Archives for the month of: December, 2008

My next WWOOF’er hosts (still make it sound like I’m a parasite of some kind in my ears) were lovely too, they are in the middle of getting a sustainable tree wood type thing going. First day there had been an emergency, Clyde is a substitute teacher although in NZ it has a different name which I can’t remember. Anyway seeing as everyone was going to be out I spent the day in Hamilton I looked at Hamilton Gardens, which were ok, walked along the river for quite a way which was very nice. Then I spent the rest of the day in the cinema as it came on to rain. I watched Ghost Town and My best friends girl, both comedies and both hugely enjoyable.
In the evening I had the joy of being able to watch Clyde teaching some Aikido classes. It was quite interesting to compare this Japanese Martial Art with the things that I’d learnt (and I realised am forgetting at an alarming rate) in China. Then we went out for an Indian. The whole family – Mum Diane and the two teenagers Aaron and Rowan were vegetarians so I decided ‘when in Rome’ :)
I did feel a bit bad about having had some food and two nights board without actually having done anything so it was good to get on the next day and start planting trees and clearing weeds etc.
In all I stayed with the family for a week. I was even getting on pretty well with the boys by the time I left which was a surprised considering that my age is equal to theirs combined – just goes to show that it’s less important than I sometimes give it credit for. I also greatly enjoyed some of the more philosophical chats that I had with Clyde. He’d been in a family cult for quite a lot of his life – not sure about the specifics but still it gave him and interesting view on things. On leaving their house I went to the ‘famous’ Glow worm caves in Waitomo. It was very beautiful but didn’t last all that long as I chose a cheaper boat tour option as opposed to black water rafting – whatever that is. From their I went straight on to Taupo, another adrenaline fuelled city. And close to the Tongariro Crossing, a one day hike right across the volcano cones in the middle of the north island.

This WWOOF’ing is a pretty good lark, my second hosts run a full time business as well as working towards becoming self sufficient. I was still weeding and digging but it was a different atmosphere, and the home cooked lunches were pretty great. I had to cook for everyone – which was at first a bit daunting but in the end I just did a chilli. It was only OK, I’d forgotten some ingredients during the shopping stage. Being a business we (there was another WWOOF’er there) got to go on one of the visits – to a zoo after hours and we saw a newly born white-top monkey (literally that morning – not yet being shown to the masses). Very cute!
On the weekend I phone the zorbing place yet again and finally they were doing dry zorbing! The family had left to go water-skiing so I locked up the house and was off!!!
After quite a lot of faffing I was strapped in place and ready to off: Read the rest of this entry »

I arrived in Rotorua and checked into a campsite – nothing abnormal about that. The next day I prepared to leave for the zorbing rush I’d been assured was ‘kick-ass’ my van failed to start. In fact it failed to do anything – no dash light even. Complete power failure. I paid for another night at the camp and called the AA – yes I’m that prepared. They came out promptly and much to my relief the problem turned out to be a loose battery connection. One that had been fixed in the past by screwing a self-tapping screw right through the connector and into the terminal. The AA guy tutted and took it out, then tightened it properly with a spanner. It’s never been a problem since.
I was now ready for driving and Zorbing. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t. It was grey and drizzling and generally a bit dull. I decided that I didn’t want to have a ‘kick-ass’ experience without a bit of sunshine to brighten it up – just in case it wasn’t actually that great.
I ended up spending the entire day reading Judus Unchained. I actually got through over half the book. No small feat for a twelve hundred page epic. The following day (we’re talking 25th November here – a Tuesday) I had to leave anyway as I was off to another WWOOF’ing farm, on the way I’d stop in at the zorbing place I decided. So I did… no dry zorbing today.
Let me explain, there are two types of zorbing, the more popular one is where the ball you’re put into has a bit of water added supposedly this makes it more extreme but what it actually does is act as a lubricant so essentially you can sit fairly still as the ball rotates around you. However I didn’t fancy getting wet so I was after the second option where they strap you in and you go flinging all over the place in the same manner that the ball is. Without this option available I decided to go for a walk instead so I could arrive at the appropriate time at the farm.

Exploring the Coromandel Peninsular is something that I’d definitely recommend for photography and hiking fans alike. After my walking joy and hot water beach disappointment (link) I zipped across the country to Raglan, supposedly the surf capital of New Zealand and famous for it’s left hand breaks – whatever that means. Two very good reasons for this cross-country switch – one was that it was Ally’s birthday a room-mate from Auckland who also arrived via real-gap, and the other was to get a surf lesson.
We discovered that Raglan is not a party town, by any stretch of the imagination. Friday night – half ten, and almost everywhere was closed or emptying. We made the best of it though so it wasn’t too bad.
The surf lesson was quite an experience. Just getting to the sea was a mission, the beach had black sand and so got damn hot in the NZ sun! I mean to the point that you have to run to the sea. It’s like walking hot coals before you’ve started!!
Getting up onto the board and standing up was very easy – on dry land. On a wave however things were rather different. This is assuming that you’ve chosen a good wave, gotten onto the board (we didn’t go beyond feet on the bottom depth) before the wave was too close or passed and then actually roughly matched speed with the wave in time. After slightly more than two hours in the water I think I managed to try and stand up about four times, maybe more I wasn’t counting.
It was quite a cool experience if short lived. The very salty water being forced into every face hole did put a bit of a dampener on the whole thing and put me off jumping straight back on the following day – it was an option. I think I would try it again but only if I either earn some more money or can do it for free.
I left Raglan without saying goodbye properly to Ally, which was a shame, she was surfing and I had to get on to my next destination. Rotorua the place of all things adrenaline, the aim – Zorbing.

