Monday, April 28, 2014

Day Nine: We look awesome in wetsuits

After the not-losing-my-marbles-on-the-flight part of this trip and after the bungee jumping part of this trip, the part I was really anxious about was the wearing-a-wetsuit part. Except as it turns out, I look MIGHTY FINE in a wetsuit:

Except, not really. BUT LET'S GO WITH IT!

So this was the day we were going to go see the glow worms in their caves -- another thing on the list of 1,000 things (or maybe it was the list of 500 places, but I'm tagging this post as one of the 1,000 things for now) to do before you die. This was going to involve wetsuits and small, enclosed spaces and rumors of eels in the water.


Luckily, other than a few moments of feeling my breathing restricted by the wet suit and talking myself out of panicking over the thought of the wet suit + being in a small space, this adventure turned out to be a really great one and kicked off another spectacular New Zealand day.

That is how you OWN a wetsuit. That was recently worn by someone else. And in my case, that "someone else" was most likely a fat man, but I did my VERY BEST not to think about that.

The tour company took a bunch of pictures -- some posed, like this one below, but most of the others I didn't even know were being taken. That's usually a surefire way for me to look awful in a picture, but these turned out pretty amazingly well (or amazingly funny anyway), so we bought the full set.

I don't know what I'm holding -- a rope? But Carrie's trident is a really great accessory for her:

Most of the other people on our tour appppppeared to be colleagues from some government agency in Washington DC. These caves weren't really central to anything official, but I guess if I were traveling to an awesome country with a bunch of work people who I happened to like, I'd probably take a few side trips with them too.

Then there was a lesson in sticking your butt all the way into your tube. Super flattering, yet again. Mine is the ass all the way on the left.

And then here we are practicing the feet-under-the-person-in-front's-armpits technique for sticking together:

And then this is what I look like when I'm being a team player for the enthusiastic shot:

And then we found out that we'd be doing a practice run so everyone could learn the proper technique for jumping off of waterfalls within the cave. It was at this point that I was having second, third and fourth thoughts. You can see here that I'd migrated to the very back of the pack because I was going to need some time to psych myself up for this:

When we got back to the visitor center afterwards, these pictures were cycling through on the monitor. I think I might have peed myself when I saw how awesome our splashdown photos were:

These two got posted to Facebook immediately because it turns out I LOVE pictures of us making awful faces while wearing wetsuits and white rubber boots. These are the only such pictures either of us have ever taken, but let's hope there are future wet-suit-white-rubber-boot scenarios in our future!!

Also: Suggestion for anyone who needs their sinuses cleared out -- do this. The water gets all the way up behind your eyeballs.

And then once everyone had mastered the jump (one guy had to do it twice so I was feeling very proud of my grace and athletic ability), we said goodbye and marched our soggy asses down into a hole in the wall:

And then, after a few tight squeezes and some "I solemnly swear to never eat again" promises made, we were in a cave!

And then we were further into the cave:

I don't recall how long the tour lasted, but it was an hour or so of floating and jumping and floating and jumping, and at most any time you could look up and see what looked like the biggest, fakest Disney display of softly twinkling stars in the sky, but what were actually glow worms doing their thang. I don't appear to have any pictures of our specific glow worms to share, but they looked like blue LED lights on the ceiling of the cave and were absolutely beautiful.

This is a picture I stole from the internet and is a pretty accurate representation:

And then we eventually emerged back into the light:

In summary: glow worms: highly recommended!! (Unless you're going to freak out at the enclosed space thing.)

From there we drove a short distance to Rotorua, also on the list of 1,000 things, to enjoy the sulfurous hot springs and their alleged restorative properties:

Rotorua was a mid-sized city that really confused the heck out of me. There seemed to be a lot of big hotels and a whole shopping center with only tourist restaurants (where we ended up eating that night because we struggled to get a non-tourist recommendation), but the only attraction appeared to be the lake...but not in a Tahoe kind of way, so I don't really get it. I must have been missing something.

But speaking of Tahoe, we ended up lucking into a little motel right on the shore of the lake that reminded us VERY VERY much of our favorite place to stay in Tahoe (Team Cedar Glen REPRESENT!). When we checked in the man was like "Let me get your milk and send you on your way" and we were like "Say what? Milk?"

One of the things that I found very confusing about New Zealand was that the different types of lodging meant totally different things and I couldn't ever figure out what was a motel, what was a motor lodge, what was a holiday house, etc. But here on day nine, we encountered our first of two lodging experiences that included milk upon check-in.

