Aotearoa - The land of the long white cloud

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Jul 09, 2011

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Where I stayed
Thames - Grandparents house

Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, February 23, 2011

And we are in New Zealand!!!!!

Aotearoa is the Maori name for new zealand.  The country is surrounded in their culture and we are soaking up the amazing pronounciations used for places, street names, basic sayings etc that have filtered into the daily language over here!

We arrived on sunday after leaving LA on friday...saturday did not exist for us which has given us a few giggles but mainly just major disorientation and by the time we touched down on the runway, no idea of the last time we had showered!  Steve couldn't believe he was going to meet my family smelling like we did...i couldn't believe i was going to see them again after all this time..smelling like this!!! haha!!! I passed through customs in minutes with my awesum New Zealand passport and turned round to find Steve...he was miles back in a huge international queue only to be told when he got to the front that because he was travelling with a new zealander (how cool is it that that reference is to me?!?) he could have gone through with me!! haha! After my walking boots were taken away and disinfected to remove any ounce of england I couldve squeezed in with me I walked through arrivals and saw the lovely faces of my auntie and Poppa (grandad!) unbeliveably wonderful to see them! Soon enough we were speeding through the pastures of new zealand ( i say speeding as I thought we were doing 100mph...turns out the sign posts that say 100 here mean kilometers per hour!).

This really is a beautiful country, steve's head was popping up so fast out of all the windows trying to take everything in. The houses are idyllic, all different colours and so sprawling, there is so much space! Arriving into Thames suddenly all pieces of memories started flooding back, the mountain back drop, the sleepy town feel, the corner shop with the icecreams, the school with the huge obstacle course playing field (that opens to the public in the holidays so I had been on it as a child) and of course that steep winding rode that leads to a certain house.  Pulling into the driveway my granny came running down the steps, it was wonderful and emotional.

The next few hours we talked and talked about everything over the years and ate a wonderful lunch.  After a shower we felt like humans again, we snacked on watermelon and a wonderful drink called Chi (pronounced "che") its a sweet herbal sparkling water, i dont think we have it in england but sorry if we do and i'm uncultured!! Before heading down for a walk across the wooden boarded walkways spanning the mudflats to the bird hides on the front while the tide is out.  Once it hit 9.30pm we hit the sack, I have no idea how long we had been awake for since we hadnt slept on the plane but it was definately time to sleep.

Monday morning I was awake bright and early after a wonderful sleep after a beautiful breakfast of fruit, homemade yoghurt and muslie (slightly different to our LA brekki!), and a phonecall home, so amazing to hear their voices, we pottered into the town of thames for a few essentials (suncream!!!) and to have a look around.  It is a lovely little town, we were categorising shops with the similar ones in england to try and remember the key ones we might need, eg pak 'n' save is a tesco and total health is a mini boots! That afternoon we headed out for a walk in the Karangahake (pronounced kar-rang-a-haki) gorge.  The first part of the walk was through a l.3km tunnel!! you could feel the cold as you approached it and it was so dark you couldnt see what you were walking through or what was on the sides - a little bit spooky, i kept taking pictures so i could see it! there were dim lights every 10 meters or so.  Out the other side the walk continued with a raging river running over boulders to our right and on our left was the most beautiful lushious undergrowth and ferns (see picture) it smelt .. well... green!! We clambered to a near by waterfall shooting off a huge cliff edge, before finishing the walk in an old remains of a gold mining battery (thames is a gold mining town).  Tuesday we headed to an actual gold mine, learnt lots about the history before a tour through the mines began with the wearing of hard hats and as we walked through the remains of gold streaks, bright red water pools (from the iron present), minature tunnels to wander through and tools that were used, fascinating.

Tuesday afternoon we waved goodbye to the family and headed up to auckland on a coach.  The radio was on a live feed about the christchurch earthquake all the way, the whole bus was just listening in horror, such awful news, our thoughts are with all of those affected.  Arriving in auckland the traffic was gridlocked, for such a small population everyone must have been here!!! We pulled in in torrential rain, meaning we could try out our cool backpack covers (mines bright yellow!) and raincoats, felt like a turtle, was brilliant! our hostel is on the main main road through the city, 10 floors high and bang in the middle of the atmosphere!

The city is alive, wonderful, young and trendy, wine bars, food, restaurants, shops - lots of shops, and young people everywhere! after living in a city like Exeter I feel I've finally awoken! we dropped our bags after check in and went out to explore! we ended up in an underground sushi wine bar, seated literally at the bar over looking the open kitchen where we could see everything.  We shared a main course (we are on backpacker budget!) and sipped water taking in all the smells - and learning how to use chopsticks, it was a slow eating process! (they didnt provide cutlery and we didnt want to look so uncultured to ask!) it was really fun though! we wandered back through the lights in shorts and t-shirt it was so lovely and warm even though late at night.

Yesterday morning we had managed to get ourselves booked on a free city tour, so breakfasted on cracker breads we had bought and headed out to get picked up by a company called "the stray". The city was buzzing, "young suits" heading into the huge deloitte (steves found all the "big 4" account companies here...we'll keep you posted!) A bright orange shuttle bus pulled up to pick up the hoard of us that gathered outside the hostel and we all piled in.  Our guide was called chuckie, a young guy who was really cool and said "sweet as" a lot! the driver was a maori who was pretty awesome too. We drove around the harbour, the viaduct, the famous mount eden with its nearby maori tribe that fought for years to get it back off the government.  At each point we got off, took photos and had a good look around.  such a lovely group of people from germany, sweden, australia, scotland etc.  We got to sky tower and played a huge game of heads and tails, me, steve and a girl were the last three in, then i went, then steve...the girl won a free sky jump off the top of sky tower (the tallest tower in the summer hemisphere!!!!!!) we were so close, didnt know whether to be relieved or not!! haha! the tour ended with being harnessed up and climbing auckland bridge, just dont look down was running through my head as we climbed up and up over the water, it was such a beautiful day and all the boats were sailing through below us.  Some off the group had opted to pay extra for a bungy jump (see photo) so we watched as they plunged down, some flipping, screaming, backwards, one was so silent and still we thought she had passed out!!! haha! (she was fine just overwhelmed!!) a brilliant end to the day and we lazed in the sun when back on dry land before being dropped back at the hostel.  We ended last night doing a bit of shopping, exploring more of the atmosphere before heading to the hostel bar for drinks, it was wonderful!

On a side note cooking dinner was an experience, the hostel has 500people staying here, the kitchens are huge, but not that huge! we grabbed 2pans (no handles) and a stirer (a bbq prong) and cooked tomato chicken pasta...any ideas for one pot cheap meals would be grately appreciated!

I am loving new zealand, today is our last full day in auckland before we head up north to the bay of islands, fingers crossed for good weather (its been hot hot hot today and yesterday!woop!) and also reduced levels of mossi bites - seems my new zealand passport is not conning them, they seem to love my british skin - am just finishing my first round of antibiotics from a nasty one!!! ah well swings and roundabouts eh?!!!!!

Love to everyone, cant wait to hear your news,
p xxxxxxxxxxxx
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Hazel Genner on

Great to read everything Pip. All the best for northland experience. We're both fine. Funeral was for ex-pupil of mine whose family I had known so well. A really inspiring service - but lots of tears & meeting up with many ex-staff of me era. Love & hugs, Kiwi-Granny & Poppa xx

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