NZ10+ : Day 08 : ROTORUA to WAITOMO

A relaxing evening spent in the New Zealand countryside, waxing lyrical about writing, staging a jukebox war, and meeting the world’s most boring barman.

Monday 24/03/08

A few dodgy sausages on toast for breakfast, and we were on the way to the Te Puia Maori Experience for some more cultural experiences and Geo Thermal thrills and spills. Got some excellent Jurassic Park style photographs of the volcanic steam and the mud. The highlight though, was in learning how to perform the Haka.

Don’t know what I’m writing now, losing the thread! Trying to listen to Koru talking about what we’ll be up to tonight. Hope I’m not the only one signed up to Quad Biking! I also have to plan ahead and book the South Island dates now. Booked into Wellington to get the ferry over to the South Island on the 29th. Booking the ferry can be tricky, so best I confirmed it now.

(4:02 pm)

It did turn out that I was the only one up for Quad Biking, and so it didn’t go ahead. Quite happy to just chill out instead, and I am of course $100 better off! This could be handy if I sign up to the skydive while I’m not paying attention.

Just went on a small walk with Koru and a few others to pass the time. Now I am sat in the Waitomo YHA enjoying a brew, waiting for a pizza, and contemplating if there is a way to wash my trainers. Now that I’m not half-asleep (or half-awake) and because I haven’t anything to do today either, I can write something more in-depth, witty, or insightful. Rather than just surmising what has happened on each day, I can talk about how I feel and whatnot. Or, at least write reams and reams as I did in Singapore and Auckland.

It is odd how each dot on the map ends up turning into an actual place, with things happening in it. Some places such as Whitianga (no events, but still the most enjoyable night so far) and here in Waitomo don’t seem to have much on offer other than the subscribed walking-events, but I seem to enjoy that more. Rotorua was a bit hectic in comparison. But here, I am chilled out with a tea and a forthcoming pizza. I am chilling out next to acres of hills and forests, sat outside (a novelty surely?) wondering why my hand-writing hasn’t improved at all since I started writing.

Eating pizza now (Wow, this is diary keeping in real-time! Eat your heart out Jack Baeur!) I am sat here with pizza and wearing an MCFC shirt on one hand, whilst supping tea and keeping a diary on the other. This sums up my nature; one half English Gent, one half a Fat-Manc. Planning to get thin on this trip simply won’t work. This is a VERY cheesy pizza, and I will be drinking later. Think I have cracked the hostel thing - any decent hostel must have a cat.

(Writing on Tuesday 26th)

It was quite an eventful evening. Put my first clothes-wash on and everything; I must be a real traveller now. Although my trainers still stink. Went to the pub for the rest of the evening and chilled out with all of the guys off the coach, played pool etc. A mini jukebox war broke out at one point. Loads of hip hop was on, so I banged on some Beatles to begin, and then later some Oasis.

Koru had said the bar owner, Curly (of Curly’s Bar, fancy that) was a character. In reality, he was one of the dullest men I’ve ever come across.

A Canadian guy was playing cards for money with a group of young lads rather loudly. Turned out he was the Rugby Coach and that they were his own rugby team! So, he was taking their money from them, being the loudest guy in the bar, and getting pissed and to top it all, not letting them touch a sneaky drop of booze! As soon as he went though, they asked Laurence (Irish guy) to buy them all Jaeger-bombs. Woke up with a slightly dodgy tummy.

Because of the jukebox, the soundtrack has to be…

SOUNDTRACK: “Helter Skelter” by The Beatles


Geothermal thrills and spills – I may have been over egging it a bit, no sulphur based pun intended. I think the day’s geo-thermal pool activity, and the later Maori experiences were at the same venue as the previous Maori experience night. Had no sense of direction in the night vs the day. The pools were interesting, but I remember enjoying seeing more of the Maori exhibits and the live crafts (carpentry etc.) by daylight.

This was the day that we learned the Haka as well! I am deliberately not trying to search the internet for certain notes, instead I’m relying here on my diary, photographs and recall to fill in any blanks. As such, I seem to remember the opening lyrics translating as “Death! Death!” We learned the first few lines and dance moves, and I could honestly remember it by heart for a few years – but the detail has since faded, as I obviously haven’t been practising enough. But a very pleasant memory and a feather in my cap – I was taught the Haka by a Maori tribe. Nice.

Again, a really nice and content afternoon spent in a countryside location just chilling out. Though only a brief description, and with hardly any photos to back it up, a rather pleasurable evening in a bar getting to know a few of the guys off of the bus. This must have been my first night having a proper social drink too many, hence the tummy trouble and vague recall… But once upon I time I could handle my drink, so why not!

I notice that I wanted to sign up for Quad-Biking, but as there were no other takers, it didn’t end up happening. This is probably a good point to quickly talk about funds. I vaguely recall the whole trip, all of it, costing about “two grand” – flights and everything. That does not seem like a lot of money for five weeks and half a planet away, even for ten years ago. Still, the cost of travelling in a backpacker fashion has to be kept affordable, else no one could do it! So even though now, two grand sounds like not a lot, in comparison to the more experienced and seasoned backpackers who I was meeting on the Kiwi Express, I was very much the newbie and very much the ‘big spender’ in comparison.

Almost everybody backpacker that I met, was in New Zealand as part of a longer world trip. They had already been to, or were planning to go onto, even more destinations. As such, they were really stretching their funds day to day. Many backpackers even stopping off to stay in certain cities for a while, in order to seek part-time work and to top up their funds. This was quite different to my own experience, which was very time-bound and a very specifically funded trip. I had amount X and time Y, and so long as I paced myself and did not spend it all before the end, I could go relatively nuts when it came to spending.

This meant that on occasion I could treat myself to decent food in a restaurant or café, whilst some of the gang would be back at a hostel cooking up another bag of pasta in a long series of student-esque cheap meals. I’d like to think that I spread some pennies about from time to time in the bar, but as much as I’d have liked, I couldn’t treat half the bus to a take-away! So, whilst I was by no means flush, I had a bit more disposable income than most, and I had budgeted for some “big ticket” experiences such as Sky-Diving and Bungee. The Quad-Biking didn’t happen here (and so remains on the bucket list) but the biking stands out as it was the first instance in the diary of me trying to sign up to something adrenaline based. I would not have to wait too long for an alternative adrenaline experience to come along…

I am pretty much reliant on this short diary entry and a handful of photos for this particular day. I really don’t recall much, apart from rather enjoying the pizza and the cup of tea in the middle of the forest at the lodging. Perhaps it was a day that was mostly spent travelling – we did spend an awful lot of time on the road after all, but of course, those memories were probably never recorded properly in my brain. So, though I don’t recall much factually about Waitomo, I do remember feeling (dare I say) happy. At this point, with three actually pleasant and fun-filled NZ days behind me on the Kiwi Express, the adventure was finally in full swing. Eight days in to the overall trip, and I was finally allowing myself to relax a bit, to be a traveller, and to start enjoying it!