Pre-Gaming St Patty’s Day

If you want to feel fresh before going out for St Patty’s Day, go to the spa. 

And so it was that three intrepid backpackers decided to treat themselves to a premium Polynesian Spa experience: 5 hot pools full of geothermal healing activity, one provided clean plush towel and a shower that came with shampoo (we would be lying if we didn’t say we did it for the shower)

It should be noted that the geothermal activity was sulfric, and hence smelled like rotten eggs. 

Three hours later, we were hard boiled. 

An hour after that, on our way to the bar, the smell of old breakfast eminated from our pores and slight concern lingered in the air. 

However, concern was unnecessary because St Patty’s Day in Rotorua (population 20,000) is just like anywhere else: the entire population crammed into one bar, getting sweaty, singing “Sweet Home Alabama” at the top of their lungs, everyone kind of on the same page about consciously not inhaling anything. 

In a town that always smells faintly of rotten eggs, humans that smell of rotten eggs was no big deal. Even in my giant man repelling green baseball cap men chose to talk to me (#thingsthatwouldnothappeninnewyork)

And now I’m scrambling on how to end this post, so I might just pull a Humpty Dumpty and crack off. 

Cannibalistic Shagging Worms 

“Basically they are cannibalistic shagging glow worms” said our guide with glee, knowing that this perfect description, delivered at least twice a day, landed well with every tourist. 

We laughed cause it was funny, but also because we were 80 meters below the surface, sitting in a dark cave, in the middle of a flowing river, wearing very smelly wetsuits- and in that situation you laugh at anything your guide says lest you turn into the example of the “sheep” bone put on display for us at the beginning. 

The Waitomo Caves, (in Maori, “Wai” means water, and “Tomo” means hole) are a series of 1000 caves under prime New Zealand farmland. They were unearthed when farmers discovered their sheep had gone missing due to an unhealthy penchant for base jumping. 

Not my image. We were not allowed to bring cameras

Inside these caves reside bright blue “glow worms” that light up like LED lights at a Katy Perry concert. Only they aren’t worms at all, they are fungus gnats, the larvae of which glow when hungry. They spend about 6-12 months being larvae, spinning a mucus that hangs down and is used to catch prey. Then they spend 3 days as adult flies, mating as much as possible, or getting caught in the mucus snares and being eaten by the next generation. 
In order for us to view this sort of “red light” district for flies, a place they “know they shouldn’t go, but they just can’t help themselves” we abseiled down into the cave, under waterfalls, crawled on our tummies through really tight spaces, scaled pretty vertical walls, wore questionable smelling wetsuits, and generally felt like badasses (you try lifting your leg onto an unreachable slippery rock while in full body Spanx) – all so we could say we viewed some glow worms, which will now be referred to as Cannibalistic Shagging Worms because that sounds the appropriate level of badass. 

Living in a Frat House: Initial Impressions

This is when travelling alone is tough: when travelling with friends and staying at a hostel you split a room, but when travelling alone you go into the dorms

With friends, you meet people at breakfast, in the bar, on the couches, usually when they are ready to be presentable. Alone, you meet in the room with ten other beds. You see all the things strangers would never see, and you prejudge people (it’s hard not to prejudge underwear left on the floor of a ten bed dorm)- you see the unmade beds, the erupted bags, the hanging laundry, the strewn socks, the receipts, the not-so-faint smell, the fan that had been left on to combat said smell, and the underwear. 

I haven’t met anyone in my room yet, but when I put my bag under a (hopefully empty so I don’t have some frat guy jump on me in the middle of the night claiming that I’m in his bed) bed, I saw all those things – the only college cliches that were missing were an open can of tuna and a packet of ramen noodles…I immediately thought that I needed to crawl under a rock and pretend it wasn’t happening.

That’s wrong, my first thought was definitely Danny Glover, Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for this…”

I am so crossing my fingers for cool people…

Additional note: a guy just walked in, ready to claim a bed and was equally disgusted by the underwear, he kicked it away

Flight to New Zealand: 11.5hrs, Middle Seat

“These flights are drier than the Sahara” said the flight attendant to the woman behind me, “you must drink a lot of water” in response to her ask for more coffee. 

I immediately started questioning my wine. 

This was one of those flights where the individual descriptives sound great (if you take out the context of being on a plane), but string them together and you end up with a description that sounds menopausal: dry, hot, Sauvignon Blanc, cold, La La Land, Bridget Jones’ Baby, apple juice, bathroom.

And now I’m in New Zealand ….

The South Africa Round-Up

After two months in South Africa, it’s unfortunately time to say goodbye (for now).

I really don’t want go (My flight is in 11 hrs and the contents of my bag are still strewn around my room, all of them in denial that they soon that have to do the march into the bag).

When I arrived here I felt like a kid on the first day of middle school: would I be able to make friends? was my backpack too dorky? (yes, it attaches to my bigger bag, so it matches it in a “I bought matching luggage so I would always be able to find it” kind of way), would I be able to get around JoBurg by myself (all research basically said, “Stay Inside! If you go out, you’ll get robbed! and raped! Maybe just watch TV instead), were my clothes okay? (on the list to now replace – my jeans, I hate the jeans I brought).

It took about a week for me to get my travel legs – I still hadn’t quiet realized what I had done in deciding to take a full break from work, from regular life. Suddenly going from hundreds of work emails a day to none had left me without an identity; I walked around in a bit of brainless haze (but did not get robbed or raped).

But then, I started volunteering, and travelling and meeting people. I was out in the fresh air, my allergies went so berserk that I hacked out multiple lungs, but my body was so happy that it had no problem growing them back quickly (wherever I end up, the one thing I know is that I need nature)

I’m travelling alone, but over nine weeks, I haven’t spent one day alone: when the Overland group was in Lesotho we went stargazing/ tried to see who could count the most shooting stars – 8 of us crammed onto one pretty small rock and chose to sit like sardines in a can instead of spreading out. There are all those famous quotes about how the journey is more than the destination, which are all certainly true, but the journey is really only fun (for me) if you get to share it with people you love. And I have found so many people I love on this trip.

Highlights:

Countries visited: South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Injuries: cut above my eye from chopping firewood, bruised ribs from sandboarding, pulled muscle from slip n’ sliding

First Sightings: Black Wildebeest, Springboks, Nyala, Blesbok, Meercats, Jackass Penguins, Cape Mountain Zebras, Waterbucks, bunch of really cool grasshoppers

Learnings:

  1. In French, the song is “The Lion Dies Tonight” (which is why the village is peaceful)
  2. To properly drink Rooibos – add a lot of milk and sugar
  3. You Say Tomato, I say Tomato: a couple of things South African’s say differently – Samosas are Samoosas, and pick-up trucks are bakkies
  4. Walking around barefoot is the best, until you look at the underside of your feet
  5. South African airports are fantastic: food courts have table service where they bring you real pots on tea in real mugs, real silverware and real salt and pepper shakers.

Tonight I leave for New Zealand and I have that same anxious feeling in my stomach – how is it going to measure up to this? I know I will meet some absolutely amazing people, but it is so hard to say goodbye to the amazing people here – to all you guys (around the world), I will wear you on my heart forever. Okay enough cheese, I should brush my teeth and have some tea.

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