My previous New Zealand adventure was in 2004, It made a change landing somewhere and recognising it! While in Sydney I had booked tickets to go and see Snow Patrol who were playing in Auckland the night I arrived… fab timing eh?
I was a bit self conscious going on my own but I soon got chatting to a very very drunk South African who became my stumbly staggery shadow for the evening (until I took my cardi off and he didn't recognise me. Good to see I made such an impression!). The band was fab. It was one of those "Wow- they're really there" gigs. I sang at the top of my voice - maybe you heard me??!
The concert was probably the highlight of my time in Auckland. Oh and I got my haircut. And I bought my favourite face wash from Lush (whooopeeee!). But that was it really. Auckland's a strange place. I was very lazy, read trashy novels and watched world cup rugby matches while suffering from insomnia.
Sarah (aka Celia's friend) who has been living in New Zealand for about a year collected me from Auckland after a conference and drove me back to their place in Mount Maunganui - about a 3 hour drive. Sarah and Martin's home is just around the corner from the beach, a big, wide dune-backed beach with occasionally good surf. I had a very relaxing couple of days, paddling in the sea and generally catching up with myself. It was good to see familiar faces again and avoid the "where have you been, where are you going" conversations - these are plentiful when travelling on your own and staying in a different hostel every night.
After a couple of days, I was ready to hit the road again. I headed to Raglan on the west coast of the North Island, famous for its left hand break (That's surf speak that is. Don't ask me what it means though!). I stayed in a place full of surfing types. If my 14 year old self had been there she would have been a giggling nervous wreck. At the age of 29 I managed to hold conversations and share a bottle of wine or 3 with them. And I only stuttered a bit.
I ventured into the sea, My attempts at surfing were rubbish, though and I knew it was time to head in when my big toe went numb. Also kayaked in the Estuary. There's a big former volcano near by - Karioi and I joint a room mate in a walk to the top. Well, he made it to the top - he was very fit. I'm not. And I was worried about holding him back and having to walk down in the dark. So of he went to the summit and I walked back through the bush on my ownsome. It soon started to feel like a 999 reconstruction. I was expecting him to catch me up on the way back down. He didn't. Luckily there was a guy drinking wine in a camper in the car park otherwise I would have frozen waiting for Room Mate to come back. It had been dark for nearly an hour and I was just considering raising the alarm when he finally appeared.
From Raglan I headed down to Wellington (with a stop in Hamilton long enough to admire the Richard O'Brian statue. I've got the crystal, I've got the crystal). I spent a lovely few days chez Esther in Windy Wellington. I also spent the evening with my cousin and her husband before they returned to the UK. More familar faces! With Esther's help (she's more of an excel monkey than I am!), I planned a trip around the South Island......