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North Island Day 1: Auckland - The Coromandel

Mill Creek, New Zealand

Why is it that no matter how little time I've been staying somewhere and no matter how little stuff I have to pack it always takes me about two hours to pack the car up? Admittedly, most of that two hours is me staring at everything hoping that it might somehow pack itself but still. I was at Matt's for like, four nights and I managed to move my entire life into his place in that short space of time and spread it around the flat into every available corner. Give me another week and I've have redecorated and started picking out new drapes.

Anyway, eventually I crammed my life into the Camry and headed out west to pick Andrea up, the lass I'd be travelling with who I met on the internet about three years ago and only met face to face for the first time yesterday. She doesn't appear to have too many psychotic tendencies though but keep an eye out for headlines screaming "English Backpacker Disappears In NZ After Internet Meet". She's originally from Leeds but now lives in Ohio with her fella and her kids and she's also in the Guinness Book Of World Records for having the biggest appendix in the world ever. My only claim to fame is once, in the pub, I staggered up to the guy who used to present Run The Risk, a UK kid's TV program in the 90's and asked, nay, slurred if he was "the bloke off the telly" coz none of us could remember if his name was Simon Peters or Peter Simons. I may or may not have drooled on his shoes. I'm not entirely sure.

I digress.

I picked up my new buddy from her brother's place and we headed off to the Coromandel region, first stop being Hot Water Beach. The aim here is to battle the hoardes of other tourists for a bit of sand to dig a hole in so you can sit in your very own hot spring on the beach.

Sounds easy yeah? It's not. As you dig the hole keeps filling in with waters. You dig, it fills and collapses. You dig some more. You build a small wall to stop the waves from lapping up the shore into your hole but still it fills in. By the end of it you don't want a hot water spring anymore. You want a cold water pool and an esky full of ice and beer. Then you realise you've been digging in the wrong spot anyway and the hot water bit is 5 metres to your right.

And shit is it hot! Yeah yeah, I know the clue is in the name of the place, it's not Tepid Water Beach or Little Bit Toasty Water Beach but seriously, it actually hurts. It should be renamed Really Fucking Hot Water Beach although we were the only ones bitching about it. You can take the pom out of England but you can't take the whinge out of the pom.

It didn't take too long for the novelty of potential third degree burns to wear off so we headed off to look for a place to crash for the night. I'd told Andrea we'd be camping for most of if not all of this trip on account of my laughable budget and she was like "yeah I love camping!" before remembering she hadn't been camping since she was 13 and that was in her back garden. This could be amusing.

The first place we went to was full, the second wanted at least two of your four limbs for an unpowered site so we headed back up the main road towards a DoC campsite on the map but it was getting late. Then we passed a sign for a bird And animal park at Mill Creek that also had campsites available so we duly swung a left onto an unsealed road. It felt like we were driving for ages up this remote little road in the middle of nowhere, I had visions of mutants emerging from the trees wielding chainsaws and waking up nailed to a wall with one or more of my organs missing as the signal bars on my phone dropped one by one.
Just as we were about to give up and head to the DoC site there was a sign telling us it was 500 metres away so we carried on, followed the campervan sign and stopped. It was deserted. There was an empty caravan with an annex to the left which looked like it had been there forever, to the right was an empty field and a shed thing. Ahead was a little path that lead between some trees and you couldn't see what was on the other side.

I'd seen this movie.

Eventually we found the office round the corner and were greeted by an overtanned hippy lady clutching a duckling who took $12.50 each off us, gave us directions to the showers and told us to feel free to wander round and look at the birds and animals. She wasn't even a little bit sinister.

I kinda felt bad for doubting the place because it's actually really cool, they have heaps of farm animals and birds that they care for and the facilities at the campsite are brilliant. I jumped into the shower and a quantity of sand the Sahara would be proud of fell out of my knickers.

