With my card boards signs displaying the cities of Taurangi and Taupo, I set off for my off-road patch of land that I would post up for in hopes of signaling a ride. Not five minutes in did rain start to steadily target my location. When you are toting a sign made of cardboard you can imagine the results plus my uncovered backpack was exposed to the elements. I tried to get a bus ride to Taupo at a nearby hostel but they could not avail my predicament. Back into the rain I went carrying my wilting slates of cardboard. Oddly enough a guy and girl that I had seen in the hostel who I had never had the opportunity to speak to picked me up. The girl was the first American I had met in a long while. Although I prefer meeting and conversing with people from outside of my borders, it is nice to meet an American every once in awhile since they are surprisingly rare. It is still amazing to me how strangers brought together at random can so quickly feel as if they have known each other for quite a while. They dropped me off in Taurangi before I found myself with a new ride to Taupo. Being a born-Kiwi he told me a lot about New Zealand and what I should make an effort to see in my last days on the island. I got dropped off at what I believed was going to by my last stop but after walking around a bit I decided to adjust my plans. Taupo is great. It is a fairly big resort town revolved around the biggest lake in NZ where you can see Mount Doom and Mt. Ruapehu beyond the most southern waters. Interestingly enough, long ago this lake was the site of one of the world’s largest volcanoes ever before erupting and creating the crater that this lake resides in. The idea of swimming in a lake sounded appealing but I figured I could accomplish so much more in my next destination at Rotorua. From my previous hitchhiking experience, I found no ideal spots to get picked up for at least a few miles. To my benefit and demise, a trail led through the forest and past Huka Falls before eventually reaching a roundabout that led to Rotorua. If I were to get picked up this would be the place to be. Not willing to carry anything in hand, I strapped everything to my main pack, including the tent, foam mat, daypack, and a loaf of bread. I could have easily been mistaken for Atlas carrying the world on his mighty shoulders. Clearly I have a death wish. Carrying that infinite weight up and down hills and along stretches of unfiltered heat, I became drenched in my own sweat. Seriously, I felt as though I were in a sweat box from hell. I can only imagine what passersby thought when they saw this melting figure before them. The mirage of Huka Falls was in fact real. The Falls weren’t tall by any means but what defined it was the power that surged through this rocky passage. Essentially, Huka Falls is an intense white water rapid ending with a 12-15 meter drop to the rest of the river. I continued on but this time along a stretch of highway that never seemed to end. I was going through a lot for the sake of a hitched ride. The roundabout was within distance and I awaited the relief of releasing the pack off of my beaten back. Again I put my sign and within ten minutes or so I was picked up by a group of young Kiwis. They were really friendly offering me snacks and sharing any advice they had about my travels through NZ. They lived in Tauranga which was probably another hour north of Rotorua and offered me a ride all the way there. Even though the idea was tempting since I had heard a fair bit about Mount Manganui, I needed to spend some time in Rotorua. Once in Rotorua my nostrils became overwhelmed by the smell of rotten eggs (Rotorua is at the center of many thermal pools and other geothermal activity). The produce at a nearby Asian grocer was so cheap that I went wild with ingredients for my awaited dinner. Feeling like a Chopped chef I raced around the kitchen bouncing from counter to stove to prepare supper. All the while in this crazed rush, I was talking with people from all over the world including a cute German. My ill-fated decision to throw caramelized ginger into the pot ruined my efforts but food is food and I wasn’t about to waste it. I spent the rest of the night planning my activities in Rotorua before crashing onto the sweet relief of a mattress.
Middle Earth Day 27: An Unexpected Journey