Have had a hectic week! Started by going up to the Bay of Islands, and with perfect timing was actually in Whitangi for Whitangi day (national holiday marking a treaty signed by Maoris and European settlers), so saw some of the celebrations with tribal canoe races.
Took a bus trip up ninety mile beach, which isn’t actually ninety miles (it’s 64), but is still pretty impressive and is actually a state highway, so you would have to be very careful if you wanted to lay on it and work on the tan!!
Went right up to the most northernly point of the island Cape Reinga, which holds great significance for Maoris, who believe that when they die their spirit travels the country and leaves at that point to go home. Then went to some huge sand dunes and slid down them on boogie boards, it was really scary and a great adrenline rush (I think many more of those to come! Every stop we take seems to offer something mad to do). On the way back we stopped at a Kauri forest-huge and very old trees (talking in thousands of years for their ages!) that also are very significant in Maori legend, as they are believed to have created all life on earth.
After a short stop and party in Auckland, in an ice bar wrapped up in fur coats, we headed back to the Corromandel. This time we were a bit further north in Cathedral Cove, which was a beautiful beach. Have stopped at loads of lovely beaches and forests and taken breaks from sitting on the bus by hiking through gorges, up waterfalls and through caves. The tour bus route seems really well planned out.
Next came Rotorua, the stinkiest place I have ever come across, the sulphur from the geysers and mud pools smells just like rotten eggs! So naturally I decided to jump off the bus and spend an extra day there!! It is also known for its Maori culture, so we went along to a concert in a village nearby.
Got scared shitless by the traditional welcome of warriors charging at us with spears, yelling, stomping and waggling their tongues at us. And we had to stifle any nervous laughter as a recent swiss tourist who laughed got headbutted by a Maori for being disrespectful! After another welcoming ceremony and some introductions to their daily life, we sat down for a huge meal, prepared in the Hangi-on hot rocks in the ground, covered in wet sacks and earth. It was delicious. Definitely an experience I would recommend.
Later we went ‘luging’, which was like sledging down the side of a mountain, on a track, where if you missed the corner you would have gone straight off the side (but I mastered it well, not even a scrape on me). So the adrenline theme this week has mainly involved sliding.
After some more geysers and spurting mud pools (they look so cool, will try and upload a video of them) and some more culture, I got on the next Kiwi bus. This crowd are a bit more sedate than the first, but are ok. I have got to know the people on the next bus and the one behind, so when I decide to hop off again I’ll still have some drinking buddies, which is nice. Lots of others are travelling on their own, so they are really friendly, it’s a great way to find travelling companions. I’ll be catching up with the party crew at Taupo tomorrow, after I’ve gone “blackwater rafting”-which involves abseiling into caves, floating along in a rubber ring to see glow worms, then climbing out again. Really looking forward to that.