I spent the rest of the night expecting a phone call from Hot Water Beach asking for their sand back.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 13, 2009 from Mill Creek, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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North Island Day 2: Catching Up With An Old(ish) Mate

Whangamata, New Zealand

We woke up in one piece having not been hacked to death in our sleep by marauding psychopaths, got our shit together and headed up to the town of Coromandel just to say we'd been there before driving back down to Whangamata where my mate, Alex, who I know from Wellington lives with his missus. He chops dead people up by profession but there isn't much call for that sort of work in Whangamata so he's currently assistant manager at the local New World which probably involves dealing with people with slack jaws and vacant stares (and that's just the staff) so he shouldn't feel like he's strayed too far from his profession. He's just not allowed to go at the customers with knives though which must be frustrating, I know, I worked at The Warehouse.

Something Alex seems to talk about alot are JAFAs which is Just Another Fucking Aucklander. They don't seem to like AUckland much in the rest of New Zealand, especially not in Wellington but y'know what? It made me realise how much I do actually love the place. I mean I love travelling round and seeing new places and I love camping out in the middle of nowhere and I love beautiful places in the countryside an all that but I realised that Auckland feels like home. I also realised that I was really going to miss it.

After catching up for a cuppa, we are all English after all, we headed to the wharf for some fishing where Alex managed to lose his $200 sunglasses. It might not have been so bad if we'd caught anything other than leaves but we left the wharf and tried our hand at kayaking and near drowning instead.

Here's the thing about kayaking, I've done it a million times but I don't recall having to get past surf on a surf beach before. This time we did. Alex cleared the waves and left me and Andrea on the shore, we paddled our little hearts out and managed to get over most of the waves until one came right at us while we were side on and rolled us into the water. We weren't gonna be defeated though, we got back on and got through the waves to where the water was calmer and paddled ourselves out to one of the islands just off shore.

Getting back was gonna be easy, the pros we were. We paddled ourselves back to shore, through the waves, aiming for the beach at a 45 degree angles just like Alex had told us. He sailed past us just as another wave took a disliking to the tourists and deposited me and Andi back in the water. We managed to hold onto the paddles but not Andrea's $200 sunnies, she managed to lose them an all, seems there's a direct corrolation between the price of sunglasses and how likely you are to lose or break them. I managed to keep hold of my $40 pair from the servo. Shame about my dignity.

Alex's missus, Claire, has a siamese cat that had kittens a few months ago so there were four kittens plus mum. God they're cute! And expensive, the kittens are like $500 each which is a bit steep for a tiny little weapon of mass destruction if u ask me. I love kittens though, these ones tear around the house, fight and play with each other before curling up together in a big pile of Cute.

After a meal and a game of pool at the local RSA we just chilled at Alex's with a few beers while I got covered in pussy.

Sounds like a damn fine night in to me.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 14, 2009 from Whangamata, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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North Island Day 3

Karangahake, New Zealand

Before we left Whangamata Alec took us surfing in order to top up the salt water levels in our sinuses because clearly we hadn't experienced a satisfactory level of Almost Drowning the day before. We spent a good hour and a half getting thrown about and dumped by waves before we gave up and carried on our way towards our next stop.

The star he is, Alex had put us up in a proper bed last night and thank fuck he did because it totally pissed it down, storms and everything. If he hadn't then we'd have woken up somewhat waterlogged at Wentworth Falls DoC campsite which is the start of a walk to aforementioned falls so we dropped by on the way to check them out.
It's something like an hour and a quarter walk to the falls up a slight incline that runs by a river. Fuck it's lovely! I could happily spend a day here, chilling in the river, wandering up to the falls, camping out. Its stunning and the falls are brillint an all and it's well worth the "difficult scramble" to the base. You can swim in the plunge pool if you don't mind every nerve ending in your body going numb in the freezing cold water.

Instead of staying at Wentworth Falls we decided to try and cover more ground on account of the fact maps over here lie. Just because it doesn't look far on paper the roads turn back on themselves and wind their way up and down hills and have corners that if you take just a teeny tiny little bit fast the back of your car tries to overtake the front and scares the fuck out of you, your passenger and any oncoming traffic so we carried on to a free campsite called Dickey Flats near Karangahake Gorge.

