Monday, 23 November 2015

Wai-o-Tapu, Waimangu and chilling around Rotorua

So the next two days in Rotorua were a washout...literally, as it rained for 48hours straight! We managed to have a lie in on both days, I did my travel Admin day, we did food shopping, found a hairdryer for £6 - Warehouse Extra - its bargain central! Walked around, I got some cough tablets and lozenges -$37 eak! My cough is beginning to disapeer now, its more asthmatic than anything now. We also went to Peterpans to schedule the two activities we have booked for Rotorua; Geo-Thermal day and White Water Rafting (including a 7 meter waterfall in the boat - I'm shitting myself thinking about it!)

On the 2nd night we were fed up with the weather so we decided to sign up to the hostels beer pong tournament and the bar crawl. We played pretty well but were beat by the kiwis so we only made it to the semi finals but I think that's pretty good! Then on the way back from the last pub, we just had to get a maccy d's. My God...they do something out here called the Hunger Buster menu... $10-12.50. U can get the Big Mac one which comes with a medium big Mac menu (chips and drink), cheeseburger, and a chocolate fudge sundae! All for under £6! Easy to get fat out here lol.

Then yesterday, Sunday, the sun came out! So we decided to go for a long walk around Rotorua. We took in the free Sulphur and mud pools around the Park, and walk down and around the lake again, coming across a small slice of private beach.

In the evening we continued sorting out our WOOFing placement; we think we have found a place in the Coromandel. Free food and accommodation in a Bach (private cabin/holiday home) in exchange for 4 hours of work a day on a Dairy Farm and in a herb and vegetable Garden plus other odd jobs. If we succeed in getting a place with them we hope to start Wednesday or Thursday for at least a week and then maybe move over to the other side of the Coromandel coast and do some more WOOFing! So yea, trying to sort out buses etc is a pain in the arse up to the Coromandel! We also spent around an hour in our hostels hot tub, as you do, life is haed as a backpacker! Also skyped Ma and Pa.

Then today we had a full day activity booked; Wai-o-tapu (Why oh Ta Poo) thermal wonderland (meaning 'Sacred water) and Waimangu Volcanic Valley (why man goo) meaning 'Black water'. We had heard enough about Wai-o-tapu to know what to expect but we didn't have a clue about Waimangu we just showed up on the bus and was like WOW.

So the day started by getting picked up by our shuttle bus. We were a bit freaked out as the 'girl' from our hostel 'Sandra' (she was a transgender but was still in the transition phase, so she still had the facial features and voice of a man, but had the hair and body of a woman and uses the girls bathroom) was on the bus with us and normally this kinda thing wouldn't frwak me out, other than she was literally a freak, like, no social skills, stares at you, doesn't smile. Weird. Anyways we first stopped at some big mud pools on the way, and then a famous Geyser that is set off at 10.15 for us tourists. It's a huge eruption and lasts a good 30 seconds to a minute. There's only 3 places in the world you can see these Geysers; here, a national park in America and Iceland.

Then it was off to Wai-o-tapu which was super touristy but kinda cool! We were a bit rushed for time (had only an hour til our shuttle to Waimangu) but we managed to see everything. There were lots of different sulphuric craters, geothermal pools of over 85 degrees Celsius, and volcanic surfaces. Some of the pools were different colours like bright green, orange, bright blue etc because of the materials and gases within them, it was really strange but really cool! The smell of rotten eggs wasn't as nice though! It was a very hot day too so all that sulphuric steam made it even hotter!

Then it was off to Waimangu. As I said we hadn't a clue what we were walking into but it turns out it was the most amazing landscape/hike ever! It was basically a valley of colourful Sulphur lakes and streams, through a volcanic valley leading up to a huge volcano by a massive crater lake. It was like something out of Jurassic Park or the stone ages. It was simply stunning. It was a bush walk that took two hours and we decided to take one of the harder routes part way into it to give ourselves a challenge and see more. It was definitely a challenge but well worth it. The first crater lake you come to is magnificent, the blue colour, the swirling surface mist and the steam coming from the huge rocks made it seem so mystical, you half expected Peter pan, captain cook and Tinkerbell to materialise!

The colour of the Inferno Crater lake was a crystal bright blue, with a crater of grey rocks around it. Simply stunning.

