27.08.2011 - 10.10.2011
Across to Rotoroua, Taupo and round up to Hamilton
We had to leave New Plymouth the morning after the game to head 4 hours north-east to Rotorua to meet Olivia, who was on a short holiday in NZ and had been to the Ireland vs Russia game. Thankfully Meurig volunteered to drive because Sian was feeling a bit worse for ware after the previous day's enjoyment! We managed to find where Olivia was staying, the most Irish hostel we've ever seen, The Blarney Rock, right next door to the Irish pub! So in celebrating a Welsh & Irish win we had a few drinks that night and caught up on goings on. Luckily one of the big hostels in town had a car park for campers so we got somewhere cheap to stay and discounts at the bar, sweet as! Next day we decided to try the luge and sky lift seen as we had enjoyed it in Singapore and apparently Rotorua is the birth place of the luge so it had to be done. This time the course was longer, through a forest with more corners and definitely faster. Meurig was quick to cross the finish line before the girls as he couldn't face being beaten again!! (HA) Verdict – even better than Singapore, well worth it. We thought we'd best take in some culture & history rather than just leisure so we headed for a guided tour of Whakarewera thermal village. There is still a native Maori tribe living there and they still use the hot thermal steam and water to cook underground and bathe outdoors. The village was right next to two geysers Pohutu and Prince of Wales (apparently because the water makes the shape of the 3 feathers) and luckily we got to watch them blow. That evening the hostel bar was holding bar games and the first prize was $600 worth of activities including sky dive etc. After being on Sian's case all day she decided to sign up as long as Olivia did also. Unfortunately the organiser said they were full after Sian's name went on the list but Olivia was standby or at least she thought! Obviously the girl organising couldn't count and she needed one more, haha Olivia is in. Neither Sian nor Olivia were even close to getting first prize but at least they got a few free jager bombs out of it plus a free T shirt! Next morning we headed for the Polynesian spa to try out the thermal pools and it was like having a nice hot bath with the added benefit of the volcanic minerals, and the view over looking Lake Rotorua was lush. Olivia had her bus booked back to Auckland so we said goodbye and we headed back to the thermal village where they were putting on a Maori show, including singing, dancing, stories and learning some Maori. We camped that evening just outside Rotorua next to Lake Okareka, the scenery was great and definitely a popular spot, & a bit of a well needed detox.
Next day we went for a drive around the area next to Tarawera mountain, which was an old volcano which erupted in the 1880/90's and covered the pink & white mineral terraces (would have been the 8th wonder of the world) with only paintings left to show what they were like. Just next to mount is Lake Tarawera where we stumbled upon some locals already drinking in the sunshine and apparently preparing for a big party by the lake that evening to mark the start of the new fishing season, I'm sure the fishermen at home aren't this fun! We had an invite but unfortunately we had to head towards Taupo as we'd arranged to meet with Nia. We managed to watch the Boks v Samoa in a pub/hotel just outside Taupo and they kindly let us stay in the car park & even let us use there natural thermal shower out back! There is definitely a lot of geothermal activity in the area and we visited a natural mud pool with mud so hot it was bubbling & fizzing, looked other worldy (But no pictures because meurig deleted that day). We also did a short thermal walk in Wairakei natural thermal valley with steam rising up from various holes in the ground and then on to Hukka Falls on the Waitomo river which was pretty impressive. They did have jet boats going up to the huge spray area from the falls but out of our budget! After watching a dam being opened and water flooding down another gorge on the Waitomo river we headed into Taupo itself, managing to park up by the lake and find a pub to watch Australia v Russia and Scotland v England, and slept over night next to a gang vans. Next morning we met up with Nia for brunch and caught up on lots including her recent wedding to Lance & life in NZ. We then had to shoot over to Hamilton back to the Glenview club in time for the Wales v Fiji, the last of the pool games for Wales and the weather wasn't looking good. Again the atmosphere was good, the match was great with a great result for Wales & our emergency ponchos definitely came in use as the heavens well & truly open! Oh well, I'm sure the best place to dry off is in the pub to watch Ireland v Italy.
