Little Pebble
United States China Thailand New Zealand

New Zealand, 1 of 10 (Aukland) - Our time in Auckland was short, but good. We used the first day to rest and recover from jet lag. The second day, we took a bus tour of the city with which we could get off at whichever attraction we wanted. We visited Kelly Tarlton's Antarctic Encounter & Underwater World ( It was really neat to be that close to the penguins. We've also never seen sting rays so big! The other stop that we enjoyed was the Auckland War Memorial Museum ( They have a great collection of Maori artifacts. The picture of the life size carvings was taken inside a meeting house. Our hotel was just a couple of blocks away from the Sky Tower. Buses were our main mode of transportation. It was a great way to see the countryside and we didn't have to worry about trying to drive on the left side of the road.

New Zealand, 2 of 10 (North) - We took a day tour of the northernmost part of New Zealand. The first picture is of the 4x4 bus that took us everywhere. We drove up "Ninety Mile Beach" in the morning; the timing of the drive was dictated by the tides. The beach is not actually 90 miles long, but it got it's name from the days of cattle hearding. Farmhands believed that cows traveled 30 miles a day and since it took them three days to travel from one end of the beach to the other, it was 90 miles. New Zealanders decided to keep the name. We drove in the dunes briefly, looking for wild horses. None were to be seen by us that day. We boarded down a gigantic sand dune and lived to tell. With a storm moving in, we stopped at Cape Reinga and walked to the lighthouse. We saw where the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea meet. The last three pictures are at a beach where we stopped to eat our picnic lunch. I just had to see if the water was as cold on the New Zealand coast as it is on the Oregon coast and it is. :-) On the way back, we stopped at a restaurant and had some yummy fish and chips.

New Zealand, 3 of 10 (Paihia) - We spent three nights in this little coastal town. This served as the launching point for our "north tour." The first picture was at a place called Manginangina where we went on a walk through the Kauri trees. These are ancient, gigantic trees in New Zealand (similar to the Redwoods of California). The last three pictures are along the coast in, or near, Paihia. Our stay here was laid back and very relaxing.

New Zealand, 4 of 10 (Waitomo) - This little town has a population of 42. We stayed at the Waitomo Guest Lodge, a great bed and breakfast. Since we didn't have our own transportation, our host was very kind and drove us to a couple of different places. The first six pictures was one such place - a walk that came highly recommended by our hosts. It was a nice forest walk. The next three pictures are of the countryside. Our host also drove us into a nearby town, Otorohanga, so that we could go to the Kiwi House. We couldn't go to New Zealand and not see a Kiwi bird! A local attraction that we went to was the Kiwi Culture Show. (Kiwi is also what New Zealanders call themselves.) It was a one man show with farm animals and audience participation. He demonstrated how the settlers to New Zealand had to clear the land and establish farms. During part of the show, I helped to shear a sheep, which is in the video clip. The video also shows a Kiwi bird in action. It is dark because their eyes are sensitive to light and they are nocturnal creatures.


New Zealand 5 of 10 (Caves) - While in Waitomo, we had the opportunity to learn all about glowworms and to see them in a couple of caves. A glowworm is not really a worm, but more closely resembles a maggot. If you're interested in learning more, click here, Waitomo Glowworms Cave. The first picture was the first cave that we went into (by boat). That afternoon, we took a tour of the Ruakuri Cave and had the guide all to ourselves. We descended into the cave down the long, spiral walkway. The glowworms look like stars inside the cave (once your eyes adjust to the darkness). We walked along suspended walkways over the cave floor and sometimes over the river. Even the slightest sound of running water sounds like raging rapids coming off of the cave walls.

New Zealand, 6 of 10 (Wildlife) - The last, and final city that we visited while in New Zealand was Rotorua. While staying at the B&B in Waitomo, we met a fellow American, Michelle. She was also planning on staying in Rotorua and happened to be going there the same day we were. So, with her offer to give us a ride (she had a rental car), we cancelled our bus reservations for the day and had some company for this leg of the trip. It was great getting to know Michelle and once we reached Rotorua, we decided to have lunch together. Afterwards, we went to Paradise Valley Springs Trout & Wildlife Park. The park currently has two six month-old lion cubs, Ben (who we pet) and Hana (who was sleeping). In the video, the man playing with Ben worked there and made sure that he didn't harm the visitors that ventured into the lion cubs' enclosure. We took a stroll around the park and saw different types of birds, fish (mainly trout), wallabies, sheep, pigs, and deer. They also have a daily lion feeding that was exciting and fun to watch.


New Zealand, 7 of 10 (Geothermal) - We took a tour shuttle bus to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. On the way, we stopped at a mud pool and saw the mud bubbling and sputtering. The sounds were neat, but the smell of sulfur was not so pleasant. The next stop was at the Lady Knox Geyser to see it erupt. The final stop was the park itself. We hiked all three loop trails and enjoyed viewing the whole park.


New Zealand, 8 of 10 (Culture Show) - We met up with Michelle to go to the Mitai Maori Village in the evening. Our host was amazing. He knew how to say welcome and hello to everyone in their home country's language. There were guests from close to twenty different countries there. We walked down to the creek to watch the warriors paddle their canoe into the village. After that, there was the main performance. They danced and sang songs in their native tongue. They demostrated traditional weapons and games. Dinner was served buffet style and was very tasty. To top the evening off, we all received flashlights to go for a walk in the woods. We viewed glowworms and the village's sacred spring.


New Zealand, 9 of 10 (Rotorua) - Lake Rotorua is the second largest lake in the North Island of New Zealand. Our hotel was just a couple of blocks away from a lakeside trail. Also, located right beside the lake is the Polynesian Spa - Our last afternoon in Rotorua was spent at the spa. We enjoyed soaking in the hot water springs. After about an hour in the water, we toweled off and individually received massages. Brian had an oil massage and I went for the hot stone massage. We thoroughly enjoyed them and then were allowed as much time as we wanted to relax in the springs some more. Later that evening back at the hotel, Brian took the oppurtunity to test the idea that water goes down the drain counter-clockwise south of the equator (see the video for his results).


New Zealand, 10 of 10 (Adventure) - We rode a gondola up to the top of Mt Ngongotaha. What a beautiful and spectacular view! After taking some pictures, it was on to the fun of the luge. We went on five runs and it was a blast. There are three different tracks, so there was a nice variety each ride down. We ate lunch at the cafe at the top and then headed off to our next adventure, the Zorb. The Zorb involves a hill, a huge inflated plastic ball, warm/cold water (depending on the season) and a person (or two or three). We decided to go down twice, once together down the straight path and once individually down the zig zag trail. It was a lot of fun...tumbling, slipping, sliding, and getting dizzier than we've ever been before!


All Photos and Videos Copyright 2007-2008 Brian Schneider