Victory Parade

I left Auckland on MONDAY and spent 11 hours on a bus to Wellington. This time we had a boring driver, so no fun at all. But I knew the route and was ready to take some better photos of Lake Taupo

and Mt Ruapehu

Seems like the best weather is when I sit on a bus… In Wellington I experienced the wind the city is famous for. When I left my bag at the hostel (this time I stayed at Downtown Backpackers, opposite the Railway Station; a good one, recommend), I went for a walk and to buy something for breakfast. The day after the win, the streets of the capital were almost empty. It was a public holiday, a Labour Day and not many bars were open. Probably people were hiding from the wind in their homes. There were moments when I just couldn’t walk and was being pushed back. When I was waiting for the green light on traffic lights, I had to hold a sign and when I finally got the green, I couldn’t walk. The cars were waiting and I was standing too, because the wind was pushing me back and I couldn’t cross the street. I gave up fighting and crossed it when I was ready. I had to get to the hostel, right?! And I did get there, but very tired.

The next day, the wind was less stronger. I stayed at the hostel till about 2 or 3 p.m. to plan my trip around the South Island and it took me some time. Thanks to H., who gave me her top 10 must-sees, I had some marking points to plan around.

In the afternoon, I went to the library, but I couldn’t get the connection with the Internet, probably because of too many people using it or because of the wind, so I went to Midnight Espresso for a coffee. Sitting there I had this feeling of having a holiday from holiday and yet not having to work. I liked that.

In the evening I was more lucky with the connection.

And then the Parade day came! First I thought of waiting for the All Blacks at Civic Square, but the parade was to finish at Parliament Square and thought it would be more interesting to be right there. And it was closer to my hostel.

I went to the square at about 11:30 a.m. and there were already a couple hundreds of people, school kids waiting on the square. By the time the team arrived at about 1:30 p.m., the square got full and I was lucky to be in like the third front row. I looked through John Key‘s facebook albums and found myself in a couple of group photos, like this:

No one was sure when the All Blacks would start their parade, because different sources gave different times. They could start at 12:15 or 1 p.m. The weather forecast wasn’t great at all and while we were waiting in the rain outside, Mr Key was on the top floor of the Beehive.

Decorated windows of Parliament

Some people had a top view, too.

We knew that the team was coming soon, when more politicians left the building and even the Prime Minister came out to welcome the crowd. My not so fortunate photo of the PM. He wasn’t yawning here, but was saying that he hoped she wasn’t cold. (It wasn’t very cold, but just really wet)

and the other side of the shot. Find Sylwia!

And then they finally arrived. Some of them came to us to sign stuff, others were stopped by the crowd standing closer to the road. Some better or not so good photos of:

Sam Whitelock

Andrew Hore

Israel Dagg

John Afoa

Hosea Gear

Jerome Kaino

Stephen Donald!

Kieran Read

and Keven Mealamu

Then the whole team with their coaches was welcomed by the PM and others, there were short speeches etc.

(tell me how cute Piri with his kid is here… and Richie with the Cup…)

And then out of nothing the person who was leading that event suggested the All Blacks to do the haka, the crowd started to cheer and to our surprise they took their jackets off and did Ka Mate on the steps of Parliament! Some good videos of that dance ended up on YouTube: 1, 2 and 3.

The All Blacks doing the haka in Wellington was a perfect closure for my Rugby World Cup adventure. I saw them at the welcome ceremony in Auckland at the beginning of September and now I saw them wet and victorious with the Webb Ellis Cup in Wellington. 😀

Mitai Maori Village and Polynesian Spa

Nothing to write about MONDAY, because the weather got worse and I spent the whole day at the Library catching up on the internet world ($3 a day). It didn’t get better on TUESDAY, but I thought I need to do something while I was still there, so I booked Hangi at one of the Maori villages around Rotorua. I was told that Mitai is less commercialized than Tamaki, but I think wherever you go, you’d get the same ‘packet’: warriors in a waka, Maori songs, games and stories performed by not so Maori looking young Maoris with painted tattoos and then a hangi feast at the end of the evening. All in all I enjoyed it, even though I felt like a tourist again. I heard that the family from Mitai was responsible for all the Maori performances during the World Cup ceremonies and before the matches, so they must be good in what they do. And they were a little cheaper than Tamaki, $81.50 booking from Funky Green.

