After leaving the Waitakere ranges we headed south to Hamilton and spent a couple of nights there relaxing a bit after our rush around the north. There wasn´t a whole lot to do so we got very middle-aged and went and looked around the city gardens. On the way we walked past a group of students outside a grocery shop holding up a notice saying “We are filming please don´t be alarmed”. We read in the paper a couple of days later that the police had been called to an armed robbery which turned out to be this group of students making a film. The director insisted that he had notified the police that he was going to be filming on Friday or Saturday so it shouldn´t have been a problem but was embarrassed when the police pointed out that it was in fact Sunday. It is good to know that students are the same the world over! They had quite an arsenal as well, a couple of shotguns and various air pistols.
That was the extent of the excitement in Hamilton, not a particularly thrilling place but nice enough. We then moved on to Waitomo caves where we went black water rafting which was excellent fun. It mainly involved floating through caves on a rubber tube and throwing yourself arse first off waterfalls. We also got to see an amazing glow worm display.
In Taupo we went on a two hour walk to the Huka falls passing only a few people on our way through beautiful park land only to be greeted by a coach load of Japanese tourists when we finally got there. A little disappointing. We had intended to stay one night in Taupo as the weather was a bit iffy so we couldn´t do much on the lake but we had an email from some friends we met in Bolivia who were in the area so we decided to stay on another night. We visited the Craters of the Moon in the morning which is a weird landscape of steam and bubbling mud pools. Then went to the spa for a soak before having a few drinks with Miriam and Will in the camper.
The next day, slightly hungover, we went to Ohakune, a lovely little town near Mount Doom, or Mount Ruapehu as it might be better known. We met up with Simon and Sarah who are working there for the ski season. It was really good to see some faces from home and enjoy a nice meal out and a quiz at the local bar. Needless to say we didn´t win, but I did get a drink brought for me by a sweet old guy (quite tipsy) who thought that he remembered me as a child. We went snowboarding the following day which again was brilliant fun, (I am definitely going to learn how to do it properly). David was really good at it, I was quite rubbish but after three hours of falling over I was starting to get the hang of it. It was really rather painful the next day though. Luckily Simon and Sarah cooked us a strengthening curry in their camper for dinner.
Wellington was next on the list where we spent a day mooching and visiting various museums. Then Napier where David took great pleasure in mocking the Lonely Planet walking tour and the art deco architecture.
Rotorua is an uncanny, steamy place where puddles bubble and there is an overpowering stench of egg. It rained. A lot. We did manage to enjoy a walk by the lake and I also persuaded David that I needed yet more clothes.
We went from Rotorua to Thames in the Coromandel region. It is very beautiful there and we enjoyed a night by a river with some ducks and a duckling who was friendly until an American girl kept trying to snab it and it decided it wasn´t so keen on people any more.
Next in our crazy loop it was back to Auckland for a night out with Ben, Elle, Kate and Dave. It was well worth the effort though. We then had a massive, slightly hungover drive back to Wellington but playing Animal, Vegetable, Mineral saw us through (David had Hobbits as a native animal which I don´t think is very fair). We stopped for the night at Levin and then on to the ferry the next day. The ferry was OK but very choppy. I coped surprisingly well and didn´t feel sick at all, but lots of other people were puking which was actually more nauseating than the swell.
Now we are in the South Island and there will be further updates later but just for now I will say it is utterly stunning. I am almost starting to get blasé about beautiful views and unspoilt deserted beaches. Oh, and David has developed a rather worrying obsession with dead animals as you will see in the photos.
Sian (and David) xxx