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. 😀

Wai-O-Tapu and Rainbow Mountain

SUNDAY, 16th October

Guess what woke me up? Rain. I had been planning to go to Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, but when I heard the rain, I thought there was no point calling for the shuttle. I stayed in bed and googled addresses of Baptist churches in Rotorua. When I finally got up, the rained stopped. On the way to the bathroom a very well organized German (she was my definition of ‘German’ = ‘Ordnung muss sein’ type) asked me if it was me who wanted to go to Wai-O-Tapu, because she wanted to rent a car together with four more people and it would be cheaper than the shuttle and we’d have the car for the whole day and we could go anywhere else we wanted and it would be still cheap. She already had one guy and probably two more girls. So, of course, I joined in. By the time I took a shower and quickly had breakfast, she already organized people and rented the car.

So, this way we were on our way to Waiotapu – the German, Mexican, two French Canadian and me, trying to be by the Lady Knox geyser at 10:15 a.m. to see her erupting. We thought we’d miss it, because first we had to buy tickets to the Park at the Visitor Centre ($29 pp with the voucher we got from the hostel), then drive for a little while to the geyser. But we made it!

The eruption wasn’t exactly at 10:15 to the minute, but very close. She was a bit late.

Then we had to go back to the Visitor Centre, where we had bought the tickets at and it entered the park, which was full of bubbling and stinky colourful craters and bright green lakes and pools.

The jewel of Wai-O-Tapu, Artist’s Palete

My favourite was Champagne Pool with bubbles like champagne and when the wind blew in your direction you could feel the hot steam on your face from the pool.

We left the park at about 1 p.m. and decided to drop off the Mexican back to the hostel, because he had to catch the bus in the afternoon and we went back on the road. Non of us wanted to spen more money on more thermal parks in the area, so e actually almost went back to Wai-O-Tapu to climb up the Rainbow Mountain (743m). It was raining when we left the hostel, but the sun came back when we reached the foot of the mountain. There was a car park, which you could miss if you drive too fast. We left our car there. The walk wasn’t that difficult for the most of the time, but it was very muddy. After about 15 min we saw this beautiful lake.

We almost reached the top of the mountain

and then the path became pretty steep and I thought I won’t make it. But I made it! Yay! and the view was worth of my last breath.

Te Ruapehu was hiding behind the clouds. We thought it’s going to rain again, we even heard thunders, but it went in a different direction and we had the sun on the way back too.

The German went together with one of the Canadian girls to give the car back and the other Canadian showed me how to make carrot soup. We chipped in and had amazing dinner after a very tiring day.

When I finished washing up, it was already time to go to the FG’s owner to see the All Blacks being awesome again. THEY ARE IN THE FINAL!!!!!!! G. was so happy that he said the all beer in the hostel fridge was for free that night and he didn’t care if we drank it all. We didn’t, but it was nice of him. 😀

Rotorua Museum and Lake Rotorua

SATURDAY, 15th October

I had made some plans about what I wanted to do while I was in Rotorua and one of the top points was a visit to Rotorua Museum.

Why? In the Museum, there’s a cinema and you can watch a short documentary about the eruption of Mt Tarawera and I knew that young Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords is in it. He looked like from the cover of his solo album, Video Kid: Prototype. Unfortunately, his character didn’t end up well. The film was very interesting and expect some shakes when the earthquake starts in the movie. 😉 Oh, and Tem Morrison makes an appearance there too. He’s from Rotorua, by the way, as well as Anna Coddington.

Mt Tarawera is a volcano near Rotorua which erupted quite recently on 3 February 1886. About 120 people died and you can visit Buried Village with excavated houses. The geography of that region had known by then was changed. The biggest lost were White and Pink Terraces. In the Museum, there was a gallery with paintings of them and you could try to imagine the beauty of 8th wonder of the world.

Apart from that, there was a great exhibition about Maori tribe living on those lands, Te Arawa, a very moving documentary and an exhibition about the 28th Maori Battalion fighting in the WWII, rooms of an old Bath House, which the Museum used to be and a temporary exhibition about rugby with an interesting short film Warbrick (2009). And a photography exhibition The Vault.

On the top of the Museum there was a view point and I could see hot pools by the Lake Rotorua. I also saw that it had been raining.