The next night we checked into our new hotel after the office had closed but there was a note telling us to let ourselves in and that the milk was in the New Zealand is very trusting and also very supportive of keeping your calcium intake up.

But on this afternoon the desk man told us that it was traditional in motor hotels or whatever it was we were in that night and that it was for our tea or coffee in the morning.


Also lovely: The view from basically right outside our cottage door:

That afternoon we took ourselves back to the main part of town to hit one of the spas with the sulfuric water that Rotorua is known for. We'd been hoping for spa services while we were there but they were all booked up so we paid for entry to the adult-only spa (which sounds dirty but really it meant that we paid extra for nicer locker rooms and the privilege of spa'ing without children around) and immersed ourselves into what I swear to you smelled like a huge can of condensed chicken soup.

The adult spa had three pools, each with staaanky water kept at different temperatures -- warm, hot, and hotter. I'm not a HUGE hot tub person, but I wanted to soak up as much stinky-but-apparently-good-for-me water as possible so we lounged until we were pruney and overwhelmed by the scent of chicken soup.

After a shower, I was back in my comfort ensemble and ready to ROCK downtown Rotorua. Or, at least be presentable-ish enough to not embarrass Carrie. I don't believe I was wearing any mascara and I know I didn't have any hair product with me so basically, I was a hot mess...but my body was freshly soaked and I was feeling restored! And hopefully not smelling chicken soupy!

After dinner we went back to our little cottage, popped open a bottle of wine, and then topped the day off with a little something I haven't done in DECADES and that made day nine one of my most fun days of the trip: TRAMPOLINING!!!

We started out just swinging on the swing set, but as the bottle drained, we got brave (and stupid...but not so stupid as to try jumping from one trampoline to the other...which I remember thinking early in the evening would be the sign that we should quit) and went for it.

(Note that there's only one Carrie-approved trampolining photo because she was wearing a dress and all, but I have just as many ass-over-tea-kettle ones and/or re-donk ones of her that I am just kind enough not to post.)

That photo shoot was one of the funniest things ever and we were trying SO HARD to be quiet, but the giggles kept escaping. The owner lady eventually came out and was pisssssssssed at us for trampolining at that hour (it was pushing midnight) and I'm sure she would have been even more pissed if she'd seen the wine bottle, but we apologized and quickly wrapped it up and went back to our room.

My only regret is that we didn't apologize in fake accents because the next morning when I had to go ask the same lady for laundry tokens my accent totally outed me as the awful American girl who was rude enough to trampoline far past acceptable trampoline'ing hours (the only sign just said that we couldn't trampoline without our parents being present, but we knew we'd have their full approval so we went for it) and she gave me the stink eye, but that's fine because I deserved it (even though I SWEAR we were whispering, but at that hour even whispered laughter is loud...especially when paired with the sound of my ass jumping on the trampoline).


(Also: Note to the dude on bungee jumping day who told Carrie that she'd never feel more alive than when bungee jumping -- TRAMPOLINING WAS MORE FUN AND MADE ME FEEL MORE ALIVE THAN BUNGEE JUMPING. So there.)

Day Eight: The day we started in civilization and ended in the wilderness where our main goals were to not touch the shower with our bare feet or get eaten alive by bugs

Get ready Day Eight - it's your turn!!

So there we were, suddenly in a city, laundry (mostly) done and otherwise ready to ROCK the north island. Wellington was a really great city and we enjoyed our quality time there. First on the agenda: BREAKFAST.

We did a good job of having breakfast during normal breakfast time hours throughout the trip, but weird things happened to our appetites after breakfast and it would then be 3 o'clock and we'd be all "oh hey, let's have lunch!" but then we'd be somewhere super remote so we'd eat a granola bar and then remember that we were hungry again at like 8 o'clock, by which point the open dining options were limited but it generally always worked out for the best.

But speaking of working out for the best, that morning we had the best breakfast I've ever had. Carrie wasn't willing to give it THAT significant of a title, but she did text me a picture a month or so ago of her re-created version of our Wellington breakfast so it was certainly memorable.

It was breakfast bruschetta or something and was basically crusty bread toast, tomatoes, basil, onion, avocado and bacon and HOLY HECK my mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.

The restaurant was another SOLID recommendation from a hotel front desk clerk and was well worth the trek across town to this Cuban-themed coffee/breakfast joint. I was distracted by the bare feet on some of the other diners (which reminds me I need to ask my kiwi friend Jody about this), but not so distracted that I couldn't enjoy the heck out of my breakfast.

