my Waitangi Day

Right, where was I? Oh, yes, watching “The Muppets” and then a Q&A with James Bobin in January.

This post will be short and not very relevant and up to date, because it’s about Waitangi Day on 6th February. I made a small celebration of this day myself, more in a culinary way, rather than dancing and singing. Or street protesting together with a Maori community.

I just simply made lamb meatballs for dinner, had L&P bought from Kiwi Fruit shop (which doesn’t exist anymore 😦 ) and baked Pavlova according to this recipe. Everything was delicious, but I liked how my sister described the dessert. She said it was as if she was eating a cloud!

By the way, I visited Waitangi last year in September.

Truman Track, Hokitika and Ross

SUNDAY, 30th October

My back was better next day, but I had a small accident with my head later in the morning. The South Island is checking my strength and health, apparently.

After we had checked out, we went to Truman Track which was near Punakaiki. We walked through the bush and came to the beach.

There was a warning that some rocks might be slippery, but we started climbing them anyway.

I trusted my shoes too much and of course… slipped and hit a rock with my head before I’d realized what was happening. I didn’t lose the conscience, but when I touched my forehead, I could feel a huge hump over my right eyebrow. It looked bad, but thanks to cold pebbles from the beach and later some ice from the tavern this…

…looked like this on the next day.

I was afraid that I’d have a huge bruise in all the colours of the rainbow for the next couple days, but you can see nothing! I also thought how lucky I was with this fall. What if I hit in more sharper corner of the rock or with different part of my head and died and end up like the dead little seal I saw on that beach? I wouldn’t want to spoil my friends’ holiday. Or what if I broke my glasses and some glass would get to my eye? Luckily, none of those dark scenarios happened and I got away with a little bit of a headache.

Going further south, we stopped for lunch in Hokitika.

One of the travelers I’d met told me to try whitebait. She couldn’t explain to me what it was, but she said that I must try it. I read in my guide book that Hokitika is the capital of whitebait, so I ordered whitebait sandwich. It was pattie between two pieces of toast bread. When I took a bite, I saw eyes. I’m not get used to eating food which has eyes. Whitebait is actually small fish and when we went to museum,

there was an exhibition about catching whitebait and there was some dry whitebait there.

Hokitika is also famous for greenstone art. There were a lot of shops with jewelry and you could buy workshops and make your own design. What else I can recommend to you in Hokitika? Great coffee in Café de Paris and promise me you go to Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen, but not only to try fudge, but also have awesome ice cream from ice cream machine which I think remembers my granny’s young years (same thing with the till, so vintage and works!). I had boysenberry flavor, yum!

Then we went to Ross, a town which had their best years during gold fever. It was totally quiet now, but we had a good time there anyway. 😉

Before we got to Franz Josef, I knew we were getting closer to glaciers, when I saw water in a river.

We stayed at Chateau Franz, which wasn’t really a castle, but had a free spa and as soon as we left our luggage in our room, we put our swimsuits on and jumped into hot water. We could stay there till 8 p.m.

As a perfect ending of that day, Spanish J., cooked delicious dinner. I did the dishes. 🙂

chilling out in Hamilton

WEEKEND, 24th & 25th Sept.

I was planning to go to Rotorua for one day just as I did with my trip to Matamata, but when I started checking out what I want and should see there, I realized that I need to stay more days there. So I’ll try to organise my visit another day. Besides, I was already a bit tired after busy days in Bay of Islands and E. didn’t mind me staying home, so I took a weekend off.

Most of my time I spent watching tv, mainly rugby, American shows and dangerously addictive Shortland Street, catching up on the Internet and playing with E.’s cats.

On Saturday, E. took me to her friend, who lived in the middle of nowhere, on a birthday party. I think one of tourist attractions of Kiwi Experience or Magic Bus should be a Kiwi birthday party. Oh, I forgot they’re not really interested in showing day-to-day life of New Zealanders.

