dopes on ropes – New Zealand

Jan 25, 2003


If you are one of the disadvantaged who (like Tolkien) have not traveled to New Zealand you must listen attentively while those who have rave on. Here are a few titbits to keep you in the conversation:

Lonely Planet recently ranked New Zealand the #1 travel destination in the world

Russell Crowe was born in New Zealand not Australia

Australian possums are the biggest pest

Canadian moose were once released here but are no longer pests

NZ won the past two America’s Cup yacht races

coolest place on the south island = Queenstown

coolest place on the north island = Taupo

Rick LEAP New ZealandQueenstown and Taupo are parties central for young people at New Years. They are also the centres of crazy Kiwi adventure tourism.

Adrenalin-pumping adventure activities punctuate travel in New Zealand. You can conveniently jetboat, white-water sledge, raft, boogie board, canoe, kayak, surf, snorkel, ski, bungee, skydive, abseil, tramp, bike, climb and cave — on the same day if you hurry.

We came to Taupo for the high ropes course where we could confront fear of heights; walking cables, rickety bridges, logs, leaping for a trapeze — 150 feet high. (At least it feels like 150 feet high!)

The only problem I had was the GIANT SWING; free fall from a HIGH platform praying that the pendulum of your swing will clear the ground. Is it what!

Of course we have plenty of footage for our Cirque du Soleil audition video. Our act is called dopes on ropes.

P1010470_dopesI had never heard of Taupo before coming to New Zealand. I should have. Taupo is a large lake created by a stupendous volcanic eruption 25,000 years ago. A smaller Taupo volcanic eruption AD 181 is still the most powerful eruption in historical times — there were dark skies and strange sunsets in Rome.

AD 181 … , ancient history. Right?

But on a Friday afternoon January 2001 an explosion beside the Rotorua hospital covered much of the city central park with boiling mud. Amazingly no one was killed or injured. Many downplayed the seriousness of this event as Rotorua (near Taupo) is the #1 tourist destination on the North Island — also known as Roto-Vegas.

A year later we wandered that park and found the devastation astonishing. Children still play near boiling sink holes.

Rotorua stinks. It reeks of sulphur from steam escaping from gaps in the pavement, school yards, church courtyards, everywhere. At any time the sidewalk might collapse.

Despite the Taupo region being the land of Mordor, I love the steaming volcanic weird and twisted landscape. Cool as.

We booked at a holiday camp boasting the world’s only thermally heated tent sites. Mud bubbled near the tents. The last tourist who stepped close (to retrieve his hat) was hospitalized with burns.

We used thermal steam to cook our corn, potatoes and eggs. We bathed in a scorching hot river at Kerosene Falls.

P1010014_waterfallLater we dug holes at Hot Water Beach — personal hot tubs in the sand with the ocean waves to cool you. Choice!

The highlight of the Taupo Volcanic Zone for me was the Tongariro Crossing — called the finest one-day hike in New Zealand. Up and in-between two huge volcanoes with amazing vistas all day long. Mount Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) looms.

lavaspikeET and I did the Crossing and climbed Tongariro. Neither of us could name a better hike anywhere.

spider_woman_smIn Waitomo we did the very popular Rap, Raft and Rock trip through the glow-worm caves.

In 1985 for ET the trip was an elderly Maori lady leading a few people at a time through the main grotto. ET returned in 2003 for an adventure!

Raft the underground river on an inner tube

Rock climb narrow tunnels and back out of the cavern
It was unique — floating silently watching a glow-worm galaxy of tiny living lights on the cave roof.

The dopes (the Fellowship of the Swing) have disbanded. ET returned to frozen Saskatoon; GC and family gone on to scorched Aussie for a few months in the sun.

minus_33Still … the dopes could re-unite if called by the Cirque.

– Kiwi Rick now flying solo

Once Were PARTYers – New Zealand

Dec. 31, 2002

I was never a partyer. I have always been more of a party watcher.

High School house parties I vividly recall (soundtrack Isn’t Life Strange, by the Moody Blues) convinced me that drunken gatherings merely accelerate and amplify the rhythms of regular life. Alcohol makes you less inhibited (stupider) and more vocal (stupider yet).

I was never a partyer. But GC was. For GC a night out was 6 beer and a 40 ouncer. GC travelled and drank his way down under 20 years ago. Now he is back with his family, me and ET touring New Zealand in a grey van called Thomas the Toyota.


GC cannot remember much from his youth binge to New Zealand — for young backpackers travel is a non-stop party.

Christmas Eve we oldsters were all asleep by 10:30 pm. Santa DOES come to the Abel Tasman Track as tiny stockings were hung by the hut chimney in the morning. Lollies for all!

Christmas Day hiking we came to a risky short cut; 20 minutes downhill via the only pub on the Abel Tasman … or 90 minutes of slogging steep up and downs with heavy packs to get to our destination. GC and I took the shortcut while the women and children sensibly went the long way around.


Merry Christmas to the boys with the handles!

ET was passed out exhausted by the time we sloshed into the hut. She could not even respond to the pity beer we brought her. ET had travelled New Zealand 15 years ago and is thrilled to be back for more … except for missing the pub shortcut.

The Abel Tasman hike is great.

photos of our 4 day gorgeous tropical beach walk from my digital camcorder.
more photos from GC’s digital camera.


New Years found us in funky Wellington at the terrific Cambridge Hotel Backpackers across the street from the home theatre of Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson promised to bring the World Premier here for #3 in 2003. We watched Lord of the Rings 1 on DVD on 30 December then Lord of the Rings 2 at the gorgeous old theatre on New Years Eve.

Good film, fantastic New Zealand scenery.

Were we old folk asleep before midnight? No way! We took in the dry outdoor family New Years concert in the town square. The band played cheesy cover versions of 70s tunes by Donna Summers, Doobies, Average White Band … stuff parents would remember from their party days.

Some of us once were partyers. 🙂

New Years eve we managed to stay awake until 1:30 AM. I hid my cheap wine in the bushes to avoid confiscation by the man.


Happy 2003!

– Kiwi Rick seeking Shags, Kakas, and Moreporks.