On the Road Again, having a Zorb of a time
Trip Start Sep 03, 2004
44Trip End Dec 22, 2004
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We just don't know where to start with this entry! We've only been in New Zealand less than a week, and only actually started our tour 3 days ago, but already we have done and seen so much, New Zealand is just simply amazing!!!
Firstly, maybe we should tell you about the tour we're doing. Originally we had booked to go on the Kiwi Experience, which we'd booked back home, not knowing there was an alternative. Well, there is. On Thursday in Auckland we went on a free city tour with a company called Stray, and already hearing a few stories about Kiwi Experience being a bit of an 18-30's bus, we were a bit miffed we hadn't known about this company. They also go to what we consider better places in New Zealand in that they don't really stop off in the big cities, taking you to the real NZ and actually go further off the beaten track
Onto our adventure...
Day 1 of Stray tour:
We drove from Auckland to a place called Raglan, a gorgeous town on the coast which has the world's longest wave break for surfing. On the way there we stopped off for a walk to Bridal Veil Falls, the most spectacular raging waterfall we've ever seen. Luckily, there was a rainbow right below it and we got some amazing photos, it was a real perfect way to be introduced to the nature and beauty of NZ.
Raglan had a beautiful beach, and although we didn't surf, we still enjoyed watching them and..
After a bit of a hiccup - the bus broke down - we finally set off for Waitomo, a town with an underground network of caves
Unfortunately the great weather we'd been lucky enough to have in NZ finally broke and so we missed seeing the Coromandel Peninsula, a paradise Beach. What we did this evening, though, made up for everything
At 5pm we arrived in Uncle Boi's house. Uncle Boi is a Maori who can trace his ancestry right back to the very first Maoris who settled NZ, and he actually lives on the site where his particular tribe first landed. Uncle Boi was a really special man - he decided to invite backpackers who were able to be respectful into his home and share the Maori culture with them. As soon as we entered, he made it very clear (and you wouldn't mess with this guy!) that we were to treat his house as ours, and that we were welcome to stay as long as we liked. He then told us loads of stories about the Maoris and their culture and history> For example, the original name for NZ is Aotearoa which means "land of the long white cloud" because when the Maoris first discovered the land, the sky was covered in long, white clouds, funnily enough. The Maoris arrived in 1320, and were allegedly the first people to inhabit what's now NZ. They originally came from a land called Hawakki in the Maori language, which many people believe to be Hawaii. Uncle Boi then cooked us all a traditional Maori "hangi" meal, which is slowly cooked in the thermal ground, and was delicious!
After dinner, the real experience began - about 25 of Uncle Boi's family and tribe arrived for a traditional performance
There are Maori culture and language schools now, the Maori language was banned until 1980, so Uncle Boi's nights are a way for the locals to show the native culture to us tourists. And, it wasn't just them showing us their culture, we actually took part. All the fellas had to learn and perform a Hakka, with shirts off, of course. The girls learnt and performed a Poi dance, which involved twirling a ball around and shaking your hips all in time. It's hard to know which was the more difficult, or laughable to watch. You can all judge for yourselves in the photos. We both had an amazing night, it was such an experience, and it was so touching that the locals so clearly enjoyed performing for us, and good to know they "got good money" for it too. There was one 6 year old Maori boy who was so hyper and loud the whole night long
That night we drove on to Rotorua where we stayed in a hostel because the authorities have banned Uncle Boi from allowing backpackers to stay in house his. No.1 - it doesn't meet the safety regulations for being accommodation and no.2, they wanted a share of his profits!
Rotorua was a town that had a rather strange smell to it. It's built on ground where there is a lot of underground thermal activity, so the air smells of sulphur, just like stink-bombs adn rotten eggs. Thank God we only stayed one night, how people live there is beyond us. Before we left Rotorua, we visited a Maori village which was surrounded by thermal water-pools and mud-pools. We had a guided tour, and went to another cultural performance - this was by professionals, so although it was great to see, it just wasn't as personal as the night before at Uncle Boi's. The village itself was like something out of Star Trek. There were pools of boiling green water and bubbling mud, like nothing we'd ever seen before.
We then left Rotorua for Taupo, but before reaching Taupo, we did what we would definitely say was the funniest experience of our lives, "Zorbing". The Zorb is a large plastic ball that one, two or three people get into with a quantity of warm water, then you're simply pushed down a hill. So simple, but so much fun. The pair of us were laughing the whole way down. And Jillian did something in the Zorb that all the Mullan women, and Naomi Salmon, will know all about :-)
After we both got dried up, it was back on the road to Taupo. There wasn't much to do in Taupo, but on the way, Jillian and I won the bus quiz with Paul our fellow Paddy from Manorhamilton and Louise from London. Our prize was a $20 tab, wow, in Mulligan's bar. That was drunk, and much more. Big hangovers for both of us the following morning. I faded at about 1, while Jillian stayed out 'til 3.30!