Hamilton down to Wellington
We spent a day in Hamilton looking around the town centre minus all the rugby supporters and decided that we were now going to delay our trip over to the south island and head to Wellington in time for the Wales v Ireland quarter final. We stayed another night in the Glenview club with a few rugby stragglers but the place was pretty empty without everyone else. Next stop, Waitomo caves about an hour south of Hamilton. The area is made up of limestone and over time huge caves have developed and are home to masses of glow worms! We were guided underground by Norm a local caver and sat in a dinghy in total darkness in the caves. The amount of light inside the cave once our eye's adjusted, from the glow worms was amazing, looked like a strip of intense stars on a really clear night. We were taken into another cave nearby with no glow worms but impressive structures, with the cave cut through a vault which you walk under to get to the end. Next step was the journey down south heading for Wellington. We travelled as far as we could after the caves until dark and got to a camp site in the National Park near mount Ruahpeu. We then made our way down to Whanganui, stopped for a cake and used the free internet in the library (still can't believe you have to pay for internet in NZ) and ended up stopping off for the night at Foxton beach on the west of the peninsular which looked like a surfers paradise in summer. Unfortunately temperatures were not summer like but the sky was clear and we had an amazing sunset. We continued south but decided to stop off in Waikanae to do a 3 hour hike over the top of some hills through some native bush, recommended to us and said to have nice views along the coast. The track started off on what was a residential street and as we were getting our stuff together the woman who lived opposite, Denise started to chat to us. She and her husband Ted had been campervaning in Europe and she insisted we could use their shower after the walk and she'd put some washing in for us whilst we were walking, which was really kind of her. By the time we got back the washing was dry, we had a shower and they gave us a list of places we should visit/stay in the south island, and we told them what we could about south France where they are going next summer.
We made it down to Wellington that evening, had a drive round town, saw the stadium (or cake tin as the locals nickname it), and headed for some of the rocky bays along the south coast with our fish & chips in search of penguins! The search was fruitless as it became too dark to see anything outside and we found a beachside toilet & car park which allowed campers to stay. Our next task was finding somewhere to stay over the next three nights that wasn't a million miles away from town but where you were actually allowed to stay overnight. Due to the fact 2 quarter finals were in town that weekend the inner city sites were full but we spotted a car park with a few campers already parked up. We got a spot and it turns out our neighbours were some of the boys from the car park in New Plymouth, plus another welsh couple Hari & Jody and some Irish lads in a cool old fashioned van Kieran & Larnock and a New Zealander “Mr Crawley”. That morning there was also another van sprayed in the colours of the Irish flag with signatures of some of the team down the side. Apparently this van has it's own facebook page and a film crew turned up to interview the lads. We walked towards town and passed the Welsh team bus outside their hotel so we decided to wait outside to greet them as they headed off for the captains run in the stadium. Geggs (our neighbour) arrived with the Sam our captain sign, the Welsh world cup song his friend wrote which was a hit with the Welsh fans in NZ helped by you tube & facebook. We saw the players get on the bus and a lot of them smiled when they saw the sign, apparently they have heard it and Sam did some of the moves on his way into the bus, hilarious. We carried on into town, strolled down the waterfront , walked through the parliament area and headed on the tram up the hill to the view point. Wellington is quite a small capital city and as there is not a lot of land that's flat, it seems a bit squished and spreads thinly along the coast. It was Friday night before the game and time for a drink so we headed to The Welsh Dragon Pub (“the only welsh pub in the southern hemisphere), & unsurprisingly the place was full of fans. The building used to be old public toilets but thankfully it'd didn't smell like that anymore and the place was decked full of rugby shirts, flags & signed photos of the owner with famous Welshies who'd been there, Kelly Jones being one, very jealous. We started chatting to a couple of guy's Brad an Aussie from Sydney and a guy from Swansea called Mark who had moved to Sydney years ago & said if we didn't have tickets and we'd like some he'd help us out, and quickly pointed us in the direction of a man who had 2 for sale. With some bargaining from Meurig and some help from Mr Jones we got 2 tickets at half their face value to the big game, wohoo we were going!
Match day started off pretty wet and windy as Wellington normally is by the sounds of it, but that didn’t stop the banter in the car park. We waited for a bus that never seemed as if it would show up but thankfully two girls stopped and gave us a lift into town & straight to the dragon it was! The place was heaving and there were cues early on, felt like Cardiff on match day. After a few hours of singing & drinking, a few more pub stops we made it to the stadium where the Irish definitely outnumbered the Welsh so we made as much noise as we could. Come 80 minutes we were pretty dam happy with the result and how the boys played and headed back into town to celebrate, oh yeah and watch France beat England. By the time we got back to the car park most people were back so we commiserated with Keiran and celebrated with Jodi & Hari, great laugh and no hard feelings, Awesome! Plus to finish off the night the penguins were in town and we found one nestled between some rocks not 5m from the camper! We woke to a lovely sunny day for the Springboks Aussie match, why couldn't it have been like this yesterday. We watched most of the game in the harbour side fanzone then headed off to our second home the dragon for the last time to watch the All Blacks v Argentina game before hitting the sack for an early morning ferry.