Jacques Cousteau and The Holy Grail

Trip Start Aug 22, 2005
Trip End Feb 06, 2006

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Thursday, January 5, 2006

I met a lovely lady on the bus on the way to Whangeria (pronounced Fon-ger-ay). I thought she was kiwi at first as I heard her say 'aye' at the end of a couple of her sentences!! But it turned out she was from Bournemouth. Louise had traveled practically everywhere and made the 3 hr journey from Auckland seem superquick... Although Louise if you're reading this I still have that very real and frightening story about the Fijian man on my mind!!). I take these stories into consideration and try to figure out the factors in the situation that could have prevented the outcome. This is just my rational mind trying to figure out whether it could happen to me! I don't think too hard about them for my own sake; I'm already overly paranoid from Makassar. When I feel unsafe I don't sleep well, which is probably a good thing as I'm more aware of what's going on. I know from traveling with Andy and Marcus that occasionally it's extremely easy to get into situations that weren't planned on, most often arriving in strange towns at 3am! I can't afford for this to happen so have found the best tactic is to latch onto a local family/woman. It's better than being alone to catch a taxi etc and definitely a form of damage limitation. I still don't trust these people 100% though but families appear the best bet.

Anyway, to come off my little tangent; Whangeria is a very bright and breezy little town. The harbour was great to look at and people were milling around, eating ice cream and tending to their yachts. I went to the supermarket to get something for that evening. I have been shocked by the price of food out here, mainly the fruit and veg they grow here! Some is more expensive than the UK, I guess because they export most of it(?). Lamb especially is more expensive because of this, but beef is very cheap. The beef and lamb is incredible. I've never had an Argentine steak to compare it to but this stuff was very tasty. The one thing I saw in the supermarket that day however were green lipped mussels. I spotted them and made a beeline for them! They were HUGE; longer than my palm and more than half the width. Although they were heavy I thought perhaps it was shell weight and the mussels themselves not so big... not so! I discovered that the mussels inside took up practically the whole shell after I had bought a kilo of them. Ate them all anyway. The kilo only cost NZ2.99 (about ₤1.20).

The other thing that surprises me here is the range of Cadbury's chocolate (it has just struck me that I'm making some very odd observations but I'm going with it anyway). Looking at the shelf was like a scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It doesn't taste quite right though. Perhaps it's the preservatives to stop the stuff melting? Or the milk? I'm not sure but it tastes like ash. I just wonder why they don't have the same range at home. Anybody who's tasted a Cherry Ripe would know they'd make a killing in the UK and everybody would be 20 stone. It's cherry flavoured coconut wrapped in chocolate. So much for me not having a sweet tooth.

Dive! Tutukaka picked me up the following morning nice and early to travel out to the Poor Knights Islands. I forget the exact origin of the name, something about poor settlers having to eat bread and milk? Anyone with the story please leave a note! The islands however have a far more interesting Maori history. They are a towering mass of volcanic rock, created 11 million years ago by eruptions from the now extinct Northland coast volcanoes. The Ngatiwai tribe long inhabited these islands but one night in the early 1800s, when the chief and men had gone to war on a neighbouring island, a slave escaped and rowed 24km back to the mainland to tell the chief there that the islands were undefended. This particular chief had a long standing vendetta after a bad trade deal with the tribe. The Ngatiwai chief returned to find all the women and children slaughtered. It was hard to picture the invasion as the land on the islands is atop 50ft walls of rock. However, due to these atrocities the tribe declared the islands 'Tapu' (forbidden) and today you need a permit from the Department of Conservation and Maori permission to set foot on the land. This had been brilliant for the rare wildlife and the islands boast a concentration of the prehistoric Tuatara lizards and cat-sized Weta grasshoppers!

The draw for me was Jack Cousteau's assessment of the dive sites as one of the ten best in the world... How could I pass that up?!!

The water was freezing! Even though I was wearing a 8mm wetsuit it still felt icy... apparently it was only 19 degrees which isn't a good sign for coming home!! The water was also murky and on my descent I saw a dead penguin float past my face... It seems quite funny looking back but it wasn't at the time. I loved the massive boulders, caves and stingrays on the first dive but was a little disappointed with the rest of the marine life. i.e there wasn't any! The second dive was a site though! Blue Mau-Mau caves were filled with- yep you guessed it! Blue Mau-Mau. They are very inquisitive fish so I got some great shots. The open ended cave was so eerie to swim through, with little surprises in the shapes of eels and fish popping up from the bottom.

I met two great kiwi guys; Ollie and Matt who lived on the South Island. It was actually Matt's first time to the N.Island, which at first surprised me but then it was my first time to Yorkshire last year and it's so true that when it's on your doorstep it's easy to put off. Matt gave us a lift back to Auckland and it was nice to actually meet some kiwis as opposed to tourists all the time. All the NZers I met were very friendly and receptive. I look forward to meeting more when I get back!
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