Auckland 26 June
After a really s***ty nights sleep on the metal chairs in Melbourne Airport, I was glad to get on the plane.Despite the Arctic temperatures I managed to sleep for the whole flight briefly waking to devour the rubbery eggs and soggy bacon which Quantas call an English breakfast, the rest of the world think so highly of our culinary skills.
It was a really bright, cold crisp morning as I stepped out of Auckland airport and headed for the shuttle bus.Completely impressed with the YHA in Oz and now a fully paid up member I headed for the Auckland Central YHA, I don't think I would be doing it any injustice by calling it a complete s*** hole!Located in the red light district at the wrong end of Queen's Street I was not impressed although it was on the edge of China Town so the food was good!Still feeling awful from my lack of proper sleep I ate and headed straight bed.
The following morning I needed to explore the city as I was on a real downer.New Zealand was the whole inspiration for my trip, I was to base my views on what I'd seen so far I'd be mightily pissed off.So I wandered down Queen Street, which turns in to the Central Business District (The High Street) and becomes much more civilised the closer you get to the harbor. I'd been walking for about five minutes when I heard someone shout 'Gary', it was a guy called Niall Cremin from Uni.We shared the same first year before we specialised, he also spent the majority of his time in flat next to mine smoking weed and generally pissing off Hannah (AKA the Ketchup thief).Anyway we had a coffee and exchanged stories.Turns out he'd been made redundant, decide to spend a ski season at his folks place in Switzerland and bust his shoulder showing off.He had an op back in the UK and was going to spend a month recouping here on the North Island before hitting the Ski season on the South Island.
We had a wander around the city, and decided that as we were both intending on touring the North Island for a month, we might as well do travel together.His ex girlfriend (Katherine) now lives in Auckland and her and a group of friends were heading down to Rotorua.I tagged along with the thought that if we got on then, we'd probably be ok to travel together for a while.
So I gladly checked out of the s***ty YHA and we met up with Katherine to drive four hours down to Rotorua.The traffic heading out of Auckland was atrocious and notoriously so, I'm a pretty bad passenger at the best of times, so when Katharine was sitting inches from the car in front not really paying attention I was sat it the back a nervous wreck.When the traffic cleared the fog came down, not the mist that we get back home proper fog. We arrived in Rotorua five hours later in one piece.Rotorua is officially the smelliest town in the world due to the thermal springs amount of sulphur in the air, it's great you can fart as much as you like and blame it on the thermals!
Katherine works as a chef on film sets, so kindly brought along some lamb taggine which had before heading to bed.
We got up early the next day and headed out to see the buried village. In the 1870's Rotorua was considered the 8th natural wonder of the world, due to it's unusual landscapes and thermal pools that would cure all manner of illnesses.In 1886 Mt Tarawera erupted and wiped out the entire town.The museum was really interesting after which we got to walk around a section the village.In an attept to make this a little more interesting, the museum curators had derived a fictional girl called Margaret who told her story through letters to her family displayed around the site.Of course I burst in to Little Britain's 'Maaaaragret' which Katherine found hilarious and we spend the whole tour/weekend randomly shouting 'Maaaargaret', which of course reminded me of Mags back home.I couldn't help but think of her trying to pronounce Leonardo Decaprio or other equally easy names which she manages to monumentally c*** up!Miss you Mags!
The scenery on the drive out to the buried village was amazing, on the way back we stopped a couple of times to take in the views and admire the blue/green lakes before meeting up with all of Katherine's friends.Most of which work for the Base Hostel in Auckland, as we were staying at another Base Hostel in Rotorua we got the accommodation for free. We pretty much took over the dinning room, except for one girl who had perched herself on the end of the table.After the inevitable conversation of 'yes my name is really Gary Barlow', Helen was in stitches when she got a tap on the shoulder from the random girl sitting at the end of the table, who said 'what's so funny my Dad's name is Gary Barlow'!!!How random is that!!!
When we headed out to the Hostel Bar for Katherine and Helen's Birthday, we were given the VIP treatment with free drinks being dished out left right and centre.They are a brilliant crowd, we had a fantastic night and the hangovers to prove it!I kicked my hangover by having an hour in the thermal pool before we drove out to go Zorbing.Well the intention was to go Zorbing, except it was cold, rainy and with a large number of fuzzy heads nobody really felt in the mood for rolling down a hill in a giant inflatable hamster ball.Niall and I had a race in the Schweeb, a horizontal bike, encased in a plastic ball attached to a top hung rail, of course I won with a time of 1.04 but to the detriment of my hang over which rapidly gained a second wind!
Nursing our hangovers and not wanting to spend any more time in cold, wet, smelly Rotorua we headed back to Auckland.
The following day Niall and I got a little lost trying to find the Auckland Museum, the trouble with Auckland is that it is divided by a motorway so you although you can see where you want to go but you can't bloody get there.Eventually we arrived but only managed to see of the Maori artifacts on the ground floor, so still two floors to do when Liz gets here!
That afternoon, I'd arranged all of the camper van stuff, sorted out a good price but when we got to the depot to pick it up, the price had changed and we had to add on insurance etc. so it pretty much added another 50% to the cost.Luckily all of the camper van depots are within a street of each other so we had a quick run round trying to find out competitive prices.Armed with a few other prices we managed to score an upgrade and a few other bits for the hassle.Nothing is ever simple is it!
And so we set off on to see what New Zealand has to offer…