I would say it was definitely the must see of the area. And the better location out of the two as there are hardly any tourists there, or at least it's so big you don't see many! The hike then continued on until the huge crater lake and Volcano at the end.

The bus then took us back to Rotorua around 3.15pm and we went shopping for Mussels ($3.49 per kilo so we got 2 kilos naturally) and chips - yum! Then we just chilled this evening as tomorrow morning is rafting at 8.30am! Eak! Will let you know how it goes, as long as I don't drown! Ha!

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Rotorua Day 1 and HOBBITON!!

So we arrived in Rotorua around 8.30am where half the bus who were going onto the next destination this afternoon got off to do Hobbiton. Then there were around 9 of us staying on in Rotorua for a few days, so we were doing Hobbiton in the afternoon.

So we went to our backpackers to check in, the first hostel with FREE WiFi!! It also has a hot tub hehe! Then we went for a morning walk around the Sulphur lake which then turns into a normal lake. Rotorua means 'two lakes'. To tell you it smells bad in Rotorua is an understatement. Rotten egg everywhere! Rotorua is a town built on geothermal active ground. So lots and lots of Sulphur pools and lakes. Some you can even go into for free. It's pretty cool, feels like you are on Mars sometimes!

We then headed to Pak'n'save our favourite supermarket as we were cooking bolognaise for 9 of us tonight so needed some supplies then we headed back for lunch and then down to the Hobbiton store to be collected for our tour around the land made famous by Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit!!

We were all pretty excited. It takes 1.5hrs to drive to Mata Mata from Rotorua which is where the Robinson's farm is where Peter Jackson scouted the farm he wanted to use in the films. He supposedly bought the land from the farmers and built Hobbiton using non permanent products, strictly for filming use. It took ages to construct - they even used the new Zealand army to help. And imported fake leaves for the party tree from Taiwan and individually strung the leaves on...! Then for the hobbit it took two years of reconstruction out of more permanent materials...for only 12 days of filming!! But now I guess they rake the money in.

The farm of the Robinson's is over 1800 acres of land...its HUGE! But the Hobbiton set is pretty small but still takes a good hour or two to walk around!

When we arrived we met our guide and she started our tour through the shire! It was like being home! When I told the guide my height she said I could have been an extra as a hobbit...yea yea I know! Pierrick took great pleasure in picturing by the tiny hobbit homes because I fit them so well. He was also super excited as this was a big bucket list tick for him as he is a major fan of the movies. We even got to have a pint of cider brewed especially for Hobbiton in the Green Dragon hobbit pub! We also had a cookie and a muffin.

We took lots and lots of pictures and then when the tour ended, headed back to Rotorua on the bus.

We all decided to start cooking around 8pm, which was an experience in itself, 9 of us in a tiny kitchen trying to cook a meal for 9 people using tiny pots and pans, having to split everything up and the cooker not working very well - it was a state! But 2 hours later we had cooked our kilo of mincw, kilo of bacon, 4 bags of pasta, plenty of vegetables and salad and were having a lovely meal. A few people were headed off on the east bro tour tomorrow but would be back Monday so before going to bed we said goodbye. We'd be doing the white water rafting together on Tuesday morning so would see them again before we really part ways. Me and Pierrick have decided to hop off the bus for a week in Rotorua and then head to Coromandel where we hope to get some work for accommodation to save a little money. Then we will come back and do the East Broadway section of the Stray bus before hopping back on the bus down to Lake Taupo via Lake Aniwhenua and Whukahuru (pronounced fuckahoro).

Today was a chill day as after the hectic first week of the bus we wanted a lie in and to catch up on my blog, uploading photos etc...its what I call a travel Admin day. We also booked our two activities in Rotorua; Wai-o-tapu thermal day and white water rafting down the river and a 7 metre waterfall (im scared!) For Monday and Tuesday. Other than that we are just going to check out all the free things to do in town. And maybe do a $2 naked Zorb - well its cheap so we'll take what we can right? A naked Zorb is cheaper than a $58 Zorb right?! Lol

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Mourea - Mãori cultural stay, Haka and Poi!

We arrived at our Marae (communal living land of the Mãori) at around 5pm. We were welcomed by Ruth who's family owned the place. She talked to us about their customs and what we would be doing. When we walked into the Marae we had to walk females first, men after. As in Mãori tradition women are more highly regarded and respected than men as women give birth to man, they have a reason to be missed.

