Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Where I stayed
Hekerua Lodge

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Saturday, February 4, 2006

After walking the length of Queen Street in the blazing sun, I caught the ferry to Waiheke Island at 11am and relaxed for the journey's duration (45 minutes). I'd not heard a bad word said about Waiheke, so I was genuinely excited about this little trip, especially as the hostel I'd booked into was supposed to be very nice and laid back.

It was a bit chaotic on arrival, as everyone made their way to the line of buses that were waiting outside. I asked at the information point which one was going near Hekerua Lodge, and luckily I managed to get the front seat, enabling me to speak to the driver about where it was. I just had to walk down a road for 400m until I arrived at the Lodge, which on first glance seemed lovely, surrounded by native bush.

I was immediately greeted by an hyperactive Japanese girl, Heruka, who bombarded me with questions. Where are you from? How long have you been in New Zealand? How long are you staying here? In fairness she was very friendly, it's just that I'd barely got through the door! However, I soon got settled in and spotted the swimming pool and hot spa, while the reggae music played in the background. I immediately felt comfortable there...

Although Scott from reception had told me about the bush walk that led from the hostel to the main road, I somehow missed it and ended up...somewhere else! When I noticed an old lady coming out of her drive, I went over and asked her for directions to Oneroa, the island's main township. "Where?" she asked, as if I'd just asked her to describe the best way of reaching Mars! Apparently, my pronunciation wasn't up to scratch, but once we established where I wanted to go, she offered to give me a ride as she was going there herself. I asked her about supermarkets, which was a mistake as she proceeded to give an in depth comparison of the town's two stores. All I wanted was some bread and a few tins of beans!

I had a walk along the main beach, then relaxed in the shade - it's hard to describe just how hot it gets here. Even though the thermometer may only read 25 degrees, the sun is so strong that sunbathing is virtually impossible, not to mention foolish. I later spoke to someone at the hostel who'd been wearing factor 35 suncream, yet he'd still managed to get burnt, and I wasn't surprised.

I called in at the supermarket on the way back, and bought a few beers as they were on special offer. I then proceeded to have a relaxing evening sat outside, reading the NME that I'd bought in Auckland. As usual on your first night somewhere, the onus is on you to try and get talking to other people, most of whom will have, more than likely, already established their own little groups. I find this a lot easier than I did 12 months ago, and I got chatting to a couple of German girls fairly quickly. As I went to bed, I spoke to a French guy for over an hour too, so come the end of my first day I was starting to feel settled.

After waking up the next morning, I realised that I'd been attacked during the mozzies! My arms were covered in bites, and it was no consolation to see a sign on our door warning that they seem to like my dorm the most! It was a case of too little, too late, although I drenched myself in insect repellant anyway to avoid further itchiness (to little effect as it turned out).

I bought Ian Botham's autobiography from a local second hand bookshop, and retired to the beach to have a relax. I soon became addicted to Beefy's on and off field antics, but I forced myself to put it down when I became hungry - the fish and chip shop was calling! I've got high standards now after all the delicious fresh fish I ate on the farm, but their fish cakes were great so I had no complaints.

The hostel was a lot more lively that evening, and the beers were flowing. There was a great atmosphere, with the owner proving what a relaxed place it was by repeatedly bombing into the pool...from up on the roof! He was pretty drunk himself, and I felt sure he was going to slip, but he didn't and it proved hilarious as water went everywhere.

The music had to stop at 10.30pm though, so after that people tended to slowly drift off to bed. I'd been sharing beers with the German girl from the previous evening, and also an Irish girl called Cathy who actually became my drinking partner for the next 3 nights. We were joined by a friendly, funny (but completely wasted) German guy who was warned about the noise he was making soon after midnight, when an older American guy emerged from his room upstairs dressed only in his boxer shorts! He wasn't being that noisy though, but we kept our voices down after that anyway to avoid anymore confrontations. It was 3am when we decided to call it a night...

As nice as the hostel was, it was impossible to sleep past 8am as the office was directly outside my room, and people would invariably congregate there (the main culprit being another girl from Burnley, and to make matters worse she spoke with a booming Lancastrian accent!). I didn't mind really as I wanted to be up and about so I could go down to the beach...and read my book!

