Monthly Archives: November 2011

November 29, 2011: Rotorua

Yesterday was impossible to beat, but today was a good day, too.  We both took advantage of reliable internet for a few hours this morning. Mark played poker and I set up my weekly announcements in my classes, since this morning was really Monday morning back in California. Then we hustled to check out of the room by the 10am checkout time (apparently 10 am check out is the norm here, bummer it’s so early!) but didn’t quite make it.  Of course the Kiwis didn’t worry, and at 10:30 we were on the road again, still not sure where we were headed but planning to figure it out over lunch.

We stopped in Tairua again on the way back out of the Coromandel Peninsula. We were so happy to see restaurants and stores that were open that we perhaps went a bit overkill, stocking up on groceries, sun glasses, hats, aspirin, and then lunch.  After another burger and fries lunch for $26, we both agreed that we need to start “self-catering” as they call it here.  So we got sandwich stuff (the avocadoes are cheap here! Only fifty cents! What is the deal with the avocado conspiracy in the US?) and beers and hit the road. Over lunch we made a plan to head to Rotorua, the “stinky” town which is stinky because of all the geothermal activity (sulphur).  It was about a four hour trip, and Mark did a much better job driving on the left today. He only turned on the windshield wipers once!

Once we arrived, we checked out the Malfroy Motor Lodge, and Ron was a friendly host that showed us all around and gave us a good deal for a two-bedroom cottage.  The internet is much better here, and not limited like yesterday’s place, so we spent an hour indulging, and then took off for a run to see the town. There’s a big lake, Lake Rotorua, about a mile away, so we ran around there and Mark picked up the pace and left me in the dust.  He ended up all the way over to Sulphur Lake, which he described as “truly middle earth.” The sulphur and gases are bubbling up and the smell is so strong it almost gags you.  He loved it!  Can’t wait to see it tomorrow.

Forgot the camera again, but here's a photo of the sulphur lakes to give you an idea.

I got back and jumped into the thermal pool at our hotel that brings up mineral water from 300 feet below. It was nice and toasty (about 105 degrees) and we’ll see if I’ll feel the magical effects of it tomorrow. Supposedly it provides you the best night of sleep ever.

Then we enjoyed our sandwich and beer dinner and a movie (hooked up magically by “Latka TV,” our newest discovery—a little gadget plugs into the computer and sends the video/audio signal wirelessly to the TV—so cool!).  Mark is already asleep and I’m headed to bed now. Good night!


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Monday, November 28, 2011: Coromandel Peninsula

I hate to try to sum up a day in one generalizing comment, but this was maybe the best travel day we’ve ever had.  So, we check out of our Auckland apartment at 10am and get picked up by the rental car company (Go! Rentals). Just like every Kiwi we’ve met so far, the rental girl is friendly and nice and the pick-up is a breeze.  We joke with her about how we might have some trouble getting used to driving on the other side of the road, and she chuckles a bit.  Then we get in the car—oh my god.  Mark was our designated driver for the first day, and he gets in on the right side of the car. I hop in on the left and keep looking for my missing steering wheel. Can’t tell you how disconcerting that feels!  Then we pull out of the parking lot.  Mark quickly guides the car to the right side of the road in about two seconds. I remind him, “Left side, honey!” and he says, “Oh yeah!”  Then we get to the actual road. We have to make a right turn on a four lane road with lots of colorful, but to us meaningless, lines drawn across it.  Mark waits for awhile to get his bearings, but they don’t really come.  Finally he goes for it, and crosses traffic and makes it! We are giggling and nervous and quickly come upon the sign for the freeway we need.  The sign must have been designed by aliens. It has lots of circles and lines and arrows but nothing that tells us where to go.  Mark yells, “Navigator?!” and I yell, “Abort!”  We just pass the sign and keep going, not knowing how to even pull off the road.  I tell Mark to keep driving, who cares where we are going, just don’t get off the road. Finally we figure out that a left turn is easier, and we make four left turns to turn around.  We are both nearly hysterical laughing, and it is a minor miracle when we finally find ourselves on the 1 south!

