New Zealand Week 4: Napier -> Paihia (Part Two)

Trip Start Jan 22, 2006
Trip End Aug 17, 2006

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Long time no update! Sorry this has taken so long to arrive but the last few weeks have been manic. I was touched by those of you who emailed and messaged me to make sure I'm still alive. It's always nice to know I'm missed. Anyway seeing as I've been gone so long, I'm taking no notice of the groans when you see the notification email land in your inbox. At least this one is "Part 2" so hopefully it might be a short one to ease you back in gently... As if.

The last entry saw me floating toward the ground in a parachute, glad to be alive. The rest of the day was a bit of a blur despite jumping out of a plane only taking until 9am. Brummy Dave drove me back to my hostel where I very proudly showed Dan my DVD and didn't even cry at the end bit. We then jumped on the Magic Bus and met our new driver "Cookie" (that's his name, rather than my description) and retraced our previous route to Rotorua, or 'Rottenrua' as it's frequently called thanks to the sulphur. We had a couple of hours spare and as we'd been to Rotorua before so we spent them online emailing our families to let them know what I'd done. I lost most of the mammoth email I'd been writing to my parents and somehow managed to blame it on the internet cafe. They gave us vouchers for 3 hours free internet in any of their outlets to apologise which was really nice.

We eventually got back on the coach and met back up with the McCracken twins Izzy and Maz who were dying to know whether I'd finally been able to do my jump. I was wearing the free t-shirt I'd been given but hid it under my hoodie so I could try to pretend it had been cancelled again. They didn't believe it for a minute thanks to my cheshire grin so I whipped out the top in a Superman-style fashion. I revelled in the glory of having done the 15,000ft jump, a fairly exclusive club as most people jump from 12,000ft, and then told them all about it. I then fell fast asleep absolutely exhausted and Dan took a load of pictures. He's nice like that!

We drove for a few hours and got to Mount Maunganui in the late afternoon. We checked into our hostel and met the infamous owner Murray who was quite a character as we'd been promised. They fed us free pizza, cookies and tea and then gave us the key to our room. We found out we were in a maisonette round the corner with Kaika - a Japanese girl who worked at the hostel and, Murrey assured us, had a black belt in Origami. Kaika drove us round to the flat to save us carrying our bags and showed us our lovely home for the night. We were quite sad we only had one day there as it was gorgeous and exactly the kind of flat I want at home! Cookie and his girlfriend was staying there as well so we got to talk to them for a bit. We had a wander into town and bought some booze and a burger to share (glad we did - it was so huge we didn't even finish it!) and ran into Maz and Izzy at the take away. Talked to them for a bit, hung around the hostel before bragging to everyone that we were off to our luxury flat to watch some TV.

The only downfall to staying in the flat was that 6 of us were sharing one bathroom. I was quite surprised by the queue as everyone else seemed to have a shower before going to bed but still insisted on having another the next morning, meaning I had no time for one myself. Kaika gave us a lift back to the hostel where we met back up with the Magic Bus people including Izzy and Maz who wanted to know how "Charles and Camilla enjoyed their penthouse". We got back on the bus and headed for Thames where we were meeting our connection to Whitianga. We did a quick bit of shopping and ended up having to buy yet another bloody pie for lunch and then loaded all our stuff onto our new minibus. We said goodbye to all the friends we'd made who were carrying on to Auckland and then climbed into the tiny bus with our new (and first female) driver Lisa. She was the most New Zealand person I've ever met (not sure that makes sense but never mind) saying "yeah, nah" before every sentence and ending it with "eh!". She told us countless stories - mainly Mauri legends - along the way, which we came to love as they went on for hours and never seemed to have a point. We started a sweepstake on what time the story would come to and end with bonus points being earnt if it finished midway through a sentence.

We drove through some very windy roads and stopped near the beautiful Cathedral Cove. We were told the 45 minute walk each way to the beach took more like 30 even for really unfit people, so we set off up the track for our 2 hour break. As it happened, 45 minutes was pretty much spot on and the track was steep and long. The scenery was nice and the weather was beautiful but I must admit I'm rather tired of the "easy walks" here in NZ! Still, Cathedral Cove was gorgeous with a lovely beach and a hole in a rock which presumably gave the cove its name. We only had half an hour to spend there which was a shame because I could have spent a few hours sitting on the beach. I had a bit of a paddle in the freezing water but retreated when the beach got crowded with the holidaying families. The walk back to the bus was quite miserable and even Dan wondered how a track could be uphill all the way there and still be uphill all the way back.

