New Zealand: North Island (on Stray bus)

October 20, 2009 - Taupo, New Zealand

After I got rid of the car I jumped on a Stray Tour bus around parts of the North Island I hadn't been to yet. We went to Hai Hei the first night on the coromandel pennisula and had a bbq in the rain (v kiwi not been put off by the weather ha) and also went sea kayaking along bit of the coast early in the morning which was good (kayaking along the the Cliffs at the end of Knockalla in the Swilly in Donegal is more impressive in my opinion) We also visited Hot water beach where you can form pools of water in the sand that are heated by geothermal means (thin layer of the earths crust where magma 2km below surface heats some underground springs) - its too hot to bear in places but with incoming cold sea water at certain tides you can make nice warm naturally heated pools to bathe in (...this you can't do in Donegal). It was also good banter on the bus with everyone that was travelling.

Then we went to Raglan a surf town on the west coast - so much of a surf town that the local school has surfing on the curriculum - we stayed in a cool chilled out hostel called Kaoiri Lodge resort and did some you guessed it... surfing! The next day we headed to the waitomo caves and myself and a few of the others did the Haggis Honking Holes tour into the caves which was very good - involved some abseiling down underground rivers and waterfalls in pitch dark, getting through some very tight spaces, crawling comando/army style through tunnels with your head just above the water and also at one point getting dropped into a hole where you couldn't see the bottom - not everyone's cup of tea i'd imagine but it was really good fun and never really felt claustophobic. You could also see Glow worms up close, stalicmites and stalictites etc.

From here we went to Maketu and stayed on a Marae (Maori tribe homestead) where we got to have a traditional Hangi meal (maori style of cooking - where food is cooked in the ground for a number of hours with red hot stones and leaves etc - where food cooks in its own steam!) Top notch grub I have to say - the Snapper fish was very tasty! 

After the meal we got told some info about Maori culture and had a concert/show of Maori singing and a traditional welcome/challenge where a warrior tries to scare the visitors and then extends an offering which your chief can either pick up and accept and hand back or step over to signal hostile intent or back away from and leave (Some people in Ireland may have heard something about this tradition in relation to the Brian O'Driscoll spear tackling incident by the all blacks on the Lions tour a few years ago (rugby) - I think he stepped over it that time...). Speaking of the All Blacks we (the lads) learnt the Haka and the girls learnt some traditional dance with a ball on a rope (poy) - Bruised thighs from the slapping where a momento for the next few days from that! It was a good laugh... very touristy I know!

Next day went sledging down rapids in Rotorua - was a first for me - extremely tiring and tricky at times, highlight was surfing the stationary waves in the rapids! After that we headed to Taupo stopping at the Huka Falls and Hot and Cold creek to bathe in a geothermal heated stream before having one last night out in Taupo with everyone from the bus before waving good bye and heading back to auckland to catch my flight to sydney!

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