My friend Anna and I embarked on our little adventure last week, and MAN are we loving it! We flew from London to Hong Kong for two nights, only losing one phone and lots of sleep on the way! Hong Kong was great- incredibly clean and excellent transport, really cheap noodles (stay away from the vegetable dumplings if you're a veggie, we found lumps of something suspiciously like pork in ours!) and tasty BBQ beef rice rolls. We got the Star Ferry over to Hong Kong Island from Kowloon and stepped from a mish-mash of shanty-town and hotels to sweeping boulevards and business lunch restaurants. Other things we learnt: the rice wine is strong and insanely cheap but does not taste good, haggling on the markets will get you a good deal and they will escort you to a cash point if you need one, and the 'light show' that takes place every night at 8pm is kind of over-rated, though we had some lovely wine and nibbles on the harbour side that made it seem much better!
Next we flew to Auckland, New Zealand's sprawling but uncharismatic northern city, and were picked up by my friend from summer camp; Brooke. Brooke was a STAR- the time we spend with her and her lovely family was amazing (I am still going on about her Mum's beef and the pool) and we had a hoot with her friends on a night out in Whangarei. We also had a corker of a night in Paihia at the Base Hostel bar, then drove up to the northernmost point of New Zealand; Cape Reinga, the next day. Momma Cat purred along nicely during the scenic looooong drive, Tracy Chapman was belted out and we still enjoyed the swirling Pacific/Tasman meet and views despite the weather being foggy!
Brooke drove us back to Auckland after a 'sweet' beach day ready to start our Kiwi Experience on the notorious buses. We've found the bus trip great so far- it's so easy and convenient, plus a great way to make new friends, it's just the journeys are long and the driver's ipod can be... well... interesting! Our first bus stop was Mercury Bay where we went on an awesome glass-bottomed boat trip around Cathedral Cove, learning about the different marine life and geographical features of the rocks there, exploring caves and doing some ace snorkling- we even touched sea urchins and saw an octopus!
Next stop was Hot Water Beach where geothermal activity beneath the sand means you can dig your own hot pool when the tide is out and have a nice long soak, but be warned- parts of it are BOILING and toes can get toasted! We stayed in a brand new block of cabins on a cool campsite where we made teriyaki chicken on the BBQ with mugs of wine and our new friends :D good times! The following day was a beach day with only minor sunburn acquired, but we missed the last shuttle so had to hitchhike with a French family back to our campsite! First time for everything, right?
We stopped off at Karangahake while on the bus the next day to walk through the old pitch-black railway tunnels and along the gorge swing bridges which was a cool way to bond with our group. That afternoon in Waitomo we went on the incredible 'Black Abyss'- an exhilarating combination of caving, tubing, zip-lining, abseiling and climbing through the pitch-black but stunning Ruakuri Cave, mesmerised by the glow worms on the cave ceilings and amazed at our seemingly endless energy supplies! I think the hot drinks and sugary snack provided en route during the 5 hour caving expedition helped, plus the adrenaline! It was one of the best (if not THE best) things I've ever done!
Now we're in Rototua which smells a little funky because of the thermal activity and sulphur geysers around, but that does not affect our sunbathing as you can't smell it from our pool! We had a wonderful night in a Mauri village or Marae where we learnt about their customs, beliefs and way of life, enjoyed an awesome traditional dance, song, weaponry and poi show, then had a huge feast of delicious foods cooked in a hangi beneath the ground (with vino of course!) before many amusing sing-songs on our waka (bus) on the way back! SUCH a fantastic night, followed by an entertaining bungy-run competition in the hostel bar (which I didn't enter, not in a maxi dress!)
Tomorrow we go to Taupo and we're going to do a Skydive- wish us luck!