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.)

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