Friday 29th February - AUCKLAND
Up at 4am so as not to be late to the airport. Arrived and got straight onto the extortionate airport internet to try and book our first nights accommodation in Auckland. Unfortunately you cannot book within 48 hours of the night of stay, so we would have to just turn up and hope. On the plane Casey made a joke to the air-hostess about the size of Betts food compared to his and thought nothing of it. Five minutes later the hostess returned with 3 extra meals. Fully satisfied, the boys settled in to watch bee movie - great movie.
On arrival Casey called ACB hostel in the heart of Auckland, sorted. Got the shuttle bus into the centre of Auckland from the airport, checking out the sights on the way (female and otherwise). Checked into the ACB. Room an absolute tip. Went for a walk around, found burger fuel (the place Brian told us about) and ate a b****** burger…absolutely immense!! Probably the best burger we have, or ever will eat (apart from Betts who bottled it and went for the plain 1/3 pounder). 1/3 pounder, avocado, mango, beetroot, cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and probably more that we have forgotten along with a "small" chips which was absolutely massive! After struggling to find the way in we went up the sky tower. Casey teetered with the thought of jumping from the top (the organized jump not suicide) but decided to wait to do a proper bungee at Queenstown. Cracking views (check out the photos). Returned to the hostel for a bit of internet and organizing our next day, before heading out to the hostel bar, Globe bar, for a few (really cheap) beers. Met some Scottish girls studying at Auckland and chatted to them for a bit before heading down to the harbour due to the bar emptying at an alarming rate. Really lively place with some lovely places; however due to Betts inability to realize that on a Friday night in Auckland combat shorts might not be the best attire, we had to pass on most of the bars, and at 12pm return to the hostel. When we got back however the Globe bar had really picked up and there was a queue outside, so we went back in. A few more (cheap) beers later and we danced the night away into the small hours before returning to the room. We thought we'd done quite well to be quiet but in hindsight we were pretty bloody noisy considering it was 4am.
Saturday 1st March - AUCKLAND
Managed to drag ourselves out of bed at 0830 to ensure we could fit in all the things we had to. Pretty poor weather and a long day of walking ahead leads Casey to pull Trecking Trevor out of his bag. Trecking Trevor is Casey's' happy go lucky, hiking shoe and anorak wearing alter-ego. Stumbled down to the harbour and before getting on the boat to Devonport we stopped off at McDonalds. At 24 minutes past 10 they informed us that they were no longer serving breakfast. Casey was furious. His mood made even worse due to the fact they hadn't actually started cooking the chips or nuggets and he could see a hashbrown just sitting on the side waiting to be eaten. Jumped on the ferry to Devonport and arrived 15 minutes later. Trevor kicks in and decides the coach trip around the island is a poor money wasting idea and to walk around in the pouring rain is a much better idea. So the boys walk to North head, a site which was once used as a defense point protecting Auckland from attack. Betts "waterproof" proves to be, as suspected by the other two, not waterproof at all and he gets drenched to the bone. Interesting place. Trevor decides the path is also a waste of time so takes a short cut directly down an almost vertical hillside and predictably end up a*se over tit (video will follow as soon as one of us works out how to actually put videos onto this blog. Head back to the ferry port and back into Auckland. What looked like a 15 minute walk on the map turned into a 1hr treck to downtown Auckland to find the car hire place. On approach the cars on show are less than desirable, one little white number looking like the doors are about to fall off; however it turns out the car set for us is tucked away in a little safe spot. Almost brand new Mazda3, maroon (check out the photos). Casey is delighted to find out that he was misinformed and can actually drive the hire car. Betts takes first stint in the drivers seat and takes us to Underwater World. Good fun. A mini Antarctic with penguins and a big aquarium keeps us entertained for an hour or so. Gray takes his first go behind the wheel and takes us to Blockhouse Bay and Coyle Park. No mention in Lonely Planet or any of the traveler sites, but the boys are happy with their discoveries and celebrate by playing in the playground, swings and all. Paul "drives" Casey then takes control of the motor and takes the boys back into town. An absolute mission to find a parking spot, but eventually the little Mazda is squeezed into a spot just round the corner to the hostel. 3 family meals are purchased from subway, one each, and we feast in the lounge area. The rest of the evening is spent washing all of our clothes which by now smell pretty awful after a week of sun, sea, sweat and sand in Fiji and catching up with the blog on the internet. At about 11pm, when Gray and Casey are trying to sort out a plan for the next day, Betts starts getting tired bless him and the phrase "can we go to bed now" is grossly overused. At 1130 they all retire with a basic idea of what they will be doing in the bay of Islands the following day.
