...Racing round the Nouth Island
Has been all go attempting to get round the North Island in just over a week, but time is running short so on hitting Wellington - my first stop on the North Island - I chose to hot-foot it and stick on the same Stray bus right roundm, except for a slight detour east to see the distant rellies and have a weekend 'off'.
We certainly covered some K's over the last week or so, starting right down in Queenstown and going back over old ground through Christchurch and Kaikoura before getting to Picton and the plane ride over to the capital. And the flight itself was a bit of a highlight, it being a 12-seater and all. Never been on such an ickle plane and it like being given a lift down the road by a mate - last one in shut the door! The extremely laid back vibe was assisted by us being re-routed to a different airport due to high winds. So by the time we got to the new airport we just had to dash across the tarmac without our tickets being checked or bags being weighed (phew, mine was waaaay over) and Jason the pilot says "hi guys exits front and back, life jackets under the seats, off we go..."
And despite that Kim had her claws stuck into me for the whole 20 minute journey, it was really good fun, bobbing up and down on the breeze and admiring the great views out over the Cook Straight.
I did have time for one extra night in Wellington to break the long slog up to Auckland and hung out with my new buddies Esther and Dilpreet who were doing the same. What was funny was is that I originallty met E&D in Oz, only briefly, but still.... they remembered me for my nice clothes! And there was me despising my travel wardrobe after wearing each increasingly tattered piece for the millionth time....
So a pause in Wellington allowed for a fun night out with the girls (in a city which although apparently only coming alive on weekends had an amazingly wild saturday night scene) and also a good day of sightseeing there the next day which was beautiful and sunny and such a relief after the bloody awful rain of late.
Then it was a full day of drving to Auckland to start the North Island circuit and be joined by a whole new gang of Strayers, all boys this time and all travelling alone, but quite possibly the most quiet and unassuming group of boys ever grouped together. So it was left to me, E&D to provide the entertainment for the next few days... which comprised a dash across to the Coramandel to stay in Haiheh and see Hot Water Beach and Cathederal Cove - both of which were disappointingly washed out due to storms which left roads closed and threatened to leave us stuck there.
After a delayed start we made it across to Raglan the next day however, a quiet surfing spot with a cool vibe but again the weather put paid to any fun - or surf lessons. But we did develop a penchant for the Baywatch theme tune which would become our wake up song every time we boarded the bus for the by now very trying 8am departures.
Oh and I should mention that I was also ill by this point, and am still not feeling great to be honest - too much travelling has left me all run down - somebody stop the bus!
But next stop the Waitaimo caves, famous for the amazing glow worms and cave features such as cool stalagmite/tights and so on... I should admit that I kind of chickened out of the abseiling and full-on caving option cos I'm pretty claustrapobic - and ill! But my gentle 'dry' trip with the one man tourguide legend that is 'Norm' was super and the glow worms in particular were beeeeaaauuuutiful, millions of the little blighters lighting up the roof like twinkling stars, rather moving in fact.
Then onto Rotarua, place of thermal activity, bubbling lakes, hot pools and spas and a lingering smell of sulphur which can get pretty grim when the wind is in the wrong direction. We had a really fun night out to celebrate, or should that be comiserate, my last night with the group in the 'Lava Bar' which was officially the hottest place in New Zealand, think they'd taken the themeage a bit far... But we danced through the sauna-esque atmos and fuelled by black sambuca I kept to my dare of getting on the podium - well stage I supopse - and showed them how we get down Hudds style.
So bowing out on a high, sort of, I was retrieved from the stench of Rotatura by 2nd cousins, or something like that, who took me off to the east coast to stay with them for a couple of days and bless me with my own room, super....