I seemed nice enough, right next to a river but it has the best hidden toilets ever, I know it has loos because a sign near the gorge told me so but we couldn't find them at all. I ended up holding it in until dark and sneaking into the bushes like the classy girl I am.

If Dickey Flats only had one river before it probably has two now.

permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 15, 2009 from Karangahake, New Zealand
from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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North Island Day 4: The Bet

Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

The trouble with free campsites is that sometimes they attract people who want to stay up all night and make noise which is fine unless me and my mates aren't the ones making the noise. Last night it was a group of Kiwi kids who, at one point at about 1am, drove a car through the busy site honking the horn. Their arguments which were conducted between 1am and 2am are as follows:

  • One of the lads is going to be "fucking killed" by the others and they made their way through the site looking for him. Loudly.

  • Girl number one seems to be after Girl number two's fella. Girl number two gives her blessing at the top of her voice with the words, "If you want sloppy seconds you can fuckin' 'av 'im!"

  • Girl number two is apparently having Sloppy Second's baby.

  • They made up and began singing to each other. No. Really. Actually singing.

  • It beats watching Eastenders anyway.

    Anyway, first stop today was Karangahake Gorge for a bit of a walk before breakfast. It's a really nice walk, pretty short an all so you can do it before breakfast and not starve to death. There's a part of it called the Underground Pumphouse and they recommend you take a torch. The only torches I have are the ones I picked up from the $2 shop that are about as bright as Paris Hilton but we took them anyway and ventured into the cave.

    Clearly we both watch too much horror. We didn't even get halfway in, Andrea hanging a bit behind before that kind of fear you haven't felt since you were five years old and thought the gremlins were behind you overcame us and we legged it out of the cave like the soft bitches we are.

    God I hope no one saw us.

    Next stop was the less sinister Paeroa, home of the "world famous in New Zealand" Lemon & Paeroa soft drink. We bought a bottle and pulled the obligatory tourist poses in front of the big bottle.
    L&P is a very very NZ thing and it's really popular. We don't have it at my bar in Auckland and when we inform customers of this we're met with a look of stunned horror and you have to leave them for 5 minutes while they recover and rethink their lives and their mixers. I haven't really tried it before, I'm a coca cola whore but we left Paeroa with me swigging the stuff from the bottle. I felt so Kiwi. I'll be referring to flip flops as jandals next and chasing after sheep on a Saturday night.

    Tonight we'd be in Waitomo on account of the fact we'd booked ourselves in for some black water rafting action the next day, we were staying at a Top 10 campsite which had all kinds of exciting things such as a hot tub and a pool and no mozzies. There must be some kind of relation between the price of a campsite and how likely you are to get eaten alive by things you can't see until it's too late. Anyway. We got drunk and this is where The Bet was born, designed to get Andrea to do a bungee jump.

    If Andi does a bungee jump in Taupo I have to get a full minge wax. As in total. As in, not just the little bits round the edge to stop your dreddlocks sticking out of the sides of your bikini bottoms, every single hair on my private parts brutally torn from their roots. However, if Andi bottles out of aforementioned bungee jump she has to be my bitch for the duration of the trip.

    Shortly after the bet was made I text everyone I thought might have had a wax to gauge the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being fine, 10 being Kill Me Now. So apparently it's about an eight or nine.

    I'm so doomed.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 16, 2009 from Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
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    North Island Day 5: Black Water Rafting

    Waitomo Caves, New Zealand

    The first thing I thought this morning when I woke up in the back of my car was, "Fuck! I'm never drinking and making bets ever again!" My second thought was, "Fuck it's gonna be cold in the water in them caves today!"