First we were outside, just a couple of K.’s friends. Then, when it was getting dark and cold, we moved to the garage. After some time K.’s family and neighbours started arriving, everyone with their own beer, wine or other drinks. K.’s dad lit up the barbecue and soon some sausages were ready. I nearly tried a chicken kebab, which looked like shashlik, but they were very popular and too few. But I had unintentional Flight of the Conchords moment. When they served kebabs, I remembered the song Most Beautiful Girl (In the Room) and at the same time Free Bird by Lynyrd Skynyrd played on a stereo, which the Conchords also made a twisted version of. 😀

other food was cheese, cheaps, crackers and dips and of course pies. People were usually standing, talking and sipping from their bottles or glasses while in Poland we sit at the table, drink vodka and some people believe that the sooner you get drunk the better party it is. Well, at least this is my observation. So I did enjoy the evening and we left the party early enough to watch the All Blacks playing with France and WINNING! 😀

Charlie and Molly

A couple of random photos taken in Hamilton:

Christmas is coming

Just because I like The Phoenix Foundation, posters like that make my heart go faster 🙂

And next time I’m in Auckland, I should take a photo of an ad with Dan Carter. 😉

RWC: South Africa V Wales

SUNDAY, 11th Sept.

In the morning, we went to R&K’s ARISE Church. It’s a fairly young church and they don’t have their own building. Because of the RWC, they couldn’t meet at their usual venue that Sunday and it was difficult to find something else, so they end up at St James Theatre. It was amusing to see that sign over the door on the way to a church service.

I’ll never get used to smoke on stage during a service, but music was good. Later I found out that that church has close contacts with Hillsong churches, so that explains a lot. The preaching was good. I wouldn’t agree with everything what was said, but I was encouraged in general.

In the morning it was really nice and sunny and we thought of coming to the city after lunch and walk around before the match, but when we left the Theatre it started to rain. After lunch the weather got worse and we stayed at home until the evening. We really didn’t want to leave, but we had the tickets, so we were hoping for a change. Luckily, when we got to the bus stop, it stopped raining and it didn’t rain for the rest of the evening.

Wellington Regional Stadium a.k.a. Cake Tin. My first RWC match.

The game was really exciting and I was hoping that Wales would beat the Springboks and to our surprise, they were so close to it! Unfortunately, they lost with just one point. The final score was 17:16

Hamilton Gardens

WEDNESDAY, 7th Sept.

J. droped me off by the Transport Centre on her way to work in the morning. The weather was beautiful and I thought that the best place to go first would be Hamilton Gardens. I took a bus number 10 to the Gardens. The distance wasn’t that big, but I didn’t know the way to get there.

I took the plan from the information centre and head first to Paradise Collection. I think my favourite gardens were Italian and Japanese ones.

In Productive Collection, you can see Te Parapara, a Maori Garden.

Fantasy Collection was under further development. I really enjoyed walking through Cultivar Collection and was sorry that it was too early for roses to blossom. I’ll have to go back there later in October or November. (I’ll also have to visit the Hobbiton before 5th October, because later it may be closed till 18th November. I can’t tell you why 😉 ). I spent a couple hours walking around the gardens. There was a sun clock and some of the dates amused me. It takes time to get used to things like that.

I left Hamilton Gardens at about 2 p.m. and went back to the city centre walking along Grey Street and then along the bank to Memorial Park, saw the remains of an old boat of 19th century settlers’

crossed Victoria Bridge (Waitomo River just flows through the city almost as if bot being noticed).

I turned right after leaving the Bridge, went up the road and visited Waikato Museum. You can see Te Winika, a Maori war canoe there, a gift from Maori queen Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu. At the moment there’s also an exhibition about rugby in Waitomo and the impact the region has had on the whole country.

After the museum, I took a walk along Victoria Street with many bars, pubs and restaurants, which was quite nice and you could see everyone getting ready for the beginning of the 2011 RWC.