I ventured up to the Coromandel peninsular which is on the east of the north of the north island of NZ – if that makes sense. The main reason that I went up was to visit the hot water beach there. There’s a hot water spring under the beach and you can dig a very short way down at low tide and have a steaming hot soak. I arrived at high tide.
Fortunately I’d stopped off in a town called Tairua and the guy in the tourist information place had been most helpful. He’d told me a few extra places that I could go which were picturesque and given me a few walks that I could try. The places were pretty cool and I took some good pictures there. I also went on one of the walks he recommended. I’d have never found out about it without going to the information place – the road to get there was another gravel track Totally alone and when I got to the car park I was greeted by a sign that only served to increase the feeling of isolation:
Can you read that
This was my first experience of New Zealand tramping tracks. They are a lot more challenging than walks generally are in the UK! It was a lot steeper and more treacherous than I’m used to. The track was marked by luminous orange triangle nailed into trees all along, directing you to the path. Without them there was an occasional possibility of loosing the path in the forest all together. It really made me feel like I was in the wilderness. It was a bit scary on occasion – no mobile signal, difficult path, miles from anywhere. I certainly had the thought that if anything happened to me I’d have to deal with it myself.
That was until I received a text, the mobile coverage was better than I thought. But for a moment there I was totally alone.

One of the joys of travelling – I’ve been told – is meeting new people and having your perspective on the world shifted or added to. Perhaps even change you as a person (hopefully for the better). I was chatting to a carpenter in Auckland who was doing some work on my van for me. As is generally the way of conversations these days the topic turned to the current state of the world economy. He pointed out that the financial rescue packages being put together for the banks were probably being masterminded by Gordon Brown. The ex-treasurer and current prime minister. I nodded in agreement, not really knowing for sure but keeping things easy. I’ve always ignored politics because it’s always seemed too complicated to understand without devoting a large part of your free time to following what’s going on.
However Alex (the carpenter) blew this pre-conception out of my mind with a simple question: ‘so how do people feel about that?’. The simplicity and inclusion of such a statement left me reeling – I mumbled something about not really hearing much about it from the UK. In truth I’d never really considered that politics was something that could be idly chatted about over a beer (we were drinking beer) without actually knowing everything that was going on in the political arena. I am now left hoping that when I get back to the UK I can take part in this kind of gentle political discussion with my friends – who know it may actually be enjoyable!

So, I left you hanging on the news that I had a ‘campervan’, if memory serves. I left Auckland to go to my first WWOOFing farm – Willing Workers On Organic Farms. The experience was pretty cool, but left me feeling slightly negative about Germans. Leaving the farm on 17th November I immediately set out to visit Cape Reinga. This is billed as having a fantastic view out over the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean. ‘So?’ you may ask, well one is green and the other is blue (I forget which way round). There appears a seam in the sea, very interesting. The journey was to be a simple one, even without GPS I think I could have done it without sweat.
So I set out, the weather was a bit dismal, but I continued without concern as the words ‘of you don’t like the weather in Kerikeri wait ten minutes’ from Corren were still fresh in my mind.
The weather was not improving as I passed ninety-mile beach (a gross lie which I’ll ignore for the moment), so I continued without stopping to look at it. As the GPS distance ticked down to about 30km I hit some roadworks. Slightly more extensive roadworks than we’re used to in the UK. Rather than resurface one side of the road at a time they seem to just rip the entire road back to coarse grit and start again while cars and vans are still using the route. At first this wasn’t a problem, I was well below the advertised speed limit of 70km/h but still making good time and the surface was still quite good.
This did not last. The surface rather quickly degraded to a looser gravel surface and an max speed of 30km/h. This surface had also acquired a top layer of wet mud in the recent rain. This is where driving became more of an art than a science. Let me point out that my van is NOT a 4×4 and I had the distinct feeling that such a vehicle would have made life a lot easier. I was crawling along and at times I felt more like a rally driver than a lawful road user. On some of the corners the use of the steering wheel seemed to be more of a suggestion to the vehicles direction, rather than a direct correlation. In other situations I think this would have probably been a lot of fun – I’m sure that I’d like to try a rally driving day when I get back to the UK – but when two way traffic is a possibility on the road these conditions ‘focus the mind’. Stressful.
After an eternity of this slip-slide driving (10km) the repeated thought that I should turn back is pushed into a definite decision as I am faced with what looks like an impossible hill. I turn around.
However after a minute of GPS indecision – me being unable to decide where to go instead – I turn around again and brave the hill. Damn good job I did too, because in the next 400m (I kid you not) the road reverts back to the solid standard issue tarmac that we all know and love. A few minutes later I arrive at the Cape and park up with a sense of relief. I can hear the question that’s on your lips right now: ‘After that journey, was it worth it?’
I’ll let you decide for yourself.

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