Sunday, 20 February 2011

The Cream Trip

Today was the day of my big boat trip. It was a day long trip around the Bay of Islands and if we saw the oppertunity we would be allowed to swim with dolphins, as long as there were no babies. We were told that yesterday they saw a massive pod but couldn't swim because of them so I wasn't hopeful and was glad that if swimming didn't happen I'de get the extra money back (they charge for the boat trip then extra if you want to swim as well). We left at about 9:30 and sailed to Russell to pick up some more people with our captain telling us a little about the history. He also pointed to a large building at the edge of the Russell Peninsular and said it was the Eagles Nest hotel, where rooms went from between $5,000-35,000 a night and that Tom Cruise, Nichole Kidman and Paris Hilton had stayed. Tom Cruise's boat, Suri, had been spotted the day before so rumour has it he's in town.

We were crossing the bay to the eastern side when a large pod appeared, the same was as the day before. However, no babies were spotted!!! the captain said, hurry up, get changed now, so about half that passengers stripped of to there swimwear and ran the the main cabin. I got ran down and was in the first group to go, we were given snorkels and flippers and jumped out of the side of the boat into a large net after being told not to touch the dolphins, and that to keep them there we had to keep them entertained by diving, making noises and clicking. When about 15 of us were in the net we were told to swim out and there was a mad rush to get up close. I saw a few from behind but they were moving on so we got back in the net, held tight and the boat sped forward to catch up with them. The second time was better as there were more dolphins around and I ended up swimming along side 3 of them, they turned towards me, one looking at me and then disappeared deeper. A few mins later I looked and there was one right below me so I swam along with him for a little bit before being told to return to the net so the second group could have a chance. It was amazing, I've been swimming with dolphins in captivity before, where they were ordered to do tricks and things which was pretty cool. This didn't have the wow factor in the sense that you were touching them, and interacting with them, but it was just as good. We were next to wild animals, up very close and the was excellent. Then while the second group went some o the dolphins started jumping and showing off, that was pretty cool. I was surprised that it happened so early on, especially after thinking it wouldn't happen at all!!! a great start to the day.

We the carried on with the tour, sailing past various islands and learning about both the Maori and European history of the area. It was the first place settled by the Maori about 900 years ago, and then the first place settled by Europeans. Our captain was very entertaining and informative, with lots of stories about each individual island we passed. He told us the history of the Cream Trip as well. Back in the 1940's the owner of the dairy farms in the region asked Ernerst Fuller, the owner of the ferry, to collect the cream and milk and deliver the mail and newspapers to each island. He got board of doing it on his own for a while so started taking people along, then started charging them as well!! These days exreamly wealthy people own batches on some of the larger islands so the Cream Trip no longer collects the cream, but we did make a few stops to deliver the mail. It was collected by care-takers on the island as most owners live in Auckland and employ a person to live on, and take care of the houses and boats. They are sort of sailors and handymen and make a fairly descent living but are very isolated.

We then ventured into the Pacific Ocean towards Hole in the Rock, an island when an archway carved into one side by the water. On the way 3 dolphins were spotted and they told is we had time for another swim so about half the people who swam before decided to go again. It wasn't as good this time though, the dolphins were less curious and i only got to see the back end of one. About 4 boats reached it at about the same time and two smaller boats sailed through it. However, as we had a large boat and there were some swells coming through from the other side our captain took the decision not to go through. There were only a couple of metres either side and with the rough water he said it was to dangerous. Then we sailed back to Paihai for about 4:15 and left that boat, it was a long but fun and interesting day!

Saturday, 19 February 2011


The adventure continues! Saturday we had a lazy morning just hanging out then we got the ferry to Russell after lunch. Its the oldest European settlement in NZ and was the countries first capital. They used to call it the 'Hell-Hole of the Pacific' because that's where whalers in the South Pacific would stop. Drinking, murder, prostitution, and violence were all common, with the police, Catholic and Anglican missions all unable to contain the problems. The problem was men who would be stuck on ships for a long time would get off, party and fight. The sailors could buy 8 gallons of whisky for UD$4 (I think thats today's money, allowing for 200 years of inflation) and they also introduced prostitution the the local Maori tribes, whos men profited from selling the women. Russell had 24 brothels back then too and it wasn't untill the late 1830's when it was cleaned up and made the first capital. It was referred to as hell and Paihai, just across the bay, was refered to as heaven by the missionaries. It almost reminds me of the town in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie where Johnny Depp goes to find a crew for the Black Pearl, Tortuga.  After the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840, when the British and Maori agreed to share the land, with lots of conditions, war broke out between some of the tribes and the capital was moved to Auckland in 1841. It stayed there until 1865 when Wellington became the capital due to the Gold Rush on the south island.

Today Russell is the cutest, smallest town with only 816 inhabitants (2006 census) and has mostly expensive holiday homes and retired people. It also has NZ's oldest pub, the Duke of Marlborough There are 2 streets with gift shops and cafes, the pub, and a kayak rental place, small museum and NZ's oldest church. Thats about it. So we had a drink, sat on the beach and then got the ferry back for dinner. The police station there is the most pretty white wooden building but the police have very little to do there nowadays.

