Sunday 13th February - Day 1 of Flying Kiwi NZ Tour
I was up early in my lonely dorm. Nobody had turned up and so I had had the place top myself for the night and had slept really well. After packing my stuff, checking out of the hostel and grabbing a quick sandwich from Subway, I made my way to the bus stop by Bella’s Café for just after 9.30am.
The Flying Kiwi bus was already there and a group of people were hanging around. It was actually dropping off some passengers before picking up the new ones , so most people disappeared and left, leaving just 3 of us standing around. The first person I spoke to was Sarah, who unbelievably worked at the Hospital at the bottom of my old road in Blandford Dorset – It is a small world. The next person I met was Rich, who is from Manchester and is a true red – just like me!!
We all met the newbies as they arrived – Ben, Sven, Lindsay, Becky, Wojtec to name but a few. Everyone seems pretty friendly and it is a good group. We set off just after 10am and headed towards the first nights stop at Hot Water Beach. On the way we stopped for lunch and picked up a few beers to drink later tonight and some ice to keep it cool. For lunch, most people sat in a nice little café, where there was an old couple playing random songs and a little bit of New Zealand jazz. They definitely liked doing 'their own thing' and were really different, if you know what I mean!
Back onto the bus and after another hour or so and dropping a few people off for a bike ride into camp, we arrived at Hot Water Beach Holiday park. Its a nice site, with hot showers, TV room and a kitchen, but we are all self contained with tents and cooking trailer and lots of food, so we didn’t really need to use anything except the showers. After setting up the tents and checking out the beach, I set off with some of the group to go sea kayaking for the afternoon. I doubled up with Ben and grabbed a green two man kayak. It was a really good afternoon – paddling out to a nearby island and then back to Cathedral Cove beach via an archway/cave that we paddle through. The weather was really good and everyone really enjoyed themselves – especially when the tour guides made us coffee and hot chocolate with biscuits as we explored the beach at Cathedral Cove. It s a beautiful place with great views and a waterfall cascading down the rocks behind the beach.
After the break, we piled back into the kayaks and made our way back to the beach at Haihei where we started from. Then after riding a wave back to the beach we grabbed a lift and headed back to the camp site for dinner, which was waiting for us when we arrived.
In the evening we all wandered as a group down to hot water beach to find out why it has such a strange name. Basically, at low tide, you can dig a shallow hole in the sand and the geo thermal water underneath will fill the hole with hot water, which you can sit and bathe in. On the way we were shown some glow-worms by Rachel our tour bus guide and then when we hit the beach we saw literally hundreds of people sitting around drinking wine and beer, while sitting around in their shallow holes of hot water! It was a weird sight and we joined in pretty soon by finding an unused hole and jumping in. Myself and Ben had a run into the sea and then back into the hot water, which was a great way to get the benefit of the hot water.
I decided to head back to camp with Lindsay so we could grab the showers before everyone else got back and then everyone sat around by the bus, enjoying a quiet drink and getting to know each other . It was a good end to a long but great fun day. We all headed off to bed around midnight as we were due up at 6.30am for an 8am departure.
I slept quite well in the tent that I shared with Rich, but woke up early when the sun started to rise. Eventually everyone else got up had breakfast and we all mucked in to help some of the slower people to get their tents packed up before jumping on the bus and heading off towards Rotuara.
The drive was very familiar to me, as everyone did pretty much the same as we did on Ozbus – Some slept, others chatted and I updated my blog before helping Ben to fix his camera and downloading his photos from the Kayaking yesterday. Our first stop of the day was at Whitiroa, where we stopped for a walk along the beach and through the jungle to a secluded bay. I did my first 'jump shop' of the Flying Kiwi and was pleasantly surprised when Rich and a couple of others took my lead and did jump shots of their own!! Cool!! The walk was easy enough so me and Rich ran a bit of it to get a sweat on after handing our wallets to Becky to look afetr for us. When we reached the bay we took a few photos of the group up a tree and then headed back to the bus. After another hour or so we stopped for lunch and then headed on tow Rotoura, where a couple of people got out to do zorbing and myself, Rich, Sven and Andy did luge – Basically a small go kart type that you drive at breakneck speed down a windy track down a big hill. It was absolutely great and we loved it. It was even better when we got back to the bus later on and showed the video to everyone. Becky, Ben and Wojtek all agreed they should have come with us as they had spent the afternoon wandering around town, where there wasn’t much to do. Sandra, later told me that there was free beer, but she only had a coke!
Our final drive of the day took us to our lakeside bush camp-site, where the only facility is a lake and a long drop toilet – my kind of place, particularly as we have just picked up some cold beers on the way!! The cyclists (mentalists!!) have just got off for a 15km ride to camp – I am be staying on the bus!!
We arrived at the camp site and it was great – A small sit with nothing there, but a beautiful clear lake, that me Vinnie, Rich, Becky, Ben and a few others were quickly swimming in.
After most of the cyclists arrived back we put up the tent and had dinner -But Lindsey was still missing from her cycle ride, so Vinnie took the bus an went out to find her. She was given a round of applause when she eventually got off the bus and we then helped her put her tent up.
In the evening me and Rich took a few photos in homage to Wayne Rooney’s goal celebration from the weekend before we all sat around the tables with the gas lamps on and played a few daft games as it got dark. The beer flowed nicely and we had a really good night. Except a couple of people who cant take their drink – Waheed (Also known as Amir!!! haahaa!!)
A good night sleep in the tents was broken by the annoying noises made by the birds around the lake (Flying birds, not women!) It was a lovely morning though, so we got up and had a quick dip in the lake before breakfast. We all mucked in to get the place tidied and packed up and then set off for a busy day. First stop was a mud pool, where the hot mud gave off steam and a strong smell of rotten eggs as it bubbled away. It was a good start to the day, which got better when we stopped at Lady Knox geyser a few meters down the road. This Geyser is erupted daily for a crowd of people by an expert. It slowly starts and then rises up to 15 or 20metres high, spurting hot water into the air.
The 3rd stop of the day was at Wai-o-topu thermal wonderland, where there is a 2 mile walk through a spectacular landscape of caves, craters and bubbling pools of all different colours. These pools bubble away at over 100 degrees and have deposits of silica, gold, silver and all sorts of minerals that cause them to have all the different colours. I have never been to or seen anything like we have seen in two hours this morning!! The only dissapointment was a waterfall that actually didnt have any water in it!! But so far it has been a really good day!!
We are now sitting in Mcdonalds using the free wifi, with Rich , Wojtec and Lindsay!