From there we walked along the waterfront and over to the Te Papa Museum, which is on the list of 1,000 things to see before you die. It's a museum of New Zealand culture and it covered a wide range of surprising but interesting topics.

Like the 1983 Miss Universe's dress, won by New Zealand's own Lorraine Downes.

 Here I am showing you what I'd look like if I won:

And then also hats designed to collect the sperm of endangered birds:

That's one for the resume, don't you think!?

It really had much more in terms of significant cultural exhibits and wasn't just about Miss Universe and ejaculation helmets, I swear. For example, I thought this was actually a pretty interesting fact:

There was also an earthquake exhibit that I thought was adorable and sort of ehhhhhh, but the other visitors seemed to think it was awesome. They should visit the Tech Museum in San Jose, California though because I think the Tech's earthquake exhibit is way cooler. Or, you know, just experience life as a California native.

But anyhooters, there you have it - Wellington was a lovely city with the perks of city'dom but still small enough to walk though.

After a morning spent kicking around, we picked up our next rental car (with radio controls in ENGLISH, which was an amazing luxury) and headed north to a hostel near the glow worm caves:

It was another long day of driving, but New Zealand never disappoints in terms of scenery.

And then after getting lost because I'd forgotten that the directions to the hostel had been foggy when I looked them up while still at home in California and remembering that I'd made a mental note to get better directions when we got there (oops), and then increasing angst that we'd run out of gas out in the middle of NOWHERE (Pro tip: Get gas when you're at half a tank because the gas stations in New Zealand are not plentiful), we found our hostel.

This hostel was pretty rustic and there were many more bugs than I was comfortable with, but HOT DAMN, they had a bar! So we made the adult decision to have enough beers to make us not care that we might get eaten alive by bugs while we slept. It turned out to be a fascinating evening in terms of us totally eavesdropping and rolling our eyes at the probably privileged American 20 year olds getting all philosophical about life. I remember my Facebook post about that evening had something to do with this one dude who thought his parents were harshing his gig for insisting that he have health insurance.

As old timey Burning Man veterans, topics like "I would rather spend my money at Burning Man (or in New Zealand) than prioritizing things like health care or paying rent" really get Carrie and me fired up because we're totally on Team TAKE CARE OF YOUR ADULT RESPONSIBILITIES BEFORE YOU SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ON PARTIES so our eyes were rolling pretty far back into our heads.

Ohhhhhhhhh, kids. Excuse me while I go pay for the next round of beers with money that I earned for myself and that did not get siphoned off my bill paying budget.

So after we enjoyed our dinner of beer, potato chips and eavesdropping while watching the Olympics in the hostel bar, we retired to our moderately questionable room for the night and appreciated the fact that we were grown up ladies and weren't 20 years old anymore.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


WGWWOPOTD, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Willow Glen Wine Walk Outfit Photo of the Day

Friday, April 25, 2014


CEHJOPOTD, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Crying EH Jr Outfit Photo of the Day

She's not pleased to be stuck with me until Grandma gets here.

Monday, April 21, 2014


OPOTD, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Dolly is in my heart

Dolly is in my heart, originally uploaded by dumpstar_drummer.

Seriously you guys, go take a listen to Dolly Parton's "Potential New Boyfriend" and try not to love it. Then listen to "Jolene" and observe the conflict with PNB. It's really a shame I'm not taking a music appreciation class at the local junior college because I could write a paper on this topic.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day Seven: Where I spent all day trying to do laundry

Yay, day seven!! I wasn't really expecting too much from day seven because it was primarily a travel day and because I was going to do some laundry if it killed me.

Our B&B hosts were like "Why didn't you just do laundry here?" and I was like "Um. I guess that would have been a good idea!" but we had a ferry to catch and needed to get going.

Robert & Diane, our B&B hosts, were really lovely. But you know who was not really lovely? The other guests at breakfast that morning.

They were two dudes in their 50's who were traveling together and each had his own room in the B&B so they were the extent of the other guests. I was initially annoyed because there are three sides to the breakfast table and on morning #1, each couple took a side. THIS morning, however, they spread themselves out and Carrie and I each ended up sitting next to one of them. But okay, maybe that's B&B etiquette that I made up in my own head.

But as you do at breakfast in B&Bs (*this* B&B anyway because I have no other frame of reference), you chat with your co-breakfast'ers. One was from NY somewhere and he was traveling with his friend, another American, but who lives in Belize, I believe it was. Neither of their wives like to travel so they just go together (and very likely, their wives enjoy the quiet while their obnoxious husbands are out of town).