Waka

Hangi getting ready. The volcanic stones from the river were heat up with burning wood and then meat and vegetables were being cooked on them for three hours.

Performance with a welcome ceremony – a very serious part, everything was in Maori and everyone from the audience was quiet and seemed to hold their breath. When the ceremony was over, the chief stood up and said, ‘Hello, we do speak English.’ And with that he made us laugh and relaxed. Then he explained Maori traditions, weapons, games, tattoos and haka as grand finale. I recorded just the last couple minutes.






haka


Explanation of their tattoos

After that we went to a big marquee and the meal was waiting for us on three long tables. It was unlimited buffet. It did smell and taste different and everything was delicious.

When we finished eating, they took us in small groups for a short bush walk and our guide showed us a silver fern, a weta, glow worms glowing by the path we were walking along and a secred spring with rainbow trout. And that was the end of the essential Maori experience. I think I liked the walk most from that evening.

I left Rotorua on WEDNESDAY, but I had my bus to Tauranga after 5 p.m., so there was at least one more thing I wanted to do before leaving the city. Even though I checked out from the hostel, I could still leave my bag there free of charge. I went to Polynesian Spa. I had seven pools with different water temperatures to soak in, a beautiful volcanic landscape in front of my eyes and unlimited time to use. All that for $21.50. I spent about 1.5 hr and it was still great when it rained. I was lucky to get back to the hostel before a real down pour. I waited at the hostel until it stopped raining and decided to wait at the library, which was close to the bus stop, for my bus.

Thoughts on Rotorua. I’m sure there’s lots to do there, but I don’t think I would want to live there. Maybe the city is too big, maybe the main shopping street with cafes and restaurants, Tutanekai St isn’t pretty enough, maybe I was there in wrong time, when the weather was bad and I didn’t see Rotorua from its better side, but I don’t feel I need to come back there. I loved staying at Funky Green and the owner loved Poland, so maybe that would be the only reason why I’d visit the city again. And the drivers put me off. It happened only once that a driver stopped and let me cross the street. Otherwise, I had to be really sure there was no car around, so I could walk safely.

from Hamilton to Wellington

THURSDAY, 8th Sept.

That was another enjoyable trip by InterCity bus. It takes about 9 hours to drive from Hamilton to Wellington and I thought I would have some sleep, but it was difficult when you had such a great driver and good atmosphere on a bus, that you didn’t want to miss anything. Oh, and the landscape was breathtaking.

I had booked one night at YHA hostel in Wellington in the city centre, but InterCity has its terminal at the train station which is further north, so I’d have to take a bus from there and look for the hostel. I asked the driver, his name was James, if the bus goes through the city centre. When I told him where I want to get off, he said to ask him again when we get closer to Wellington and we would see, because it all depends from his mood and how the journey would go. There were a few other people with the same request, so we said to each other not to tease the driver.

And I wasn’t worried about it. James made this trip unforgettable from the very beginning. He announced safety features with a Scottish accent and Kiwi humour making everyone laugh. He said that there was no toilet in that bus, so Hamilton was their chance to make a pee and if you didn’t go, shame on you. In case you wanted to go to the toilet during the drive, he could open the door and you could water the sideroad. That’s why the grass is so green in New Zealand. He also warned us to fasten our seatbelts. If there was an accident, no one would want to land on his front naighbour’s lap, unless it would be a match made in heaven then don’t forget to thank InterCity on the way out. Those are just a few examples of James’s jokes.

Further south, the hills were taller and covered with forests. Every time we passed something interesting, James told us about it, like buildings in the shape of sheep or a dog in Tirau. He said he likes doing something different every time he drives, so we had a 5 minute detour to Huka Falls.

At noon we got to Taupo and had a 40 min lunch break. James recommended a couple places where we could eat, because he knew what he was talking about. He liked eating and you could tell that when you looked at him. 😉

We left Taupo before 1 p.m. and went along the eastern shore of Lake Taupo. It’s the largest lake by surface area in New Zealand and the view from the town on the lake and the mountains behind it was astonishing! I took some pictures on my phone from the bus, but they are worthless. We had the lake right behind our windows and this is Motutaiko, an island where Te Rauparaha. hid himself when British troops wanted to kill him during 19th century’s wars. When they went away, Te Rauparaha jumped out of his shelter in the ground and composed Ka Mate haka, which is now performed by the All Blacks before their matches.