Once on the freeway it’s a lot easier, except that whenever Mark changes lanes he uses his left hand instead of his right, which turns on the windshield wipers. He probably does this 15 times today, and each time it’s still funny.  As we travel further south, things get easier because it becomes more rural. We find ourselves on the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula, and both of us are surprised by the landscape. It’s hard to describe. It has a very Hawaiian island feel to it in that it is covered with lush lawns and tropical palms and ferns. And yet there are also huge groves of pine trees and rugged mountains.

We reach the coast and it is lovely. Practically deserted and noticeably warmer than Auckland, which is nice.  We get to Hahei, and check out a few hotels, and pick the Tatahi Lodge, which is a little more expensive but seems to have better internet. Plus the room is really cute—it looks like a little mountain lodge and there is even a backyard with a picnic table and bird feeder.  We throw on our swim suits and grab the complimentary “spade” (shovel) and head to Hot Water Beach, the local tourist spot.









The beach again is lovely, but what’s really cool is the hot thermal water that comes from under the sand. If you arrive at low tide, which we did, you dig yourself a little hot tub near where the tide is coming. The hot water comes from below and the cool water comes from the tide, and you mix it until the temperature is just right.

There were loads of people doing it, so it was pretty easy to follow suit.  Of course Mark had fun irrigating and building a dam to protect our tub, but as the tide changed he had to remodel a couple of times.









It was a great way to enjoy the beach, and we both really marveled at the novelty.

Then we headed back to our lodge and went off for a run.  Ok, this was one of the top runs either of us have ever had.  We ran from Hahei Bay to Cathedral Cove, and the entire run was on a trail along the cliffs between these two bays. It was reminiscent of Torrey Pines State Park, except a lot more lush and beautiful islands right along the coast.

We forgot the camera for this run, but this gives you an idea of the coastline in the Coromandel Peninsula.

The views kept getting better and better and when we got to Cathedral Cove, we enjoyed a deserted beach with amazing rock islands right in the low tide.  Even though it was a hilly run, we both had runners’ highs the whole way.  Hard to explain how great it was! For me it is especially awesome because the two of us haven’t run together in so long (since Mark’s injuries, and also due to my general laziness), so rediscovering this great way to see new sights on our travels is really special.

Ok, by now we are exhausted, so we quickly shower and head out to find some food.  There are only three restaurants in Hahei. We discover two are closed and the only one open is a ridiculously expensive fancy place with very odd things on the menu.  Now we are starving, and we are on the fence of eating Denver roast (what is that anyway?) or driving out of town. We decide to keep looking and start driving and driving.  A friendly sheepherder with his dog on the back of his 4wd 3-wheeler directs us towards Ferry Landing, but all the restaurants there are closed, too. (It might have been that every restaurant takes Mondays off…who knows?)  Anyway, we get all the way to the ferry landing, and there is not one place open. But then we see a little man coming across in a ferry. He promises there are restaurants open on the other side of the water, which is Whitianga.  The ride takes two minutes and we find a place to eat! We are both starving and have a great dinner of bangers and mash, chicken sandwiches, and lots of beer and wine.  We catch the ferry back to our car and make it back to our lodge late and exhausted, but thrilled with the full day.  I don’t know quite what it was that made the day so magical, but I suppose a lot of it was being on the road with so much unknown adventure just around the corner.  It’s been awhile since I felt so free and adventurous…the world truly is our oyster right now, and I’m so glad we are taking advantage of it.


