Rock the Boat – The Māori & The Cavemen

Trip Start Nov 01, 2010
Trip End Nov 01, 2011

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Tuesday, September 20, 2011

We boarded the boat and ditched the campervan under deck. We prepared for the 4 hour journey to the North Island over the pacific ocean. The boat was packed with about 80% rugby fans, with the North Island being the epicenter of the world cup really. About an hour in everyone was bouncing up off their seats and staring and pointing out the window. They'd spotted a rake (pretty sure this isn’t the correct group name) of whales jumping out of the sea right by the boat. Then gradually the boat started to bounce up and out of the water flat out, leaving me a bit queasy. The longer this went on the queasiness then turned to me sprinting for the toilets on several occasions for a few chats to the big white telephone. I was never boat sick in my life, lived in 1 FFS in the Whitsunday islands for 3 days. And now, I was a mess, worst boat trip of my life. Ferry 3 Brian 0.

We arrived at Wellington (the capital of NZ) at 5pm and we had a monster of a drive ahead of us. We had to drive 400km and then do a sky dive first thing the next morning at Lake Taupo airport. The drive was a bit of a mare to be honest, what a day we were having, the roads were windy and very dark. An exhausted Brian and Caoimhe arrived at TOP10 Taupo at 1am, with the alarm set for 7am to jump out of  a plane 15,000 feet in the air, hold on, were we on our holidays ?  Anyways, alarm went, felt like turning over, but decided to go for it. After several weather warning phone calls with TOP10 reception and Taupo Sky Dive center we were ready to drive down and get this show on the road. We suited up after selecting our DVD/photo package, and sat in the hanger awaiting our diving instructors call to hit the road, or the air rather.

After about 2 hours of sitting about we were told it was still too windy and the rain was pouring down and that we’d have to wait until the afternoon to see if the weather would clear. We dodged down into the Taupo town center boarded a Ronald McDonald plane (no lies) and then headed back as the clouds were parting in the hope that we hadn’t psyched ourselves up all morning for nothing. I rang before hand, still a no go, disheartened but decided to postpone and find a new skydive Centre (shouldn’t be hard, NZ are adrenaline junkies) – and so we did, Bay of Islands on the 19th Sept.

Waitamo Glowworm Caves

Next on the agenda was a tour of the Caves in Waitamo, heavily talked about amongst the country and we decided we would give it a go. It was a 2 hour drive west to Waitamo (we were up to about 3,500kms driven at this stage) where we had booked into a TOP10 to stay the night and hit the caves first thing the next morning. We pre paid our tour in the TOP10 office. We were noticing the campsites were all packed up now with campervans covered in tri-colours compared to that of the scenic South Island. Most of the campsites were kitted out with shared toilet and shower facilities and the beautiful dump stations. There were a few times when we did start to dream about a nice hotel room.

(speaking of 'dumps’, whilst working in Sydney my fellow IT geeks would start talking in computer terminology regularly, and all of 7 of them could easily say to each other with a straight face, did you take a dump this morning and where did you save it? I would always burst out laughing and then get blank looks)

Anyways, 9am, The Glowworm Caves, 400m down the road from the campsite, we headed in on the 45 minute guided tour with about 50 others. On the ceilings of the roof there thousands of glow-worms glowing away flat out, looked pretty cool. Then we all boarded a boat and were given some interesting information from Ralph Harris, our guide.
That was that done, glad we done it, short and sweet, next on the agenda, a 2 hour drive East to the town of Rotorua, which we were told smelt of rotten eggs – brilliant. 

Rotorua Maori Tamaki Village evening []

We arrived into the city of Rotorua, and immediately we smelt it. Stinkin!

The reason behind the stench, the place was known for it’s burning sulphur, geezers, and geothermal/Polynesians pools and spas. We’d an evening planned with a Maori Village tribe, which was a culture night with dance, drink, stories, singing and all round acting the maggot with the locals. All joking aside, we were very interested to hear about the proud Maori culture we have seen and heard about so far.

On arrival we pulled over into the lay by to take a peek at the bubbling geezers by the roadside. Ok it was different, you wouldn’t normally see this around Banbridge lol.  Checked into TOP10 for the evening and then were collected by the Maori shuttle bus around 5 o’clock for the evening’s events which we knew very little about, really. Boarded the bus, pretty sure we were the only Irish. The majority were English, Welsh and Argentinians. Argentinians had travelled to NZ in their droves for the rugby, fair play to them, nearly beating England also.

The driver/entertainer was great craic on the speaker. He asked does anyone on the bus wanted to be our chief for the night at the tribal village. Of course this welsh near had a shit attack, ME ME ME. He was about 50, wearing matching welsh jumpers with his missus. What a torture! We arrived at the village, and crowded around the arena for a Maori tribal dance greeting. They had the full village gear on carrying spears etc. and it was fairly aggressive and a bit nuts really. Hardly any need for it, but impressive nonetheless. Onwards we toured in and around their homes they would have lived in (when I say ‘would have’ these lads lived normally now in the town center, sure NZ is buckin freezing FFS, there’s no way them lads would survive in them straw skirts)

Our tribal leader (Brian) and the other bus leaders/people who put their hand up, then went into the villages first, bearing gifts. This Welsh guy was loving it, thought he was he was in the movie Apocolypto.  Anyways, after we learnt some of the lingo [kia Ora -  doggy doggy doggy meaning hello/thank-you/everything only without the doggy’s. Then after watching some of the Haka dance, very powerful and some great singing, it was food time, Maori Style. We all stood around 2 big deep craters of food, it was all cooked in the ground for 4 hours over hot coal (hangi?), I was feeling slightly pessimistic as I was Lee Marvin and no more wanted a spud with 39 worms in it. And to top it off I am pretty sure that when we go to Fiji, this is how they cook all the food on the islands :S

Anyways, the cooks pulled it all out of the ground, and stocked it all up and began to prepare the food. We got our table, sat with some cocky Aussie’s. It was time to queue for the food and dear Jesus did it look good. I was shocked, there was all sorted, roast chickens, beef, lamb spuds, stuffing, gravy – It felt like the Christmas we never had. It tasted fantastic, as was the pavlova (an NZ dish?) – Afterwards there was some more song and dance. We had an absolute cracker night and proper value for money. It basically just backed up what we thought all along, the Maori people are the nicest people you will ever meet (apart from the Irish obviously). We really admired their culture and how proud they were, which was in deep contrast to aboriginal culture in Australia, which from our perspective looked like the Aussies were ashamed of them.

On the way home on the bus we were told that everyone would have to take the microphone and sing a song related to the country they were from. Ireland was announced, and sure enough our host/chief/Welshman/tool was running up to us with the mike. Myself and Caoimhe went for ‘Ireland’s Call’ – how amazing we must have sounded lol, but everyone joined in as it seemed to be a popular rugby anthem down under. Got dropped off back at TOP10, after a top night and we took a lot away with us, especially a fantastic feed. We’d been eating pasta and Risotto for 2 weeks straight, it was a nice change.
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