    We dragged ourselves out of bed and arrived at the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company just up the road, signed our lives away and waited for the guides to show up. We saw a couple of folks walk in wearing harnesses and for one brief moment I thought I might have to entrust my life to a man with a mullet but they must have been on another tour. Our guides were Brydie who was far too enthusiastic for that hour in the morning and Cory who had wandered past us earlier masked in a pair of sunnies and clutching a cup of coffee. They proceeded to kit us out in damp wetsuits, a fetching pair of shorts, boots and a harness then they drove us to the cave entrance.

    The harness was how we'd be getting into the cave, we'd be abseiling 40 metres into a hole after a quick lesson on how not to die when suspended by your genitals by a rope. Ok so maybe not quite the genitals but that's how it feels. Once we were all at the bottom we waited while the boys checked to see that everything was where they left it before the descent then we were lead to a flying fox and sent down it in the dark.

    So far so good. The most difficult part was trying to eat flapjacks with the chin strap from the helmet keeping my jaw in place. At least it was until they handed us a tube each and told us to jump 4 metres into the water whilst holding it to our arses and all without drowning please. Actually easier than it looked at first and shit it was fun! It IS cold but the wetsuits are brilliant so its only really your hands that feel like they're going to have to be removed on account of the frost bite. Once we were all in the black water we were guided up the tunnel to get an education on the glow worms which dotted the cave ceiling. There were millions of them and apparently they're not worms, they're maggots and the glowy bits are their arses and they glow coz they're burning off waste matter. So basically it's shiny shit. Nice.
    They catch their prey in these snot like stringy things that look minging but y'know what? They can look as minging as they want while they're catching mozzies. Mozzies are my arch nemesis.

    The previous night me and Andi had been taking the piss out of the retarded look on the faces of the people on the promo poster as they gazed at the roof. Once we'd been lead up the tunnel we had to link up in a train, turn our lights off and we were lead back down the way we came. I caught myself gawping up like a slack jawed imbecile, tongue lolling to one side. If I was drooling it would have just been perfect. In fact I probably was.
    The tour was awesome, the glow worms were stunning and once we'd rafted and waded our way through the caves we scrambled up two waterfalls and emerged into the open, I for one was grinning like a Special, it was a brilliant few hours. The climb up the hill to the van was a bitch though but we were rewarded with a hot shower and tomato soup which, of course, I ate until I physically couldn't fit anymore in.

    Once we were home we chilled in the hot tub until I'd regained feeling in my extremities and I resembled a hairy prune. I would SO recommend that tour to anyone. Maybe not in winter though. Unless you're hardcore or don't want your fingers anymore.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 17, 2009 from Waitomo Caves, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
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    North Island Day 6: ZORRRRRB!

    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Upon entering Rotorua you might as well hand over your cashcard and your PIN number to the city because it's going to obliterate your budget anyway, there's so much cool stuff to do if you can get used to the smell.

    Ah yes. The smell. You can't talk about Rotorua without mentioning the smell, it's sort of compulsory. Most people who've been to NZ are aware that Rotorua stinks like eggs. When eggs smell like eggs its fine but when something that isn't eggs smells like eggs suddenly it becomes so very very wrong. In some parts its rotton eggs, in others its not too bad but it's all on account of the fact the the whole place is built on masses of geothermal activity which can be viewed for free at a local park. Rotorua is also great because you can get away with dropping your guts and just blaming the steaming pools of sulphur. Bliss.

    The weather wasn't great so we bypassed the Agrodome and I introduced Andrea to her very first backpackers ever and the joys of deciding who got landed with the top bunk. After sleeping in a tent for the last couple of nights she just wanted to be as far off the ground as possible so she was happy up top. By that time the weather had cleared up a bit so we headed back out to find the Zorbing.

    Zorbing, for those who live under rocks or on Mars, is where they put you in a big, plastic ball and throw you down a hill. You can go down the straight track with one or two mates or you can go it alone down the zigzag track, either strapped in or with a bit of water for extra lubrication. Its. So. Cool.
    When you first rock up you look at the slopes and they seem a bit, well, disappointing. They look a bit small from the bottom but once you're in your Zorb and you've launched yourself down the zigzag you discover they're plenty big enough but once isn't enough and it's a perfect way for filthy backpackers who've been living out of the back of a Camry to get clean.

