Here set before you is the latest installment of our adventure around the stunning country of New Zealand.Mercury Bay (Whitianga)
After leaving the Bay of Islands, the warmest part of New Zealand, we headed back south, eagerly awaiting the blistering cold. We stopped off at Auckland for a night, which was pretty underwhelming, the rooms ressembled prison blocks and the group had been split in half. Sad times! Morning had approcahed quickly however, and before we knew it (and after cringing at Nancy, our bus driver's jokes) we had arrived at Cathedral Cove en route to Mercury Bay. The cove was stunning, a natural carved arch dominating the left of the beach, and we had fun strolling along the water's edge
. Unforntunately we had to leave and hopped back onto the Kiwi Bus. A couple of hours later we were in the small town of Whitianga. We stayed in a hostel called Turtle Cove which had a really homely feel, the owner's home-made bolognase added to the feel and we gorged uon a massive plate of the stuff. Stef had a slightly smaller plate after spilling some of the "juice" on a couple of fellow traveller's jumpers, but luckily they hadn't noticed. There wasn't a hell of a lot to do and after a huge game of Killa Pool and a quick trip to the local public house (which was rubbish) we decided to call it a night and went to bed. The next morning saw us get up at 6:30 ready to catch the bus to our next destination: Rotorua.Rotorua
The ease in which you can do things on the Kiwi Bus is staggering and before we really had time to wake up and think about what we were doing we had already spent over $100. All that was required was a name on a sheet of paper, it may be the death of us yet. We had signed up for Te Pui, the geothermally heated hot springs, mud baths and geysers and a Maori experience night. Before this however we had stopped off for another walk, this time it involved an incredibly scenic gorges and caves through an old gold mine. Flashlight in hand, we headed through the caves and over the rope-briges taking in the mountains that towered above
. Again another outstanding walk which ended far too quickly. Eventually we made it to Rotorua, it was pretty obvious when we had arrived a potent smell of hydrogen sulphite (rotten eggs) tingling our nostrils. We headed straight for Te Pui, the geothermal springs. Here we took a look at the naturally boiling mud baths, springs and geysers. It was pretty fascinating and we were really lucky to see it considering there are only 9 places in the world that have the same sort of thing. Nearer the end of the tour we even saw some native Kiwi birds! They were a lot bigger than anticipated and looked a bit like a hedgehogs on stilts, bar the long beak which poked its way through the soil. After a couple of hours we had arrived at our hostel and took a bit of a break...Later that evening we experienced one of our favourite bits of New Zealand so far: The Maori Experience Night. The night consisted of traditonal welcoming, songs, dances, haka and food. The haka was phenomenal and genuinely frightening, the Maori are pretty big and pretty loud! Later on in the evening we sat down for one of the biggest all you can eat buffet we have seen, which was also cooked in the traditional Maori way. GORGEOUS. After several helpings of every dish we left feeling a few kilograms heavier and struggling to move... we had to make the most of an 'all you can eat' though!
Today has been a more relaxing day, the pace of the tour is so tiring and so the rest was needed
. We chilled in the hostel's hot pool, which is heated by the lava below and left feeling drained and weak yet highly relaxed. The highlight of the day was the shopping trip however. FUN. During the day we met lots of new people, chatted about where we had all travelled and had a good giggle. It's still so strange being surrounded by English people after being outcasts and so remote from Brits for such a long time. Finally we enjoyed a lovely carbonara cooked by Tim Slater himself, Julia you should be proud, there's hope for the boy's cooking yet!
Tomorrow we head to Waitomo where we plan to do some water caving. It's called the Black Abyss, about 5 hours long and involves a zip-wire through the pitch black. Scary..