We left the lake behind, crossed winding roads in the mountains and entered Central Plateau still having the mountains on our right and Mt Ruapehu, the largest active volcano in New Zealand, which played Mt Doom in The Lord of the Rings.

James didn’t stop entertaining the passengers. This time the safety features were read by one of the passengers, a Canadian and they were in a rhyming form. Then the driver announced a karaoke competition to make that trip less boring. He had some chocolate bars and if anyone would like to sing something, there was a free mic for him or her. You can guess that no one came up to him, so he said he’d just found out that one couple had their fifth wedding anniversary and he played a song “Happy Anniversary” by Little River Band. One older Maori woman went to wish them all the best (the couple was sitting in the front), so James forced her to sing something. She did, something like a happy birthday, but more anniversary version. She got a round applause for her performance.

After a while, when no one wanted to compete with her, she wanted her chocolate bar, but James said that she couldn’t win it, because it wasn’t a competition as long as there was no other contestant. She said he was ‘meanie’, ‘mean as’ and at least she was younger than him and more beautiful (which wasn’t true, in my opinion). All that exchange with the driver was of course funny and made us all laugh again.

In the meantime we passed waving Keven, a local celebrity who always stands by the road and bus and train drivers know him and every time they drive pass his house and see him, they horn and ask the passengers to wave him back, so we did. Keven had a plastic red bag in his hand, I guess to not to miss him. He looked very happy to see us all waving.

The Canadian joined the karaoke competition and sang with his beautiful deep voice “The River/I Will Sail My Vessel” by Garth Brooks. I’ll never forget the sound of his voice, the view from my window and the joy of travelling by that bus.

The same Canadian sang one more song but I think he never got his chocolate bar, because the Maori lady snatched it when she was getting on the bus after one of the coffee breaks.

When I saw we were getting closer to Wellington, I went to James and asked him how he was doing. He was still in his great mood and replied how he could help me. When I reminded him about the hostel, he said it wouldn’t be a problem as he was taking three more people near it. All the passengers left the bus at the train station and the four of us got on again. On the way to the city centre we were telling jokes and I totally didn’t feel I had spent the last 9 hours on the bus.

I WAS IN WELLINGTON!!! When I took my baggage and waved goodbye to James with all the blessings, I decided to put on a warmer jacket and leave my hat in a bag, because the wind was too strong to have it on my head. Windy City. Walking along the street I saw on my right The Embassy Theatre, where Return of the King had its premiere. Further down the street there was Bats Theatre, where Flight of the Conchords and Taika Waititi used to perform regularly. And all that right across the street of my hostel! My fangirl heart just exploaded.

The YHA hostel in Welly was awesome! I was sorry I was staying there just one night, because the location was perfect and it was clean, quiet and everything you’d want from a hostel and more.

In my room, there was waiting another surprise. I was sharing it with a girl I had passed in Waitomo on my way to Junohall! She said, she remembered me with my bag. I remember asking one Asian girl how far it was, but I didn’t remember her face. And now we met in Wellington in the same room after three days of going to completely different places. She was from South Korea and going to South Island the next day. We had a good chat, but I had to control the time, because later in the evening I was seeing a friend from Norway who is on working holiday visa and has been living in Wellington since January.

We met up at the Bucket Fountain. When I found Cuba Mall, I had again that surreal feeling that it wasn’t really happening and I was just seeing it thanks to Google Map or Earth, but the quality of the picture was much better and I could hear the fountain spilling water in crazy directions, live music from pubs and smell coffee from bars and different dishes from many restaurants. A. took me to Midnight Espresso, where I tasted flat white almost as good as the one in London. Opposite the café, there was Slow Boat Records, where you can get any album you want. The Phoenix Foundation had their free gig there in December 2009.

Maybe it will sound a bit silly, but when you’re far away from those places and just hear about them, you may think they don’t really exist until you finally get there. They do exist. They fully exist.