New Zealand's N. Island
Skyline Sunset02.JPG (206425 bytes) Flying into Auckland was probably a bit anti-climatic after all the fun I had up to this point.  Though not my favorite city, it is surrounded by water as illustrated by the skyline at sunset. Sheep 1 Tree Hill02.JPG (327323 bytes) On one of the days, I took a bus out to a place called 1 Tree Hill which had great views of the city.  But I had just as much fun with all the sheep grazing on the hillside.
Auckland Park Swing06.JPG (288040 bytes) Below the viewpoint at 1 Tree Hill is a great park for children or adults who still want to act a like a kid every once in awhile!J 1 Tree Hill View of Auckland.JPG (192777 bytes) Here is the view in one direction as I look toward the city of Auckland.  You can see the prominent skytower rising above everything else in the picture.
Magic Bus Bus.JPG (669582 bytes) I tried something new as I took the Magic Bus from Auckland down through part of the n. island for a couple of days.  It was a fun way to travel and see new places with other travelers/ backpackers.  Waitomo Caves.JPG (885920 bytes) Sadly, I don’t have any pics of our first stop (yet) which was Waitomo.  Here I went intertubing in the underground caves.  The glowworms that lit up the caves were unlike anything I had seen before.
Maori Dinner08.JPG (254468 bytes) The Maori are the natives in New Zealand who were run out by the Europeans.  I went to a traditional Maori hangi dinner and dance one night in Rotorua.  A bit too commercial, but still enjoyable. Maori Dinner25.JPG (621743 bytes) Before the Hangi dinner, I walked around to various stations where the Maori people demonstrated how the traditional Maori lived.
Maori Dinner35.JPG (236685 bytes) Then the tour took us in for a demonstration of the dance and song of the Maori. Maori Dinner45.JPG (564055 bytes) The Hangi meal was delicious.  The Maori cook their food under the ground in a Hangi.  Sounds a bit like a traditional Hawaiian meal.  Here I am with part of the crew from the Magic Bus.
Magic BusB08.JPG (581638 bytes) In the area around Rotorua there are lots of minerals and underground activity from the volcanoes around.  Here is a natural (with assistance) geyser as it shoots off some of its minerals. Magic BusB23.JPG (346727 bytes) Later in the day we went to the Wai O Tapu Thermal Reserve.   My friend Susie (from Cali) joined me for this week of travel on her school break.  Here we are with some of the other gals from the group!
Magic BusB16.JPG (197601 bytes) The colors created by the natural minerals in the ground are quite spectacular (and smelly)! Magic BusB43.JPG (375496 bytes) Our next stop was Taupo where we first stopped at a ropes course area.  Not one to turn down a challenge, I tried and completed the giant trapeze jump!
Magic BusB69.JPG (361041 bytes) Next up was the Giant Swing.  The first step was a little bit of a rush jumping off the tower!  I do enjoy adrenaline rushes…I wonder if I got that from Mom or Dad?J Magic BusB74.JPG (500280 bytes) Coming in for a landing from the Giant Swing!
Magic BusB90.JPG (245943 bytes) I did another Jet Boat in Taupo as it was included in the Magic Bus Package.  This time we went on a Huka Jet up to the Huka Falls.  Dart River was more fun, but the falls were beautiful. Magic BusB80.JPG (765902 bytes) Here is the Magic Bus Crew as we prepare to board our Huka Jet!
Magic BusB91.JPG (216104 bytes) The Huka Falls! Magic BusB96.JPG (277135 bytes) Here I am at the end of my adventure on Magic Bus with our driver, Richard.  He was a good, fun Kiwi tour guide.  Not as cute as my tour guide with Dart River Safaris in Queenstown, but fun to travel with!
IMG_2177.JPG (414162 bytes) Taupo was a fun place to hang out for a couple days.  A highlight for me was playing golf at Wairakei Golf Club, another top 50 golf course in the world!!!!  Where are my golf buddies when I need them? IMG_2168.JPG (197507 bytes) An example of the beauty of this course.  I think this course is actually more beautiful than Royal Melbourne was which is ranked much higher internationally. 
IMG_2171.JPG (270363 bytes) Another picture of the beauty on the Wairakei Golf Course!  Mt. Eden04.JPG (521718 bytes) After Taupo it was back to Auckland for my last 2 days of the trip.  Mt. Eden is another volcano in Auckland with a beautiful view of the city from its top.
IMG_2180.JPG (230037 bytes) There are several islands just a ferry ride away from Auckland.   On my last full day I went over and spent the day on Waiheke Island.  IMG_2181.JPG (98421 bytes) Oretangi Beach is their most beautiful beach, but it just can’t compare to Hawaii, Australia or the Caribbean.  Still it was nice to just relax on the beach for a little while!
IMG_2191.JPG (419677 bytes) Where else can you find a horse, a pig, an emu, & a sheep grazing together in a random field?  Not on Lanai and I don’t remember seeing it in Los Angeles! IMG_2186.JPG (306029 bytes) There are several vineyards on Waiheke Island.  Here I am wandering through Oretangi Vineyard sampling the grapes for them!J
IMG_2192.JPG (209621 bytes) The final stop on Waiheke island was the award winning olive oil manufacturer, Rangiroua!  The olive oils and herb sreads were delicious.  Maybe some of you will get some samples for gifts!J  Skyline Sunset03.JPG (90310 bytes) All good things can’t last forever.  My last night in Auckland included a boat ride back to Auckland from Waiheke Island.  What a trip it has been!  Where can I go next?  S. America, Africa or Asia?