At around 4 p.m. J. picked me up. We went back to their place and again spent a lovely afternoon and evening with my hosts. This time we had fish and then Goody Goody Gum Drops ice cream for dessert. It tasted like a bubble gum and had jellies inside. I felt like a kid. 😀

Waitomo Caves

MONDAY, 5th Sept.

That day was a great escape from the noise of the city and discovering a quiet rural side of New Zealand.

I was at the InterCity coach station at 7 a.m. (it’s behind the SkyTower), because I had read a brochure about their FlexiTrips and decided to buy a 20-Trip Pass for $369 (about $18 per trip wherever I go with them, while a single ticket from Auckland to Waitomo cost me $46). I was a little confused about Magic Bus’s and other similar companies’ passes and I wanted to be more flexible and independent in my travels AND InterCity can take you practically almost everywhere in New Zealand, so I thought it was a good deal. It’s valid 12 months starting from the day of the first booking and I’ll definitely do some rounds around the country during my 3-month stay.

I didn’t feel I was in New Zealand until I got on a bus and a bus driver introduced himself. His name was John and then for the whole trip, which lasted about 2hrs 40min, he talked about what we see on the left and right, adding some comments and stories seasoned with Kiwi humour. Later I found out that John was from Hamilton and how much tax his wife and him had to pay for their cars. I felt I was in FOTC’s Bus Driver’s Song.

I recorded about 11 min of his story about Auckland.

When we left Auckland, going south we drove into the land of Waikato River and many lakes and swamps and we had to go through thick mist for a good couple kilometres. It was hard to see even the sun!

When we finally left the grey land behind, I could see Waikato and The King Country. It looked like Shire from LOTR. Everywhere you looked were green hills dotted with cows and horses, the sky was blue and the sun was shining. John continued the stories about Waikato War between British and Maori and how some Maori tribes got together and elected a king, Potatau Te Wherowhero in 1850s, just like the Brits had their Queen, to represent them in defending their land. If you want to read more, google “Kingitanga”. Maori central tribes still have their king, he’s a descendant of Potatau, lives in Hamilton and is a truck driver.

The bus dropped me off at the village centre. It was actually a few buildings along the main road where you could book a cave tour, there was an information centre and Waitomo General Store. I took this photo later that afternoon.

A local was sitting outside Cave World drinking coffee. I asked him which way was to Junohall (YHA hostel) and he said that about 20 min walk back down the road. When he saw my back he asked if I had kitchen ‘n’ sink there. It’s not that big! Well… a bit bigger than a regular backpacker’s, but I’m away from home for at least four months and the weather has been so different between Australia and New Zealand so far.

I went to an iSite centre (every village, town and city in New Zealand has its iSite website and a Visitor Information centre) and they called the hostel to ask if they could pick me up, but no one was available, so I had to go there by myself. The first 10 min weren’t that hard, because there was a lane for pedestrians, but then it ended and I had to convert my bag into a rucksack, which weight 20 kg. When I was out of my breath, I finally saw the hostel. It was on a hill.

The hostel was nothing like a big 7-level Nomads monster in Auckland. It was a nice, wooden house or rather hall. One part of it was a spacious common room, dining room and kitchen (no free coffee and tea, though 😦 ) and the other part were rooms, toilets and showers. I could hear nothing but birds and horses outside. I sunk into my bed and had some rest.

After about half an hour, I was ready to start planning. I booked a ticket from Otorohanga to Hamilton for the next day, and then a shuttle from Waitomo to Otorohanga, because there aren’t any coaches running from Waitomo to Hamilton. Then I had to decide which company should take me to the caves. There was no problem with booking on the phone, they’ve got freephone numbers 0800 and they were ready to take me on the same day. You’re not going to read any exciting stories about blackwater rafting, because I wear glasses and this is an economy trip, so I just wanted to see some glow worms. I had at least three options: CaveWorld ($45 for 1 ¼ hr tour, probably visiting just one cave), Spellbound ($67.50 for 3 ¼ hr including a shuttle to and from two caves, and tea, coffee and biscuits) and Discover Waitomo ($65 for Twin Cave Combo: Glowworm Caves and Aranui Cave). Although the coffee and biscuits sounded tempting, I decided to go with Discover Waitomo. I booked a tour at 3 p.m. and had enough time to eat something and have a stress free walk back to the village.