Whenever you walk into a Marae you must stop halfway to respect the elders and relatives who have passed on and to send thoughts to them. She then took us into the Wharenui (literally 'big house') which is where all Maori would live and sleep under one roof as a big family in a tribe. We were greeted by her nephew who spoke a few words in Mãori as an opening blessing and then we all had to greet each other (around 40 of us) the traditional Mãori way to become one big family. Which means touching our noses together twice. It's quite difficult to so it while looking into the other persons eyes and trying not to kiss them lol! 'Kia Ora' is the traditional 'hello' or 'welcome' in Mãori.

The men then had to help put all the mattresses and sleeping bags out in the room while us women got to have a cup of tea or coffee and some biscuits and relax...I could get used to this!!

After around an hour a traditional Hangi dinner was served - roast chicken and vegetables, which is cooked in a traditional way using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. It was delicious but as we hadn't had lunch I was starving and are way too much!

After dinner we had time to get our stuff sorted from the bus into the Wharenui. Then it was time for our cultural show.

There was a team of traditionally dressed Mãori who sung a love song from Rotorua and performed traditional tribal dances and then it was time for the Haka!! For those of you who don't know what the Haka is first; shame on you, second its an awesome tribal war dance that is normally mostly made famous by the All Black's Kiwi rugby team. But its pretty special to see it performed in New Zealand by the Mãori themselves!

War haka were originally performed by warriors before a battle, proclaiming their strength and prowess in order to intimidate the opposition, but haka are also performed for various reasons: for welcoming distinguished guests, or to acknowledge great achievements, occasions or funerals. Also what many people don't know is that the Haka was originally performed by the women of the tribe, not the men. Now imagine a group of Mãori women performing the haka - its pretty scary!

After that the women then performed the traditional Poi dance. It's basically a song and dance which involves swinging Poi around (soft balls attached to string) like pompoms but they can be used to tap against the body to make sounds too. 

We were then put into male and female groups where we had to perform the respective dances, men the Haka and women the Poi. We had half an hour of practise before performing to each other. It was hilarious as I can't say I was very good at swinging a Poi around!! Pierrick and the guys doing the Haka was can see the video on my Facebook page!

I think everyone thoroughly enjoyed the cultural dance evening and it was super interactive and so much fun! After it was shower time and then Ruth gave us 'bedtime storytime' which involved telling us a few legends of the Mãori people. There were too many to remember and write down. She also answered any questions we had about their traditions and culture. 

We were all sleeping under one roof as one big family so it was a tight squeeze with 40 of us but it was quite fun!

The next day we all had breakfast together - far too early at 6.45am - freshly made French toast and maple syrup, yum, before packing up and saying good bye and heading to Rotorua! It had been a thoroughly enjoyable and informative evening!

Raglan then Caving and abseiling in Waitomo Caves!

So the next day we grabbed the bus at 7.40am and met a few extra people we hadn't met yet, it was a pretty fully booked bus so me and Pierrick only managed to score seats at the back but it wasn't too bad.

We then headed straight for Raglan, via a stop in Hamilton to pick up someone and a week stop for us desperate ladies. Then we also stopped off at Bridal Veil Falls a waterfall that looked like, yep you guessed it!

We arrived at one of Stray's 'unique destination' stops at 2pm. There was the option to pay for a surf lesson here but the weather was pretty pants and we both aren't really into surfing so instead we treated ourselves to a double room which was actually pretty cheap (only an extra $4.50 from the price of a dorm bed each).

The hostel here was pretty decent, tons of space, nice rooms, two huge kitchens and in the middle of a forest on top of a hill - totally a hippy surfer place!

So we just had lunch and then went down to the beach with a group from the bus and took in the surf...quite glad we weren't out on those cold choppy waters!

That evening everyone else had signed up for a BBQ but we didn't as we were saving money so cooked our own food. And we are mighty glad we did as everyone said it was rubbish (one steak and sausage, salad and a few potatoes) plus it took til 9pm to cook for 40 of them. So we heard many moans from all the people who were hungry and wished they hadn't paid so much for so little...always best to cook your own food!