Sunday 4th March - BAY OF ISLANDS
Unfortunately due to Betts being a tired boy who gets grumpy if he isn't allowed to go to bed early, this entry will be missing for the time being. Obviously the one entry that was allocated to him was just a little bit too much responsibility for the poor soul! We have been reliably informed that he will put it on tomorrow.
Monday 3rd March - ROTORUA
Woke up nice and early, packed, checked out, peanut butter and jam toast, then on the road. Casey's turn to take the wheel for the long journey down to Rotorua (or Rotoura as Betts pronounced it, quick to be corrected by a random Auzie). Other than Betts great job of making 9 peanut butter and jam sandwiches in the back, a couple of toilet stops and a driver change about five hours into the seven hour journey (Grays turn), not much to report. On arrival at about 3:30, quick check of the lonely planet leads us to the Hot Rocks hostel. Chatty girls on reception help us to make some quick plans (having thought the journey would be more like 4 hours than 7 our original plan went down the pan). We booked ourselves onto the Maori village trip, picking us up at 5, which gave us about an hour to visit Whakarewarewa Thermal Village. Should really allocate a good couple of hours, but we absolutely boss it in about 30 minutes, giving us a full half hour to go back to the room and wash 7 hours of sweaty car off ourselves. The bus driver picks us up from the hostel, full bus of 50 - meeting another bus full of people there, and we set off for the village. James (driver) teaches us some basic customs that we have to heed to and tells us to make sure not to laugh at the beginning while the Maori's are pulling faces as it will offend them and they WILL get angry and might get violent! Really good evening, walk around what would have been a Maori village, get treated to some traditional dances including the Hakka, absolutely huge meal (especially if you're Paul "Greedy Guts" Casey) followed by a sing song on the bus back to the hostel. Struggling a bit for energy after the long day and now the huge meal, the boys drag themselves down to the bar. A group of Kiwi Experience (which is like an 18-30s bus tour of NZ) travelers are staying in the same hostel so the bar is quite lively. Meet Eva and Fiona, nice couple of girls on the Kiwi bus staying at a different hostel. Get chatting and they introduce us to Jager-Bombs (Jagermeister and red bull). One of the nicest alcoholic drinks ever!! After about 5 of these the boys are keen to dance. The girls were giving it large about how they don't care if there's no one else dancing and they can rock a dance floor on their own, but are totally blown away by the bum train, the lawnmower of doom and the Bula dance to name but a few of the gems that the boys pulled of their tardis-like locker of dance moves! The three English lads by themselves on a dance floor is becoming a common occurance! Unfortunately being a Monday night, and due to the fact the everything in NZ shuts stupidly early, our antics were cut short, just as we were warming up. The girls lay an absolutely gargantuan guilt trip about how dangerous they have heard it is roaming the streets at night and how we couldn't let them walk home on their own blah blah blah so we walk them back to their hostel. They have a 6 bed dorm to themselves so we just crash at theirs for the night in the empty beds as no one's keen for the walk home.
Tuesday 4th March - ROTORUA
Woke up far too early as our new friends had to catch their Kiwi Experience bus and so we were turfed out onto the street. After half an hour of walking the urban crossroad jungle that is Rotorua we realized that we were lost and had to consult a map, which helped us get back to our hostel. At1 o'clock in the afternoon we awoke again from a rather large nap ready to do something with the day only to find that the heavens had opened and our plans were to be left in tatters! We decided to use the afternoon to arrange our Black Water Rafting for the next day in Waitomo and book our tickets for a day at the test match in Hamilton. After all of this was arranged we got talking to a currently nameless girl, that we met on the Maori village night, who was going down the road to some Polynesian Hot Spas. It was decided that this sounded an interesting option so Casey and Gray snapped up their tickets and were ready to go. Betts decided that he would pass and go to the gym instead despite already being told by the very attractive Kat on reception that the gym would most likely be closed. Sure enough Betts was dropped off at the gym en route only to return to the car seconds later as the gym was closing. So all 3 of the lads hit the spa which seemed to be mainly populated by Japanese/Chinese bathers, one of which was questioning the boys about how long you can stay in these pools and whether the queen would enjoy such activities!? The various pools ranged in temperature from 36-42 degrees and 2 and a half hours were spent soaking and chatting. On return to the hostel we were all starving so headed to the kitchen to rustle up some beans on toast only to find that the kitchen had shut half an hour earlier at 1030 which meant a trip to McDonalds was forced upon us as it was the only available source of food. Post burger eating and the tired and weary trio headed to bed thinking of the caves and rafting that lay ahead tomorrow.
