Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Fantasy Adventures (IRL!) Level 2 by Justin

Ding! Congratulations on reaching level 2, nerds! Justin checking back in with some more exciting adventures from New Zealand. Above, notice the view from Bluff Hill Lookout. This is a spot in Napier that's one of the first to see the sun rise in the morning. If my geography is any good at all, all of you US readers are like a zillion miles across the ocean from this picture. Pretty sure that's mathematically accurate. (+50xp)

When we last left off, I gave a rundown of the wonderful land of Hobbits. Well, on the way back from Hobbiton my driver informed me that there was one space left for Black Water Rafting at the Waitomo Glowworm Caves the following day. How about yes? Not going to lie, it was expensive. But well worth it.

 Just jumped off of a small dock backwards in anticipation of several underground waterfalls where we'd need to do the same. (+100xp)

Oh, and you might notice that rafting is a relative term. All we had to navigate with was our own inner tube. And despite the name, the water wasn't black. It was just dark down there. So I guess it was neither black, nor rafting, exactly. Silly kiwis.

The caves themselves were incredible. Glowworms glow overhead, and at certain points the guides have you shut off all of your lights and just drift down the underground waterway taking in the scenery above you. I don't want to ruin the majesty of it in case you manage to get there someday on your own, but if you can't stand the suspense go ahead and google it. I will give you a tiny peek though:

This is the tail-end of our 2 and a half hour journey through the earth. (+200xp)

As part of the return trip from Waitomo, I also got to stop in at the Kiwi House, a place where they keep many of the birds from the country. Anyone who knows me at least a little bit probably knows that I'm not a big fan of birds. I don't trust anything that can poop on me that easily. Though most of these were flightless birds, so I guess they were alright. Kiwis themselves are kind of adorable:

Even if they do look like a cross between a porcupine and a plague doctor.  
(I'm giving myself +50xp for that joke. I kill me.)

After my time at Waitomo and the Kiwi house was up, it was back to Auckland for a bit to get ready to leave for Napier and my first actual job in En Zed. After $31 and a 9 hour bus ride through a landscape that looked Photo-shopped, I arrived in Napier, Art Deco capital of New Zealand.

Cool shit like this is all around this town. It reminds me of Fallout. Minus the whole deathly wasteland thing.

I had one night in a YHA hostel along the waterfront and in the morning went to my new place of employment/temporary accommodation, Napier Prison.

Home sweet home! Looks super welcoming, huh?

My job here is to give guided tours and do audio recording/office work for the prison in exchange for living in my own jail cell, for free. The prison itself is really interesting. It has history dating back in the mid 19th century, and is supposedly haunted. Adorably, my coworkers (in particular Ciaran-- that's right, I'm calling you out on the internet, Ciaran. Now you know it's super cereal,)* refuse to take the self-guided audio ghost tour. I did it by myself, in the dead of night on my 2nd night here. (+250xp) For the most part it wasn't so bad, though I did jump once after a stray cat meowed loudly from outside the prison wall... right when I was listening to the part about a ghost cat. Yes, there's a part about a ghost cat.

There are stories of murder, suicide, baby farming (it's not as adorable as it sounds), hangings, accidental deaths, all sorts of stuff in this prison. Even the wall above was built by the prisoners in a quarry across the road which is now a beautiful garden complete with a running waterfall. That's right, they made the prisoners build the wall that kept them in.

Hard to believe this used to be loaded with gruff New Zealand inmates. It's so purty now.

There was one minor hiccup about two weeks in when I woke up in the middle of the night and got the traveler's sickness I was promised. You don't want pictures of that (not that I took them.) I felt like a sorority girl after five too many Jager-bombs (+500xp You don't know, man. You weren't there. YOU WEREN'T THERE!)

When my month here is up, I should be heading to the south island for some hostel work. I will be sure to keep up with the photojournalism for you lovely armchair travelers. It's going to be winter for me here so I imagine snow is in my future.

They call flip-flops "jandals" which is short for "Japanese sandals." Also, swimsuits are known as "Togs." You should watch this video about it.  It's funny. And informative. Fun-formative. I also tried something called an L&P Bar. L&P generally makes this lemon soft drink that is labeled "Good Lemonish Stuff." The bar itself was sort of like lemon-infused white chocolate with pop rocks in it. That's the best description I can give. (+100xp)

Until next time, Gadget! I mean, nerds.

*Ciaran has since moved on from the time I wrote this article, (such is the nature of backpacking) and I think he finally took the tour right before he left, so the emotional impact is gone, but the intention remains.

Justin Rhodes is a writer currently on a massive adventure to New Zealand.

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