    A word of advice though; take socks. They only recommend you wear socks if you have noticably long toenails on account of the fact there are seams inside the Zorb that you can catch them on and pull them back. This freaked me out enough to head back to the car and ferret out a pair that you couldn't break with a hammer or that hadn't crawled under a seat and started building a nest.

    We threw ourselves down a couple of times each, got well and truly soaked before Andrea changed into dry clothes and I kicked myself for not thinking about bringing dry clothes.

    Later on, my mate Spiky came down from Auckland with Tash and Sam and we hit up Lava Bar for a few drinks where I highlighted the fact that I'm a total lightweight and got absolutely hammered. Cheered me up no end though after a random emo moment I'd had earlier. Spiky's pretty much been my rock since me and Kama split up.

    Once I'm back in Auckland m'dear, me an you are hittin town. Vodka is the perfect cure for everything. Trust me. Vodka makes everything good again.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 18, 2009 from Rotorua, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
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    North Island Day 7: I Love Rotorua

    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Rotorua is so NOT the best place to wake up hungover, as you wander through various pockets of stink your stomach alternates between lurching, wishing you dead and thinking, "Smells like... eggs... want eggs... bacon... crusty roll... lashings of HP and a cup of tea..." Not an ideal situation. Me and Andrea headed to town to say hey to Spiky an that lot and to decide what to do with our day on account of the fact the weather was still a bit shaky so we headed back out to check out the gondola rides and the luge because a couple we'd met in Waitomo has said they were cool. We couldn't exactly remember what the luge was or did because we were pissed but it was recommended so we felt obliged to check it out.

    If you ever go to Rotorua, make sure you go here. For $60 we got a return gondola (basically a cable car), a go on the fucking amazing Sky Swing and five luge rides. The gondolas were your usual cable car ride, you go up, you ooh and ahh at the pretty views, you take a millions photos and you jump off at the end and decide if you want to luge first or Sky Swing. We decided on Sky Swing. Oh my god I wish you could upload videos to this thing, it was fucking amazing! I thought it'd be like the Sling Shot in Surfers Paradise where they catapult you up into the air. It's not. They sit you down and strap you in and a winch drags you up and up and up. Then you have to pull your own ripcord to release it and send you hurtling towards the earth.

    One more time.

    They make you pull. Your own. Ripcord.

    I can't inflict my own fear, this is why I pay other people to inflict my fear for me. Skydive? No worries. Sling Shot? Not a problem. I don't have to do anything, I just sit back and its all done for me. I get my adrenalin fix, they get a large portion of my bank account, everyone goes away happy. I had to make Andrea do it.

    If you want the girly screaming in full clicky here ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/ohfuckkit/3231968215/ ) which will take you to an external site which also whores all my other photos and videos...

    Once your legs stop shaking its time for the luge rides which is kind of like go karts but better in that they're gravity driven. They're really small, low to the ground and they're user operated by handle bars which to pull backwards to brake and push forwards to release the brake and roll downhill. Obviously the handle bars will make you go left and right an all, handy really on account of all the corners.
    There are three tracks, the scenic one is an easy 2km ride to the bottom which they make everyone do first, the intermediate is a bit shorter and steeper and the advanced is a 1km ride with steep hills and nasty corners. As I rolled my way down the scenic track I wondered if you could tip them. I eventually decided that you probably couldn't, they're really low to the ground an all that so I decided to test this theory by taking corners as fast as possible.