Government Garden:

The weather was changing from one minute to another. I took a walk by the lake after the visit at the Museum. First, Sulphur Point with stinking, smoking, bubbling and hissing pools. Sometimes I thought I was in a kitchen listening to a boiling soup.

Then there was a bird sanctuary with gulls, black swans atc. In the middle of the lake there was Mokoia Island

And it started to rain harder and harder, so I gave up on Kuirau Park, had kebab on the way back to the hostel and dropped off when I got there. I woke up after about 2 hours, right on time to go to the Funky Green’s owner who lives next door to watch semi-finals. I was again sorry to see Wales losing playing such a good game. French rugby was boring, but the Welsh was so exciting. It was hard to watch their missed kicks.

Anyways, I got to know then the first team playing in the Bronze Final.

Te Papa

I spent my last two nights (from MONDAY to WEDNESDAY) in Wellington at the Cambridge Hotel. I was spoilt by the YHA and I had to experience some cheaper backpacker life reality. The room was stinky and someone opened my milk, even though it was labelled. Oh, and they finished my muesli I saved for my last breakfast. Luckily, I had bought a scone just in case that person decided to finish my milk, but I guess muesli had to go first.

TUESDAY, 11th October was my last full day in the capital. I wasn’t sure about the weather. It was warm, but cloudy and I could smell the rain in the air. I decided to finish exploring Te Papa.
From 9th to 14th Oct., you could see The Webb Ellis Cup in the museum. Not sure if it was the real one, because I thought it would be behind the glass and better protected.

My favourite level at Te Papa was level 4. There was a large exhibition of Treaty of Waitangi…

…a lot of Maori artifacts, like stuff which belonged to Te Rauparehu (the guy who created Ka Mate)…

..funnels used to feed men who were being tattooed.

And I felt very warm at heart when I saw this there

In the afternoon I had to do some planning and booking, so I went to the library again to use the Internet. I didn’t want to leave Wellington. I started feeling settled there. The photographers were the same at almost every concert so thanks to my camera, they remembered me. I became friends with one homeless guy called Pete. The longer I stayed, the longer I wanted to stay, probably, because I wanted to keep the memories from last weekend fresh, but time is running out and there’s still so much to see in New Zealand, that there had to be one day when I hit the road again.

After supper at the hotel, I went for my last walk along Courtenay Place and Cuba Street. On Courtenay Place I went to the Library Bar, had a Rum Hot Chocolate, listened to live Spanish music. Going back to the hotel I saw a group of young people playing rugby on the streets and having a laugh every time the ball hit a parked car, which wasn’t very cool, but no one seemed to care.

Hollie Smith and DJ Fabulous

SATURDAY, 8th October

The nights on Mt Cook were very quiet and peaceful. I had sleep in and went down for breakfast at about 11 a.m. After lazy early afternoon, I left the house at about 2:30 p.m. to listen to Hollie Smith playing live in Courtenay Place. The street was closed, just like it was during the big premieres of The Lord of The Rings or Lovely Bones. In front of the Embassy Theatre there was a stage and Hollie had already started her performance when I arrived.

After the concert I had some time before I was to meet J.&R. at Green Man Pub to watch a rugby match, so I went to buy a BBH Club Card ($45). Their hostels are usually cheaper than the YHA ones (with the card even cheaper and I get $20 for phone calls with the card) and still pretty good. I couldn’t buy the card at the Visitor Centre, but only at the Wellington Downtown Backpackers, which is opposite the Railway Station near the Stadium. I end up following the crowd going to the Ireland v Wales match, with mostly the Irish supporters.

The Green Man was very crowded and there was no room to even stand without being pushed around all the time. When J.&R. came, we decided to go to a less busy pub. On the way they had noticed the Tap House, a new pub, and there was a lot more space. It was actually pretty nice and we could sit by the bar and watch the Wales winning over Ireland. I think we were the only ones who were happy about that. I wanted them to win, because I was sorry they lost with South Africa.

When the match was over, we went to Havana Bar for dinner. It was a very cool restaurant owned by the same people who have Fidel’s café and very close to Cuba Street but in a such place that you’d never expect to find a restaurant there. And it’s very cosy. I met J.&R.’s friends. He was from Austria and she was American, so at one table there were five nationalities sitting. Each one of us ordered at least two dishes and we shared them. All of them were so delicious. When we finished and the waitress brought us the bill, we saw that there were less dishes than we had ordered. Some of us said we shouldn’t say anything and pay less, others wanted to tell the waitress to add the missing dishes. We finally decided to give a big tip without saying anything.