Next stop was a few miles down the road at Hot Water Beach where the water under the sand is boiling hot. You can dig yourself a hole and mix the hot water with that of the cooler sea and sit in your homemade bath. Lovely idea, only we were there at high tide so all we got to see was a dirty beach. Didn't stay there long and we all wished we could have stayed longer at Cathedral Cove.

We then drove straight to Whitianga and Lisa dropped me and two other women off to do some bone carving. We were shown some diagrams of the carvings and I eventually picked a comparatively easy hook shape that apparently represents authority and leadership. We sat down at a bench with a sanding drill and were let loose on the crudely cut out chunk of bone (cow bone, incidently) we'd been given. After a bit of an over-eager beginning, I soon got into it and did a fairly good job considering I'm so cack handed. We then sanded them down by hand for about 45 minutes which was a fairly boring job but still fun when you begin to see the proper shape emerge. We then polished them up with a bit of damp sandpaper and a cloth and presented them to the tutor who seemed fairly impressed. She put our carvings put on a cheap bit of black string, bagged it up with a certificate saying we made it and then shooed us out the door back to our hostel.

It was quite a nice hostel right on the beach, although the weather was too grey and the tide too high for us to enjoy it. We were in a little flat with 3 other rooms and shared a kitchen, bathroom and lounge with the oldest TV I have ever seen. The remote was as big as a book - you even had to hold it with two hands - and only had 4 buttons on it! Fantastic. We walked into town to find an internet cafe so I could re-type the email to Mum and then got some fish and chips to share for dinner. We had another early night and headed to the room to read.

The next day we had a ridiculously early start which was made worse by the discovery that Magic Bus had timetabling problems and we were going to have to go via Waitomo instead of driving to Auckland direct. I wouldn't have minded so much but it meant a 6 hour detour and we'd already done everything there (the glowworm caves) and more besides (only entertainment afterward was watching someone get stung by a wasp and then had to pretend it didn't hurt). Still, our camcorder seems to have decided to vaguely work again for the first time since Abel Tasman's monsoon. I'm gutted we didn't have it for the whale watching or for the ground parts of my skydive but I'm still chuffed we've got it back.

On the way to Waitomo we stopped off for lunch in Paeroa, home to the L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) soft drink. I had a horrible sandwich and got covered in tiny spiders so I was happy to leave. We took a look at the 20 foot model of an L&P bottle and then zoomed off to Waitomo, listening to a few more stories with no endings that all seem to involve giants falling over and turning into mountains.

We stopped again just outside of Waitomo to go to the Shearing Shed where we watched incredibly fluffy angora rabbits being sheared. We stroked one on "display" who was getting used to being in public in time for his turn for a haircut the next day. They are huge, about the size of a small dog. We watched another being tied to a rack, which sounds much worse than it was, and was shaved to within an inch of his life. The rabbits have no natural way of shedding its fur but would die of heat exhaustion if it didn't so places like these shear them and combines their soft fur with sheeps wool to make angora wool. The rabbits were rather naked without their fur but still looked very cute if not slightly humiliated. We stroked the newly bald one which was even softer than it was before. I want to get one! I'd probably shave it every day though, so maybe best that I don't.

We then went to Waitomo and killed time by going to the pub for a pint and some chips. 3 hours later we got back on the bus with a load more people and had a cramped and uncomfortable journey back to Auckland, made particularly enjoyable by the guy sat in front of us who absolutely stank of BO. We got to Auckland at about 6.30pm and checked into our windowless room (costs an extra $10 for a window!!), had some free dinner and then cooked some more in our kitchen. Had another early night - what kind of backpackers are we?! Ones that don't get on too well with early mornings, apparently.

The next morning proved another early one in preparation for our 7.45am pick up and made even earlier by our neighbours who decided to blowdry their hair in the hallway at 5.45am. Still, at least we were ready in plenty of time for the bus for once. Our new driver was Richard who had his mum and friend Spike, a Stray bus driver (Stray being a coach company, rather than him being a bus driver wandering the lonely streets), who had come along to celebrate Richard's birthday the next day.