To be fair, the one from Belize wasn't bad but maaaaaan, the other one rubbed me the wrrrrrrrrronnnnnng damn way. He talked to me like I was a dumb blonde from California, which was notttttt appreciated, so when he asked me what I did, and I swear he was expecting me to say I was a gift wrap technician at the mall or something, I gave the most complicated version of that answer possible. His response was to lean over to Carrie and tell her that I was a pain in the ass. She was not BFFs with him either but I think she could see my blood starting to boil so she was trying to stay cool enough for both of us.

At some point during breakfast I agreed to try Vegemite and Marmite and do a side by side comparison. That dude was very critical of my spreading technique, he was interrupting my commentary and was generally just harshing my gig (but the end result was that both Vegemite and Marmite are gross).

I was encouraged when we got up to head out and Diane gave me a knowing look and said that it was going to be an interesting couple of days -- so it wasn't just me! He really WAS an asshole!!

But enough about him! Diane and Robert were wonderful and I should have done laundry there!!

We drove half an hour or two to the town where we were to pick up the ferry to the north island. I wasn't expecting that town to be as lovely as it was, but it would have been lovelier if the laundromat wasn't being hogged by a weird dude with a staring problem. No laundry for us!

But we did have a perfectly lovely piece of cake for lunch at a perfectly lovely sidewalk cafe just off the water.

You're so lovely, Picton, New Zealand!

And then it was time to board the ferry, which we did alongside plenty of people observing one of New Zealand's favorite past times: Being in public without shoes on. I think this was more prevalent on the north island, but that might also be just because our time on the south island was mostly in tourist destinations and TOURISTS WEAR SHOES. ESPECIALLY WHEN WALKING THROUGH PUDDLES OF WHO-KNOWS-WHAT IN THE CAR LOADING AREA OF A FERRY! (We ditched our car on the south island, but we still boarded near all the cars.)

We found the bar on the ferry (of course we did), and we spent a leisurely few hours internetting, drinking wine, reading the newspaper, and watching rugby. At one point I walked out of the bar to go to the bathroom and a handful of passengers had broken out their instruments and were playing jigs in the rotunda. People were smiling and children were dancing and it was adorable.

When we arrived in Wellington there was some hubbub about taxis and there were some English couples who were totally getting worked up about OMG WE'RE NEVER GOING TO GET A TAXI WE'RE GOING TO DIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIE, but Carrie and I just relaxed about it all and BOOM, there was a taxi (though I do believe Carrie did go with some of the husbands to stand in line for a pay phone in order to make the taxi magic happen).

Our handsome and charming cab driver deposited us swiftly at the Novotel, which maaaaay have had an odd blood-splatter looking theme to its room decor, but was TEN THOUSAND TIMES mo betta than the hostel we'd be sleeping in the next night, so blood splatter, schblood splatter.

Operation: LAUNDRY continued that afternoon in a sister hotel's laundry room. We enjoyed the lobby's bar and free internet while we waited and then later folded our laundry while chit chatting with a couple of adorable English seniors on a bus tour.

English seniors have GIANT underpants, a fact I observed this day and then again a few days later when I had to RE-DO my load of laundry because I DIDN'T READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY AND NEGLECTED TO PUT SOAP IN MY WASHER (seems like a no duh, I know, but there was a dispenser and I didn't realize that I needed to turn the soap dispenser knob) and I was NOT about to do it all over again that night. Luckily Carrie had the load with the underwear and she's a better reader than I am so it was just my, less critical, load that was messed up.

While hanging out in the lobby we got a restaurant recommendation from the front desk. Asking hotel staff for recommendations can be tricky, but when they're on, they're on. (And when they're off, they can't think of anything that isn't a tourist destination.) This gentleman was on! He sent us in the direction of a gastropub a handful of blocks away and we had a completely lovely dinner and extensive conversation with the manager, who was disappointed that we were leaving the next day because I think he was dyyyyyyyyyyying to spend some quality time with Carrie. He was cute and he was very friendly and I think he was even her type, but we had big plans for the next day and had to push on.

All in all, it was a day spent trying to do laundry, travel, waiting, doing laundry, waiting, and then waiting some more. We certainly found ways to make the waiting enjoyable because that's the way we roll, but I must admit that in my heart, day seven was about logistics. And laundry.

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