Tuesday, January 29, 2019

New Zealand Adventure - Day 5

[Composed 1/10/2019]

Man vs. Nature: who moves water better? That's the question our hike answered today, which started at Huka Falls and ended at Aratiatia Rapids. The falls are an impressive natural phenomena, which show the power of nature to move 58,000 gallons of water per second over a cliff. Aratiatia, on the other hand, is a man made spectacle. Throughout the day, the Aratiatia dam is opened up, and a calm section of river turns temporarily into a raging set of rapids. While I certainly enjoyed watching Aratiatia do its thing, I think Nature wins this round and Huka Falls edges out the rapids as a more impressive site.

Between the two sets of rapids is a 4 mile section of trail which takes you through a forest, open grass lands and a palm forest. It was a great hike, though like all our experiences in New Zealand so far, as soon as that sun comes out it gets hot! I mean, really, really hot.

We saw unusual plants and bird life along the hike. What was also notable is what we didn't see: any mammals scurrying around. The critters we consider part of a healthy ecosystem (rats, squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks, weasels, etc.) are invasive predators and have been eliminated. We saw a number of signs and traps along the way that announced the area was pest free.

After our hike we checked out a number of the local stores in the area. This included a honey store where we sampled mead, honey liquor, honey schnapps and honey whiskey. The winner, by far, was the butterscotch honey schnapps. We also checked out Lava Glass, a glass studio in the area and took in a bit of glass blowing. This is a working glass studio, so we caught them working on manufacturing today's product: a lava "rock." The individual making the 'rock' would collect up some glass, dip it in shards of colored glass, shape it into a rock, add a bit of imperfection to the sides and then repeat. It wasn't the most exciting thing to watch someone create, but it was neat to see the process up close. We picked up a glass vase from here. Its light blue color and swirls of white represent Huka Falls, which we'd visited early in the day.

Dinner tonight was at an all vegetarian Indian restaurant. All the food was good, but the appetizer we got was off the charts delicious. Imagine a sweet and fried sesame chicken type dish, but replace the meat with french fries. Wow. I'm telling you, someone is going to bring this dish to the states and it's going to be huge. So tasty. I also had cheese stuffed naan bread, which while probably not particularly authentic, was still quite tasty.

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