    So yeah apparently you can tip them if you don't steer soon enough and slam into the tiny barriers which are about the same height as the luge itself. It turns out if this happens they do definately tip and send you flying head first into the ground thus potentially marring your perfect features and I now have a rather handsome graze on my left shoulder to remind me of this fact. Oh and for future story telling purposes I didn't stack it on the scenic track, clearly it was the advanced track whilst going over a jump.
    The intermediate is cool if you don't mind kids tearing past you while you nurse your injuries but the advanced track is awesome! I still got overtaken by children but they bounce. After finding out that I most definately do NOT bounce I slowed down for the corners and dammit if I'd have had indicators I'd have used them too.

    After suffering the trauma of falling off a plastic tray on wheels we'd had a quiet night planned but a couple of girls in our dorm had booked in for one of these Maori cultural experience things. Not really my cuppa tea but Andrea wanted to go and there was the promise of an Eat Til You Can't Move buffet so I was sold and off we went to Te Puia for a night of entertainment.
    Now I've been away from home for just over two and half years now and one thing I've always insisted is that I'm not a tourist, I'm a backpacker. But I'd never felt like as much of a tourist as I did tonight, it was almost cringworthy. I mean, the show was good if you're into that kinda thing but damn it was cheesy. It was so cheesy that the smell of cheese almost overpowered the smell of eggs. But if you can get through that then the food is amazing, its a traditional steam cooked meal of meat and veg but there's also a salad and seafood buffet you can go and help yourself to. The plates they give you are small but fortuntely I'm skilled in the art of piling food up.

    Once we'd eaten as much as would actually fit (and spot the backpackers, going up for more) we waddled to some tram things that would take us to their geothermal valley to see if the geyser, Pohutu, was erupting. It so totally was and it was fucking beautiful. I've never seen a geyser before, it's totally stunning.

    I reckon it's worth the $95 if only for the feed and the geyser. It was pretty cool to see the Haka though and watching the fellas in the crowd get on stage and try and do it was hilarious.

    We headed home and I spent the night admiring my wound and trying to decide if it made me look tough. Well I guess it might. If I lied about how I got it anyway.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 19, 2009 from Rotorua, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
    tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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    North Island Day 8: Paying Good Money To Roll In Mud

    Rotorua, New Zealand

    Just when you thought you'd gotten used to the smell of Rotorua up crops Hell's Gate, a geothermal reserve with mud baths and sulphur spas and if you have a shit load of cash, massages. $85 got us park entry, a 20 minute mud bath followed by a sulphur spa which are both apparently good for your skin albeit not your nasal passages. Well I'd had my little heart set on a mud bath so off we went to check it out.
    The park is pretty cool, you pretty much just wander round and look at stuff with steam coming out of it whilst trying not to retch too much. It's a striking landscape though, you can see where they got the name from.

    As we wandered back to towards the spa area a man called Benji asked us if we'd like to carve patterns in some wood for free. Ah well, it's free init so we picked our patterns and hacked away at our little squares. It's quite cool actually and he even coated them in oil for us afterwards although I have no idea what I'm going to do with mine. The symbol apparently means "Strength" which lets face it, we could all use some of that every now and then.

    Then it was off to the mud spa. Word of advice; Don't wear white or your best togs for this because they will not remain so for long. It also turns silver jewllery black so if you're quite partial to that ring your dear dead granny left to you in her will you might want to leave it at home.
    I fucking loved the mud bath though, you jump into this warm, murky water and feel around the bottom for lumps of mud to smear all over yourself whilst trying not the think about how many people before you have smeared this exact mud in parts you don't wanna know about. Fortunately we didn't find any random pubes but the girls in our dorm did when they went a bit later.

    Once your 20 minutes is up they'll come and let you know, you have to wash the mud off you then get in the shower so as you're totally clean for the spa. The shower is fucking freezing! Like seriously freezing cold, I mean it must feel worse after you've been in a hot mud bath but come on! A cold shower? In a geothermal reserve?? What like they don't have any means to heat it up, the sadistic bastards?!
    Amends are made in the sulphur spa, though. We soaked in there for a good hour until it was just too hot. We left maybe not looking visibly younger or revitilised but certainly noticably smellier. I'd go back though and recommend it to anyone with a strong stomach or who really really likes smelling of farts.

