02.06.2010 - 08.06.2010
The only other person in our room on the Tuesday night was somewhat a sleep talker; he kept muttering on about passports in different voice as if having a conversation with other people! It was another rainy day and after a tin of peaches for breakfast (the electricity was out!) we drove down into the very mall village of Waitomo. At the i-site they gave us a map and directions to the bush walk we'd been trying to find the night before - we had almost been there!! For good measure we decided to do the 45 minute walk in spite of the weather. Turned out to be pretty good fun. We found out a bit of history about the caves, didn't get too wet and also has the opportunity to explore the nooks and crannies of some small caves. This wet our appetite for caving so we decided to pay to go inside one. Being the cheapskates we are we opted out of doing an activity and instead paid to visit the Glow-worm cave and Arundi Cave.
We hit the glow-worm first and were by far the youngest people on our tour; everyone else had at least 20 years on us with the majority at least 30 years!! Certainly made us feel we should have been abseiling in that's for sure! Our guide was a little odd, he spoke really slowly and told very unfunny jokes which seemed to fly over most of the group's heads! We learnt a little more cave stuff and looked in awe at the stalactites which surrounded us learning that they take 100 years to grow 1cm!! The trip ended with a ten minute silent boat ride through a part of the cave where we saw thousands of glow-worm - it was like being outside looking at star. Due to the heavy rainfall though we couldn't leave through the normal exit which was a shame. All in all the boat ride was by far the best part of the tour even though we seemed to be the only one's being dripped on - hopefully it was just water and not glow-worm poo!!
After the cave we tried, and failed, to find a sandwich for lunch and eventually had to grab an expensive wrap from the glow-worm cave; we did get some real good banana cake for $3 though! Our tour of the next cave started at 1pm and we were allowed to take pictures in this one therefore we have loads of photos of the same thing! Again we were by far the youngest on the tour but among our fellow tourists were a very tall Japanese man and a really, really annoying American lady who kept stopping and taking up the whole pathway to take photos. Our guide was better with a good sense of humour and he pointed out a huge 5m stalagmite. We also got to hold a piece of the cave, it was so much heavier than you'd expect. Jo got hic-ups on the way back out of the cave which was quite amusing as they echoed around the cave sounding even louder than normal!
Feeling rather caved out by now, we were ready for another car journey; Rotorua here we come!! On the way there we actually drove through the end of a rainbow which was pretty damn cool - no gold though unfortunately :-(. At Rotorua we booked into the YHA after some deliberation. We then hit the i-site before they closed to book an exciting day of activities. The rest of the evening wasn't too exciting but we cooked an amazing chilli which would last us the next three dinners!
We were up early for our fun filled day of activities; the rafting people were picking us up at 8.45am. They drove a funny red bus with a number plate that read "Raft me"! Among the people we picked up were a group of 3 Indian men - one father and son plus a friend. the dad was probably in his mid 60s at least with a funny limp and a very shiny, snakeskin-esque red shirt - and he was coming rafting!!
The base was about half an hour out of town and the rest of the crazy rafting people were waiting for us there. They gave us a sexy (and smelly) fleece to wear along with a wetsuit and some funny boots. The boots were horrible to put on because they were cold and soggy with little puddles in the bottom of them. Once we had that gear on it was time for life jackets and helmets - at least here they had one to fit Jo's small head! Then it was time to get back on the bus where a dread-locked guy called Jamal went through some safety stuff and tried to freak us all out. All I can remember is that practically every other word was "sweet". Turns out that the old Indian guy had barely understood a word that he had said - reassuring eh? It took about ten minutes to reach the start and then we were ready to go.
Jo was feeling pretty apprehensive by this stage but there was no turning back. Our captain for the day was called "Tricks" and he went through a couple of important bits and pieces. We were told to sit on the outside of the raft, not the inner "chicken seats". Jeremey, the guide at the front of the raft, kept calling Kristian a pussy because he kept on sitting on the seats - was pretty humorous. The first few rapid were pretty sweet and got us relaxed into the flow of things. Next up were two waterfalls, one 2 metres and the other 1.5 metres. It was around here that we learnt out Captain didn't really know what he was doing and that Jeremy was actually training him on the job - we were feeling perfectly calm about this...not!!!
