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Thursday, December 4
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I'm back from New Zealand!

My trip to New Zealand was packed with activities, beautiful scenery, and warm welcomes. Jason and I departed on June 17th and arrived in Auckland on June 19th. We spent the first week with his friends and stayed very busy. We hiked up volcanoes, visited museums, walked along cliffy beaches, and shopped. I could write pages about it, but I'd rather focus on the time I spent with people from this site.

On June 25th, we met up with Cynthia and her mother and brother. We spent the morning driving around north of Auckland. First we stopped at a farmer's market and walked around sampling different foods. Next we made our way to SheepWorld, where we got to feed alpacas, sheep, goats, and pigs. Then we visited a winery and picked up some souvenirs.

After a full day, we went back to Cynthia's house and met her furry friends (Tess & Monty). It was wonderful to finally see them in person! Also while we were there, we phoned Greg, who is another member of the site, and spoke with him. What an unexpected treat it was to finally talk to him after so many years of e-mailing each other!

That evening, Kim came and picked us up. We set out for Rotorua, which is about 3 hours south of Auckland. We arrived at her cousin's house later that night and went straight to bed.

The next morning, Kim took us over to Lake Rotorua. We had brunch, walked around the lake, pondered stealing a helicopter (kidding - we all agreed this was a bad idea since none of us could fly it), and then went for ice cream.

Then we headed over to visit the thermal areas. This was one of my favorite parts of the entire vacation. We took photos of geysers, bubbling mud, and steam vents galore. The skies were clear, so the lighting was perfect.

In the afternoon, we went horseback riding on one of Kim's cousin's horses. The horse was very gentle, so I didn't worry too much about whether I could get medical treatment in a foreign country if I was thrown. Ok, maybe it crossed my mind.

That night, we ate dinner at the house and then went off-roading in the forest! It was quite an adventure. Actually, it was a hilarious night, and I'm really glad we did it.

The next day, Kim took us sightseeing at the Buried Village. In the 1800s, a volcano erupted there, killing over 150 people. Archeologists have since gone in and dug up the ruins of the village. We also visited Kuirau Park, where a volcanic explosion occurred 2 years ago.

We made a few more stops before leaving Rotorua, but we left town around 6pm that night. Once back in Auckland, Jason and I checked into the Crowne Plaza for some rest and relaxation.

The following day we got to see Cynthia and her mother again. The 4 of us went to lunch and drove around sightseeing that afternoon.

We met Kim for lunch the day of our flight home, and she was kind enough to take us to the airport. We hated for our trip to end, but getting to spend time with people from made the vacation incredibly special and something we'll never forget!