steam, then went for a dip in the mud baths. These were actually much more liquidy than I had imagined and we had to scoop up the mud from the bottom and smear it all over ourselves. To "get your hearts starting again" as the lady there put it, we had to wash the mud off in the coldest shower I've taken in a long time (think Camp Hatikvah during Shabbat prep) and then jumped in a warm thermal sulphur bath. It was quite an experience, and it kinda felt hokey at the time, but my skin felt wonderful afterwards. December 20th saw us go to the Tamaki Maori Village which was decent but not spectacular. The best part of that trip was right at the beginning, when the chosen chief of the visitors had to be accepted onto the Maori land by the natives. They came out in traditional clothing, sounded a conch, and did all the grunting and tongue-sticking out and eye movements that acted as challenges to our chief. When he didn't respond the native tribe knew we were there in peace and let us into the little forest. There were small models of their houses (about half the size they'd normally be) with people doing traditional activities outside them, such as cooking, poi, practice fighting, carving tiki and weaving. Then it was a mediocre show and a mediocre dinner followed by great pavolova. The following day we drove up to Auckland.
I found Auckland to be nice, but really it's just your typical Big City. The downtown wasn't too spread out so we went into the obligatory souvenir shops and shoe stores. We also went up the Sky City tower - a miniture CN Tower. We saw the nutcases jumping off the top of it, and Matt jumped on the glass floor at the top of the viewing deck and gave my mother panic attack. (To be fair, I won't walk on those glass floors either.) The other highlight of Auckland was Kelly Tarlon's, an interactive Antartic museum. We saw penguins, fish, sharks, a turtle, and a ginormous sting ray who was over 6 feet across. The rest of the time we were there we ate (lots) and visit districts close to the downtown.
After a couple of days back in Wellington we took off for the South Island, but that will have to wait until my next entry.
And I went to go see Harry Potter 4 again with Matt today, and I likd it much more the second time around, so I take back part of my critique from the last entry, but not all of it. I still thought the whole thing with Cho Chang wasn't well done.