L Armstrong???

Trip Start Jan 22, 2008
Trip End Sep 30, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Sunday, June 29, 2008

The caves took more out of me than I had realised and I ended up in bed (in a delightfully otherwise unprecedently empty dorm room) by 8pm, sleeping right through until nearly 9am the following morning.

The Friday bus journey to Auckland took in Hobbiton, which is now just a farm where you can pay to have mounds where the set for Lord of the Rings used to be pointed out. No thanks. I instead settled for a couple of cheesy pictures by the "Hobbiton" sign and a terrible statue of the Smeagol.

Auckland is home to an extraordinary percentage of the entire population of New Zealand - 1.25 million out of a total populous of just over 4 million. It is actually an amalgamation of four seperate cities, rather like Stoke-on-Trent (although the comparisons with that particular city end there). I had met with a few girls from earlier on my Kiwi Experience trip on the trip up to Auckland and agreed to meet them in the ACB hostel bar for send off drinks as they were heading for LA yesterday. The night turned into something of a riddle as a Demon energy drink indutry promotion night (featuring some divine promo girls) offered a 1,000 dollar free alcohol giveaway. Naturally, as any self respecting backpacker should, I was there ten minutes before kick-off just to ensure maximum value was obtained. The bar was surprisingly empty by the appointed hour but I got chatting to an Irish lad called Tommy and by 8pm when the free tab finally ended we were best of firends, about six drinks to the good already (my night has also been improved by being given a free Domino's pizza by the bar man). The riddle therefore is how, when one has had free dinner and numerous free drinks, one manages to part company with the best part of 200 dollars? The answer was provided yesterday morning by one of the fearsomely hungover girls, who explained that I had been a model of generosity, throwing glasses of wine and shots of sambuca in the direction of anybody and everybody I recognised as a fellow Kiwi bus passenger. Oh well, it appears I made a number of friends for life as a result...

Despite the night out and a failure to set my alarm I managed to get up in time for a two day Bay of Islands tour which set off from Auckalnd at 7am yesterday morning. The scenery on the drive up to Paihia could have been anywhere in the English countryside and the tour appeared to have been somewhat of a waste of effort as I settled for a quick sit down yesterday afternoon to consider my activity options, only to wake up four hours later, too late to participate in anything. The kip did me some good however and I felt full of the proverbial this morning, wasting no time in hiring a bike and peddling off to explore the local area. The first gentle incline revealed that I am probably nearer to Louis, rather than Lance, Armstrong in terms of fitness but at the end of the day I do have all the time in the world so no worries I guess...
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