This time I saw things I didn’t notice while pulling and carrying my bag. The area was so pretty!

I stopped by at the General Store and ordered flat white. I also saw that they sell ice cream and had my first hokey pokey ice cream from Rush Munro’s. The flavour is creamy vanilla with honeycombs, which they call hokey pokey. While eating an ice cream, I had a visitor.

I gave him so much wafer that he had enough and flew away.

Then I head off to the caves. Discover Waitomo were right behind the village and you can’t miss them.

At about 3 o’clock a guide came by car and picked me up to Aranui Cave. There were already a few people waiting at a car park near the cave. The deeper we were going into the cave, the prettier it was and this was the last part of that cave.

In the meantime I got to know another traveller. She was from California, also a teacher going through a hard time and having two weeks off. After about ten minutes we found so many things in common and understood each other’s problems that when we got to another cave with glow worms, we couldn’t stop talking! Oh, and the glow worms were just beautiful! We got on a boat, our guide turned the light off, we looked up and there were big turquoise stars above us, which were of course glow worms. Everyone was quiet and you could hear only water drops in the cave. The guide quietly led us out of the cave and at the end we could take pictures, but it was rather impossible to do it. It was too dark for my camera and if you used flash, you just took a picture of the ceiling of the cave and some ugly worms similar to mosquitoes.

My American friend went back to Rotorua and me to my hostel. I ate dinner watching the news and I think that was the time when it was getting to me that I’m in New Zealand. I usually watched NZ news on YouTube and now I had them on TV.

At about 7 p.m. it got dark and I went for 1 hour walk. The sky was so clear and I could see the stars like the glow worms I had seen earlier that day. When I got back to the hostel, people had just started watching “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” on video. I was grinning when I saw the scene with Bret McKenzie. What a great finale of a great day!

Wallabies V All Blacks

The last weekend in Australia kept me busy, because you realise that there’s still so much to see and not much time left. But after all, my priority was to get used to being down-under and get as much comfortable as possible and I think it’s been achieved.

OK, so first, what I did on Saturday.

I started with being very useful and practical. I leant how to make scones. My friend, S., who took me to his College a couple days earlier, had told me that his dad gives tutorials to foreigners from time to time on scone making, so I said that I’d love to learn. He was free on Saturday morning and they weren’t that difficult to make. The scones came out delicious, so yummy with strawberry jam and whipped cream and I hope you’ll get the chance of tasting my scones some time in the future.

After the scones we went to Chermside, left the car by the shopping centre there and went to Brisbane by bus (you could travel by bus on a rugby ticket on that day). Unfortunately, it was raining the whole day and it only stopped just before the match, so that meant spending most of the time inside. I visited Australia the Gift (a souvenir shop) in the city centre, then crossed the River and went to Queensland Museum (an interesting exhibition about Torres Strait Islanders) and Gallery of Modern Art partially, because it was getting late and we were getting hungry. We went to Myer Centre and I had my noodles from a box first time in my life, just like in films (no, we don’t have them in Poland, I think; we don’t even have a Chinese restaurant in my hometown!).

I was a bit tired, hot chocolate put me on my feet on the way to Suncorp Stadium. The closer we were to the Stadium the more excited I was. Then when I found my seat, it turned out that I was pretty close to the field. We were early enough to see the teams warming up and I was able to come down to row 1 and take some photos of Dan Carter practicing his kicks.

An indigenous artist playing didgeridoo


The All Blacks supporters, that’s where I was sitting 😀

Haka! (watch)

The game. First half the All Blacks played rubbish and I was like, “Is this what I came for?!” They were loosing the ball (I know, it was slippery, but the Wallabies played with the same one) and lost so many chances to score some points. It was 20:6 for the Wallabies.

