Mullet, Mullet Man - Billy Ray Cyrus' Influence in New Zealand?

The road goes ever on and on. Down from the door where it began. Not far ahead the road has gone, And I must follow, if I can. Pursuing it with eager feet, until it joins some larger way where many paths and errands meet. And whither then, I cannot say.
J.R.R. TolkeinFellowship of the Rings

Nadine and I have physically and mentally made the successful journey from the Cook Islands, a warm climate, to New Zealand, a cold, damp climate. To make it perfectly clear, we are in New Zealand where it is currently winter, and by the temperatures here, I think that that would be the equivalent of being on the North Pole surrounded by penguins. Rotorua, where we are currently located, is smack dab in the middle of the North Island. And apparently Billy Ray Cyrus is influential, his distinctive mullet is still in style here in New Zealand.

Aerial View of Auckland
Aerial View of Auckland

We have found that there are three types of travellers that we keep running into:
A) People traveling for a short vacation

B) Folks taking between 7 months and a couple of years to travel around the world AND

C) English teenagers that just graduated from high school and are traveling anywhere Nadine and I are headed.

I will let you pick which one has been a big pain in our arse. We’ve experienced it here in New Zealand and in the Cook Islands. English teenagers get their first taste of freedom, travel to another country, and decide to go plum silly drinking lots of beer and alcohol, being loud, and not really seeing the sights other than the local liquor store run by Ned. Ok, not every English traveler is like that, i.e. Jason and Sarah (currently in Las Vegas), but we have met more than one that is annoying. Nadine and I have never exhibited such behavior.

Looking out over Auckland
Looking out over Auckland

Which leads us to Auckland.

With our first stay in the land extreme sports, Lord of the Rings, and friendly folks, we stayed in a little crap hole called the Fat Camel. Better yet, call it the Fat, Smelly, Dirty Camel’s Butt Hole Hostel.

Life, and particularly travel, presents different personalities with different points of view on life. Needless to stay, some of these personalities are a bit “special”. For the Fat Camel, special simply means nasty dirty. It forced us to hit the pavement of Auckland and see it’s many treasures from the early dawn until the late evening.

Don’t misinterpret the above paragraphs to mean that we are miserable, quite the contrary. We are having a great time, feel fortunate to be able to travel, and have met loads of great people. Earlier this past week, our credit card was being charged for bus tickets to explore the North Island, and a couple leaned over and said that we could have theirs, for free, and it takes us to same the sights we planned on visiting. Talk about a good deed, and the couple wouldn’t accept any money in exchange. I am convinced that there are more good, quality people than bad. I am sure of that.

High Atop the Auckland Needle
High Atop the Auckland Needle

This past Thursday evening, Nadine and I went to see one of the movies showing at the Auckland International Film Festival, the Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. The movie was quite interesting and the fact that the movie was based in West Texas, not Western New Mexico, made it even better. Odessa was mentioned several times along with scenes actually filmed in Odessa. There isn’t nothing like seeing Texas, much less Odessa, when you are in New Zealand! Once again, wasn’t New Mexico.

As intriguing as watching a movie featuring West Texas on the big screen was the theatre itself, the Civic Theater. This elaborate locale, used for plays, only shows movies during the film festival. On top of that, while the movie was playing, on the theatre roof was a simulation of the sky, stars, and clouds.

Chilling on Rangotito
Chilling on Rangotito

One of our final excursions in Auckland was a ferry over to the volcanic island of Rangitoto. Rangitoto is a volcanic island that was formed 600 years ago. Very young for a volcano, pretty darn old for a human. It’s located smack dab in the middle of the whale, dolphin, and sealife infested Waitemata Harbor.

After a short lunch trying to feed the small green bird ressembling Tweety Bird, we walked around the lip of the volacno and then to some caves. At the caves, Robin, an engineer from Maine living in Cali, and I explored the volcanic caves with a very useful “Curves” gym light.

Initially exploration was through tightly wound corridors but expanded into a spacious, circular cave as roots hung from the ceiling. At the end of our expedition, we climbed free via a jagged exit. As soon as two heads poked out, Nadine knew it was doable and traversed through the maze. She exited with a non-claustrophobic induced smile on her cute little face.

Volcanic Cave Explorer
Volcanic Cave Explorer
Rototito Volcanic Island
Rototito Volcanic Island

A little side note. New Zealand is markedly environmentally conscious by the way Kiwis genuinely make an effort to protect the environment. As a result, the North island has been an unblemished place. As one little boy on a trip back from Minnesota mentioned, this place is “way to green.”

From Auckland, a free bus trip carried us to Waitomo with their famous underground caves and glow worms. Let me drop a little knowledge on y’all. The Maori word Wai means “water,’ while “tomo” means hole, cave, or space. Thus Waitomo is the “water hole”. This is where you find hundreds of underground caves and the “arachnocampa luminosa”. For those of you not as blessed as myself with scientific terms, those are glowworms, or better understood by family, “glow maggots.” They are unique to New Zealand. Our underground river trip with glow maggots overhead resembled a bright stars in the West Texas night sky. Except this time, they were glowing maggots.

Exploring Glow Worm Caves
Exploring Glow Worm Caves

We gave zorbing a go. What is zorbing you ask? Zorbing is just another crazy extreme that some Kiwis in Rotorua thought up. Simply put, you jump inside an oversized plastic ball full of water, roll down the closest hill or mountain until an animate objects abruptly stops your forward progress. It’s not dangerous, because you are in a space that is soft and plastic, which is surrounded by another ball of plastic and you have lots of cushiony air in between the two.

The Shearing Shed - Waitomo, New Zealand
The Shearing Shed – Waitomo, New Zealand

Nadine and I have spent a week here already and been able to experience some great things so far: eating lots of sushi, visit a few volcanoes, Mt. Eden, Achilles Point; free bus tour of the city; try some Hokey Pokey; Nadine talked to her parents, I talked to Tim; be up close to stingrays, sharks, and penguins; reach the top of the Sky Tower (tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere);

Life is good. Over the next 7 days, we hope to skydive!, finish running around the North Island, cross over to the South Island, and find some clean hostels along the way.

Hope all are doing well.

Peace and love from Rotorua, New Zealand

Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it. – Unknown

World Traveller, Father, Husband, Coach, Spanish & French Teacher, Polyglot, Funny as all get out