Shirley Rosario
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Trip Report for New Zealand

by Shirley Rosario

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New ZealandOctober 9th
Halli and I arrived in New Zealand this morning after a grueling 12 hour flight. Even though we were exhausted, we thought it was best for us to rent a car and drive to the first town we planned on visiting. We only have 11 days in New Zealand and we want to make sure to get the most out of every moment.

Driving in New Zealand has been an experience in itself for me. The driver sits on the opposite side of the car and drives on the opposite side of the road. Fortunately, I started out driving on a highway so I had a little bit of time to get used to things. It didnít prevent me from getting into the wrong side of the car twice though. I did it when I got into the car for the first time and then again later once we checked into the hotel and went to grab some dinner. The drive was also interesting because it is so beautiful here. Everywhere I look, I see green and I have concluded that it is because it rains so damn much here. We have been here one day and it hasnít stopped raining. I am hoping it lets up so we can do some of the fun activities we have planned like bungee jumping and zorbing.

Rotorua is an interesting town. They are famous for their sulphur pools and geothermal activity which makes the place smell like rotten eggs. I am not sure if I am going to get used to this rotten smell, but I am definitely going to have to deal with it since I plan on seeing a few things around town. When we checked into our hotel, the receptionist told us that the place had its own hot baths we were free to use. We checked it out and the place looked worse than it smelled. I will not even dip my toe into those nasty waters.

The night is still young, but I am exhausted and we have a full day planned ahead of us tomorrow. I am most excited about going Zorbing.

October 10
It was extremely cold and windy today and it made it very difficult for us to enjoy our adventures as much as we should have, but overall we had a very nice day. We woke up early this morning and went to Hellís Gate which is a place with a bunch of hot mud pools. The mud pools were alright, but once we looked at one of them, the rest of them pretty much looked the same. I was so cold and kept thinking about how great it would be if I could just warm myself in the mud for a bit. The problem with that is most of the baths were too hot to touch and the other problem is that once I warmed myself up with the mud, I would probably be colder afterwards. I did dip my hands into the last bath which was approximately 105 degrees and it actually did warm me up a bit. After our tour of the mud baths, we carved a wooden coaster with some typical New Zealand designs. We didnít do as good of a job as the native instructor, but it was a nice souvenir nonetheless.

Our next stop was at Te Puia which was a Maori cultural center and it also had the Pohutu geyser that I wanted to see. The place was kind of interesting because we got to see some of the native arts and crafts, but I had hoped that we would be able to participate like we had at Hellís Gate. I was most interested in going to this place because of the geyser and that did not disappoint. I think I took about 100 photos of the geyser while it was erupting.

After Te Puia, we went to the zorbing place and were notified that it wouldnít be running unless the winds died down. We headed to the Gondola instead and took a ride to the top. Halli had read about the Gondola prior to our trip, but didnít inform me about it because she knew I would want to do it and I would pressure her to accompany me. We had an agreement before this trip and it was that I would not pressure her to bungee jump and she would do every other activity I requested of her. That sounded like a fair deal. So the whole thing kind of worked out. Since we werenít able to do the Zorb, we got to do this other great adventure that we wouldnít have done otherwise. Once we reached the top of the gondola, we took a swing ride. We were loaded up into this swing where we were strapped in real tight and then we were pulled back so we were almost perpendicular to the ground. Once we reached the top, I had to pull the release button and we went flying back and forth. That ride was ridiculous and we laughed our asses off because they recorded the whole thing. Halliís face was filled with terror and I laughed so much that I was crying. When we saw the video both of us were crying, but for different reasons and we got such a kick out of that. After our swing ride, we went luging which was a cross between a street luge and a go-cart. We sat on plastic devices with handlebars and wheels and took the windy courses down the hill. We returned to the top on ski lift and then did it again. I could have spent the whole day doing that, but it was so cold it was hard to handle the ski lift to the top. We decided to call it quits and head back to the zorbing place to see if they were going yet.

The guys at the zorbing place told us there was a period of 30 minutes in the day where people got to zorb, but other than that it had remained closed, so that was disappointing. We headed to the next town, Taupo and enjoyed the ride once again. This country is so beautiful. It is hard to even describe.

Taupo BungeeOctober 11
Today was bungee jumping day and it was better than I even imagined. I was scared out of my mind, but excited at the same time and getting ready for the jump freaked me out in itself. I walked over to the guy and he strapped my feet in while he was describing what I was going to be doing. I was the only person out there so I wasnít able to see the process before I did it. Once I was strapped, the other guy explained the process again. He was a little more soothing and told me the hardest part was standing on the edge. So I inched my way up to the edge like a prisoner does when he is taking his last walk and then stood 47 meters above the water while the assistant counted me down. He reminded me that standing there was the worst part and then said 3, 2, 1 and off I went. What a rush! I have never experienced anything like that in my life and I was glad I did it.

