Kai Ora from NZ (north island),
So, like our first day in every country weve been to so far we landed in NZ with the good old english weather following us! Our plane touched down shortly after a tornado had hit, making the sight outside the plane look more like heathrow than Aukland.
After nevously, but successfully, smuggling our coconut bracelts thru customs, we were very happy to be greated by phil's mate jonny - aka Fatman Sav, who wisked us away to his house where we were all shown to our own bedrooms, bit of an upgrade from our bunkbeds!! Already very impressed we couldnt beleive our luck when jonny took us to meet his girlfriend adelle, who worked in a cafe, and told us we could eat as many sandwiches and cakes we wanted for free - not a bad welcome to NZ.
After a day of using much brain power to form a plan we were ready to hit the road. We hired a car for 5 days and set out on road trip no1 to the Coromandel Peninsula on the north east coast. As Mr phil 'Unlucky' Stocker was travelling with us we managed to get to hot water beach after the tide had taken away all the hot water, and stingray bay without any stingrays. However, we finally hit the jackpot with Cathedral Cove - possible the most beautiful scenery we have seen so far.
Road trip no2 took us out to Piha on the west coast. We managed to see a waterfall and the windiest beach ever to be found. The boys took the opportunity to explore, rock climb and even illeagally pick muscles with their muscles, which chef phil cook later for tea. While the much more sensible girls found a sheltered spot to lap up the rays. The evening brought on the much eagerly awaited night out in Auckland, and as per usual lau kate and phil combined with beers proved to be eventful. We started the evening very sophisticated with drinks at lau's summer camp friend Shadey's new trendy flat. It was so clost to the city centre that the sky tower looked like it was in his backgarden. To make the view even more amazing the skytower was lit up pink, which lau liked to think was for her benefit but was more likely to be in aid of breast cancer week. From here we moved on to the waterfront bars in central auckland. Again a smart sophisticated area which didnt take well to backpackers flip flops..... sorry Jandals!! After many arguments with bouncers as to why kate's jandals were the only acceptable (as they were a massive 1cm higher than the rest!), and phil trying to convince them that he was wearing the new nike air's (which were actually a pair of bright blue socks pulled over his jandals sporting a very large NEXT logo - genius) we were well and truly rejected. Another, and of course a much better bar, was happy to have us where we drank the night away untill being asked to leave.... but only for closing this time.
Next day, the best way to cure our hangovers was of course with more free cakes and a walk around Auckland city centre, to see what it actually looked like with the beer goggles removed. After looking at all the arpartments and boats in the harbour, a trip up the sky tower and dinner at the waterfront we all agreed Auckland is definitely up there with our fav places to live.
A very early 6am wake up, possibly the stupidest idea ever, stared the next journey to the bay of islands on the north coast. afer pit stops at whales and woolleys bay we arrived at the sea side resort eager to pitch our tent for the weekend, and being backpackers, student and complete scabs, were overjoyed to find a campsite for only 3squid a night. If we had known our fellow campers were ex-Jerry Springer show guests - a scary man who hated the world, a man that cam for one night and stayed for 6 years and a couple who had drunken screaming matches at 3am - we may have sacrificed a few more dollars to ensure the safety of our lives and avoid hiding in the tent all night. Unsurprisingly the next morning we made like tom and cruised ASAP to catch the bay of islands cruise. This took us around the 28 islands in the bay and to the highlight of the tour the 'World Famous' hole in the rock.... we hadnt heard of it either. it is literally a big hole in an even bigger rock that the boat could drive thru. We found the sight of the 50 dolphins swimming at the edge of our boat and the ridiculously rich man who drilled tunnels thru the middle of his own private island to allow his golf buggy better access much more interesting.
