There some things that are inevitable when traveling as a group. Weather it is a pack of senior citizens mindlessly strolling down the middle of the sidewalk (taking up the whole-fucking-thing) or a journalist and his lawyer ingesting large quantities of drugs on their way to Vegas. There will always be the conflict of opposing preferences, the stagnancy of indecision, and the weary eye of cost and equal contribution. (Not to mention the off scheduled bowel movements). After leaving Waitomo caves feeling like we would have been better off buying some glow in the dark stickers for the inside of the campers, the group was suffering from a combination of all of the above. The kids already had their eyes on the next event and were hyped up on a jet boat trip down the river. But the adults were still walking with a limp from our jail house introduction to New Zealand tourism prices.
We collectively drove to Rapids Jet (Taupo) to inspect the next scheduled activity. With a somewhat impressive marketing video and a sticker price that could double as a defibrillator, the group was reluctant to commit the $105 per adult for the 20 minute ride. The general consensus was to sit on the sidelines and let the kids squeeze in with the final boat of the day with a bunch of strangers. But like a concerned parent trying to build her child’s confidence after they’ve been informed they have to ride the short bus, Kaylene stepped in to boost morale. An act that is more complicated than just simply shouting the cost of the activity. (As the weary eye of cost and equal contribution had already popped a blood vessel at the amount of money The Olds thus far had shelled out for the trip.) Any additional contribution was under the watchful scrutiny of the rest of the crew. But Kaylene soothed our egos by swindling the company out of 40% of the ticket price. It put a smile on everyone’s face and we all agreed it was well worth the money (At the discounted price that is).
Throughout the duration of our Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) expedition we have been attempting to utilize as many Top Ten camp sites as possible (Richard scored a discount card that he convinced every-single-campsite was good for both campers, even though policy states otherwise). The Top Ten title is one that doesn’t seem to be representative of a particular standard, but rather just a catchy marketing ploy (Lesson: All Top Tens are not created equal). Thankfully, Taupo adhered to the perceived expectations of the organizations brand and we found ourselves spending three days in a well-kept and modern facility. It also helped that the Waikato river ran at the base of the camp, with Huka Falls just 30 minutes running distance away.
It only took the group a few days to develop some habits that quickly became rituals; getting the camp set up and the beers cracked in under ten minutes, eating enough crackers, cheese, and salami to satisfy a small army’s appetite, and discovering the sites noise policy through a trial and error process. Occasionally we did break up the boozefest to do some actual activities (crazy, I know!). One such day found the ladies peddling their way around the area (attempting to burn off some of those empty calories) and the boys striking out fishing (only to make their way to a pub to make some additions to those empty calories). Richard had been spending the day entertaining his nephew’s son, but managed to track us down before the first beer was cracked (A boozers intuition?). The weather was turning to typical (raining), so Richard went to round-up the ladies and what was originally just a pit stop, turned into the afternoon.
It had been several days of driving (racing) on Richards petrol mistake and the smoke had finally stopped coming out of the exhaust pipe (just kidding Richard). We deemed the vehicle fit for the open road, so we broke camp and headed for our final resting place of 2012, Rotorua.
Rotorua had a list of activities and the group had spent the three days prior to our arrival preparing for one in particular. Our scheduled race day down the Skyline Rotorua Luge. Some sat in the bathtub and practiced the tracks turns like the Jamaican bobsled team in Cool Runnings, others meticulously watched Talladega Nights in case they fell victim to the dreaded invisible fire. This would be an event that would not only bestow bragging rights for all of 2013, but would also dictate inheritance percentages in the unlikely event that a long-lost relative left a large sum of money to the family.
Unfortunately rule #4 of the Luge is “No racing” (listed right before rule #5, No fun allowed) and the employees are inadvertently able to enforce this ridiculous rule by sending riders down one at a time. Thus no true “fair” race was ever conducted. However, we did manage to find ourselves in a pack the very first trip down the hill (minus Drew who grabbed all the luges for the group to facilitate this unique occasion). Yours truly managed to speed past every one of those slow a$$ bi*tch$ to grab the checkered flag. Sending Brodie into the wall and leaving Richard to supposedly “stop and make sure he was alright”. I ran my mouth for approximately an hour as the alpha male. At which point Drew showed me what happens when he is able to be in the mix (sending me into the wall while casually hanging on the wheel with one hand and flipping me the bird with the other. Winning the “race” by more than a couple of lengths).
