Location: Rotorua, NZ
On the road again. Today was transition day from Rotorua to Napier. I was here with the 2010 group and really enjoyed the experience. We decided to cut the Napier stop in 2011 to save costs. This year, since I have no responsibilities here whatsoever, Melanie and Leigh decided to add the trip back into the itinerary.
They also made several other changes in the schedule including a day less in Auckland and a day more in Queenstown and Rotorua. I think that what happened is a great example of the law of unintended consequences. I believe that most students have a finite amount of money to spend on the trip and they will allocate the trip based upon their personal interests and to maximize their benefit. The instructors want students to focus on those experiences that maximize cultural experiences. The additional days in Rotorua and Queenstown provide students with more time to spend in experiential, "fun", and/or thrill seeking things to do. The result is a shift in the activity list to less faculty desired cultural experiences. This translates into fewer students doing the wine tour when the reason for coming to Napier was for the wine tour.
Given that situation, I am still planning to go on the wine tour tomorrow. I really am looking forward to seeing the wineries and trying the wine. It is too bad that it is so expensive to ship wines home and too much of a hassle to cary them with you. So, I will do what I did last time, purchase a few bottles to enjoy on the trip and make notes in an effort to find the wines at home when I get back.
Our first bus driver really needs to learn better driving skills. I don't mind the waving side-to-side of the bus, that is a result of the road grades and the many (many, many, many) did I say many curves. It was the constant running over the rumble strips on the side of the road and the really bad shifting and breaking patterns. I do not understand why it takes three major compressions of the brakes to slow the bus down at each intersection. The result (as you know from the Newton's first law of motion, that an object in motion says in motion) was that you were pushed out of your seat each time the brakes were touched.
Shifting was an experience in shaking, rattling, and rolling. Either the clutch was touchy, the driver did not have enough experience with a manual transmission, or he was in a bad mood as starting was a shaky experience and it seemed that every time he downshifted on a hill also.
Today's trip along highway 5 (Thermal Explorer Highway) through what is known as the Mountain Valley. The valley was beautiful. Mile after mile of steep mountains, crystal clear streams, deep valleys, and curve after curve as the highway followed the stream curves. For those that get car sick, this was a real test of the stomach. I spent the day watching the scenery rather than trying to take pictures. Pictures from a moving bus are difficult and I learned from past experience that pictures in this area without stopping at a lookout do not capture what you see. The deep valleys and very close mountain makes the picture small as you capture a side of the mountain not the beautiful vista before you. The two things that I wished for today were that I brought my wide angle lens and that we had a chance to stop for pictures.
This area also has a high concentration of the timber industry. With mile after mile of controlled timber production. The major change for me was the number of timber areas that had been harvested since last time. It was really a different drive. Last time we were going through lush green California Pine forests. This time we were going through miles of bare mountain tops many of which had been replanted but it would take 20 years to get back to the look from before.