Spent most of the day lounging around Wellington. Visited the Botanical Gardens and finished the Te Papa Museum. Shaleah took a long nap in the van at the park on Mt. Victoria. We also picked up my bike from the bike shop where I had taken it because my disc brakes were not working very well. It turns out that they did almost a complete tune-up of the bike which turned out to be much more expensive than I had expected but has resulted in a much better performing mountain bike.
We then drove out to a suburb of Wellington, called Karori where we camped for the night. There is a reportedly very nice mountain biking only park in Karori and we were anxious to try it out. Shaleah is getting very tired of camping in the van, and though we still have a week of vacation left it seems likely that we won't be camping much for the rest of the vacation.
Today, during our excellent mountain biking outing I felt a twinge of what Shaleah must feel all of the time. It was a twinge of disappointment that we don't have these wonderful, dedicated mountain biking trails and parks where we live in Nebraska. The Karori mountain biking park has wonderful terrain and the only bad part turned out to be the gale force winds at the top of the mountain that nearly blew us over and we had to walk our bikes until we got to a lower altitude. It could have been that the trail was more fun because my bike was now well tuned but still it was one of our best mountain biking outings of the trip.
After biking we set out for Waikanae where we once again imposed on some unsuspecting kiwis. Andrea's parents were gracious enough to let us stay overnight at their beautiful house with amazing views of the ocean. They also didn't complain when we ate all of their food, watched their television (rugby), and slept in their wonderful guest bedroom with a breathtaking view of the coast. Just like Andrea and Allison they were incredibly hospitable and were very patient while explaining the nuances of rugby. We counted ourselves very lucky to have met them.
Set out for Mt. Taranaki (neé Egmont) even though it was cloudy and not a great day for sightseeing. Maori legend says that Taranaki used to live with Mt. Tongariro and Nguruhoe in the central plateau until Taranaki was found canoodling with Tongariro's girlfriend and had to hightail it out to the coast.
We made a short hike and then set out to New Plymouth to spend some more time on the coast before we have to return to our land locked home in Broken Bow. Tomorrow we plan to set out for the Waitomo Caves to do some blackwater rafting, our last great adventure of the trip.
Blackwater Rafting can best be described as an activity for which you pay $90 to allow someone to dress you up hilariously in an ill-fitting wetsuit, take pictures of you mooning them through your inner-tube, direct you to do embarrassing things on command (which aren't actually needed on the excursion), and then lead you into a dark cave full of freezing water. But, in the end they give you some lukewarm soup and a bagel so it's not all bad. In fact, when you unselfconsciously get into the spirit of the adventure it becomes quite fun. Even the Germans in our rafting group were smiling (very efficiently). I asked them what the German word for blackwater rafting was and they replied, "Schwartzwasserraftebilteschungenheissencraftengeraftet." It made sense.
The Waitomo caves are very vast and despite the recent newspaper stories recounting one New Zealand doctor's horrific injury and subsequent three day evacuation from another cave Shaleah and I decided we'd catch the 2:15 blackwater rafting excursion. Our guides, Ja and Josh, led us through the dark enclosed spaces, occasional waterfalls, glow-wormed ceilings, and freezing water with aplomb. This was our most adventurous activity of the trip and turned out to be quite fun. I didn't even get injured.