Land of the Long White Cloud, Part II

Trip Start Jan 16, 2012
Trip End Aug 24, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Thursday, April 26, 2012

***North Island***

We docked in Wellington and piled back into the camper ready to explore the city. We had read in one of our many pamphlets that there was a famous museum called Te Papa, kind of a science museum but well known for having a preserved giant squid! So we headed there, having lots of fun on all the interactive exhibits like the inside of a whales heart, or an earthquake simulator. The squid was particularly impressive, we read his story and stood marvelling at his size for a while before going to explore the NZ history rooms. When we were all museumed out, we started to plan our journey up through north island. We were to visit Woody in Masterton, an hour or so north, later that day, but after sending him a Facebook message had yet to hear back from him. So we cruised around the city for a while making use of the many wifi hotspots, doing our food shop and mainly just driving aimlessly before pulling into a cargo loading area and making dinner. Eventually we decided to just drive up to Masterton anyway and hopefully will have heard from him at some point in the meantime. We weren't so lucky though, and after reaching Masterton and going into Maccas to check if we had an email, we went to find a quiet place where we could pull in and sleep. We ended up finding a little rugby club car park and parking round the corner praying we wouldn't be disturbed. (later informed that this was the dodgiest area of town, and not recommended to even drive through let alone sleep in ha ha).
Next morning, after finally being told where to go to meet Woody at lunchtime, we went and played a round of mini golf to fill in the morning. Gore the reigning champion had a nightmare and completely messed up the last hole, leaving me to steal victory (my first and only!). As it still wasn't 12.30, we went for a wander in a little park which was gorgeous, all big trees with bright orange autumn leaves and a river full of ducks with little wooden bridges over it. We kept ourselves amused for a while throwing leaves around and trying out death defying stunts on a kids zip wire, then we went to meet Woody in a coffee shop in town. Masterton had a small town centre with lots of little shops and cafes, really cute. The four of us stayed in the coffee shop for a while chatting before following Woody in his terrible but very funny old car, back to the school where he was working. It was a big boarding school set in beautiful grounds, Woody had his own little flat and we met the house matron who was lovely, and said we could stay inside the flat rather than being relegated to our camper in the car park. While Woody went to take a class, we chilled out in his little flat, it was great just to be in a room where you can stand up completely straight! Later that evening the boys went out to get some wine boxes while I cooked spaghetti, then some of his mates from the town came round and we all went out. Town was quiet.. We ended up in an empty little pub where we shared some pitchers, then all crammed back into one car to get back to the school. That night me and Snellers decided to stay in the camper where we had duvets already rather than haul a mattress up to the top floor to stay indoors.
The next day Woody was able to take the day off to spend with us, and he drove us to a place an hour or so away called Castle Point, which was like a huge flat sand plain with a lighthouse on a hill overlooking the ocean. The view was amazing, it was such a beautiful place. The boys had conveniently brought a rugby ball so threw that around for a bit while I read. When we got back to the school we left Woody to it and made the move further up north toward Taupo and the nerve wracking skydive which was booked for Saturday!

