Wednesday, February 04, 2009

North Island: The Short Version

I could really go into detail here. I mean I really could.

I could tell you what colour shirt the man who served me the Raspberry and White Chocolate ice cream at the Bee Farm was wearing. Or how in Pakiri we took a wrong turn right but later found out that the right turn was wrong and the only turn left (left) was right. Or how we got Mangawhai (a village) mixed up with Waimangu (a volcanic park) which we confused with Wanganui (a town) because it sounded like Maunganui (a mountain).

But that would take ages. So I’m attempting to condense the whole of the North Island into tasty, bite-sized nuggets. Like the ones at MacDonald’s. Only these won’t give you the shits.

Barbecue sauce, please.

Palmerstone North – like Stafford but hotter. Visited biggest windfarm in Southern Hemisphere. Very striking visually but pity you need about 7,000 of them to replace one coal–fired powerstation. Biggest windmill went like this “vummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm”.

Hawera – accommodation in remote farmhouse. Took wrong turning at the entrance and ended up the middle of a field, banging my exhaust all the way down the gravel track. Owner made me do the “vummmmmmmmmmmm” noise, and then laughed at me for actually agreeing to do it. Great views of Taranaki. Nutcase pensioner in the next hut accused me of stealing jobs off Kiwis, and made a point of the fact he would only travel by horse, adding vociferously: “I’ve got more rights than someone in a car. If you run into me, you better have a lot of money!”. Codgerama!

New Plymouth – skirted right round the circular edge of Egmont National Park. Taranaki in view all along the coast. Looks like Mt Fuji, hence why it acts as its stunt double in Hollywood films such as Last Samurai. Resplendent and snow-capped. Arrived at Seaspray House in New Plymouth. Accommodation was proof that there is a fine line between “retro” and “dated”. Room big enough to house a new CERN reactor, but bed not big enough to sleep Kenny Baker. New Plymouth like Plymouth. But new. And nicer.

National Park – Travelled along the Forgotten Highway. Realised after 6 hours of winding road, some of it gravel, exactly why people would like to forget it. Called in at Republic of Whangamomona, a self-declared republic in the heart of NZ due to a loophole in a boundary dispute. Offered to stamp our passport. I refused, as really wouldn’t want to have to explain that one to Homeland Security if I ever visit the States again (they might think that Whangamomona was a rogue Islamic State)

Arrived at National Park. Declined to do Tongariro Crossing on account of soaring temperatures, a ban on jeans, and it being an 8-hour hike. Went up Ruapehu instead. Great views. Boiling at the bottom, but still snow at the top.

Taupo – visited Craters of the Moon, eggy volcanic holes in the floor. Didn’t really see much of the lake. Not sure how we managed that. Got kept awake by the hostel managers in next room. Had to tell them to keep it down.

Rotorua – posh B&B courtesy of my M&D. Proper bedspread and towels and everything. Was embarrassed to put my rucksack down. Cookies and lemonade on arrival. They don’t do that at hostels. Great hosts. Out to Rotorua gondola. Had a go on wooden luge. Lou miffed that I came over all competitive and kept trying to overtake her, so got wise and wouldn’t let me pass. Into town to Fat Dog, cafĂ© with the biggest portions ever. Bloke on next table ordered ribs, couldn’t actually see him after his food arrived. It was like meat-based “Jenga”. Met up with Ivan from Drum. Had a chat. Felt the urge to get back to work.

Went to Waimangu Volcanic Park. Just like Jurassic Park. Best thing I did on the North Island. Steaming craters, ancient flora and fauna, bubbling swamps. Didn’t see Fred Flintstone. He was probably at the quarry. Got bit by something big with jaws and legs and wings. Right on my eyebrow. Was afraid a T-Rex might hatch out of my eye in the morning.

Maori cultural performance next day at Te Puia. Fully immersive Maori experience featuring song, costume and weaponry. Pretty good, but illusion shattered by burly security guard collecting tickets, dressed like he’d just come off the night shift at Blockbuster Video, and one of the grass-skirted women on-stage having a chat in English with someone just off-stage whilst the rest of the performers stomped their way through the Haka. Tsk!

Maunganui/Tauranga – went to beach, went up mountain. Had ice cream. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Tairua – woman who ran hostel never heard of me. Didn’t surprise me as she was rude and uncooperative on the phone when I booked it, way back in Wellington. Ended up in much better hostel anyway. Lovely town, deserted and idyllic. Great views from Mt Paku, a mini-Sugar Loaf Mountain.

Coromandel Town – Dug a trench in Hot Water Beach and sat in the hot water for a bit. Called at Cathedral Cove and travelled across to Coromandel Town. Knew woman in hostel was from Mansfield when she said: “I’ll show you yer room, duck”

Went on little train ride up a mountain next day. Great view from Eyeful Tower at the top.

Thames – Just a stop off. Nowt happened here.

Auckland – Flying visit. Caught up with Claire from Pink House

Mangawhai – Traffic Jam all the way up. New toll road opened that day, but was free first weekend so was swamped with traffic. Took 1½ hours to do about 15km. Went horseriding in Pakiri. Poor instruction and lax trainers. Didn’t feel in control of horse for the entire hour. Don’t think horse liked me either. Horses got spooked in the last 50 yards, scattered and bolted. I nearly went into a tree. Lou got thrown into a bush. Purple ribs next day. Not good.

Paihia – Excellent visit to Waitangi Treaty ground. Enjoyed it more than Maori cultural evening. Much more informative. Next day booked boat trip. Cloudy, and boat replaced at the last minute. Disappointing.

Kaihu – Visit the mighty Kaori forest. Biiig trees. Would make a hell of a lot matchsticks. Farmstay owner looked like a washed-up Santa and was surly and off his trolley. Thought we were trying to steal his beer, when really we were only looking for another fridge, as the one in the kitchen had mould in it. Went on a night-time excursion hunting for glow-worms. Eerie.

Auckland – all done

Not many more entries to go I fear, but hopefully two weeks in Japan, where it all started, will give me plenty to write about.



1 comment:

A Ducking Aunt said...

"hopefully two weeks in Japan, where it all started, will give me plenty to write about."

The appalling exchange rate should be a start... look forward to everything costing exactly twice as much as it did before...