Then everyone just chilled down by the outside fire, chatting and drinking. We decided not to drink as there were so many early mornings and buses...a hangover just wouldn't be enjoyable! We also got to see some Glow worms on a walk through the forest when the sun went down which was kinda cool! Like tiny little green fairy lights!

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn again, ready to pack up the bus and we were on our way to an overnight Moari stay in Rotorua. But first stop at 10am was Waitamo Caves, where we had booked a caving and abseiling trip. Though when we got on the bus our driver told us the trip may not run due to there only being us on it. Gaaaaaahhhhh! Everyone else was doing the tubing trip through the caves which wasn't what we wanted and everything else was too expensive so we tried recruiting people on the journey there but to no avail. Once we got there though the company saw we had pre-booked and so they offered us an upgrade onto the most expensive trip...a 100m abseil into the Lost World Cave and a deep caving experience. We couldn't beat that! A tour for $288 that we'd only paid $152 for! This was shaping up to be a good day.

So we literally filled out our form as quickly as possible as our guide had already left but came back to pick us up and we were out the door before anyone else had even paid for their tour! Lol

A stunning 15min drive over rolling green hills later and we were getting our kit on! Our guide was lovely and super funny
 We kitted ourselves out in a caving suit, hard hat with light, boots and our abseiling harnesses and then walked to the start of our 2 hour adventure.

We had to start by learning to use the safety gear on the ropes to stop us from falling. We had to clip ourselves on to ropes as we hiked down to the abseiling platform. Once we got there our guide Craig safety checked all the ropes and equipment and then we began the start of our abseil which was probably the most terrifying part; attaching ourselves to the ropes and sitting on the edge of the platform looking down into the valley/cave. We were with two Japanese people who went first.

We clipped our harnesses onto the ropeals, then swung round with our bums on the metal pole and our toes on the edge of the platform, basically a 100m drop below us. We had to put our right hands on the rope by our right leg...this hand would control our decent. Our left hand was free to do what we wanted. If we wanted to stop or go slower we had to wrap our right leg around the rope and to speed up our decent we had to pull the rope below us upwards. I was so scared I would just plummet to the ground but once we set off I realised that unless you use your hands on the rope to go down, you didn't go very far!

The worst part was taking your feet off the platform and just hovering in the air! Knowing that drop was below you was scary as!

But once we set off it was OK. Though my harness I quickly discovered was way too tight and it began to cut my circulation off in my legs so our guide gave me a rope to use as a platform to put my feet on so it didn't cut in as much. Then Pierrick went and got his beard caught in the rope contraption so he almost lost a patch of beard. And almost cried from the pain of having to rip it out!

Once these minor things had passed we began to enjoy it but once you got halfway it was harder to control your speed as you went faster so I got a little panicked but then managed to figure out a way to control it better!

Everyone's legs began to get quite painful from the harnesses so the last 20m we had to descend quite quickly. But the cave opened up like a magically land in front of us. It was all misty and magical and stunning!

Once we got to the bottom it was time for the caving part! Hiking into the cave was a challenge physically especially with my height as the boulders were huge! But we went through and took some pictures, went into a cave where we turned off our lights and saw some Glow worms. We found out that Glow worms are actually Lava (maggots) that poo in strings and send out a light that draws other insects into their poo strings. The strings paralyse their dinner and they eat them. The Lava grow a cocoon and hatch into little Knat flies that have no eyes and mouth and so only live 3 days - their main goal is to mate. The females lay eggs which then hatch into the Glow worms who eat their brothers and sisters and so the cycle continues... Interesting stuff!

We then caved a bit more and came to our ascent...which was a fecking huge ladder - 30metres sheer vertical terrorising ladder in a dark cold cave, which we had to climb one at a time. I had a little panic before going up and I had a huge panic while going up lol! It was a huge mental challenge for me and a huge physical one too! The ladder was cold, wet and gritty and not only did it hurt your hands, but it hurt your arms, your mental ability...

But after what seemed like a very long time, I made it to the top, by breathing, telling myself I could do it, and not looking down or up! Once we made it up we then had some more caving to do before reaching the open air. It was an awesome experience and it was an amazing personal accomplishment! Not only the abseiling but the caving as well!

We then headed back, took off our gear and back to the bus it was...then it was onwards for 2hours to our Maori cultural stay in Mourea!