On the way up to Taupo we stopped off at the Tongariro crossing, which is like volcanic country where a lot of the Lord of the Rings were filmed. It is also the location of Mount Doom! There were so many long hikes you can do there, some lasting days, but we were so short on time that we just did a couple of the shorter trips, to check out a scenic waterfall track and a rocky, volcanic track, then we had to leave the area to make it up to Taupo that night. However we ended up staying in a rest stop at the side of the road, which was completely abandoned and pretty far from the main road, so a bit creepy! We travelled the remaining miles the next morning. That day we checked out Taupo, and were impressed with what we saw. It kind of reminded me of Wanaka.. A big town for NZ but with a huge gorgeous lake and cute, sort of unique buildings with plenty of bars! We were to meet up with a friend of mine and Gores from home who now lives there, but not until the following day the Friday, so that day we just did our own thing. We checked out some of the shops in town, with Snellers pushing the boat out and purchasing some new chino shorts, then we found a nice little cafe for lunch and ended up playing yet another round of crazy golf that afternoon (Gore back on form, i had to resort to cheating to avoid being dead last ha ) Later on we pulled up by the lake edge and watched the sun set, cooked tea by the lake (getting told we couldn't camp there on pain of death!) and then went to the cinema that night to watch a film called Hunger Games, which we all really enjoyed.
The whole time we were there we stayed at this incredible free campsite called Reid's Farm, which had no toilet or shower facilities, but it was free so who's complaining?! We used to a public shower place in the town centre, which was great! The only problem was the campsite was full of those spiky conker shell things so if you jumped out to go to the toilet by the tree in the middle of the night you got a horrible surprise!
The next day we spent wandering round Taupo some more, and took a trip to the waterfall there, the Huka Falls. Although it wasn't a steep, tall waterfall, the speed of the rapids was amazing.. We played some poo sticks there, made some hilarious videos, and wandered round the tracks a bit before getting ready to meet up with Leo that evening. After driving up to his house (not there) to his work (not there), back to his house, (probably freaking out his housemate by appearing like crazy stalkers), we eventually met Leo in an Irish bar in town. It was great to catch up, he had been working for a skydive company as a video editor, and so as a cheeky bonus had managed to get us all a discounted jump! We all spent the evening bar hopping a little bit, avoiding Leo's many psychotic exes, haha, but it wasn't a late night as he was working on the Saturday and we had our jump at 10am...
Next morning dawned cloudy :( and was still cloudy after we emerged from our handy public shower block. We went to the Taupo Tandem skydive offices to see what was going to happen. They sent us away until 11 due to the clouds. When we went back later on, it was unfortunately still cloudy, but they briefed us, took payment and dressed us up in our jumpsuits in anticipation for it clearing up that afternoon. Me and Snellers went for a package that included photos, so a camera man would be jumping out ahead of us to capture the whole terrifying experience on film! However after hanging around in our flattering red suits and harnesses for hours, it didn't seem to clear up any and we were told we would have to cancel. They wanted I reschedule the next day, but we didn't have a spare day to spend in Taupo so regretfully had to pray there was somewhere relatively safe to do it in south America instead. But then just as we were heading out the door, we were called back in as the cloud had separated a teeny bit and sun was showing through! To get up before it clouded over again, we were literally thrown into our suits and onto the plane, Snellers racing forward to ensure I was last onto the plane, and therefore first out the door at 15 000 ft!! Nice supportive boyfriend right there! We were up and circling in no time, me at the front ready to take the plunge first along with my tandem master, Alan and cameraman Marley. At around 12 000 ft we were provided oxygen masks which was pretty scary! Eventually the door was whooshed open and Marley hung out to check the cloud coverage, deemed it ok, then I was dangled out the door ready to go, almost crying with fear! Then, just as we were about to go the most experienced tandem master called us back saying it wasn't safe to go yet! Talk about teasing! So I was hauled back in and we circled some more. I could feel Snellers' leg jiggling in "anticipation" (otherwise known as fear). FINALLY I was chucked out the door after Marley, head over heels into nothingness. I can't really describe how it feels, although definitely not like you're falling. It kind of feels like you're stationary, I'm assuming because you're going so fast. I remember the noise though, and the wind being so cold and like needles in my face and hands, as me and Snellers had refused gloves due to our good luck messages for the DRUFC cup final on our palms! Marley was in front of us the whole time trying to shake my hand and snapping away at my horrifically distorted face. The free fall lasts a minute, but it's over so fast and before I knew it Marley was waving goodbye (to fall longer), the parachute was opening and I was whooshed back upwards. From then on its so quiet and peaceful, although for some reason the pressure had really got to my ears and they were killing me! We floated down for about five minutes, me probably annoying Alan with all sorts of questions (and I'm sure Snellers directly after me was doing the same to his guy!) before we eventually were zooming into land, and I managed to stay on my feet and not crumple into a massive heap when we touched the grass.. Massive achievement! Then I was unhooked from Alan and led to the side to watch the others come down, still a quivering wreck but really happy! Snellers was right after me, but seemed to take ages to come down. Afterwards I found out that when I'd gone the doors were closed again and the others had circled for a bit longer until it was safe go.. Nice! So when they all came down they were floating together etc, whereas I was completely by myself :(. Anyway when we were all safely down we were buzzing from the jump, and bounded inside to watch our videos. As expected they were less than flattering, and we spent a good while laughing at my large amounts of face being blown left right and centre and Snellers overenthusiastic waving. We also discovered that Snellers tandem master, Mike, had recently been kind of famous (on US tv shows and everything) for surviving an accident where his parachutes both failed to open and he plummeted thousands of feet to the ground, landing in a blackberry bush and surviving! So glad we only discovered this upon landing!! Still on a high, we went out for some pizza, arranging to meet Leo and his housemates (one of whom happened to be my cameraman Marley!) later on. We went to purchase beer and wine and showed up at Leo's house a while later, it was a cute little wooden lodge style place he shared with around 3 others. After a few drinks there, we all headed into town and went to a few clubs before me and Snellers were separated from the others and gave up and went to Maccas. There we met Leo who has also had the same idea, and we ordered major amounts of food from the dollar menu and got a taxi home. With no clue where gore was, we crashed on Leo's sofa, discovering Douglas had won the cup final just before, so we went to sleep very happy!
The next day was our last in Taupo, and we spent it pretty hungover, at the natural thermal hot springs with Leo, followed by a pub lunch. After that we said bye to the guys and hit the road again towards Roturua.

