Well....hello to one and all. A whole heap of shennanigans has gone on since I last wrote and you have been brilliantly filled in by the rest of the team on much of it. All of the team have gone there separate ways and are not together at present.
- Miss Steph Cook - after a short stop in LA with her mother, Mo, Steph has returned home to work to earn for her next adventure. Her absence means that there is no-one to tell me when I am not eating right and when I am wearing my multi-purpose trousers far too high.
- Mr Benny Holmes - travelled to Fiji for 10 days and then to Singapore for a few days. It seems that everywhere he goes he always takes the weather with him as it royally pissed it down in both of these notoriously sunny venues. Since he has left NZ the number of curries eaten has decreased significantly. Coincidence?
- Mr David Anthony Robert Smith-Watson - currentlyresides in Queenstown on the South Island working at not just a normal pizza place but a Gourmet Pizza Restaurant. He now realises that beef is not an ideal ingredient for a vegetarian pizza. DSW has also informed me that after he finishes in the kitchen, he comes out into the bar and get on the 'wheels of steel' and becomes an international superstar DJ. I imagine him to be a cross between Tony Blackburn, Judge Jools and Boy George. I meet up with smudger this weekend before we head to South America together.
When Benny H last updated you we were at the end of our South Island adventure so I will fill you in on our North Island escapades. First stop was the capital of New Zealand, Wellington. During an orientation walk me and Ben came across a fun run which was doing short circuits around a square for charity so we walked into the square to have a look. However, on our way out we inadvertently got caught up in the run and did half a lap in the Run For Life - we like to do our bit. We also got our fill of culture here and visited the 'Te Papa' museum which was one of the top 5 museums visited by me and had features such as an Earthquake simulator, which was nice!
We moved swiftly on, taking the long drive to Taupo, which has the largest lake, by surface area, in all of New Zealand and apparently could fit Singapore inside it. We arrived planning to jump out of plane but were denied on our first attempt due to strong winds and our jump was delayed until the next day. This served to make us more nervous but after our Canyon Swing we thought we were up to it. We were given the option to jump from 12 or 15 thousand feet and we thought we may aswell do it properly and went for 15 to get a bit more freefall action. We were all assigned people to jump with us and I felt mine looked a little chubby but after discovering he had done 9,000 jumps, decided not to be cheeky and ask for someone 'more experienced'. We jumped out over the lake which was pretty stunning and met each other on the ground where we tried to be cool but ended up high-fiving and screaming like little girls in excitement.
Despite the fact that Ben got a DVD, pictures and a T-shirt as a momento of the Skydive and I did not, I definetely DID do it. Honestly! Also, although it was a great activity, Ben does not like boasting about the fact he did it. He jumped out of a plane from 15 thousand feet. Whatever, get over it!
Also, in Taupo we did the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand which is 'the best one day trek in New Zealand'. (Just to let you know, it seems that everything in this country seems to have won an award or has claim to fame. Whether it be the biggest lake, the best walk, the 2nd most picturesque coastal drive or even the best pies in the north island they all have something like this about them so we don't know what to believe anymore). Anyway we did the 6 hour walk and strolled through some of the Lord of the Rings set and saw Mount Doom. Benny was very excited by this and began quoting parts of the movie and telling me, this is where Gollum said this and this is where Gandalf did this but as I am not a massive fan,?all I was asking was 'what about Sean Bean?'. The walk started at 5 in the morning and had some beautiful scenery and lakes and was certainly in my top 5 Taupo based walks.
Next stop - Rotorua. On the plus side this is a very nice place with nice weather, a lovely lake, good entertainment and a lot of exciting activities to partake in. On the other hand, it stinks of s***!. This is due to the geo-thermal activity around the area.
Despite, my best efforts, this was the place where a Leverton finally caught up with us. Lauren 'Dolly' Lev and her friend Miss Lucy Ray were also in Rotorua and so we met up for an excellent night out in the local bars. During the night me and Ben played in a pool tournament where we performed admirably and I even managed to beat a midget who had a lazy eye (Not bad eh!) in one round. However, Ben tumbled out in the early stages and I was beaten by the competition organiser in the Semis (FIX!). The girls provided plenty of banter that night but there was a lot of abuse for the way I carry my cash and cards these days. Yes...I have a purse, but it is definetely a MAN-purse!
An activity offered in Rotorua is Zorbing. Basically, you are put in a Plastic Ball and roll down a steep hill (A bit like the Gladiators event, ATLASPHERE. Contenders Ready!?). Due to the previous nights festivities this didn't seem like the best idea on a hangover so we gave it a miss much to the dismay of our very keen room-mate Dave.However, that night we did sample a bit of Maori Culture when we attended a Maori night where we were given educational talks, saw a great concert and were given an excellent feed which was all cooked the traditional Maori way, in a Hangi, which is when?the food is cooked underground on hot rocks.We also, saw some mad facial tattoos but none in the league of DSWs beauty. At the end of the night the New Zealand Haka of The All Blacks fame was performed which was a quality sight. We decided not to turn our backs as opposing rugby played do for fear of getting beaten senseless.
After Rotorua, we headed up to New Zealand largest city, Auckland and sampled another rugby game while we were there, watching the Auckland Blues against the Cheetahs from South Africa. We saw some great Kiwi played in action such as Joe Rokocoko and Doug Howlett. This was the point when Ben headed to Fiji in search of some sun and I headed to New Zealands fastest growing city, Tauranga with a friend I met in Asia to do some work.
Tauranga is in the Bay of Plenty and is a hub of activity for the Kiwi Fruit business. Me and Mark firstly looked for work in a Kiwi Fruit packhouse and after a 4 hour work we discovered that they didn't have any vacancies. We were then pointed to an agency called Allied Workforce who's company slogan is 'Muscle when you need it'. Now, when a company has slogan like this you expect them to hire Hulk Hogan, Magnus Ver Magnusson or any one of the Gladiators (or even Fash!) but not the wiry/skinny Jake Mant, but we were hired there and then. We were sent to work on a building site working with large Maori fellas. Our duties included lifting heavy bits (Welcome to the Gun Show!)?of wood up many flights of stairs, digging and filling in trenches, sweeping and some more sweeping. The lads we were working with were nice enough and the 3 of them may just of had a set of teeth between them and they were always telling us to take 'Smoko' breaks between heavy lifting drills.
After a bit of building site labouring Mark headed back to Auckland and I stayed in tauranga to earn a bit more cash picking Kiwi Fruit which was organised by the backpackers I was staying at. This hasn't been too bad work and although it get pretty boring, you are working with other backpackers from the hostel. We were taught to treat the Kiwi Fruit like eggs so we didn't damage them, but it turns out poaching them isn't the best idea!
Like I said before, I meet DSW in Auckland in a few days and then we fly to Santiago before starting a Tour of South America from Quito for the last 2 and a half months of our travels.
As the Kiwis out here say......Sweet As Bro
Jake 'Muscle for Hire' Mant