Kia Ora everyone!
It's been a while hasn't it?! Sorry about that but we have been travelling the north island on our Kiwi Experience bus tour, which takes you to all the hot spots across the country. We have successfully covered the north island without so much as a hitch, which is always a bonus when travelling with Jimbo (that's Smole just to clarify!). Well I'm going to try to retrace my steps here for the past week or two, but the name of places could be tricky as we literally just get on and off the bus, so expect a few made up names coming your way.
We got an early bus from Auckland headed north to Paiha in the Bay of Islands a while back, which went smoothly except for the torrential downpour that awaited us! We were extremely tired for this journey as we had no sleep the night before. The reason for this being our old friend alcohol, combined with our roommate chucking up in our room and stinking the place out! Long story, but just picture Jim cowering under on a bottom bunk bed, while good old Jorrit was a human fountain directly above! Me and our other friend David were up against the far wall laughing our heads off whilst holding our noses. Don't worry folks Jorrit did survive, but whether he got his early bus is a another question to which I would bet he didn't.
Once we arrived up north to our first destination we went straight to sleep and awoke in time for a BBQ tea in the pouring rain - good times had by all! The next day was more constructive as we headed to the most northern point of New Zealand - Cape Reinga. Here we could see both the Pacific ocean and the Tasman sea separated by the rocks just below our lighthouse view point. There were the typical sign posts saying how far major cities were from us and I was thinking of sending a message in a bottle home, but you would have been waiting a long time for sure!
We then had a bash at sand boarding down the biggest sand dunes you could imagine on body boards, which was immense fun apart from the walk back up the dunes. Jim had a few issues with staying on the board which was rather funny as he went flying down the dunes - another one bites the dust! Sorry, my bad. We then drove for forty odd miles along ninety mile beach, which was a bit different. As the driver went through the streams leading to the sea you could see a rainbow through the splashing water, which I thought was pretty cool. Apparently the beach is only 64 miles long so which crazy Kiwi thought that one up is anyone's guess, although I believe that equates to around 90 kilometres so that's probably what they meant. We then headed back to base at Paiha and drove back to Auckland a day or so later.
So, we were back in Auckland again to catch up with our mates and have another drink or two for old times sake and then up in the morning to get another bus. This time sleep was acquired and there were no problems-ish! Well I awoke to find Jim was nowhere to be seen and I know how he likes a drunken wander so I went hunting for him as we were due to leave in an hour. I found him kipping in the TV room as he didn't have a copy of the room key and he couldn't be bothered to get a copy from reception. I have to look after most important things as Jim has a habit of leaving things behind or losing them so I'm the appointed key holder! I woke him and told him we were leaving in an hour and he appeared to acknowledge. Half an hour later he was just where I left him, so now he bolts upstairs to pack in a hurry, which is probably why he loses things! (Jim: I have only lost two things) (Lloyd: And the rest!)
Our bus driver Buzz took us straight to our hostel in Mercury Bay from Auckland, which was rather disappointing as there are normally activities that you can partake in along the way, but due to the naff weather we went straight to the hostel. Here we played pool from about 2pm until 10pm, which was a marathon and a half I must say. Myself and a couple of other bus dwellers watched a film. The alcoholics amongst us (yes that includes Jim) left for a bar or two. Mercury Bay wasn't the best part of the trip.
The next day showed improved weather, where we got to have a walk through some caves and along a river, which had some amazing views. We arrived at Rotorua - that smells of eggs because of the sulphur coming out of the ground - where on our first day we had a go at lugeing. This is where you drive karts down a series of tracks at pace and attempt not to crash. This was great fun as a group of about ten of us were racing down the track and bashing into one another. Most of us raced, while one girl known as Cake (she likes to sample all the local cakes and is a bit of a connoisseur!) preferred to take the slow and steady approach. It was all running smoothly until the last track, where Jim and Stretch (he's a really tall guy!) collided and blocked the road ahead of me. I persisted to plough into the back of them and flew out of my seat, landing on the hard rim of the luge kart. My injury is still present now and I was walking like John Wayne for a day or two, whilst getting the odd stare in the process! Oh and yes we all had nicknames in case you were wondering!