The waterfalls were good fun but more importantly good practice for the big one which was a bit further downstream. By the time we reached that we were exchanging lots of nervous glances as it became apparent how little this guy knew - he'd already taken us into some rocks a couple of times! We had to paddle right up to the edge of the 7 metre waterfalls and as a result Jo didn't manage to find her handle to hold onto in the middle of the raft. Kristian realised this and tried to help her find it therefore letting go of his cord. By this stage we are halfway down the waterfall and the photographer got a perfect shot of us where it looks like we are holding hands!! As neither of us are holding on this means that when we land at the bottom and the raft is submerged into the water, the rapids take hold of us and we both fall out of the boat! The photographer gets another photo where it looks like Jo has come out of Kristian's side.....ooops! Being in the water is really disorientating and feels like being in a washing machine; both of us aid later how we thought we may be dying! It was also pretty cold in there. Trying to remember everything we had been told to do was a test in itself and as we both emerge from the water we see the rafts up ahead. We float into a caved area where we are pulled back into the boat with Jeremy saying "And there you have the bloody English who don't listen!" Was certainly a relief to be back in the boat though.
A couple of rapids down, Kristian and one other guy get out of the boat to "swim" down the rapid - pretty weird experience. Soon after that it is finished and we are back on the bus feeling rather wet and cold - if exhilarated. Was certainly good to get out of the wetsuit and back to base. Once we were dry, dressed and a little warmer we were back on the bus to the hostel.
It was a lovely day so we decided to grab some lunch quickly and then head off to do some zorbing. Once we were weighed and issued with a certificate it was time to get back into our damp swimwear :-(. We tossed a coin to decide who was going to go first (Jo) and she then waited for the jeep to come down and pick her up. At the top she decided to go down the zig-zag track and is still trying to decide if that was the best option - straight down would've been faster but perhaps you wouldn't be thrown around quite the same. Getting into the ball was strange an like being in a big plastic prison or womb. It was full of nice warm water which was lovely when you are just in swimwear (it is winter!!)
Before you really get your bearings the lady has zipped you up and pushed you off down the hill. Kristian spent the ride trying to avoid the entrance as he thought it might hurt as well as trying (and failing) to stand up. Jo made some pretty weird noises until about halfway down where it seemed to really speed up and she felt so peculiar that she couldn't make any noise at all. Jo felt it quite a disconcerting experience while Kristian thought it pure fun! Would be interesting to do it again together in the same ball. Getting out of the Zorb ball looked like the ball was giving birth to us as we came out along with the water (womb juices) - the only difference being that you come out feet first. Being back on firm ground and in fresh air is quite disorientating.
Feeling full of adrenaline we decided to go off and do the Luge - it was such a nice day that the views over Rotorua would be really good. In the gondola up we shared the ride with a guy who worked there who told us a little history of the rides etc. We had five rides down the track and started off slowly down the scenic track before tackling the intermediate and advanced tracks. Kristian spent the first couple of rides urging Jo to faster and to take the corners like she does in the car (Jo is rubbish at driving an automatic car and insists on driving on the wrong side of the road even though it is the same side of the road as in England think she's just trying too get out of having to drive). The chairlift back up each time was freezing so we certainly weren't upset about not having to ride that again but it would've been fun to go down the track a few more times.
It was time for a bit of a relax after all this excitement and once our bellies were full with an amazing chilli and pita dinner we headed off to the geothermal spa. There were seven pools which we could go into, all set at different temperatures. The 41 degree pool looked out onto Lake Rotorua which was really cool especially since it was a clear night and the stars were out. A perfect end to an exhausting day.
The highlight of the spa has to be from our experiences in the changing rooms where Jo witnessed the reserved Japanese ladies strip off completely naked and do a strange vagina dance in the shower. On the other hand Kristian got the excitement of seeing the smallest penis that he has ever seen!!
Being so relaxed and exhausted we were hoping for an amazing night's sleep. Unfortunately this wasn't to be as a strange, old man who barely spoke any English had joined us in our room. He was a prolific snorer and made some of the strangest noises you have ever heard from a person. Not impressed to say the least; I think the three of us from the room all wanted to suffocate him with a pillow! He also seemed to have major issues with getting into the room and made so much noise in everything that he did. Sven, our other room-mate, witnessed him doing some peculiar sit ups blocking the top of the stairs and Kristian saw him moisturising his face and hair with Oil of Olay hand moisturisers in the toilets.
Friday meant it was time to leave Rotorua and we set off for Taupo but first paid a visit to the Redwood Forest. We stopped off for a short walk through the forest where we found lots of opportunity for photo frolicks. The walk was a lovely, peaceful way in which to start the day; the trees in there are ridiculously tall!!
