We were picked up at Auckland airport by Jamie's cousins Bev and Ron and were taken back to thier home in Howick, a suburb of Auckland. Bev and Ron are extremely legendary people; very talkative (VERY talkative) and friendly, not to mention their generosity and good nature. We ate a delicious BBQ steak for dinner before going to sleep in our own comfortable beds with electric blankets!
Friday morning we woke up at 11.30am to rain and general crapness. Having said that, we enjoyed a smashing breakfast of cereal, fruit, toast and eggs. Bev and Ron, the legends that they are, took us to the biggest shopping mall in Australasia to buy coast for our new found climate. Burger King for lunch before going back to the house for a few games of pro evo on the PSP. That night, Ron, a hero of our time, took us all out for dinner to a 'workman's club' where we had a great selection of roast lamb or steak. When we got back to the house, we had a great hot tub cotch in the garage, listening to numerous classics. On Saturday 30th June, Bev thought it fit to multiply her own heroic status by taking us into town to have a wander. We visited the skytower for a panoramic view over Auckalnd. This was not as good as Sydney or KL towers, but a nice view nonetheless. After being turned down by the casino, due to a combination of holes in J's jeans and being 3 months underage, we hit the market - s***! Although we did buy a pair of gloves each from a fella from Hong Kong for $4 and Dan bought a necklace. Landed a kebab followed by Starbucks for a lunch and then walked down Queens Street to explore Auckland's shopping district. Amaaaazingly, walking towards us were Kane Lewis and Daniel Porter, two of our really good mates from home. After overcoming our shock we had a good catch up over Kane's skydiving and bunjy jumping dvd's! We had a great roast lamb for dinner before watching the all blacks lose to Australia at rugby... major shock! The following day, we decided to set our travelling record of spending nothing at all. We got up late and made the most of the homely environment by cotching and using the internet. For dinner we all (including Dan) ate snapper fishballs and salad with Bev's homemade tomato soup (which Dan also ate) and paulova for desert!
Monday morning, 7.45am, we grabbed a lift from Ron (hero) to the Kiwi Experience bus stop. Meeting up with our new group and driver, Guido, we drove up to Mt. Eden for a beautiful view of Auckland and the famous ' one tree hill'. We then headed to Cathedral Cove, trekking through a forest pathway in the rain to finally arrive at the beach. Although the weather was s***e, we could still appreciate the beauty of this place and had a good game of rugby on the beach. Hiking back to the bus, we left for Whitianga which would be our first overnight stop. We checked into 'Turtle Cove', pleased to discover uncannily comfortable bunkbeds. Lasange and garlic bread for dinner before a couple of games of pool. Tuesday morning was another early one, stopping at a local bakery for a magnificent apple danish. We then headed to an active gold mine which wames $1million per week! Not bad for digging a really big hole is it...! Next stop was the Karangahake Scenic Reserve, a quintessentially New Zealand collaboration of waterfalls, river rapids, mountains, caves and swing bridges. We had a really nice hour-long walk over the bridges and through the caves before driving to "Hobbiton" (shooting location of the Shire in Lord of the Rings). J reckons that walking down the street with Dan and Edouard (fellow LOTR Fan) whistling the theme tune was slighlty extreme however. That afternoon, we headed to Rotorua to experience the god-old New Zealand sport of Zorbing. Now this involves going to the top of a hill, jumping into a large inflatable ball filled with warm water and then rolling down the hill inside the ball! Although this seemed simple and unappealing at first, this was awesome! Later that afternoon, J went luging, getting into a cable car at the top of a mountain and racing down the course a couple of times. After checking into 'Hot Rocks' hostel, we all went for a dip in the geothermically heated pool and natural geyser jacuzzi! Was really hot and exceptionally smelly! Actually, come to think about it, the whole town stinks a bit of rotten eggs due to the sulphur greated by the large amounts of geothermic activity. That evening we headed off to the Taraki Maori village for a traditional Maori experience. After being dropped off by our bus driver Nutta the nutter, we were greeted (ish) by the tribe. Now this was no English welcome, it involved scaring the s*** out of anyone who dared to venture into their village by sticking out their tongues, jumping around and shouting vociforously. They finally agreed to let us into their village and we made our way around, observing traditional Maori life. A loud blow through a horn called us all to a small theatre, where we watched the tribe singing and dancing, ending traditionally with a haka. We then made our way to the dining room where an incredible buffet dinner of chicker, lamb, mussels and salad, all cooked in traditional Maori oven (hole in ground). A few songs and another haka later, we got back on Nutta's bus and headed back to the bar opposite for a few drinks and some drinking games. Dan opted to bring in his own drinks and got thrown out for his troubles by a hench Maori bouncer. A really great, action packed day!
On Wednesday, we got up nice and early and made our way (via the pie shop) to Te Puia, a thermal park. We had an interesting guided tour of the geysers, boiling mud pools and of a kiwi (bird) sanctuary, seeing our first live Kiwi in New Zealand. Getting back on the bus, we weaved in between a travelling herd of cows to get to the Black Water Rafting centre. By this time it was pouring with rain so we were glad to get underground! We got kitted up in wetsuits, boots, harnesses and all kinds of clips before jumping on the bus to take us to the entrance to the cave. Now the first task was to abseil and so after a few practice goes on the ropes outside, we proceeded to the cave. It was a 35m abseil, squeezing through the tightest of holes in the pitch black. And before we knew it, all the light was gone and we were deep underground in the pitch black, apart from the torchlight on our helmets. Clambering over wet rocks and through testing tunnels, we arrived at the next challenge; the flying fox. Attaching yourself to the zipwire, you then slide down in darkness to the bottom, deeper down the cave. After stopping for a quick cup of tea and a buiscut ingeniously supplied by our guide, we jumped into the water 3 metres below, creating a massive splash with our rubber ring. Having lost our reproductive organs to the icy water, we pulled ourselves along a rope in our rubber rings finding hundreds of glowworms along the surface of the cave. We then ditched the rubber rings and slid down into the fast-flowing water, allowing the current to push us downstream. We made our way through the water, having to duck underneath the low ceilings and through tight tunnels. In truth, black water rafting is more like caving than rafting and we loved every minute of it! When after, 3 hours we were finaklly out of the cave, it was dark, the night's sky replacing the glowworms of the cave! After a sensational hot shower back at the centre, we had a mug of tomato soup and a bagel (complimentary) and were dropped off at our hostel in Waitomo. Really nice hostel - we got a room upstairs in an apartment type room and had a nice microwave lasagne before going to watch some Rugby league in a lively pub. The next day, we got up at 10.30am and went to the local rabbit fur shop. While we were there they sheared a hench rabbit (very strange) by tying its feet and feet and stretching it out - a bit like a cooking spit. After the odd bunny session shenanigans, we stopped off at Huka falls for another hike through caves, culminating in a fast-flowing waterfall. We got to Urban Retreat backpackers in Taupo at 5pm and had an average BBQ and beer for dinner before going to experience the nightlife in Taupo!