Eventually our luxury week of normality had to end, we waved goodbye to the tv, furnished kitchen and cozy bedrooms in search of our very own campervan. Luckily we were not to be disappointed, awaiting us was a modern spacious 'bus', and laura and kate have spend most of thier holiday lives living in caravans actually shocked the rep at how excited they were once in it. After being showed around the van and completing the paper work we were seconds away from being handed the keys when they decided to drop the bomb of a $2500 insurance bond that had to be paid upfront to complete the rental deal. having very little cash on us and crappy maxed out a student credit cards this posed a bit of a problem, and led to us spending the next few hours hunting down cash machines to get the money. Reluctantly handing over wads of cash we reassured ourselves we wud be seeing it again in 4 weeks.... if we managed to not crash the campervan - easy!
So we got on our sensible driving hats and drove like grannies to Rotorua, famous for a thermal and volcanic landscape. My god did we know about it when we got there. It turns out that thermal steaming hot pools and bubbling mud pools smell just like rotten farts. There are hundereds of them all over the town, its a very strange experience to put ur hands in a park pond and find its boiling hot or see thick steam drifting across main roads.
After exhuasting our interest for geography i.e. gaggin from the smell of mother earths farts, we decided it was time for a change of activity. By this point throwing oursleves down a 120m hill at top speeds was everyones top choice. Infact it turned out to be awsome fun in the form of zorbing. All three of us squeezed ourselves into an 11ft wide inflatable ball along with a load of water and rolled away resembling hamsters in a tangle mess. After this we were in desperate needs of showers, so being gallops, went to find the best place to have one - the swimming pool of course!
Next day to expand our widely knowledge further we decided to have a day at Wai-O-Tapu thermal Wonderland at more of a cost than intended. the park was home to more steaming craters, mud pools, geysers that exploded water to a height of 20m daily and flurescent water. In kates excitment to get to the park she entered into a bit of a disagreement with the campervan in the space next to ours. We definitely lost the fight leaving them with a broken tail light and us with a large dent in the side of our van. It could be entered into the record books as the most expensive tourist attraction ever, at $2500 a pop!!
Taupo was our next stop, home of lake taupo and huka falls - the most widely photographed waterfall in NZ used to generate power for the surrounding areas. This is on the nothern boundary Turrangariro National park which holds 3 snowcapped active volcanoes and hosted many of the sights for the filming of Lord of the rings. After more swims and showers in taupo we set about exploring the area along the volcanic loop highway surrounding the park. There is a mission of a one day trek cutting straight thru the middle but 'unfortunatly' the wind was too strong for us to do it that day- shame! We did see stunning mountain scenery to find.... yes another waterfall, near the skiing resort of the north island. We stayed the night in the ski town of Okhune and released the party animals within when we followed up a night of beers in the pub watching rugby with takeaway cakes on the way home, how hardcore.
Next day we set out to Pipiriki for adventures on the Whanganui River. the tour included a jet boat up the river, walk to the bridge to nowhere and a canoe back. However it turned out pipiriki was actually in the middle of nowhere. We drove along a narrow gravel path for over an hour past sheer cliff drops with the only other life forms being stray cows crossing the road. When we did eventually get there highlights included;
- Phil taking on a set of rapids only to be thrown out of his kayak and completing them by hanging on the back of it for dear life.
- Laura and kate beaching themselves in shallow water in the middle of a set of rapids unable to move for an extended period, partly due to the fact they were laughing uncontrolably at phil.
- Rock climbing to a waterfall hidden in a cave which scared lau so much she resorted to rock hugging.
After a quick stop in Wanganui town we thought it was time for a service stop in Palmerston North. With every piece of technology we owned flat, no showers for 3 days, massively dirty washing and the campervan in serious need of emptying and new water - we checked into a campsite. Again we found a swimming pool and this time dragged phil kicking and screaming to his 3rd swim of the week.
Fully recharged, refulled and smelling of roses we were on our way to Wellington with the 2nd half of our NZ tour looming. A 3 hour ferry ride over to picton and we will be in the not so sunny south island, land of backpackers, crazy roads and adrenaline sports.... or so we were about to find out!!