Days 3,4 & 5: North Island, New Zealand
Day 3 – Caves and Hobbitses
We arose early in the planned community Pauanui, but any belief I’d had that we were up before anyone was quickly quashed by the dogged enthusiasm of a friendly little Yorkie. Given the chance, he’d be with us still….
After a brief stop in Hamilton (to get directions to Hobbiton, where we had signal to do so), we travelled south to Waitomo. The cheeky little birds who sought our delicious lunch were not deterred by noises, motions nor splashes of water. Their dinosaur forbearers would have been proud.
After a gradual climb down into a complex (and very smartly lit) cave complex, e leader of the tour shut out the lights. Venetia, notoriously claustrophobic, held up brilliantly, even then. The first few glow worms were high up and relatively isolated. But once we boarded the boat, and floated under the blue starred cave sky, the caves became truly sublime – Breathtaking in their strange and genuinely alien beauty.
What can I tell you? Probably little that you don’t already know that you’d be the slightest bit interested in. We haven’t yet seen The Hobbit, but of course we knew the ground pretty well from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It was rather nice of them to repair the temporary sets from those films just so that we could get the full experience. The cakes and ale at the Green Dragon Inn went a long way making up for the throngs of over-charged tourists buying overpriced tchotchkes in the makeshift “Shires’s Rest”.
But for all the pain of the prices throughout New Zealand, there’s not a thing we’ve done yet that we have the slightest regret for. And the sight of lichens and mosses hand-painted in the exciting new medium of wood chips and yoghurt? Priceless.
Day 4: A Day of Rest
We are mellow, calm, and completely laid-back. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it, but in an attempt to establish verisimilitude, here’s a lovely anecdote from Venetia: “I was walking by the park and I passed a tiny little boy (somewhere in the 5-7 range) sitting and getting his face painted. Other half of his face that I could see was mostly done and a woman was still painting the other side. I stood there watching them, wondering how the hell a little kid like that could be so patient and still, not moving a muscle and then I looked over and saw his dad. He was a big Maori man, with a cool mohawk of dark hair about 3 inches or so high. The rest of his scalp on either side of his mohawk was shaved. Starting at the edges of his cheekbones and running up the side of his face up and over the shaved portion of his scalp were beautiful intricate tribal tattoos. And I thought, yeah, good on you kid. You sit there perfectly still and get your face painted and make your dad proud. Love it.”
Day 5: The Day we took Neil Gaiman* Zorbing
For the last three months at least, we have told every single person had a decent conversation with that we were going to go Zorbing. Today was that prophesied day. We waited until the afternoon for the day to warm up a little and then carefully picked our outfits for the event, a t-shirt and swim trunks for myself and her two-piece swimsuit for Venetia. The Zorbing track was less than a fifteen minute drive out of town, although we were momentarily fooled by a faux Zorb course a kilometer or so nearer to Rotorua than the one we’d scoped out in advance. After sunscreening and registering, we waited with a pre-soaked father and son for our ride up to the top of the hill.
I went first and, after casting an eye down the track, dove into the peculiar human hamster pinball as hard as I could, thinking that it would be my momentum that would, if you’ll pardon the expression, get the ball rolling. But it didn’t budge. I waited a moment for the official push off down the zig-zag track and then…. Well, why bore you with my own meagre Stream Of Consciousness, when Venetia’s is much more entertaining? Behold:
“…Not far enough into the ball, hurry, hurry get in. Okay, my stomach feels really tense, this must be a great workout for my abs to be holding in this reclining/sitting position. Oh no… he’s zipping me in, am I going to get claustrophobic? No, seem all right, when did I get water up my nose? I am really quite wet already. Thank god the water is warm. Oh god, what’s taking so long, he’s chatting with the people behind me. Okay, there he is, ah, he’s unlocking the gate, omg, I’m moving ****! ****! ****! ****ing A! THIS IS AMAZING! So glad Lee isn’t in here with me, I can’t stop screaming and I think I would hurt his eardrums. OMG – totally ODing on adrenaline, is this too much adrenaline, no I think I’m fine **** I’M TOTALLY IN THE AIR. Am I going to be sick? No still okay here, **** THAT WAS ****ING AWESOME! I probably should have taken my contacts out for this, can’t seem to close my eyes and I am getting a ****ing ton of water directly in my face. Okay, still okay ****! ****ING A. Apparently I swear a lot now, who knew? ****. I love this. This is incredible! ****. Okay can’t see anything, stopped now, cover unzipped, woman is saying something oh ****. So apparently I lost my top, it’s okay she says, happens all the time. Ahhhhh, that was incredible. That was so incredible I don’t even know what just happened. ****ing A.”
Tonight we continued our hot springs tour of the world at The Peloponnesian Spa.** we tested all 7 pools in our section, spoke with Sikh dentists from London and French-speaking bartenders from Waitomo. The sky was as glorious as the springs.
*While we are led to believe that Neil Gaiman is himself down under, and while we would happily have taken him Zorbing, the savvy among you must by now realize that Neil was, in this story at least, represented in effigy only – on the splendid laundry bag that Kitty had kindly given us in LA.
**Actually, Sparta led the ancient Peloponnesian League to war with Athens back in the day. This really has nothing to do with the amazing spa in Rotorua, but somehow we found it more fun that saying “Polynesian”. We are a silly people.
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