Roturua has a reputation for being really smelly, due to all the sulphur emitting geysers around the town, and to be honest it didn't disappoint! As soon as we arrived the eggy smell was horrendous, and we were questioning how anyone put up with this full time,although I have to admit after an hour or two we couldn't notice it any more. In Roturua we checked into a holiday park, which was really good standard with a nice kitchen and even some hot pools. There, we spent hours getting far too competitive over a monopoly we had accidentally acquired from a campsite in south island.. Snellers is inexplicably good at that game!!
Next morning we headed for the luge, hoping to emulate the fun had at Queenstown! This luge was like a more extreme version, with more tracks, which went a lot faster and had some dangerous corners! Needless to say the boys zoomed off again and I was left tootling along by myself ha. It was lots of fun although nowhere near as scenic as Queenstown, and for that reason I have to say Qtown was better. We also went to do a bit of souvenir shopping on the main street, and me and Snellers finally found a post office that wouldn't charge arm and a leg for sending a parcel home, so were able to send home the masses of random souvenirs we had accumulated thus far. That evening we cooked dinner in the campsite and watched tv in the common room, the boys were glued to a program about american rednecks doing competitive pumpkin tossing, (when they exploded everyone would, shout "PIE!!!!" very strange), so I left them to it and went to bed!
On the Tuesday we went to a traditional Maori museum called Te Puia, which I'd highly recommend. Our guide knew everything there was to know about Maori culture and history, which delighted curious George here, and we were led round lots of exhibits such as a kiwi (really cool), information about the first Maoris of NZ, and some impressive geysers erupting plumes of hot smelly smoke! It was really interesting. We also visited a couple of workshops where male maoris were working on making things like amazing intricate carved wooden figures and where females worked on weaving gorgeous tapestries. We couldn't resist and bought a little carved face to hang on a wall :)
That evening we had to leave Roturua, which surprised us by being quite pleasant and lots of fun despite all the horrible reviews we had heard about it on the way up north island, our destination being Waitoma, where there were caves full of glow worms I really wanted to see. On the way up we detoured to a little town called Matamata where the boys were desperate to tour Hobbiton, the Lord of the Rings set. It was pricey, but so worth it. We were taken in a bus through miles and miles of farm land to the set, where a lady walked us through and told us all about what scene had happened where, who lived where, etc. I have only seen the first movie, but even I found it interesting! The houses are literally just the doors, with nothing behind, not the contents of a hobbit hole like expected. We were also shown the new part that has been built just for the upcoming The Hobbit movie which was pretty impressive. At the end of the tour we were shown a pen of gorgeous little lambs and were given bottles to feed them with, we were even able to pick them up and hold them although this did result in me getting lamb poo all over my favourite jumper ha ha. As soon as the tour was over we had to go straight up to Waitoma as we wanted to do the caves tour the next morning (running out of days in NZ :( ). We found a campsite in the town after lots of cruising around for the best deal, and spent the evening watching LOTR on video (!) so we could see if we recognised anywhere on the film!