An early glance at my right hand in the morning revealed my worst fears - the mozzies had been to work again! I counted over 20 bites on that hand alone, and obviously quite a few on my arms and legs - they'd had a feast! Mark, the owner, who was feeling a bit rough (he wasn't the only one!) gave me some cream that soothed them a little, and I was ready to go...

I got a pleasant surprise when I checked my emails at the library, as apparently my 'Canyon Swing' journal entry had been voted amongst the top 5 entries for the month of December, and I'd won 50 as a result! However, I was a touch disappointed to find out the next day that it wasn't 50 cash, as it would have been a nice little bonus ahead of my trip to Sydney. As it turned out, I had 3 options: 1) To buy 50 worth of Travel Pod clothing (not likely!), 2) To upgrade my account (whatever that means?), or 3) Donate it to charity. There was no competition, and inspired by Ian Botham's charity walks, I decided to donate it to Leukaemia Research.

I walked to Palm Beach in the afternoon and got some great coastal views, although it was a little drizzly. The island's slogan is '100 beaches, 1000 views,' and it was nice to see so much golden sand again - much nicer than the black sand of New Plymouth.

I'd decided to go to the cinema that evening to see Little Fish, as Donna (the movie expert) had confirmed to me via text that it was very good. I knew that it would be a small cinema as the island's population is only 8000, but I wasn't expecting something akin to a person's front room! It was without doubt the best cinema I've ever been to, as rows of sofas replaced the usual uncomfortable, cramped seats. I had a 3 seater sofa to myself, so I just ligged out and enjoyed what turned out to be a good, tense movie.

I walked back to the hostel in complete darkness, and it was fun doing the bush walk when you couldn't see the track! I'd forgotten to take my torch, so I used the light from my phone to help me, and I knew the general direction anyway as I could hear the music coming from the hostel.

Once there, I found Cathy laid out on one of the sofas as she'd been wine tasting earlier in the day, but it didn't stop us having a couple more glasses each. I listened to her Creative Zen and I'm tempted to get one in Singapore as they're supposedly cheaper there. I did that thing where you speak loud when you are wearing headphones, and Cathy very helpfully pointed it out ("erm, you're talking rather loud!").

I had bought 12 bottles of Export Gold as they were ridiculously cheap, and between us we polished them off before going to bed at 3am again. It was great having a few drinks as I'd not done that for ages (well, since Christmas). Cathy said that she'd buy the beers for the next night!

Thursday was a quiet day, and thankfully the mozzies had decided to give it a rest for a change (although not completely). It was so humid outside though, and after walking out of the air conditioned library, it felt like you were walking into a furnace, such was the heat. At night it wasn't as busy as previously, so we just watched TV and drank more beer! It was Cathy's last night, so she wasn't as late to bed this time (although we were still the last ones up at 1.30am).

My final day on Waiheke Island was a glorious one, and I spent most of it at Little Oneroa Beach reading and listening to my music. I actually finished the Botham autobiography, so rather than carry it around with me, I chose to return it to the bookshop. He was surprised that I'd read it so fast, but once I start a book then I don't hang around. Besides, as nice as Waiheke is, it's not overflowing with activities, so I was quite content to retire to the beach and read...and read!

I'd told an English guy at the hostel, David, about the cosy cinema and he really wanted to see it, so we arranged to go and see The World's Fastest Indian. This movie has been really popular in New Zealand as it's about a guy from Invercargill ("arsehole of the world") who achieves his dream and sets a new land speed record. It had never really appealed to me that much, but so many people had raved about it that I had no choice but to see it before I left New Zealand (plus Donna had given it the thumbs up!).

It turned out to be great, and Sir Anthony Hopkins is brilliant in it. I was in stitches at one point, and that's a rarity for me when I'm watching a movie! I think I enjoyed it because I could relate to the main character's humour after spending so much time over here - I almost feel like an honorary Kiwi now!

David and I got on really well because he was very knowledgeable about music, and could even name a couple of Teenage Fanclub albums (although he gave the usual reply when I told him I'd recently seen them live..."Are they still going?"). It was a lovely clear night and we were both in awe at the number of stars in the sky which, thankfully, lit up the road for us. I'd had the foresight to bring along my Maglite as well, so we had no problems getting back to the hostel, where I enjoyed a couple of beers before getting an early night.

My Waiheke Island trip had been great (apart from the mozzies!), and it was a fitting end to my year in New Zealand. I'd made a few good friends, spent a lot of time on the beach, and enjoyed the odd beer or three...perfect!
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