We don't have much of an idea. We might go sailing. We'll figure it out while on the south island.
12/12: Grabbed a hotel near the harbor and did a little laundry (such a luxury sometimes). Today is Dawn's birthday, so we made reservations for dinner. We cruised downtown a bit, and wound up at the Skytower. At 1,075 feet, the tower is larger than the Eiffel Tower. The tower provides great views of the city and beyond. It has this interesting sections of glass floor that you can stand on. The sign says the glass is as strong as the concrete, but that does not make us feel any more comfortable about standing on it. Don stands on the glass, but keeps part of each foot on the non-glass part of the floor.
From the tower, we made our way back to harbor to ride on an Americas Cup yacht. The 70-foot boat, named NZL40, was built for an Americas Cup past, but did not arrive in time for the race. They now use the boat exclusively for charters. The first thing that strikes us is the large size of everything on the boat. The winches are better than a foot across. Grinders are used throughout the boat. The sails are bigger than our house!! We also notice that there is nothing on the boat except sailing essentials. This is no cabin cruiser. As we head out, the weather started getting rough. A large squall line was moving towards us as we were beating to windward. The speed of the boat is unbelievable. We are often going as fast as the wind (e.g., we were doing 22 knots in 21 knots of wind). As the squall gets to us, the sky opens up. Everyone is drenched in a hurry. The boat ploughs on, with winds reaching 30 knots at times. When the boat heals over, the rail is in the water and some water comes into the boat.
We sail back under the bridge and to the other side of the bay. Everyone optionally gets a turn grinding on the winches and steering the boat. Don is near the end of the steering rotation since he wants to wait until we head back into the wind. He wants to feel the big boat heal. Don is not disappointed. The boat kicks over and we fly through the water. It's very exciting. The people on the high side are several feet above those on the leeward side. On the way back into the harbor, we see the buildings and some boats from the Americas Cup contingents already in town for the next race (2002 we think). Since Auckland is "The City of Sails", this would be a great spot to watch the races. The race course was visible from where we were sailing. We ended the day with a wonderful seafood festival at a nice restaurant.
12/13: Picked up a car and headed south. We're headed for Rotorua. We made the tough decision not to go north to the Bay of Islands. That will have to wait until the next trip. We got to Rotorua around 4:00 and headed for a fishing shop. they put us in touch with a local guide, Greg Touta, who agreed to pick us up the next afternoon for fly fishing lessons. We also made reservations for more rafting the following morning. We ended the day walking around Lake Rotorua and looking at the bubbling hot springs. There were bubbling mud pools and boiling sulfer water. Smelled lovely. We got really close to the pools and later saw signs saying to stay back because it was dangerous to walk near them. We had come in from a direction where there were not any signs or fences. Oops.
12/14: Caught a shuttle in the morning to the rafting site on the Kaituna River. The rafting is short, but is know for its waterfalls. On one rapid the guides had us spin the raft in a circle as we went over the rapid. They called it the toilet bowl. The highlight of the trip was a drop over a 22+ foot waterfall, the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the world (or so they told us). The water was high because of recent rains, so the falls were not as tall as usual. We still probably fell about 18 feet or so. We made it to the bottom alright but then met up with a boil on the right side called Coca Cola. It bubbled, pushing the right side of the boat up into the air and over the left side. Everybody out!!!! This is what the guides told us happened. All the tourists seemed to have their eyes closed and did not see what happened. The guides worked quickly to right the boat before we headed over a smaller fall. Dawn and one other person did not get clear of the raft and it was dropped on their heads. Everyone made it back in and laughed while looking back and where we had come from. The trip ended with some fun in a small rapid. We loaded people in the front of the raft and then rowed back upstream to the rapid. As the bow reached the rapid, we leaned forward to catch the downward power of the water. The back of the raft lifted up about 4-5 feet out of the water. We got to see another boat do it too, so we could see what we must have looked like.
Greg, the fishing guide, picked us up from the hotel at 2:00. He took us to a stream about 5 miles out of town. We practiced casting in a field for about 45 minutes or so. Then it was off to the stream itself. Don went first in the stream. As we were starting, Greg spotted a large "Brownie" (i.e., brown trout). The fish finally went downstream. Greg said it was about 9 pounds, fish of a lifetime. Good thing we did not catch him as we would not have had anything to look forward to. Don cast for a while, sometimes doing well and sometimes struggling. At one point, there were 4 fish in our area, but mostly we were casting for a single fish near the bank. Don got one strike, but did not get the hook set. Then it was Dawn's turn. She struggled at first. but Greg gave her some things to think about and she started casting much better. She dropped 4 in a row right in the trout's path. On the last one, the fish hit. Dawn hooked him and he swam up and down the stream. the speed was shocking. Dawn yelled, "What do I do?!". As Greg started to give her guidance and Don grabbed for the camera, the fish broke loose and headed upstream. Doh!!!!!
We fished for a couple more hours, but did not get any more hits. Sometimes we felt comfortable and sometimes we felt clueless. This sport will definitely take some practice. Don is hooked. Dawn may not yet be hooked but she enjoyed it a lot. Greg said that we did well casting for our first time. We said thanks, thinking he might just say that to everyone. However, Greg sensed our tone and said he was serious and that we did better than many people who come out. We were proud of this.
Greg is a wonderful guide. He was very patient with us, giving us a chance to find our way. Greg is a Maori guide with lots of local knowledge. If you are going fishing in Rotorua, we suggest giving him a call. You can find information about Greg and his company, Ika Nui Charters, at http://www.ikanuicharters.com.
12/15: Drove back to Auckland for our flight to Tahiti at 6:30pm. At 6:00, they announced that the flight was delayed 12 hours because of weather in Papeete. Weather????? Are you kidding me? It's supposed to be sunny and warm in Tahiti. This is just the beginning of our weather woes in Tahiti. They put us up in a hotel for the evening and we had to be back for a 6:30am flight.