That evening we went to a Maori village. They welcomed us with a traditional Maori greeting to check whether we were visiting as friend of foe. We then entered the village and the Maori's educated us on their values and typical way of life. Afterwards they treated us to a sing-song that included the well known Haka dance, that the All Backs perform before every rugby match they play. We then had an all-you-can-eat meal that had been steamed cooked underground in a hangi, that is how the crazy Maori's cook their food. It tasted delish! And we couldn't eat or drink anything for about three hours afterwards.
The next day we wandered round the town and stocked up on supplies. We then got in the heated pool at the hostel, which was a god send as it is bloomin cold over here. These are pools with a difference as they are heated naturally by the earth's core. New Zealand is covered in volcanoes and lies on a major plate - I'll let the geographers and geologists amongst you figure that out. That was a nice relaxing day and we even got a lie in as we had spent 2 days there, meaning we didn't need to rise early for a bus!
We headed to Waitomo next, which lies in the middle of nowhere. After asking a schoolkid where the nearest shop was, he laughed and replied "you've got a long walk ahead of you". So we gave up on that idea and got to see a rabbit being sheared instead. This was a little strange as the rabbit had to be tied down like it was on a rack in order to prevent it being cut by the shears. It's the only place in New Zealand that does this and is completely legal for all you concerned animal lovers out there. They get sheared every 3 months and believe me they really need it. The one we saw had more fur than you could poke a stick at, so the rabbits get used to the idea of being strapped down and sheared - don't worry the bunners weren't harmed! You may be thinking we are turning into animal sadists after eating guinea pig and watching rabbit shearing, but I assure you we are not!
The next day we headed to a more populated area called Taupo. Here we saw a waterfall and had a wander around the town. The next day we plucked the courage up and did a 15,000 foot skydive! That was a breathtaking experience to say the least and has to be the highlight of my trip so far. We were in the air after quickly sorting out the payment options and what we were expected to do. There were 5 of us in the plane with our 5 instructors strapped to our backs, and another 5 guys present to film each of us as we plummeted out of this plane. Jimbo went first and me second. The freefall was a bit of a blur to be honest with you as the adrenalin was rushing like the waterfall we'd seen the day before. We struck a few poses and I successfully grabbed the cameraman's boot after a couple of attempts. We certainly felt the chill as we fell at over 200 km/hr! My face went numb and I couldn't feel my fingers - not surprising as it was -18 degrees up in the air. But it was all worth it, especially after the chute opened as the views were stunning. I got another rush of adrenalin back on the ground as Jim comes rushing up to me as we were paying and he tells me his card had been rejected! So I was the lucky w*** who got to pay twice for the skydive! He assures me I'll get the money back - and he'd best be right or you guys could be seeing me sooner rather than later!
Later that night we all went out in bin bag costumes, which was hilarious. I opted for batman, while Jim went as a skeleton. We had laughs galore and it was a great end to an amazing day.
We left Taupo the next day to River Valley. Before reaching the hostel we took an hour walk on an icy and picturesque track that lead us to the pond that Gollum catches a fish in in the Lord of the Rings film. That was why we were pulling faces in the pictures folks - in an attempt to impersonate Gollum! The views were amazing and I took the opportunity to act like a kid in the snow as we don't get it often back home. The scenery actually made you feel like you were in the film and the ice capped Mount Doom (sorry can't remember the real name) really topped the walk off. If you aren't a fan of Lord of the Rings then you probably wouldn't enjoy it quite as much, but you would still have been impressed with the scenery and tranquillity of the place. We then headed on to our hostel after the bus nearly departed without Jim and our friend Dave but they got on. Guess you can't win them all!
We stayed in a hostel in a valley, next to a river (hence the name) and had a lovely roast dinner (not as good as yours parents). There wasn't much to do here and it was freezing cold. The hostel was a bit of a con as you had to pay three dollars to rent a duvet. We shunned this and slept under coats and towels. It was freezing.
We're now in windy Wellington and have said our goodbyes to some more pals who have moved on, while we stay here for a little longer. Jimbo went to see the All Blacks play France at the Westpac Stadium in the freezing cold, but it was an amazing experience. Milly (Mike's new nickname because he looks like Millhouse from The Simpsons. Google image him.) opted for the warmer approach. The pub. He represented the traditional English lager lout as he watched many Kiwis get intoxicated.
We hope you're all well and enjoying some British sunshine, while we freeze.
Bye for now
Milly and Jimbo