Wednesday 5th March - WAITOMO CAVES
First lie-in for a while was followed by a 2 hour car journey across the north island to Waitomo Caves in time for our black water rafting which was due to start at 130pm. Just outside of Waitomo it was decided that a stop for breakfast would be made in a small town café and in hindsight this was a horrendous decision. All 3 left with stomach ache and wind to boot which was hardly ideal prep for some black water rafting but we battled on. Just before the off into the caves Casey thought he had better ring ahead to book hostels in Hamilton for the duration of the cricket watching….only to be told that the whole city was booked up unless we wanted to pay 200pounds plus for a room! The boys had to prepare themselves for potentially a night in the car. Pretty boy Betts seemed strangely rather pleased by this, these thoughts were not shared by Gray and Casey who bemoaned there poor planning. At 130pm we were met by Jah and Laura who were going to be our leaders/guides through the caves. All got changed into wetsuit and appropriate gear along with the 3 jokers of the group; Casey, Betts and Gray who were given womens swimwear to wear (see photos). Casey was picked out to organise a group photo, and of course the only pose that could possibly cut it was the bum train, with Casey out in front. A minibus ride to the caves was followed by a small walk through a wooded area to practice jumping off a waterfall with our tyre/tube. We the entered the cave down a steep and slippery crack in the rock and sat for a few minutes to allow our eyes to adjust to the pitch black. A small walk through the caves through a shallow river was followed by the first proper waterfall jump. Casey stepped up first to the 1.5m fall and had to stand with his back to the edge of the fall and jump out into the pitch black landing on his tube/raft on the water below. Everybody else then followed and Jah and Laura then performed some showboat fall jumps. After further wading along the river in the blackness we were told to turn off our lights so that we could see all of the glow worms in the caves. It was then that we were told that they were actually just maggots and fly larvae and the reason they glow is to imitate the outside light and trap insects in sticky strands. After this we waded through a pool that contained the apparently well known Eric the Eel who was about a metre long. After a short snack of a chocolate shaped fish came the big water fall jump of about 3 metres which seemed quite a lot bigger than the first! The remainder of the time was spent rafting down the river until the time underground came to an end all too soon. After showering the boys took full advantage of the hot tomato soup and bagels before setting off to try and find somewhere to sleep. It was decided that they would stay in a hostel just opposite the caves which was a very nice log cabin style hostel and would worry about the accommodation for Hamilton the next day before the test started at 1030. After an excellently prepared Bolognese by Casey and Gray the boys turned in for the night ahead of what was sure to be an eventful day in Hamilton.
Thursday 6th March - HAMILTON
Early night, but the boys are still unbelievably tired. Up nice and early to get on the road to Hamilton. Hoping to get there early enough to try to sort out some accommodation before shooting off to the test match. Not a very long drive, Betts nails it in about 45 minutes. We offered the receptionist of our hostel a lift as she is heading to Hamilton, but she has already booked herself on a bus - she says she is probably going to the cricket as well so we might see her. The only hope the three are clinging to is the YWCA hostel. When speaking to the women there the day before she had hinted that she might be willing to put the boys up on the floor for $15 each, but when Casey had tried to call her back the reception desk was closed. They were just going to have to risk it. They turn up, and the women remembers her promise and is impressed by the sheer persistence so keeps her end of the bargain. We were expecting to be sleeping on the kitchen floor or something, but she takes us into the chapel next door to the hostel, which has an on-suite locker room, kitchen and sports hall. She keeps apologizing as if the place isn't good enough and as if we would be disappointed we weren't going to be sleeping in the car anymore! We help her take out the mattresses as lay them on the floor of the chapel, pay our money, get given the one set of keys to the whole building and get off to the cricket. Just outside the ground we bump into Ian Bell. Casey chirps up asking him about the gun barrels and enquires as to his recent drinking habits. Gray got a look of what we are pretty sure was recognition from the infamous night out at Risa. Nice bit of banter to start the day. No need at all to pre-book tickets. As we were informed by many people days before the ground is never sold out. Go and sit at the top of the Grandstand ready for the first ball - tame loosener from Sidebottom. To be honest, it set the tone for a fairly tame day of test cricket, but it was still fun. After about 30 minutes, Gray and Casey go for a walk around the ground. Their Gold ticket (which cost about $35, which is approximately 15 pounds) gets them entry everywhere. They discover the place to be is probably in with the cheaper tickets just sitting on the grass bank but head back to the stands just in time for lunch. After a quick visit to inspect the pitch (no keys allowed unfortunately) they feast on the ham salad sandwiches Betts prepared the day before, a banana and a yogurt. Casey has the briefest of brief chats with Aggers - something along the lines of "Hello Aggers", "Hello, how are you?", "Very well thank you……how are you?", "Yes very well!". After lunch the three move to find a good spot on the bank in the sun. Sitting on a grass bank, boiling hot, watching a test match in New Zealand - doesn't