After bungee jumping, we went to Huka Falls which is the largest falls on the Waikato River and produces most of the electricity for the North Island of New Zealand. It was a nice stop, but we didnít spend too much time there and we headed to Tongariro National Park. The park was huge and there were so many things to do there, but we just had intentions of driving through it so we could see some of the beauty of it. We ended up spending longer than we had planned because the drive was so amazing. We took a drive all the way to the top where they had a ski resort. If we had enough time, we would have probably stayed the night there and spent a day skiing, but our days were already planned and there wasnít enough time in our schedule. Instead, we took pictures and then headed back down the mountain where we stopped at one of the hiking trails and took a walk We were pleasantly surprised when we noticed the small waterfall and spent some time taking more photos. Once we were finished with our hike, we headed to Waitomo and checked into our hotel which our travel book described as ďIf the Bates Motel and the hotel from The Shining had a bastard son, this would be it.Ē Most would say we were crazy, but it was the only hotel we could find in Waitomo that we could book online. I am not thrilled with the accommodations, but it will serve its purpose. Tomorrow is the caving adventure. Halli is really excited about this part of our trip. Me, not so much. I am not thrilled about getting cold and wet especially since I havenít been warm this whole trip.

October 13
We are in Auckland now, but not before we did the caving expedition. It is hard for me to even begin to describe the adventure, but if I could sum it up in one word, it would have to be ďridiculous.Ē Last year a couple of our friends had done the 7 hour epic adventure and they couldnít say enough about it. The one thing they forgot to mention is that a person should be a triathlete if they want to enjoy it.

The tour started out with an abseil into the cave. This was the greatest part of the trip and even that wasnít fantastic. I have abseiled before and I normally love it, but this time we had to do it in groups of four and with a guide. We were all attached to the guide which means we didnít have much leeway. I had to stay with the group and the big men were basically riding on top of my head. Once we arrived at the bottom of the cave, I was a little worse for wear, but I was still ready to go.

The trek started out pretty harmless. We fought our way up current and the gear made it a little difficult. We had belts that weighted about 20 pounds and big rain boots that filled with water and made us even heavier. The longer we fought upstream, the harder it became and after an hour of water, rocks and battles, I was done. The problem was that this was the 7-hour EPIC and we hadnít even really begun. Balancing on those rocks, fighting the current, climbing up the ladder was so much harder than I expected it to be. Although I consider myself pretty fit (I work out 4 days a week), I was no match for this tour. The sad part about it was that Halli was doing even worse than I was. Every time I looked at her, she looked like she was ready to cry. About halfway through the tour, we all climbed up this ladder onto a huge rock and jumped into the cold deep water. All of us except for Halli that is. She sat there on her own rock and looked absolutely devastated. She told me ďI canít do thisĒ and I told her we were in the middle of the cave and we couldnít really quit now. The guides informed us that if the water had been any higher, they would have had to cancel the tour. They also said the water is normally Ĺ meter lower which makes it easier Nice to know we had the full Rambo tour. After several hours of torture, we saw the light at the end of the cave. I thought to myself, ďI canít believe we are finally finished with this and I dragged each foot and put it in front of the other one. This was hard because the boots were so damn heavy and when you add all the rocks we had to balance on, I was miserable, but still happy to see that light. When we finally reached the end, our guides said, ďWe only have to go over those three hills to get back to our starting point.Ē If looks could kill, they would be dead. The two miles we walked on those hills were the longest two miles I have ever walked. When I got to the end, I was literally in tears. I was experiencing an overwhelming amount of emotion. I was miserable from the experience, but also happy that we were at the end and very proud of myself for never giving up. I wonít do it again though.

The hotel we are staying in is fantastic and I am looking forward to playing some poker. We checked out the casino and picked up my seating assignment for the main event. I am playing Day 1B which means that I can actually enjoy some wine at the welcome party without worrying about being hungover tomorrow. Depending on how we feel, we will use our day off to explore the city a bit tomorrow.

New Zealand SheepOctober 14
Last night was the PokerStars welcome party and it was alright. We met a few people, but nothing like we normally do when we attend the LAPT welcome parties. The one guy who we both agreed was extremely nice was James Honeybee. According to some of the local players, he is a big ďsomebodyĒ in poker. We have no clue who he is, but he was really nice anyways.

We ended the night early and I only drank about one glass of wine. I wasnít really feeling it to be honest and I was still pretty tired from our action packed four days. I am glad we called it an early night because we spent a nice day seeing Auckland.

We started out driving over the Auckland bridge and seeing the marina I can see why they call it the ďCity of SailsĒ after seeing how many sailboats were docked in that marina. After driving the bridge, we drove over to One Tree Hill where we got a nice glimpse of the city. Driving up to One Tree Hill was cool because we got very close up to the roaming sheep. We have seen so many sheep on this trip, but this was the first time we were able to get so close to them. I was actually amused at one point because there were cars, joggers, and sheep all sharing the road. We stopped at a little cafť on the way down from the hill and had an amazing lunch. So far, the food in New Zealand has surpassed anything I have expected. I havenít been disappointed in any of my meals and believe me that is saying a lot.

