October 05, 2011

Hello again!

What a whirlwind the last two weeks have been! I don't even know where to begin! I will try not to bore you by giving you a day-by-day account of what we have been up to, but still try to fill you in on what we've been up to.

Our three days in Wellington were great! Like I said in my last post, we were SO excited to get back into a city. It was so refreshing to see people our age after spending months in small towns and farm country. Wellington is a bustling place that also just happens to be hosting a few Rugby World Cup games. For the most part people are just going about their normal lives, which luckily for us meant busy cafes and crowded bars. In between eating and drinking out all week, we did actually see some sights in Wellington. We spent a beautiful sunny morning at the Wellington Botanical Gardens which you access via a cable car from the center of the city. We spent all morning getting lost in all the gardens that will eventually have flowers pouring out of them in a month or so. We spent another day in the Museum of New Zealand, Te Papa. It has everything you could imagine: Maori culture, historical artifacts from New Zealand and Kiwi line dancers (we happened to arrive on USA Day). The best part about Te Papa is that it is completely Free!! On our last day in Wellington we did a tour of the parliament building as well as the Beehive (a building shaped kind of like a beehive which houses MP offices). The evening was filled with USA chants and National Anthem singing as we headed to the USA vs Australia match to watch the USA get smonched (technical rugby term) by Australia 65-5.

Although I shouldn't really label it Taupo because we hardly spent any time there, but I will anyway. On our way out of Wellington we stopped at the Tui Brewery. We did a tasting which came with a free beer mug and Luke bought a tshirt. After touring around the property and taking some photos, we moved on our way to make it to Taupo to catch the All Blacks vs France in the Fanzone. We popped into a pub to watch the end of the Warriors semi-final game (we watch A LOT of rugby now) then headed on our way to Auckland. Not before stopping in a picnic area and taking a cat nap/sleeping for 5 hours.

If we thought we were excited about being in a city like Wellington, we didn't know what was awaiting us in Auckland. Anyone who thinks they have experienced the Rugby World Cup yet but hasn't been to Auckland is wrong. Auckland is the Rugby World Cup. The Fanzone is incredible, the amount of fans buzzing around the city is electric and the bars are spilling out on every corner. We were heading to Auckland because we had tickets to the Fiji Vs Samoa game at Eden Park. We met the nicest bus driver who gave us a free ride to the bus that would take us to the stadium. It was a great start to the night. The stadium was nearly full of Pacific Islanders and their flags. The players did a Haka at the same time against each other which was probably the best part of the game. Samoa was a much stronger team that Fiji and dominated much of the game, but it was still great. Even better was the atmosphere in the Fanzone later that night for Argentina vs Scotland.

We left Auckland after two days and headed north to explore the beaches and the Northern most point in New Zealand. Our first night was spent at a campsite about an hour and a half north of Auckland where we watched some more rugby in the very locals local pub before heading back to our campsite for the night. We did a walk the next day along Mangawhai Heads just up the road from our campsite. It was like being in a tropical island! The weather helped as well, the first truly hot spring day we have felt in a while. After one more night in the same campsite we went to Waitangi the next day, the site where the treaty was signed making New Zealand a Commonwealth member. The site is pretty interesting and we got in for half price since we had working visas (making it even better obviously). We capped off our adventure in Northland with a bus tour to Cape Reinga. Our hilarious bus driver told jokes that only a dad could tell and showed us some of the most incredible white sand beaches. We explored Cape Reinga as well, but the real adventure came on the way back from Cape Reinga. We stopped about 15 minutes south of Cape Reinga at these enormous sand dunes. We got out, grabbed sleds, huffed and puffed our way up the dunes and went flying down to the bottom. After three tries we were pretty much exhausted from climbing and covered in sand, but it was well worth it! We carried on driving all the way down the beach called 90 mile beach, although its not quite that long before getting back on the road and completing the Ride.

So Auckland wasn't really on the itinerary at this point, but plans are only as good as your ability to change them right? Well we really wanted to see the England vs Scotland game, but the campsite we were going to closes its gates at 9 O'clock and the game didn't even start until 8:30, so camping there was not going to be an option. We decided to use their showers anyway, then hop in the car and road trip to Auckland. It turned out to be the BEST decision. We parked in the outskirts and as we were walking into the city we heard all of this commotion. We followed the noise and found about 50 rowdy Scottish fans chanting outside of the hotel that the Scottish team was staying at. We waited about half an our and there they were strolling out of the hotel in their warm up gear getting onto the bus. After that we were buzzing! We had a few drinks and ate a nice healthy McDonalds before heading into the very crowded fanzone to watch the game. It was a much better atmosphere than we would have gotten at any small town pub we may have gone to, and we had a great sleep in the front seat of the car at a service station!

Ok I'm sure you're starting to get really bored of reading now, but I promise I'm almost done!

We weren't really expecting much from Hamilton. The Lonely Planet didn't really have much to say about it, but we had our last world cup tickets there for Fiji vs Wales, so we had to at least spend the day there. We headed straight for the Botanic Gardens which I must say are probably some of the best gardens I have ever been to. There are so many small gardens and places to sit, and as usual the flowers have not all fully bloomed yet, but you could imagine how beautiful it will look in a few short weeks. We ended up wandering into a Maori festival which was free, so we went in to explore. We are so glad we did because just as we were arriving, a Maori Concert was starting. It was a local tribe putting on a show with singing, dancing and hakas. It was the best part of the day! We headed to the game in the evening and it was raining pretty hard. On the way though we did get free sausages from one of the sponsors, ANZ, so that made for a great start to the game! Wales trampled Fiji and it was pouring by the time we left, but we had a great nights sleep at a campground that we thought we would never find making it all the more exciting when we did finally get there!

Although we thought we would spend much more time in Coromandel, we decided mostly because of the bad weather we've been having, that we wouldn't spend as much time here. We did of course have to go to the famous Hot Water Beach where you dig yourself a hole in the sand and have a hot spa! Low tide was at 730, but they say that you can go two hours either side of low tide and dig yourself in. Well, they are lying. There is still SO much water where the hot pools are meant to be dug that you dig a little bit of a hole and then a wave comes and puts back all the sand. After we figured this out we decided just to wait and watch other people dig and dig and then get their holes covered by sand. Oh, also every part of the beach isn't a hot spot, only parts of it are, even though people are digging EVERYWHERE! It wasn't until about 7 oclock that we could dig in the hot area at which point we decided to help out another group and just sit in their hot pool instead. But finally at about 7:45 (after arriving at 5:30) we were sitting roasting our bums in a hot pool. Well worth all of the trouble we had!

Well that's about all we've been up to. Hope I haven't bored you all to death! I will try to write more frequently now so that there aren't massive posts to be made!

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