get much better than that. As previously mentioned, not the best day of cricket ever, but the ground is so small it's a great one to watch cricket at as you're so close to the action. Over the course of the afternoon, Paul "greedy pig" Casey buys a hotdog and chips (a decision he later regrets as it is the foulest things ever to be sold as food) and the other two have a little sleep; not much else to report other than Caseys cheeky snap with Graham "Bumble" Lloyd. At close of play they head into town to find a pub for some cheap grub. They bump into the girl from the hostel who did end up going to the cricket, but leave her to wonder round town. After about an hour walk up and down the busiest road in Hamilton they settle on a little burger bar. Just before entering they see the legend that is Geoffrey Boycott, but too late to say hello. Food is a bit disappointing and plays havoc with our insides. Wind o'clock for the next couple of hours. After food another walk to try to find something to do. The two cinemas don't have any films on and the bars are both too expensive and dead! No one is particularly keen to visit one of the hundreds of brothels that are not particularly subtly placed seeing as they are on the main road, so they head back to their cheeky chapel. Final conclusion on Hamilton is don't bother going unless you are going to a test match - nothing to do unless you want to cruise up and down Victoria street with all the boy racers (which Betts was actually quite keen to do). After a quick game of rugger in the sports hall, Casey gets straight into bed, but the other two nip out for some food, returning with some horrible chocolate covered pineapple chunks and the fishiest tasting chocolate muffin any of them had every witnessed and two milkshakes. After a quick teethbrush they all turn in for the night.
Friday 7th March - TAUPO
Woke up nice and early, showered, and just as we were dressed we realized the kitchen staff from the kitchen attached to the side of the chapel could have been (and probably were) watching us the whole time through a side door. Oh well… Pack up the car and set off towards our next destination - Taupo. Expecting a fairly long drive, Gray and Casey agree to split the journey into two legs and flip a coin to decide who will drive first. Casey wins and so takes the wheel and as you will hear will shortly greatly regret calling tails! Route 1 is a single lane road with 400m of passing lane every ten or so km. Having been stuck behind a convoy of very slow moving vehicles for what seemed like an eternity the passing lane couldn't come fast enough. Casey stormed passed all of the lorries and turned a bend only to find on the other side of the bend a police car on the other side of the road. Calamity!! Still carrying most of the overtaking speed Casey is way over the limit of 100kph. As soon as the car passes the lights go on. Just enough time passes for Casey to convince himself maybe, just maybe, the police are after someone on the other side of the road, before the car does a pretty amazing 180degree maneuver to give up chase. Scared as he's ever been before, Casey puts up very little fight and pulls over. The size of the fine will be left out due to the pain it still causes the author. After issuing the ticket the policeman goes back to his car. Gray goes to have a chat to him to find out what will happen to Caseys English license now. Luckily no points will be transferred. Turns out the policeman is a nice Scottish bloke who emigrated to NZ 10 years ago, said it was unfortunate but he had to issue a ticket. He also backed up our assumption that 90% of NZ drivers are rubbish telling us most of them have no idea how to drive. As you can appreciate, the rest of the journey to Taupo was at a very leisurely pace, just below the speed limit. Turns out the journey didn't take long so no changeover was necessary. If only it had landed a head!! With Betts in charge of finding a hostel from the lonely planet we check into the YHA. It's rubbish; and it soon becomes clear there is a much better hostel just down the road! Betts is now banned from decision making involving the lonely planet; picking the first on the list is a poor method. Not to let it damped our spirits we plan the rest of the day. Randomly, and by happy coincidence, we bump into a sportex friend from Birmingham, PK. He is staying in the YHA as well, so Betts poor decision may have actually have been a spot of inspired genius. He had just done a skydive that morning so we have a long chat with him over lunch and a cup of tea. Drove (Casey gave the keys to Gray) to the Huka falls (pictures in "on the road" album) which was a little unimpressive; however we discover after that they are supposed to be the finale to a 3 hr walk, which might make them a bit more meaningful. Tried to follow the river down a bit to find the damn which is upstream; fail miserably and instead find a powerstaion. Trying to get home they get a bit lost and find themselves in amongst the biggest hills they've ever seen. Take some pictures in the hope of passing them off as mount doom back in England. Go back to Lake Taupo and walk down to the beach to check out the lake. Casey spots a buoy about 100 or so yards into the water and tries to hit it with a stone. Boys will be boys - they can't leave now until one of them hits it. Betts quits first and returns to the car to take a few pictures. Luck of all luck he films a few of the hundreds of throws which just so happen to include the one throw that hits the boy from champion Gray. When we figure out how to put on videos we will put it on. Although still worth it, the tennis elbow it brought on in both Casey and Gray made it less so. The boys went for a shop to get some dinner (and lotto tickets) and then returned to the hostel. Gray and Betts went for a run while Casey watched TV. On their return they created a feast of Fajitas and watched "Any given Sunday" before turning in to bed. Tomorrow, Napier!