Next day we left early to the caves to squeeze in a tour before heading up to our final stop, Auckland. The tour was only 45 mins long, but our guide was really informative and we got taken through some amazing cave and rock formations, before finally riding in a little boat through the glow worms hideout. It was like millions of stars in the sky, really beautiful. Could have done with maybe being a bit longer though, as it wasn't that cheap! Then it was time for our final big drive, up to Auckland. The drive took no more than three hours. When we arrived we got a map from information and tried to figure out a cheap campsite to stay the next two nights. The only official campsite we could see were like 30dollars a night, unless we wanted to stay right out by the airport in which case it would be 25! Reluctant to pay so much, we were sat debating whether to just try our chances pulling up somewhere, when two parking officers knocked on our window. They told us about the expensive campsites we were already aware of, until Snellers asked if there was anywhere we could stay for free without getting caught (to a parking officer!) and they sure singly answered, "well we shouldn't really tell you this, but....." and proceeded to tell us all these areas off the parking guys radars, one of which was down at the harbour with a view of Auckland harbour bridge. We drove off pleased with ourselves. When we got to the harbour we were debating whether to risk staying there, when we pulled up and saw no less than 12 other camper vans parked up for the night! Clearly word had got out, and it was obviously true that no police ever came down here, or if they did they probably thought it was pointless trying to move on so many campers! Hilarious. So this was our home for the next few nights, and it wasn't bad at all. When the sun set we had an amazing view of the bridge as the sky turned orange, and there were public toilets a short walk away.
In the morning, after a good nights sleep safe in the knowledge we weren't going to get knocked on and told to move, we went to the city centre to walk around. After forking out 12 dollars for parking, we wandered around checking out some shops and having a nice walk along the harbour looking at ridiculously expensive boats! To be honest there didn't seem much more to do in Auckland, as is the case with most large cities, so we went to the cinema that evening and despite me campaigning desperately for the new Avengers movie, ended up going to see a terrible film about people being eaten alive by wolves in Alaska. Great! Afterwards it was dark, so we went back to the camper and drove back to our makeshift campsite, went out for a chippy tea then went to a bar on the harbour for a few end-of-trip drinks before we said our farewells the next day.
So the day of reckoning finally arrived, and it was time to bid farewell to our casual travelling buddy and go back to going it alone! We dropped gore off at his hostel for the night,as his flight wasn't till the next day, and drove out to the airport to return the camper. This was an emotional time I'd rather not write about, but suffice to say I was feeling pretty gloomy as we made our way into the airport, despite our new adventure in south America looming. New Zealand was just indescribably good, I'm writing this blog over two months late, and it's probably still our favourite country.. North island surpassed expectations and shocked us by having so much to do that we needed more than the allocated 1.5 weeks to see it all, more fool us for thinking the smaller island needed the lesser amount of time hey! The three of us had some massive laughs, shared the pure fear of both the bungy and the skydive, dodged a fair few parking fines, saved a LOT of money on campsites, saw some of the most incredible views in the world and loved every second! I already know I want to retire out here and have a massive farm full of sheep, and Snellers I'm sure is planning his next lions Tour trip with the lads which when the time comes I will be extremely jealous about!
New Zealand.. Happy Camper.. Jonathan Gore, it was a pleasure!

Wilso xx

A week ago we discovered that my tandem master Alan was killed during a base jumping accident in Europe :( such sad news, he was great to me during my skydive. R.I.P x

This is the link to Snellers skydive masters accident if anyone is morbidly interested

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Snellers Senior on

Sounded great, and superbly described as always, need to visit I think, probably when I retire!!!

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