We drove to a lovely small town called Matakohe where were were meant to visit the Kauri - huge sacred tree of the Maoris - and Pioneer Museum but was missed in favour of some homemade food (and, in Spike's case, a beer) at the cafe. We shared a gorgeous slice of chicken, brie and apricot quiche and bought a few things for lunch later on.

We carried on driving toward the Waipoua Forest and to pass the time Richard started a game of "Tractor". The bus was split into two groups and the aim was to call out when you spotted a tractor and whether it was working and, if not, what colour it was, e.g. "Tractor Working!" or "Tractor Blue!". You also got 50 bonus points if you saw a tractor dealership. Lisa had tried to start this game on the way to Whitianga (throwing in a few bonus points for any possum roadkill we spotted along the way) but without much luck as no one could be bothered. Was a lot more successful this time with the Zorros (our team - Richard's mum chose the name) versus Richard's Tractor Sluts (unsurprisinly, Spike chose that name). It started off badly with "Hawk Eye" Spike seeing tractors 5 minutes before anyone else, but the Zorros soon came back to make it a close game. A tractor dealership (spotted by me) put the Zorros in the lead but RTS came back at the last minute and won by one point. I've never seen anyone as chuffed and victorious as Spike, a 30 something year old man who looks like a tramp.

We eventually got to the Waipoua Forest and took another Short Walk Through A Rainforest(tm) to see the largest standing tree in New Zealand, a kauri named Tahe Muhata - "God of the Forest". We didn't see it at first and saw a large tree we thought must have been it, but then we turned the corner and giggled. There stood a tree about 20 foot wide! There really was no mistaking it. It was magnificent and quite weird to think it had been standing there for over 2000 years.

The last stop before making it to Paihia was a lovely seaside town on the west coast called Opononi. Richard promised us a film about a gay dolphin and he didn't disappoint. We sat down in the visitor's centre and (after a painful half an hour of trying to help an old man figure out how to switch on the TV) watched a 10 minute film about the friendly dolphin in the 1950s who was so tame she came up close to the shore every day to play with the visitors and let children ride on her back. Unfortunately she was found dead at only 2 years old washed up on some rocks. No one really knows why although they think it may have been because she was ushered to the shore whenever she didn't go by herself and that may have disturbed her eating patterns. They didn't do an autopsy as it would have meant sending her to Auckland and instead they decided to bury her in front of the hotel she swam by.

We made our way back to the bus and watched Richard, Spike and another guy from Argentina called Alessandro run off the pier into the sea in just their underwear. Was great fun to watch but was disappointed in Dan who chickened out despite the fact he was already wearing his swimming shorts. Wimp! Worked wonders for Alessandro though who, after being seen in nothing but some very skimpy pants, for some reason became very popular with the ladies.

At 5pm we finally arrived in Paihia and stopped at a hostel down the road from where we were staying to pay for a $10 BBQ later that night. We then checked into the Bay Adventurer and were ripped off about $36. Much to Dan's disgust, I had a bit of an argument with the girl about it but it was pointless so I let it go.

After hanging around for a while we went to the Pipi Patch Hostel for the BBQ and free pint and met up with the other Magic Bus travellers. These nights are a brilliant way of getting to know everyone. We drank a lot and I "bonded" with some girls from Bournemouth called Gemma and Hayley who have promised to show me around when I move there in September but will probably never remember who I am. We also chatted a lot to Richard who got a bit annoyed when I told some of the newer travellers some of Magic's ways of ripping you off. We then went to a club called "Saltys" for a few more drinks but it was embarassingly awful so we left Gemma and Hayley to it. It was a good night and even nicer knowing we could lie in the next day.

Quite glad I did this week in two parts now or none of you would ever have got through it! Congratulations to anyone who actually did manage to read the whole thing, although you probably do have too much time on your hands.

Hope everyone's well. Let me know how you're all getting on and what you're up to. A huge good luck to everyone doing final exams (or indeed any kind of exams) at university at the moment. Know there are a few of you. Mind you, if you're reading this instead of studying then the good luck is wasted as you're all doomed to fail.

Get ready for more mammoth updates as I desperately try to catch up with the last month's worth. In the mean time, keep in touch and take care.
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