Saturday 8th March - NAPIER
All woke up, checked out, ate some dry toast and got on the road. Arrived in Napier early afternoon and head straight to the Criterion Hostel. Napier is a really lovely and lively place, full of people wondering round shops or sitting in cafes or just generally walking around. Considering we only planned to stay because the drive from Taupo to Wellington seemed a bit much, it seems like a great decision. Our hostel is an old hotel converted into a hostel; this place is quality. Really nice rooms, showers, kitchen and large lounge. Our shorts are really stinking from the black water rafting and are still copper brown from the sulphur pools in Rotorua, so a wash is the priority or the day! After the wash is put on we head to the Napier jail, which is now converted into a hostel. We were tossing up between the Criterion and the jail hostel on the way, but it turns out we made the right choice; although it is a really cool place it has been booked out by a big tour group so there is no room. Spend a good hour and a half being shown round the jail. Weren't really sure what to expect but it turned out to be a pretty good afternoon out. Back to our hostel for some food, downstairs to the bar and we all eat a Cri-burger, and considering this is just a burger from a little bar under a hostel, it is awesome! Rivals the B*stard burger at Burger Fuel. Back up to the room for some desperately needed showers and a freshen up pre-our big Saturday night out in Napier. At about 8pm we head out. Considering how busy the place was during the day we are amazed to find it has transformed into a ghost town; there is literally no one around. We go in search of a bar and after 40 minutes walking we end up round the corner from out hostel in what seems like the only bar in town. The only people in there are the bar staff who are playing pool. We chat to them and discover no one comes out until midnight, but not to worry as it will get busy. So we sit and drink our beers and wait. Ten minutes later a group of six unbelievably drunk Kiwis turn up: stag do. They are absolutely plastered and tell us we should head "over the hill" where there are some more bars. We put this to the barmaid we were talking to before and she informs us that they work in one of the bars over the hill so are probably biased, but that it may be worth a look anyway as it can be quite good. We gamble and head over the hill. It, like the main part of Napier, is rubbish. Livens up a bit at midnight, but nothing to write home about. Again though, the boys need no further entertainment than themselves and another good night is made of another fairly dull place! After a bit of a dance we head back to the hostel, but not before we go in search of food. Another long hall around town again leads us back to where we started, to a cheap grotty chippie; but beggars can't be choosers, so some expensive rubbish food is purchased. While eating we are approached by some local lads who insist on helping us plan the rest of our trip "check it, bro". Nice guys, but don't really help much. They tell us that yes, a Saturday night is rubbish is Napier and we probably wanted to be in Wellington, but no, a Sunday night is not good in Wellington. All worn out we head to bed.
Sunday 9th March - WELLINGTON
Long drive from Napier meant a late arrival. Free meal in the bar nextdoor of poor quality, salad tasting like soil! A night of wondering to get our bearings around the city and internetting to update the blog.
Monday 10th March - WELLINGTON
Got the shortest cable car ride in the world up 2 stops to the botanic gardens and had a look around followed by a pleasant walk back down into the city. Went looking for the university and potential girls but failed so walked around the city and did a bit of sightseeing/shopping. Went shopping for food supplies/night out supplies and got lost driving through random tunnels, suburbs and motorways. A big night out followed in various bars and nightspots with the prospect of getting up early to cross to the south island.
Tuesday 11th March - WELLINGTON
Woke up and checked out very hungover needing to drop the hire car off and get on the ferry. Once on the ferry we ate the fishiest fish ever experienced by man. This coupled with the booze from last nights session tipped Casey over the edge and he retreated to the safety of the ferry toilet. Sleeping was the other main activity on the ferry. Once on the South island we picked up the new car, which was less glamorous than the Mazda 3 and could not actually fit all of our stuff in the boot. Casey came to the rescue with some miracle packing and all 3 bags were squeezed in! A longer than expected drive to Nelson followed which was to be our base camp to the Abel Tasman National Park.