Well it has been around 10 days since my last entry, and since then I have been living ‘Plan B’, which entailed hanging around in Auckland for approximately a week before getting on the Kiwi Experience bus. I hung out with lots of cool people in Auckland, and shopped until I finally felt prepared to start an outdoorsy trip in a cold country. I bought a MacPac hoodie and some hiking boots (!). They are Merrell Chameleon waterproof, midheight boots. They are pretty comfortable (albeit slightly orange and ugly), but for a while after I bought them I kept seeing people with higher, more solid boots and therefore suffering ‘boot envy’. After acting like a bit of an equipment freak, I realised that unless I were to have injury prone ankles or was planning on scaling a sheer alpine cliff face, I don’t need heavy duty boots and I am now at peace with my Merrells.
After boarding the bus, our Kiwi Ex group travelled to Whitianga (Mercury Bay) on the Coromandel Peninsula. After a week of warm sunshine in Auckland, everyone was quite disappointed that it started absolutely pissing down as soon as we left for the beach. It kept up all day and all night, meaning that we didn’t get to the Hot Water beach to make our own geothermal baths on the shore. Instead, everyone got drunk at our cosy hostel and ate the cheap backpacker meal made for us by the owners. It was actually a really nice way for everyone to get to know each other, and I had a great night despite my rusty pool skills putting me (and Australia) to shame.
After Whitianga was Rotorua, which involved a Maori cultural night. I guess the purpose of that night was to demonstrate how things were done by Maori people a long time ago i.e. when they first came to New Zealand. I kind of wanted/expected more of an explanation about which traditions have been carried on to the present day. Still, the hangi (a big dinner cooked in the ground), was delicious and I ate an embarrassingly huge plate of food. I am having another night in Rotorua on the way back to Auckland and I plan on seeing more geothermal stuff. I had to use my one afternoon there to rearrange WWOOF places because I had one lined up in Hastings which fell through. One second I thought I would be living in a self-contained cottage giving pony rides to children, the next second I had bought $50 worth of bus ticket to Hastings and I got a message saying I had to sleep in the hayshed and shower once a week. Thankfully I found Te Koha Organics – the farm that I am at now. They are also in Hastings and were happy to take me for a week.
We left Rotorua and travelled to Waitomo which is where I have been colder than I have ever been before. I went ‘black water rafting’ in one of the caves on a three-hour trip, which involved putting on a wetsuit and tubing/swimming through watery caves. I was a bit scared about being in the dark and in tight, confined spaces… but I knew other people were as scared as me if not more so I thought at least I wouldn’t freak out on my own. The wetsuit was already wet and had been sitting in the freezing wind, and there was a point where I was worried about my hands falling off before we got in the cave. Underground it was actually warmer and it was totally worth the pain to swim through caves and see millions of glow worms in the dark.
Below are a couple of photos – one is the view from my hostel room in Waitomo (including the infamous Truck), and the other is a cheesy group photo of the people I went black water rafting with.
Waitomo led to Taupo, which is where I spent my last night with the same Kiwi Ex group. We all went to the pub quiz night (which my team unfortunately didn’t win). Pretty cool being in the shadow of ‘Mount Doom’ (more Lord of the Rings geekdom), the snow-capped peak of which could be seen from the street out over Lake Taupo. I will return to Taupo in a week, but for now I am sitting on a beautiful farm on the East coast of the North island. I will describe the farm more later because this entry has already been massive. I am far off the Kiwi Experience track and I have to say that although I had fun, I was ready for a bit of solitude and quiet.
I’ll finish by saying that throughout the two or so weeks since I left, I have felt as though I have met people in a serendipitous way – when I have needed something from the world (even if I didn’t realise it), someone has come along to give me exactly what I need. I think that I have been that person for others too – I already feel like I have learnt and helped others so much. I’m feeling really calm and confident and… happy!