The Tamaki Tour was excellent - we had to paddle our Waka (canoe) Which was in fact a bus to go to the village. We appointed a chief from our bus, John, and arrived at the outskirts. At that point the warriors would come and try and frighten us away by pulling silly faces and sticking thir tongues out. We were not allowed to laugh as they tried to intimidate us. This finished with us being accepted and having to touch noses twice (Three times means you will get married).
We walked around the small mock up village and saw various skills. We then went into a small theatre and watched a display of dances and songs. It was similar to Xcaret but on a much smaller scale.
We then went to have a Hangi feast which had been cooked in the underground oven. Stu was very excited as they had all his favourites - roast chicken, mussels, mint sauce, cranberry sauce.......food in general
We then went back with our crazy driver who insisted on us singing 'She'll becoming round the mountain" every time we got to a roundabout while he went round and round it!
Each country had to sing a song - the English chose Sweet Chariot!
So we left smelly Rotorua and headed to Waitomo - here there are famous caves and gloworms which we did not see as our budget was stretched so we sat outside while everyone else did the tour. We looked at the brochure.
The next day we drove to Taupo - via Huka Falls. We have been spoilt with Niagara falls and so were not impressed.
The bus driver dropped us at the airport and the next thing I knew I was wearing an unflattering red boiler suit and plastic glasses. They put 14 people in a tiny plane and we flew up to 12000ft. At that point they opened the door and we all jumped out. The 45 seconds of just falling was brilliant (Stu's glasses flew off!) and then the parachute opened and after a few seconds where arms and legs were all over the place it was a very peaceful ride over the huge lake (that can fit the whole of singapore in) back to the ground.
No rest for the wicked - the next day we got the bus to the start of the Tongoriro crossing (the best one day walk in NZ). There has been severe weather warnings, and minor earthquake and 40cm of snow in the mountains in the last few days. So armed with 4 layers, hired jackets and hiking boots (which were the comfiest ones i have ever worn) and carrying our crampons (just in case the guide said) we set off. Within 15 mins I had made friends with a Doctor and her husband (thought at least someone could save me if i died doing this!) and we started the walk. The first hour was gentle and then came the devil's staricase. I am not sure why it is called that - whether it is the vertical climb, the loose rocks that fall, the scree slopes that you slide down or the fact that you think you can see the top until you get there when it moves further away.
Finally at the top of that painful experience we reached the base of Mount Doom and the main crater which was filled with snow. We walked straight across that and then up again to the Red crater and the highest point. I was glad that many years ago the top two thirds were blown off else i may not have made it to the top.
The walk down past the emerald lakes (very acidic not for drinking or duck swimming) and past blue lake (that was frozen and white) and then down ridiculous zigzag paths that added 150% on to our distance.
Stu rewarded Mel with a packet of French Onion Soup from the supermarket! Yeah!
The next morning as a relaxing activity we hired two bikes and went to do the "rotary cycle track" to Huka Falls expecting an easy tarmac path. However like all things in New Zealand it was far more active than that. It was a 2 hour mountain bike track which i am sure they had purposefully built hills that were too steep to cycle up so we spent the time pushing our bikes up and trying not to go off the cliff edge on the way down.
We cycled to Huka Falls and then to the dam and returned via the road to see a glass factory. We cylcled the last bit on the pedestrain track by the river despite it saying no cycles as i was not going to go back on the cycle track!
We had a quick paddle in the thermal pools which were boiling hot and run into the freezing river and returned back to Rainbow Lodge, the most wonderful hostel, for a video night.
We then got on a new bus with Brent the Bus Driver who we had met on our first day in Auckland. Headed down to River Valley, past Mount Ruahpehu which we could not see as once again the weather had closed in.
River Valley was a lovely chalet style hostel in the middle of nowhere. We ended up having a lovely roast and playing cards and Mel's bowl game was introduced to the group - however the famous people were very broad as we had Team America playing and Team Sweden as well as Emma and Sarah (from Preston).
The next morning we dressed in fleece, wetsuit and waterproof top and headed to raft down the grade 5 river. As we drove to the top of the river it started to snow (and actually really snow). It was freezing as we got on the river. After a quick briefing (I am sure Meryl Streep spent a lot more time practicing in "The River Wild") we headed off - us and the girls from Preston. The first five minutes we realised that Sarah jumped left when we said right and Mel almost flew out of the boat on the first grade 3. However we did get much better and survived - the sun even came out. Team America however did manage to fall out of their boat. The DVD of the whole thing is being sent to Mum and Dad so dont worry you will be able to see the faces!
We got the bus to Windy Wellington and then the train to Hutt where we met Lo. The house is beautiful and we have our own little house with ensuite and internet so Stu is trying to find a job from the other side of the world.
We have been up Mount Victoria, walked/were blown along Eastbourne Beach at sunset, done some babysitting, Mel drove the Golf to the shops and only got lost on the way home and had lots of good laughs and meals with Lo and Richard.
Love from the place that has had 4 earthquakes since we arrived (we found that out in the museum yesterday) although largest was 5.4 and we didnt feel it,
mel and stu x