Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Flying back to the US

Today was a long, long travel day! Note to self: if you can, try to avoid a 12 hour flight followed by an 8 hour lay-over, followed by two more flights.

A sign from the Auckland airport...wondering if they really want me to comment about my irritable bowel syndrome using emojis.
The first leg (Auckland to LA) wasn't terrible, although I was seated next to a woman who informed me that she had a hip injury and would need to be getting out of the aisle (requiring me to let her out) every hour. Luckily, she was quite nice. But, there was definitely no sleep to be had on that flight.

Once in the US, I got through customs rather quickly, although I'm pretty sure if I'm ever wanted for a crime, this is the photo that'll be blasted all over the news to show my guilt.

The lay-over in LA seemed to take forever, and then the flight from LA to Denver was sold-out. So, my hopes of having a row to myself to sleep were quickly crushed.

I met up with Keith again in Denver (we were on different flights for the previous two), and we slap-happily recalled many of the newly created memories from our trip. We alternated between falling asleep sitting up and maniacally giggling from the lack of sleep. For some reason, the jet-lag and inability to sleep seemed much worse on the way home than it did on the way there.

This trip was so very worth it though, and I already vowed to return one day!

Last day in New Zealand

We spent our last full day in New Zealand at Hobbiton, AKA the set where the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies were filmed. Despite never having seen the movies (does falling asleep during the first Lord of the Rings count?), I figured we had to check it out since it was recommended in all of our tourist books.

Upon entering, I instantly fell in love with the area where the hobbits live! I just couldn't get over how cute it was, the amount of work it took to create, or the attention to detail! For example, some of the trees are fake, and apparently it took months just to add all of the fake leaves to them. If the trees even saw film time (a lot of them ended up on the cutting room floor), it was maybe for two seconds.

After the tour, which actually made me want to watch the films, we went to the Green Dragon Inn, where we had drinks. The Green Dragon Inn was absolutely charming! It was decorated in the same old-timey way as the Hobbit holes, and it featured multiple fireplaces. It was the epitome of cozy (as the cat below is so adorably demonstrating). Since the Green Dragon Inn is available for rent, I immediately envisioned having a wedding or prom there. Not that I would attend the prom in my thirties as I'm not quite that creepy (close though).

We drove back to Auckland after Hobbiton. Keith found a comedy open mic, so we decided to head there. It was very much like an American open mic: majority comics and in the back room of a bar that didn't seem to care too much about it. In fact, we later found out, this was the open mic's last night because the bar was cancelling it.

The MC, Scott Long, was hilarious, and he even agreed to let Keith go up at the last minute. Keith killed it, although he mistakenly called Hobbiton "Hobbitville," for which Scott hilariously took him to task. "You, sir, did not have the gall to come to our country and call it Hobbitville. It's HobbitTON! And that's our capital!"

All of the comics were so kind and welcoming (and funny, too!). It was interesting to see which topics were universal amongst comics: self-loathing and being lazy seemed to rank pretty high.

Keith on stage.
We left smiling as we had both been having some comedy withdrawals while we were gone. We headed back to our airport hotel, where we completed our nightly ritual of watching Snapped (because, honestly, if watching people go off the deep-end and become deranged murderers won't put you to sleep, then nothing will).

Tomorrow, we head home.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Craters of the Moon, Huka Falls, and Napier

We started today by going to McDonald's. Considering McDonald's uses animal flesh in their french fries and also has really cruel slaughter methods, I never thought I'd say that. Please note that I didn't actually buy anything from McDonald's (as not to support the company), but I did go in to get a look at the plane.

The Taupo McDonald's is home to a decommissioned Douglas DC3 aircraft, which was built in 1943 and was one of three used by South Pacific Airlines of New Zealand from 1961 to 1966.

After pretending we were circa 1940s pilots, we decided to go to the Craters of the Moon. This is an area with a lot of geothermal activity, meaning parts of the earth bubble and release steam. Honestly, I think the craters we saw in Iceland were a lot more impressive, but these were still pretty cool and other world-looking.

We then swung by Huka Falls, which was gorgeous! In the photos below, the color of the water is real, and the only filter applied was the one to my under-eye circles.

After the falls, we decided to take a break from nature and go to a city. So, we headed to Napier, a cute seaport city with art deco-style architecture. It was pretty rainy by this point, so we didn't do too much other than grabbing some vegan hot chocolate and trying to dodge the rain under our umbrellas.

The town was adorable though!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Glow worm caves and Taupo

We woke up and drove to Taupo today. On our way, we decided to hit up the glow worms caves of Waitomo. I didn't take too many pictures as photography is not permitted in the caves.

On our way to the caves.
We had to take a short walk to enter the cave (Keith pictured below), and once we did, I was completely awestruck! We started with a tour of the cave itself, which was gigantic. I couldn't get over how large the stalactites and stalagmites were, nor how old the cave was...nor, that for the life of me, I can't seem to remember the difference between a stalactite and a stalagmite.

About to head into the cave.
Then, we took a boat cruise of the portion where the glow worms live. I always thought glow worms were just made-up, cartoon-like characters that children play with; I never knew they actually existed! But, they sure do.

We had to be absolutely quiet while viewing the glow worms as apparently noise can cause harm to them. I felt like we were in a dream sequence, getting rowed around in darkness with nothing but the glow worms' light shining through. These aren't my pictures (they belong to photographer Joseph Michael), but they capture a bit of what we saw:

It was truly unlike anything I had ever seen.

Exiting the caves (P.S. As if it's not completely obvious, this commences the no-longer-professional-photographs portion of the blog):

The rest of the day, we spent walking Taupo, which is a cute, little resort town centered around a really pretty lake. The downtown was bigger than I thought it would be, but it was definitely walkable.

For dinner, we landed at the Pita Pit (how authentic, no?), where the following interaction took place.

Employee: What kind of cheese would you like on your sandwich?

Keith: What kind do you have?

Employee: We have feta, provolone, and chidda.

Keith: What was the last one?

Employee: Chidda.

Keith: What's that?

Employee: It's just a basic cheese.

Employee Number 2: (chiming in) You know, it's just...chidda.

Keith: Hmm...never heard of it. I guess I'll give it a try.

I immediately started laughing to myself as "chidda" is simply "cheddar" said in a New Zealand accent. I proceeded to tease Keith about never having heard of cheddar before.

We then headed back to our hostel for the night where we chatted up the manager. He was an American guy who said he was interested in starting up a comedy night. How amazing would it be to come back and actually get paid to perform?

I love Taupo already (and not just because the sign told me to)!