Today we went to the market, mostly arts and crafts, then the beach. There's a few small islands close buy so we swam to one of them, it took about 20-25 mins to swim there which was tiring and the water wasn't to clean. We rested there for a few mins then swam back. I've never done any open water swimming before but as we were in a bay there was very little current. It was a bit scary cos I couldn't just stop, like in a pool or on a run, you have to keep going until you get home. Most of my friends who I met on the bus coming back here left this afternoon so there is one girl let tonight then I'm on my own tomorrow night and Tuesday. I've booked myself on a cruise/ swim with dolphins trip tomorrow so I'll meet people in that. I can't wait, I'm so excited!!!!

Friday, 18 February 2011

The North

I'm so excited I'm finally up north! I have left Wellington for a little while and am taking  summer holiday. I flew to Auckland on Wednesday and went up the Skytower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere to see Auckland from up high. I then met a friend for a quick drink before having an early night and getting up at 7 for the Stray bus up north. Stray is and andventure bus company which helps backpackers get around and is very good.

However, this particular leg of the journey, Auckland to Paihia, wasn't great. We stopped at a couple of places on the way, including a giant tree, a waterfall and some really cool toilets, but the main reason for paying extra for the stray bus was that we got a free trip in a glass bottomed boat to a marine nature reserve. However due to weather we couldn't do the boat trip which we all understood but there was no back-up plan. We went straight to Paihia and it was so disappointing that our driver didn't find us something else to do, especially as she told us the boat had been out of action all week due to the weather, they would have had plenty of time to find an alternative activity. We even heard her talking to her friends about meeting up and it was almost like she was rushing to get us there so she could see our friends. But oh well, I made some friends on the bus and we all went to the beach and then a BBQ that night. One of the girls I met in our dorm is from Cheam, a part of London where my cousin lives which is weird. The more we talked the more we realised she was at University with on if my best friends from St. Bernards, and they had lived together in first year. How crazy is that??

Today was much better, we had a different driver and got picked up at 7 for a full day of activities. We went to a gum plantation which is when they dug up the sap from fossilised trees (a bit like amber) and used it for paints and varnish, it was a huge industry up north. From there we went to Cape Reinga, the most northern tip of New Zealand. It is where the Maori people believe dead peoples souls depart the world and start there journey to the spirit world. It is also where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific ocean meet. We then went to a beach for lunch and a bit of sunbathing, I got burned but and as we were on the Pacific side it was nice and warm. We then went to some sand dunes for some sand surfing. After an exhausting climb to the top of a steep high sand dune (which is hard to climb cos the sand collapses beneath your feet) you get a boogie board and go head first on your stomach down the Dunes. It was fun, the sort of thing travel insurance doesn't cover, but I am far to lazy and just did not want to do that climb again, I was happy doing it once. After that we drove down 90 mile beach, instead of the highway, which is really 68 miles. I have no idea why its called 90 mile beach, I mean it should be called 68 mile beach, that's just false advertising! We had a quick swim, time in the Tasman sea which was a lot colder. Then back home via the Fish and Chip shop.

Throughout the day we say tonnes of police men. They were everywhere due to that fact that Northland has the perfect weather for growing certain illegal plants. There was even a police helicopter that we saw with a bucket of spray hanging below it praying chemicals to kill these plants which was pretty funny.

All in all it was a much better day than the previous on and it felt it was really good value for money, we did and saw a lot, our driver was very informative and we had loads of fun. The only downside was that I didn't put enough sun screen on, as New Zealand has no ozone I now look like a lobster and am just preying that my aftersun lotion stops me peeling and allows me to tan! Tomorrow we are getting the ferry to Russle, the first capital of NZ, and then I'll have to figure out what to do about boat trips/ dolphin swimming etc. I'm glad I cam up hear, I really needed a week of work and am loving it up north!

Saturday, 5 February 2011


This weekend was the NZI Rugby Sevens tournament. The sixteen of the best sevens teams accros from across the world decend onto Wellington for a few days. For those who don't know sevens is a version of rugby where there are 7 players on a team and they play two halves of seven minutes. The means the game is very fast, aggressive, and very little deffensive play. Its also a lot more entertaining to watch. The first day consists of the group stages, 4 groups of 4 play and the top two in each group go through to the knockout stages the next day. We watched it on TV as we couldn't afford tickets and England and New Zealand made it to the final. New Zealand won, which was probably a good thing or there would have been so many fights and so many deppressive drunks in town. It was basically like a world cup squeezed into 2 days and happens every year.

It started on thursday with a parade through the city, with each country having its own float and cheerleaders. Everyone dresses up for sevens, its like halloween and some people take the costume aspect seriously. In fact, the sevens is Wellington's excuse to have a missive 3 day party and dress up. Friday and saturday the stadium was packed with smurfs, cowboys, indians, disney characters, builders and all sorts of other crazy things. The best one was the guys who went as a level crossing. There was an article in the newspaper about a group of men from Auckland who go dressed as women every year, about 10 of them go as ballarines, school girls and other things. If they go out of costume, for any reason, they get a $100 fine. Saturday night they closed Courtenay Place, the main road for the bars and clubs, and had a massive street party. There was a band playing and people all dressed up. My friends and I went out as Where's Wally (Waldo) and ran into a group of other BUNAC people who went as tourists. I have never seen town more crowded and the ques to get in the. (Don'e worry Aunt Anne i'm not turning into an alcoholic, its the first time I've been out in ages). All in all a very good night out, got to seen a bit of Kiwi madness.