Well, last week was exhausting. As I said in my last post, I had a lot of work to do. This week, however, has been quite the opposite. I've just been attending class and doing regular readings, but no big projects this week. I even had time to apply for a scholarship back home and catch up on the last season of Top Gear! I've also been eating out a lot this week, and trying new foods has quickly become my favorite pastime. And the gym has been seeing me regularly too! It feels like I might have this time management thing down now. Anyway, it's time for Easter break, and I promise next week there will be plenty of pictures of hiking Mt. Taranaki and the city of Wellington. I'm really excited to already have 6 consecutive days off this early in the semester.
Going back to the weekend, I had a great trip with three of my mates in Rotorua. We left late Friday night, arriving at our campsite at 10:30pm, which wasn't too bad, because we went to sleep reasonably early. The night was cold, and the ground was hard. I feel like I learn so much every time I go camping, each additional time I remember to bring something new to help cope with the elements. The big improvement for this weekend, was a pillow (it seriously made all the difference). After an early wake up and half a bag of cereal later, we were ready to go to the Kaituna river, a Grade 5 whitewater masterpiece. We were with Uni's Canoe Club; despite the name, we opted for the raft, being that we can hardly roll our kayaks in a swimming pool.
The rafting was amazing; apart from the tiring rapids, the scenery was out of this world. I felt like I wasn't in New Zealand for a while. When I looked up, I just saw an endless canopy like that of a tropical rainforest. That's actually how I described it later that day, a rainforest without all of the bad stuff, like millions of mosquitoes. The rapids really were intense, although our raft never flipped. We managed to stay afloat even during the massive Okere Falls, the 7-meter terror most of our boat was anxious about for most of the ride. In short, the ride was awesome. It was nice bonding with some new friends and meeting heaps of kiwis in the club.
We spent the late afternoon puttering about town looking at place to eat and ended up on Tunisian, which was very good, but small-portioned like everything else in this country. When we got back to the campsite, the four of us just relaxed by Lake Okareka, talked about nothing, and tried our hand at picking up the ducks bothering us for food. It was a simple day, and a very good one; a stark contrast to my early weekends with Arcadia, where everything was planned down to the minute.
The next day was quite the adventure. We arrived at Planet Bike in the early morning, which was just a warehouse on a dirt road with mountain bikes for hire (or rent, for Americans). The place had character. To give you an idea, the woman there, Lenore, had incense lit everywhere and tried to guess my sign (and was not even close).
So biking in Whakarewarewa forest was incredibly difficult. It was a fair mix of downhill and simple trial (not trail, that's given) riding, and the forest kicked all of our butts in under 4 hours. With all of the slopes, there were some monstrous hills we had to dominate first, and they took a lot out of us. Before every run, we were sure to have some long rests. Now, I thought I had done some pretty tough mountain biking, but nothing I've ever done could have prepared me for this. After hundreds of banked turns and jumps, washed-out terrain, and a few wipeouts, I was looking pretty beat up. Some of the views were fantastic, though it was difficult to take everything in while flying down a mountain. At the very top, you could see all of Rotorua, the lake, and the local farms beyond. The landscape here ceases to amaze me.
After the excursion, I talked with Lenore, Sam (her son), and Gordon (a local friend of Lenore's). These were real kiwis; they had explored their country (sometimes the people I meet in Auckland say they haven't been anywhere but the city, which is just shocking to me). We had some nice conversations about the south island, pies (of course), and Burt Munro (See the movie: The World's Fastest Indian). I entertained them a bit with some American/New Zealand comparisons, and in return I was presented with some pretty awesome chocolate.
That afternoon, we got some award-winning fish and chips, and headed home to Auckland. We got back reasonable early, which was good because I had just one last project to finish up. This weekend was cool because we took it so slow. The difference was dramatic; hopefully my south island trip goes something like that. Well, I won't keep rambling on tonight, since there isn't much more to talk about. Sorry for the lack of pictures this week; due to the nature of the activities I was doing, it would've been quite dangerous to bring the camera along. I'll make up for it with some street photography in a few weeks.
Our raft going over Okere Falls
The victorious rafters