Sunday, February 11, 2024

Papamoa and Mount Doom

We arrived back at the Auckland airport early in the morning on Saturday (or late Friday night). We picked up our two ford Rangers again (at least one of which I’m almost positive was the same we had the first day) and headed towards the coast for a short stay at the beach. Sam proved to be an excellent navigator. In his efforts to keep me awake on the three hour drive, our conversation ranged from philosophy and religion to politics. Apparently, though, he used up all of his words and had to go on a word strike with Joe and Justin the following week.

We arrived at our AirBnB, and, unfortunately found one of the rooms locked. Given it was almost 2:00 AM, we knew we wouldn’t be able to get it resolved that night, but John volunteered to sleep on the couch. We collapsed into bed for some rest.

The next morning, we awoke to beautiful views of the ocean out of the front of our house. Justin got to enjoy his primary request for the week: that at least one of our AirBnBs be near a “surfing beach.” He and Sam left early in the morning to go find some surfboards, and managed to hunt down an itinerant surfer who rents boards out of the back of his van. Only one problem - Justin only had USD. Undeterred, this entrepreneur asked how much he had. Justin told him and the guy (after complaining, “You’re going to make me do maths this early?”) said, “I’ll take it” and gave him two boards. Looking back on that interaction, Justin said, “I think I gave that guy like a $20 tip.” This surfer was an actual kiwi.

A surfing beach
Most of our group tried their hand at surfing, and then Gabby and I went grocery shopping for lunch and dinner supplies. One amazing thing about New Zealand is the affordability of meat. Given their volcanic soil makes cultivation difficult, New Zealand’s agriculture is focused around grazing, with a population of about 26 million sheep (five per kiwi) and 10 million cows (two per kiwi). Not willing to pass this opportunity up, we decided to have steak and eggs for breakfast! Gabby also found some local peanut butter, but we decided not to purchase it, given Adam’s suspicion of Tanner’s unmixed natural peanut butter earlier in the week.

No volcano to be seen

Gollum's Pool

Saturday afternoon, we drove down to the Tongariro National Park to see the volcano where Mount Doom scenes were filmed for Lord of the Rings. We stopped briefly in a small town called “National Park” to eat our lunch, and a few of our group had an entertaining interaction with the proprietor of a local ski rental shop. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the base of the volcano itself, everything was clouded over, so we never actually saw the volcanic cone. We did, however, hike out to Taranaki Falls, another filming location, which represented “Gollum’s Pool.”

World's Coolest McDonald's

On the way home, we stopped at “The World’s Coolest McDonalds,” which has a DC-8 airplane attached to the restaurant. Gabby made it in right before they closed for the evening, and the rest of us ate our ice cream under the wings. We were home for dinner (spaghetti) around midnight, once again thankful for New Zealand’s long summer nights (in February).

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