    It doesn't matter how much you shower either, the trouble with Rotorua is, you can never tell if its you that still stinks or if its the bloody city.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 20, 2009 from Rotorua, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
    tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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    North Island Day 9: The Road To Taupo

    Taupo, New Zealand

    As you travel down from Rotorua to Taupo you'll notice a sign for Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland which is home to, as well as a huge park full of geothermal activity, the Lady Knox Geyser which apparently erupts ay 10.15am every day so we duly rocked up like the good little tourists we were to pay our $27 to witness it. I'd been wondering how it was so reliable, how did this powerful force of nature know to erupt every 24 hours, what with Time being a concept created by man? Well at 10.15am my questions were answered when a man with a bag of soap rocked up and announced that he would be inducing the eruption by tipping the soap into the geyser. Oh and by the way? All the rocks around the geysers were placed there for effect.


    Fortunately your $27 also gains you entry into the park as well which, as well as the expected steaming pools of stuff named after various things the devil might utilise (Devil's Home, Devil's Bath, Devil's Ink Pots. Satan seems to use Rotorua as a veritable holiday home) it has some really pretty colours, like someone went mental with several pots of paint.
    The highlight of Wai-O-Tapu (meaning Sacred Waters but I think the hyphens were added to draw the tourists because tourists like hyphens) is the Champagne Pools, created by an eruption about 700 years ago. They're edged by an unnatural looking orange whilst the pool itself is an eerie green. The park is full of colours made from various oxides produced from the geothermal activity.


    As pretty as it is both me and Andi were geothermaled out. What with Hell's Gate and the park in Rotorua plus this, it was enough geothermal activity to last us both a lifetime. We headed on to Taupo, home of the Great Lake which is pretty fucking massive by NZ standards. When I very first drove up this way from Wellington to Auckland I passed by the lake on SH1 and thought to myself how pretty the ocean looked today before realising how far inland I was and thanking the God Of Duh that there was no one else in my car at that time to hear that comment.

    The road to Taupo contains far too many distractions, the next one being the Huka Jet. We followed the sign in to check out how much it would cost and found ourselves handing over money in its various forms to get ourselves on the next ride. I have no idea how that happened. I should really learn to contain my impulse purchasing. Its cool though, I think it's a tad expensive for what it is but the guy who drove the boat was hilarious and, along with a few 360 degree spins we got up close with the stunning Huka Falls.

    They're not stunning in the classic sense of a beautiful waterfall cascading down an ancient rock face into a tranquil plunge pool below, they're short but roaring falls that you daren't go anywhere near on account of the definate drowning that would occur. They open the dam at 10am, 12pm, 2pm and 4pm every day and these are the times to go and see them. We saw them at 90% flow and the most striking thing is the colour of the water.

    And so onwards it was into the town itself where we got distracted by the parasailers. I'd already done it in Paihia but Andi shouted me another go because she didn't want to go on her own so we went and got ourselves dragged behind a boat at 800ft for a while.

    Once we were safely back on ground we got some information about the famous Tongariro Crossing from a man in tourist information who had never done the crossing himself but had been talking about it for the last four years so clearly he was an authority on the subject. Gotta love scripting. Then we headed to Reid's Farm which is currently a free campsite next to a river pretty close to the town.

    It awesome, one of a kind. Its regulary checked on by security so there wouldn't be a repeat of Dickey Flats and they ask you to fill out a questionare about the site, whether you would pay for the site, if so how much and the killer question; Do you think it should become a commercial campsite?