After getting a little lost we made our way back to the car for the short drive to Taupo. On the way into Taupo we stopped at Hukafalls which is "probably the most photographed waterfall in New Zealand." The rapids leading up to it were really strong and every minuet 5 Olympic swimming pool's worth of water pass over the falls. Couldn't imagine rafting over this one at 11 metres!!
We went down to the i-site in Taupo once we had booked into the YHA and met the least helpful staff yet :-(. We decided to go for another walk, this time round a place called "Craters of the Moon". It was an area with geothermal activity so there was steam coming out everywhere. We were the only two doing the walk and it looked like a battlefield so we ran around [pretending to have guns...as you do! Kristian criticised Jo's hand gun and so taught her how to do it "properly". The walk took us far longer than it should of done as we were behaving like five year olds but it was certainly fun!
On the way back we had a little drive round Lake Taupo and stopped off in Acacia Bay to watch the sunset. The lake is huuuuuuuuuuuge!! It is 160km all the way round and apparently the same size as Singapore - pretty crazy. The sky above the mountains was so amazing and was really red which we think was perhaps because there was so much red rock in the landscape. We stayed until we were too cold and so headed back to the hostel to prepare for the next day.
We were up at the crack of dawn in order to catch our bus; in fact it was earlier than dawn because the sun hadn't even come up! The bus took two hours and stopped to pick various people up from various places and we tried to get some more sleep but it was hopeless. We stopped off before we got to the start of the track so that we could take photos of the area we were about to walk across...
We started the walk at 8.20am and were glad to be on the move as it was damn cold! The first part of the walk took us towards Mount Ngauruhoe which was by far the easiest part of the trek. It was all quite flat and easy with the first 4km taking just an hour. After this lovely, brisk start to wake us up we started a climb uphill; the groups of steps on it were real killers! It was by far worth the effort though when we got to the top as the view was amazing. We choose not to climb Ngauruhoe which is the volcano they used as Mount Doom in LOTR.
So we proceeded on uphill further and into more snowy landscapes. We were glad for the flat bit which came next but it meant another change of clothes as it was rather nippy again.
After the walk through the flat, open plane we were clambering on rocks up to another peak. From the top of this one we could see the area we had just walked over on one side a vast valley on the other, twas rather fantastic! Kristian risked his life by climbing to the edge and Jo stood there with baited breath; she eventually convinced him to join her back on steadier ground and so we continued our walk uphill.
This next part was steeper and much more challenging - it had us wishing for those killer steps again! The ground was covered in heavily compacted snow which made it slippy and the foot holes we were using had been made by someone taking giant steps...not good for us shorties! To our left was a very steep drop which would certiainly spell the end of us had we fallen off it :-(. We took it very slowly, in Jo's case at snail's pace sometimes more crawling than walking. She certainly didn't enjoy this part and genuinely feared for her life. This climb seemed to be neverending but we finally reached the ridge from where we could see the Emerald Lakes; this would be the highest peak of the walk.
You would think that going down would be easier but Jo spent even more of her time on her bum coming down than she had done going up! At least the snow had cleared on this side but it meant we both had grubby bums (yes Kristian slipped too) and Jo's boots were full of gravel by the time we reached the bottom. The path was similar to stoney sand and you literally slid down it - was like surfing on rocks! Kristian was getting impatient as it was taking Jo so long and was therefore calling not very helpful messages of "encouragement" to Jo before she eventually joined him.
We chose to adventure a little and took a different path from everyone else down to the edge of one of the lakes They were such beautiful colours and the water was peacefully still.
After this beautiful little interlude it was time for another open plane and uphill climb a we made our way to the biggest lake. When we reached it, we stopped for a while to admire the beauty of it. Kristian was especially taken in by it and we both had a moment of silent contemplation. Jo finally managed to drag him away and so it was time to begin our descent.
Between the two hills ahead of us it looked as if a sea of cloud was storming towards us. It was simply mesmerising. At each corner it looked like we were going to walk into cloud but this didn't actually happen for quite sometime. The descent at this stage was gradual and the hut where we were going to stop looked really close. Unfortunately it took ages to get there as the path wound around the mountains so much. We were walking in yet another type of landscape by now and it felt as if we could have done three separate walks.
We stopped briefly at the hut to have some lunch and a wee before rushing off downhill so we'd be able to catch the 3.30pm bus and not have to wait around until 4.30pm. The descent got harder and harder on our legs and the final part was through thick bush. This part was the most painful and seemed to take the longest. Jo's feet were hurting and she had a blister on the sole of her foot - ouch! The downhill steps were bigger killers than the uphill ones and they felt like they were wrecking serious havoc on our knees.