October 15
I played the tournament today and I played pretty well. I didnít get into too many confrontations, but the ones I did get into to, I lost so even though I made it through day 1, I am very short chipped.

The first confrontation I got into, a guy moved all-in in front of me and I looked down at AA. The guy was basically on tilt and overshoved the pot which means I had a great chance to accumulate chips. He turned over A5 of hearts. The flop was 864 with one heart and the table gasped. The guy to my left informed me he folded a pair of sevens when I called the all-in so that should have alleviated some of the pressure, but I still felt nervous. The turn was a heart and the table gasped and mumbled again and the river was another heart giving him a flush. He shook his hands in the air and tried to shake my hand and I said ďDonít worry. Thatís poker.Ē Back to the drawing board for me and I kept my head in the game. I fought back and got chips again and then lost them on another ridiculous hand. I flopped a straight holding 97 when I was in the big blind in a limped pot. When the board paired the six on the turn, we got all of our chips in. I didnít expect the early position limper to have a hand that could beat me and I actually put him on a flush draw. He turned over TT for a full house and I was drawing to one out to give me the straight flush. That was about five minutes before we bagged our chips and I had a whopping $9600 to start day 2 with. The blinds are going to be $500-1000 which means I have one round to find a frickin hand.

After the tourney, Halli joined me in the bar and we enjoyed a drink while playing pretend roulette. Skycity Casino had a great idea when they set up games in their bar so their drunk patrons could learn how to play. The dealer actually let me spin the wheel and that was one of my highlights of the day. Pretty pathetic, I know.

October 16
Sky Jump AucklandI am out of the tournament, but not without a fight. I was unlucky and drew the big blind so I had very little chips left after two hands. On the next hand, I had AT and a guy raised in early position. I expected that I wasnít in great shape and he might even have me dominated, but I am not going to fold AT with only $6k in chips and blinds at 500-1000. My opponent turned over AJ and the flop came 885 and I was silently calling for another five. A five hit the turn and another eight hit the river and we chopped the pot. Two hands later, I doubled with AA and a short time later, I was eliminated with TT when I moved all in preflop and got called by the big blind with AJ.

Nothing sounds better when getting eliminated than jumping off a tall building which is exactly what I did today. Halli and I started by doing the Sky Walk around the Sky Tower (the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere). She was absolutely petrified and could hardly move because she was so overcome by fear. She actually asked me ďDo you really enjoy this? Because I canít see why any person would think that was any fun.Ē Once we were done with it, she was so proud of herself and I was even more proud of her. If you could see how much fear she had, you would understand. She is such a trooper and I am really glad to have a friend like her.

After the walk, I did the Sky Jump which is a controlled base jump from the tower. I had to get suited up into different gear for this one so Halli had plenty of time to get to the bottom of the tower to get some great pictures of me flying down the tower. What a rush this trip has been. I love New Zealand!

October 17
Halli was convinced she had a positive EV in the Ladies Event and had planned on playing it all week. I donít play Ladies events anymore, but figured she has been so great about doing the things that I want to do, I would join her for this tournament. Donít ask me what I was thinking because an hour into the event, I was thinking that I would rather stick an ice pick in my eye. I didnít last very long (partly due to bad luck and partly due to me wanting to get the hell out) and played some blackjack while Halli continued to battle the ladies. When I came back to check on her, she was at the final table. She ended up finishing third which was her second cash for the tournament series (She cashed in the $500 NL also).

After her cash, we went to eat at our favorite restaurant and then came up to the room early because we are going wine tasting tomorrow.

Waiheke Wine Tour New ZealandOctober 18
We went to the island of Waiheke today and enjoyed visiting three vineyards on our wine tour. The first place we stopped was called Mudbrick and it was my favorite stop of the three. The reason why I liked this one so much was because the guy who was talking to us had such a passion for wine that it made it exciting for me. I learned a lot from him and found him very interesting to talk to. The second stop wasnít so great, but the third was very informative. The owner of this restaurant (Te Whau) taught us the whole wine tasting procedure like how to hold the glass, how to tilt it to see the color, spinning the wine to see the tannins, etc. The wine at this vineyard was my favorite and I bought a bottle to take home with me. The island of Waiheke was beautiful and I would have loved to visit more Vineyards, but we at least we managed to fit in three.

Tonight is the closing party for the NZPT (or APPT Ė whichever you call it), but we arenít going. The wine tour was enough for us and we want to spend our last evening enjoying one more dinner at our favorite restaurant (the food is unbelievable here) and then we will get ready for our trip home tomorrow.

October 19
Today is our last day here. We arenít leaving until three so we have enough time to visit the gardens before heading to the airport. New Zealand has been so amazing and I am so grateful for my experience here. Poker is such a great thing if you can use it to create wonderful opportunities for yourself. For me, it has allowed me to live an unconventional and fulfilling life and I canít wait for my next adventure.