    Fuck no! No way! There are so many commercial campsites around, they're ten a penny. Souless, charactorless places. Yeah, they have their nice facilities and the shiny tiled bathrooms with their flushing toilets but so what? Places like Reid's Farm are so hard to find. Relaxed, informal places where you don't have to rush to meet their 10am check out rule. Where you have your own kitchen in the form of your little gas stove, your own little rough pitch that isn't marked out with white lines. We need more places like this, safe places to camp without the formal, overpriced restrictions of a commercial camp. If that's what you want then fine, go and chose from the several in and around whatever town you're in but let us, who love to camp on a budget and don't want to be met at the front desk by a receptionist with a name badge and a list of rules, closing times for various amenities and a stern look to have our space. I'd pay to camp here, a minimal fee to help with the upkeep but please, Taupo, lets keep it at that. No one needs more commercial campsites. The facilites are above average for a free camp as it is. Don't change it. Keep that one things that makes this site shine out above all the others in the area.

    Keep Reids Farm informal.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 21, 2009 from Taupo, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
    tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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    North Island Day 10: Flying High

    National Park, New Zealand

    Last night, whilst chilling by the river we'd managed to ascertain that there wasn't much to do in Taupo apart from kayaking and trout fising. We didn't have our own fishing gear and the tours cost a small fortune so we continued south towards Tongariro National Park, home of three of NZ's volcanos, one of which made an appearance as Mt Doom in The Lord Of The Rings. As you drive in it's all you can do to stop yourself veering off the road as your jaw hits the floor, it was a clear day as we headed in, the mountains looming into view. Mt Ruapehu is on the far right, huge, wide and snow capped, its beautiful. Mt Tongariro, the oldest of the three is on the left and rising up, a charred cone in between the two is Mt Ngauruhoe, better known as Mt Doom.

    Scenic flights are on offer in Rotorua but I couldn't afford two and I'd had my little heart set on a flight over Tongariro National Park.

    Correct decision.

    Mountain Air run three levels of scenic flights in a little fixed wing aircraft with a propeller on the front. We opted for the $145 middle flight which would take us over the Tongariro Crossing which we'd be doing sometime over the next couple of days. It's fucking beautiful. Once Andi had gotten over the fact that she thought the pilot looked too young to be able to fly a plane we were off into the air. The pilot did tell us what was what as we flew over but I was too busy drooling on the window to hear him, I'm pretty sure my greasy little face will remain imprinted on the window of that aircraft for a while.

    You can actually climb Mt Ngauruhoe but we'd been told in Taupo that it was a difficult, steep climb and looking at it from the air we couldn't see a single accessible path. It lives up to it's alter ego, Mt Doom. Just on looks alone, even on a sunny day like today you can look at it and imagine it being the setting for the end of the world as we know it.

    I reckon I'll cme back here in the winter and fly over it again, just to see what it looks like under a blanket of snow.

    Once our 25 minutes was up we continued to National Park village and tried to check into Howard's Lodge but were informed by a fat bloke that we were too early and no, we couldn't just chill there until 2pm and no, he didn't know what we could do for two hours to kill time unless we told him what we wanted to do. Rude fucker. If he didn't have my credit card details we'd have left and found somewhere else, National Park is made entirely of accommodation so I doubt we'd have had too much trouble finding somewhere.

    Anyway, once 2 o' clock rolled round he told us that we should probably do the Crossing tomorrow on account of the weather forcast being a bit better than the Saturday. We booked out transport and mentally prepared ourselves as best as you can for a 19km walk.

    This was so gonna hurt.

    Talking of hurt, you'll also notice the lack of bungee action in this here Taupo post. That would be because Andi went and bottled it, she decided that no way would she be able to throw herself off a bridge so she forfeited the bet and is now officially my Bitch until she flies back to Auckland on the 27th. It also means I get to clog up National Park's drainage system with the small forest in my nether regions via the less painful means of shaving.

    And for future reference, if I ever try and make a bet with you whilst under the influence of goon, especially if it involves me potentially waxing any part of my body, please, for the sake of my pain threshold, just confiscate my glass and send me to bed.

    permalink written by  Koala Bear on January 22, 2009 from National Park, New Zealand
    from the travel blog: Tiny Little NZ Road Trip
    tagged RoadTrip, LovinIt and NorthIsland

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