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


November 23-29, 2011: Auckland

We arrive in Auckland early Wednesday morning. I am bright-eyed and excited; Mark is tired and sick.  Still, he is patient while I purchase my new iPhone in the airport (can’t bear to walk by a Telecom store, and alas, the unlocked 4s phone is available here! Yay!).  We are taken in a group shuttle to our hotel in the City Centre. The Bankside Waldorf is a great find! Very reasonably priced studio apartment with a kitchen (even a clothes washer) and a nice view of the harbor.  We sleep for a few hours but then I can’t contain myself, and I leave so I can go explore. The city is easy to navigate and everyone is so darn nice!

I buy a few more gadgets to get us connected (we need adapters to plug in our laptops, plus a new router since I blew ours out by plugging it in without an adapter!).  I also start collecting items to protect my iPhone from breaking. So far so good!

The next few days Mark recovers from his cold and starts playing Poker again. After three weeks of “vacation” in the States, he is enjoying being back to work and making money.  The time difference makes the games a little tricky, since prime time starts around 3 in the morning and ends by 11 am, but he is sorting that out and finding new games to play.


On Friday we head over to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

It’s a nice 2k walk from our hotel and Mark’s first venture outside.  The weather is a bit dreary, but changes by the minute, and we have cold winds, sunshine and rain on the way over.  The museum is a great introduction to our tour of New Zealand, and we learn about the history of the country, the Maoris (the people who founded New Zealand, descended from ancestors from Polynesia), and the geography. We also enjoy a cool Volcano simulation—really awesome!  Oh, and there is a great exhibit about the All Blacks Rugby Team and their integration of the Maori traditions.  I am officially an All Blacks fan now—they are the coolest! Maybe I finally found my spectator sport! The Haka they do before the game gives me chills!

That night, after patiently waiting more than a week since the film came out, Mark takes me to see Breaking Dawn (the lastest Twilight movie).  After a couple glasses of local beer and wine, we head over to the very modern cinema on Queens Street. The tickets are pricey–$16 NZ each–and the theatre has assigned seats, but besides that, it’s just like back home. And the movie was awesome of course.

Saturday we head over to Takapuna, a short ferry/bus ride from the City, to meet my old friend Erica.

I ran track with her at UCSD and was also the maid of honor in her wedding more than 15 years ago! We haven’t seen each other in over a decade, but right away it was just like old times!  It was so, so great to see her in her life over here. She seems so adapted to Kiwi life and quite content, and this made me so happy.

The three of us had lunch and walked along Takapuna beach, and then she took us back to her place and brought out all her maps and guides and helped us make a plan for our tour here.

She also told us so much about Kiwi culture and lifestyle (sounds like sports and active lifestyles are a priority here, and as Erica says, “Even if they’re not competitive, here everyone has a go.”)  We really liked everything we heard.  Anyway, I wish we could have spent more time with her, but hopefully our paths will cross again someday soon! (Side note: crazy coincidence—she is doing research on fitness and exercise, and just got funded on a NIH grant working closely with a colleague in San Diego, Jim Sallis, who happens to be our old next door neighbor in PB! Amazing!)

Sunday we head to Rangitoto Island, the volcanic island in the middle of the harbor, formed 600 years ago.  We decide to take the ferry there and run to the top of it, and it worked out great. The run was steep, but short, and even though we took different routes (Mark took the long way) we summit at the same time for a wonderful view of Auckland.

We are the only ones running the trail (everyone else is walking) so we get a few odd looks, but we saved ourselves hours on a hot trail (the sun is out today!) and catch the ferry back in time for the big Santa Parade down Queens Street.  It is a little bit of Disneyland for me, and I love it!  Lots of cool balloons and funny costumes, and an enthusiastic crowd.



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Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Uncategorized


Want to follow us?

Hello friends and family!

Mark and I just took off for some travelling, and as always we are hoping to find new and better ways to stay connected with all of you. I’m going to try this blog. I’ll update it as often as I can with stories and photos and maybe even a few videos.  We are starting here in New Zealand, and plan to see Australia and Fiji (among other places) for the next six months.  You might find this boring and long-winded, and if so, feel free to skim or skip it!

Miss you all!


Michaela and Mark


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Introduction