After the break they got better in the second half, two tries and for a little while there was a tie. It was great to cheer them on together with some Kiwis (I suspect there were a couple thousand there. The venue was sold out and there were about 52,000 people all together). Not for long after the AB’s second try, the Aussies scored another try. Even though Cooper missed two kicks, it was too late to wake up for the All Blacks and Australia won 25:20 and the 2011 Tri Nations.

Essential Aussie moment: someone on the bus back home started singing Waltzing Matilda.

I hope New Zealand will be in a better form for the Rugby World Cup starting in two weeks.

Broncos V Warriors

I just got my first watching rugby live experience and the match was awesome! It was between two teams of the National Rugby League, Brisbane Broncos and New Zealand Warriors at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. At first, when P. offered me going to see the match, I wasn’t so keen on it, because he was talking about watching a footie and I thought he was talking about football / soccer and I’m not a fan of this sport (Aussies have this funny way of creating new words like: brekky, cabbie or barbie). But when I discovered he meant rugby, then… yeah!

The atmosphere before, during and after the match was amazing. I couldn’t believe I could see so great variaty of supporters. There were whole families, parents with their small kids, even 3 year old boys and girls, women older than my mum (I’d say they were about 70 years old), men and of course the youth and people in my age. The whole event was like one big family festival, all well behaving and enjoying their time together. I loved it.

The game was keeping me on the edge of my seat. First half belonged to New Zealand (yay!), but during the second half Australia earned some points and there was a tie score for a while. I was supporting the Warriors, but I didn’t mind if the Broncos won, because the match was really special for the locals. The captain of the team from Brisbane, Darren Lockyer is going to retire soon and this was, I think his last match at the home stadium. And he did well. He scored the last point with a goal and the Broncos won 21:20. But New Zealand should blame themselves, because they missed three kicks. As a consolation, I know the All Blacks “shredded” the Wallabies tonight, and that game was more important.

These guys were just so cool and sweet. The one on the right asked me if I work ‘here’. Apparently, I looked very professional or they were very drunk. 😀 I’ll have to work on my live sport events shots a bit more. 😉

a different song

First thing I’ve noticed when I got to my new home was a different song of the birds outside. I was even cheated by one bird which sounded as if someone was whistling, so beautiful song. I’ll have to record it one day to show you.

Second thing was that inside the house it was colder than outside, which is good, because you can hide from the heat. Winter here is like summer should be in Poland. Days are very warm and it gets a bit chilly in the evenings. However, the sun rises at about 7 a.m. and sets after 5 p.m. and both are like switching the light on and off.

The house has 3 bedrooms and a living room with a huge tv set (I’ll try to stay away from my friends’ DVD collections). One bedroom is my firend’s, G.’s, the second one is P.’s who is the owner of the house (his parents used to live here and he bought it after they died) and the third room is mine.

When G. showed me my bedroom, we had our morning coffee and went to get familiar with the neighbourhood. He lives very close to a shopping centre with a cinema and everything you need, but it’s still a very quiet and nice suburb. First thing we bought was a big bottle of L&P, my first essential New Zealand experience, actually (watch the ads: Stubbies and Swimming Pool Bombs). I would compare the drink to Polish “oranżada”, but I think it’s sweeter. It tastes of lemon and candy with more emphasis on candy and when you drink it you’ve got this impression of having a candy on your tongue.

In the afternoon I was so sleepy, that I’ve decided to get to bed and slept from 4 p.m. till 7 a.m. the next morning. This bed is very comfortable!

I changed my time in my mobile to start getting used to this time zone. It’s hard when you live for over 30 years in one rhythm and then you turn it upside down.

The highlight of Thursday was a short trip by bikes to the waterfront of the Redcliffe peninsula and seeing all a bit richer people’s houses with their boats in their marinas next to them. Those people must have a very boring and unhappy life. 😉

Good thing it’s winter, because in summer that jetty is packed with people,