Well, having already started this installment and lost it to a computer that decided that crashing after I had written a good chunk of what I wanted to update you all on I am going to try again, albeit days later. At least I am on a different computer now and can only hope that this one won't play games with me!!
We are in Cambodia at the moment, hence the picture of the Bayon temple faces at Angkor Thom. Cambodia is an enchanting country with a very infectious charm about it and I, for one, have fallen in love with the place. Sadly, I can't tell you about it today though as we were still in New Zealand on the last update and I need to let you know more about our Kiwi adventures.
So, last time we wrote we had just purchased our tent and hired our car and set off into the sunset to find our first campsite. We woke up with the birds the following morning (they had woken us up to renditions of morning has broken!!) and got ourselves packed up and ready to move on. We called in on Cathedral Cove first, a cove named after the cave that links Mare's Leg Cove to Cathedral Cove. The cove itself is only accessible by foot or by boat so we walked down the cliffs along a walking track that takes you through ferns and other native trees to get to the lovely white sands. The cave and the beach was filmed in the film, The Chronicles of Narnia and it certainly had a magical feel to it. We spent a bit of time on the beach and then headed back to the car to continue onwards around the peninsular…. still lots of "wows" as we turned each corner. We stopped at Waihi beach for an ice cream (I tried the ubiquitous Hokey Pokey ice cream - vanilla with honeycomb - and really enjoyed it!). We decided to camp in a place called Mount Maunganui that night where the campsite was right on Papamoa beach. It was really lovely to go to sleep to the sound of the waves as they lapped up on the shore.
The following day (my birthday) I wasn't woken up by the birds but by Andy getting back into the tent… he'd been up early to prepare a surprise for me. I was instructed to get dressed as we were going down to the beach and he lead me down with my eyes shut - there on the beach was a birthday message written out in the sand. We then walked along the beach to watch the sun rise. It was so lovely as it was just the two of us and the best start to a birthday I have ever had! After a hearty breakfast of Andy's famous scrambled eggs (we had purchased ourselves the best non-stick pan ever so even the washing up was easy!) we headed up the mount to get a view of the beach from up high. It seemed to us that all the locals also liked to head up to the top on a Saturday morning as everyone and their dogs were out - some people were running up the mount, I didn't feel obliged to join them!
We decided that we would continue on our way and headed to the town of Rotorua so that we could see some of the geo-thermal activity in the area…. I don't know about seeing it but we could definitely smell it as we approached the town. It smelt like someone had let off a stink bomb as the sulphur from the various mud pools etc was really strong. We chose to visit Te Puia, a Maori cultural centre with a geothermal valley that we could walk through to watch the Pohutu Geyser erupt. According to our guide, Pohutu is the tallest geyser in the Southern hemisphere…. We saw it erupt although I don't think it was erupting to its full 30m whilst we were watching! Impressive nonetheless and quite exciting waiting for it to go off. We also looked around the Maori cultural centre and were shown traditional arts such as wood carving and weaving flax. Our guide showed us how to weave a flower out of flax and then handed it to me as it was my birthday. There was also a Kiwi house on the premises and we went in to see these very shy and funny looking birds. Sadly we didn't see any in the wild even when we visited Stewart Island so I am glad we got to see them there. They are so funny with their curly beaks. That night we booked ourselves onto a Maori cultural experience tour whereby we got to eat a Hangi (a traditional Maori meal cooked beneath the ground). The evening is split into various parts starting with The Waka which was essentially our coach pick up from our campsite to the village. During the coach journey our guide, Ngata (pronounced nutter and trust me he was a nutter!) explained to us the protocol of entering a Maori village and then chose a chief on our coach to represent our tribe at the welcoming ceremony. It is customary for the passengers on the coach (the tribe) to elect their own chief but on that evening the chief was elected by Ngata….. he chose Andy! The next part of the evening was called Te Waro and this was the challenge whereby the host tribe send out a warrior to challenge the guests to see if they are coming in peace. A peace offering (a fern leaf) is placed in front of the chiefs from all of the tribes and one of them has to accept it to show that we are indeed a bunch of peaceful tribes and we will cause no trouble! The warriors were pretty scary and made a lot of noise as they approached the chiefs. They also stuck out their tongues a lot and rolled their eyes…. It must have been very intimidating in real life. Once it was established that we could enter the village we got to look around and learn about the different crafts and the Maori way of life. We got to see demonstrations of poi twirling, hand games, weaponry displays and were shown the insides of the houses etc. It was really interesting to see. From here we were then called into the meeting house to watch a display of singing and dancing. Andy had to go up and meet the chief and greet him in the Maori way (nose to nose twice!). By this time we were getting pretty hungry and were looking forward to our Hangi meal. A Hangi meal is cooked underground on hot rocks and takes about 3-4 hours to cook. The rocks are heated to a white-hot state and are then put into a pit that has been dug in the earth. Baskets of meat are put directly on the hot stones, followed by vegetable baskets and then the pudding basket goes on top of that. A wet cloth is placed over the food followed by wet hessian and then earth is piled over the top to keep the heat inside. The food is cooked by steam and smoke and has quite a distinct flavour. Once our meal was over Andy had one more duty as a chief and that was to perform the Haka along with the other chiefs….. only one word would describe this display of uncoordinated movements and shouting…… HILARIOUS! I have it on video and will put it on You Tube once back at home. I think I laughed all the way home!!! For being such a good chief, Andy was presented with a carving on a necklace that we decided should be our lucky charm for the rest of the journey so we hung him in the car to keep us safe as we continued to travel around New Zealand.
Am going to save this entry now as I don't want to lose it again and will add to it again later. Right now the beach is calling!!
Sending much love to all who continue to read our ramblings. We do hope they keep you entertained and that they give you some idea of what we have been up to.
Much Love, Vicki & Andy Xx