We were incredibly thankful for the parts now which went uphil! How things change...We finally made it to the bottom just after three where we settled
down to wait for the bus to take us back to Taupo.
After a little rest and the remainder of our lunch for tea we set off to find some more hot pools to relax our aching muscles in. We chose to pay the $3 more for the private pools where was the best decision of the day! So relaxing! We stayed a couple of hours (after Kristian had gone down the big slide into the freezing pool of course) before taking our weary heads and legs off to bed.
The next day can be summed up by one word - ouch!! We set off around 10am for Napier, the Art Deco Capital. Once there we struggled to find a hostel as it was Queen's Birthday weekend (how come we don't have one of these) and therefore a national holiday but we eventually wound up with a room on the seafront which was just lovely.
We ate some not so yummy tinned pasta for lunch before braving the rainy weather to explore what the town had to offer. Just down the road from our hotel was a place called Opossom world! They had lots of scary looking stuffed possoms in compromising positions alongside explanation of why they are awful creatures! Was a very amusing little visit where we got to see some pickled baby possoms (yuck) and got to have a go at shooting some (not real!) possoms for $1. Once we were all opossomed out we headed for yet another i-site where a lovely lady helped us.
We opted to save crazy golf for another rainy day and instead drove 10 minutes to visit a winery. It was called "The Mission" and was actually started, and is still owned, by a branch of Christians known as Maryists. Took us a few minutes to discover this and we were rather confused as to why a winery would have a chapel attached! We tasted some of their wine before leaving which was good - especially as it was free!
There was a N68 routemaster bus sitting outside the winery. Jo asked how they got the bus to New Zealand which was a very stupid question!! Kristian found it hilarious obviously.
We then headed back into Napier town centre and contemplated visiting the museum. Neither of us were in the mood for a museum so we headed back to the hostel. just as we were thinking of cooking dinner the hostel had a powercut. It appeared to be just our hostel so we went in search of internet access. Spending two hours there meant we were by now starving but the power was still out at the hostel. Looked like we were going on a food hunt! We got fish and chips from a shop called Munchies which was run by a very friendly Egyptian man who seemed happy to have some company! We chatted to him for a while then took our meal down to the colourful fountain by the sea and proceeded to take far too many photos of it. We arrived back at the hostel just in time for the power came back on - pity it was bedtime!
As per usual we didn't set off as early as we had planned but never mind! This time we were headed for Wellington but first we stopped off at Te Mata peak. The road up to it was crazy and very windy which our poor little automatic didn't like too much. The views from the top over Hawke's Bay were quite spectacular and there was a cool mountain bike track which made Kristian green with envy.
The drive to Wellington was about 300km and we just stopped off at a place called Masterton. We first of all visited a winery called "Paper Road" where we met a lovely Aberdonian man called Colin! Randomtimes. We left with our hands full of two bottles of Rose and after a little stop for lunch we carried on the rest of the way before arriving just before 4pm.
This evening was to be our first couch surfing experience and we were staying with a lovely lady called Janet, a man called Ian (not sure what their relationship was?) and their dog Roxy. Their house was typically Kiwi, meaning cold, but they were really friendly with a hint of hippyishness About them. They cooked us some amazzzzzzzzing food and we passed the blustery evening getting to know them.
Last day of this entry...finally! To follow the tradition from the previous Tuesday we slept in late before heading down into Wellington. We managed to find the Indian High Commission; it was so different from where we got our Chinese visas in London. So quiet!! Was really easy and they said they would hold onto our passports so at least we don't have to worry about loosing those in the South Island. It was a truly foul day so after booking our ferry for the next day we hit our first museum of our trip, Te Papa. here we learnt lots about volcanoes, the World and experienced and earthquake in a house which was rather cool. We then went on to find out about NZ immigration and we played a game where we had to get a boat full of immigrants to New Zealand at a profit without killing too many of them! We both managed to make a profit so perhaps that is where our future lies!! The last thing we saw before leaving was a real collosal squid. It was pretty darn mahoosive and quite a sight to see.
By now it was really cold and windy outside and we toyed with the idea of going to the cinema. However, we didn't have Janet's number so thought we had best head back there and check in. Good job we did as they were cooking a roast chicken - yum yum. It wasn't a night for doing anything, the wind was proper howling round the house, so it was lovely to be inside by a fire!!