When visiting Rotorua it may smell like you just shoved your head inside Cool Hand Luke’s ass after he attempted to eat fifty eggs. But, unlike some of the hostels we have had the misfortune of visiting, there is actually a reason for this pungent odor. Rotorua is surrounded by a large amount of thermal pools. The largest of which has been created into a tourist attraction and is home to Pohutu. A geyser that is forcefully erupted every day at 10:15 A.M. (in reality, more like 10:40). The pools are actually quite impressive and worth the money (even though they are fenced off for protective reasons, which prohibits you from kicking mud into them, unlike in Bolivia).
The geyser however begs for an inappropriate sexual comparison to an elderly man using a mildly effective dose of Viagra. A lot of waiting around for an unimpressive and short eruption.
Our final night in Rotorua was New Years Eve. One of the most over-hyped, over-priced, over-crowded, let downs of the year. We collectively understood that Rotorua was not the most popping location to spend the holiday, but it didn’t discourage our enthusiasm for a night out. We had made a reservation at Hennessy’s, the local Irish bar. The pub was conveniently located on the street that had been cordoned off as the over 18 drinking street, complete with a stage for live performances. Having only one minor with us that could pass for 18, we devised a plan to eat dinner around 7:30 and milk the table for the duration of the night. Thus no I.D. check and hopefully avoiding sending the young ones home in a cab.
It was a slow start to the night, as we spent the first twenty minutes trying to find a cheaper alternative. Just as we gave in to the high prices and inside table (shoved in the back corner), the waitress informed us that there was a table available outside. From there we were a stones through from the stage and right in the middle of all the . . . action? (As much action as one can expect from a town of 56,000). It didn’t take long for the group to be knee-deep in Jager bombs, shots, champagne, and excessive amounts of beer. As the adults night began to blur, the kid’s night began to become long.
The night ended up being a complete success. With bar tabs that would collectively pay several months mortgage on a five bedroom house, wrestling matches, and plenty of drunk shenanigans.
We ended our journey as the Wolf Pack by completing a full circle for the trip and crashing once again in Matakatia. This time proved to be more successful with our strength in numbers. No 1 AM wake up by the local teenage kids looking to get a reaction and the next morning we awoke to a beautiful sunrise. We milked the last few hours as a group, procrastinating the departure of Nat and Drew (Zak and Brodie) by drinking the remaining portion of their alcohol contributions and enjoying the beautiful New Zealand backdrop.
The last days of our (Bret and Sally) Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) The Grand Finale were spent reminiscing with Sally’s friends from Hamilton. It had been over 15 years since the girls had all collectively met up (A few stories of the past for Sally and a few Steinlager beers for me). Once the walk down memory lane was complete, Sally and I headed to one of the girls (Daina) house for a little more “catching up”. Daina and her husband Nick lived in Vancouver for a year while Sally and I called Seattle home. We were fortunate enough to have spent a couple of weekends with them (In Seattle and Vancouver) and looked forward to hanging out again. Throughout the duration of our Australia / New Zealand adventure we have come across a range of new parents. Their stress levels high, patience low, and encouragements for us to have children of our own, limited. With our trip going faster than an 8-ball of cocaine at a Top Model Party, we find ourselves getting closer and closer to that point in our life where we scheduled what I now perceive as self-inflicted torture (children). But our time with Nick and Daina not only reaffirmed they are on our top ten couples list, but they also gave us confidence in the ability to maintain said coolness after having the poop-factory, sleep-interrupting, time-consuming, miracle of life.
The Great New Zealand Road Trip (North Island) is now a closed chapter in the history books and they say that history is the place between where memory ends and fiction begins. Being the keeper of history for this particular event I would have to mark the occasion as a success. We laughed, we cried, we laughed hard enough to make us cry (Well. . . everything but the crying part). We navigated the North Island at alarming rates of speed with only two minor accidents, both coincidentally occurring in parking lots. The only real question we are left with is ‘Would you do it again?’ and to that I say . . . maybe.