Then we went for a walk along the Courtenay Place. The atmosphere was amazing, people were singing, celebrating (while we were having dinner England lost with France, which I wasn’t happy about). One Kiwi offered me his arm, so I was walking for a while holding him and we were talking about his friend who was a great guy but pretty ugly and he didn’t like rugby (I may or may have not mentioned him that I’m looking for a Kiwi boyfriend to stay in New Zealand 😉 ). The guy I was talking to had been already taken and his fiancé was walking before us.

We listened to Tommy and the Fallen Horses. They were good, but it was getting cold, so we went back to Cuba Street. On the way I found $10 lying on the street, which was great, because I had just paid for quite expensive dinner. (My pen run out and I found another one on the street the other day. I think I’d survive on the street with my good eyes 😀 ).

The night was still young. My new friends suggested to go to Matterhorn. When we got in, I thought the music was very good and when I saw the DJ, I understood why. It was no one else but the one and only Mike Fabulous! I just had to talk to him about the previous night at the Mighty Mighty and how I enjoyed his music. He was very happy to hear that. He told me he’s a DJ here like once or twice a month. How cool was that to meet him there?! He asked me what I was doing in New Zealand etc. and recommended to check out The Yoots who were to play on Sunday. He was a really lovely guy. Oh! And he left a message for you!

R. said that I’ll have to go on some kind of detox, when I come back from New Zealand. At the moment I don’t want to think about it.

Te Atatu, Auckland

FRIDAY, 16th Sept.

We left New Plymouth at 8 a.m. and arrived in Auckland at about 2 p.m. We dropped off our bags at G.’s friend’s work place near Sky Tower. We took our time to stretch our legs along Queen Street before she finished her work at 5 p.m. G. visited more sports shops and went to Starbucks. I, on the other hand went to Queen’s Wharf to see what the Auckland Rugby Village FANZONE has to offer. And so I saw these guys,

Some players from the Irish rugby team were signing things and posing to photos. By the time I came back with G., they had already gone.

I got a brochure with program and I was happy to see The Blacks Seeds and Katchafire playing during the RWC Finals weekend, when I’m in Auckland. I hope I’ll be able to see them.

At 5 p.m. we picked up our bags and J. took us to her home. J.&Ch. live with their two sons on Te Atatu peninsula in north Auckland. The boys are 7 and 9 but they are quite tall and much more matured for their age. I really enjoyed their company for the last weekend.

In the evening, J.&Ch.’s friends came to watch rugby together. Everyone had something All Black on them, so I put my scarf on, just to blend in. Watching the All Blacks playing with Japan with a bunch of Kiwis was an unforgettable experience and sometimes even funnier than Flight of the Conchords. My cheeks hurt when they left.

On SATURDAY, we didn’t do much. We took a walk along the coast to get to Te Atatu centre and check out the bus connection. There was a nice view on Auckland.

And great street art on one of the buildings in the town centre.

Later we chilled out, it was another rainy afternoon. I also had to make some plans for the next couple days, so I spent some time on the Internet checking out many options and hoping for the weather to get better.

In the evening we head to Eden Park catching bus 049 (or 048 would be good too). We got off at Bond Street and followed the crowd. The streets were green and it was difficult to spot Aussie supporters wearing yellow.

And these guys asked me if I want to take a photo of them. Sure!

Eden Park is very impressive from the outside

We had seats in the 5th row (EE) on one side of the field. During the first half, it was Australian side and we could see some great actions from Irish.

And I couldn’t believe they won! Probably neither the Wallabies. 😀

On SUNDAY, I slept in and woke up in an empty house. Everyone went to church leaving me behind. When they got back, I was finishing my breakfast. It was another lazy day and no one wanted to go outside, because of…. Yep, you guessed it – the rain.

In the evening G.’s time in New Zealand was over and Ch. took him to the airport. On the way back we stopped at the lookout and saw three huge planes landing at the airport. The boys were very excited.

The guys got even more excited when they found out that I’m a big FOTC fan and we sang Hurt Feelings together. Although, it would suit more to sing Friends, since we were in a car.

New Plymouth

WEDNESDAY & THURSDAY, 14th & 15th Sept.

We carried on our rugby journey. We arrived in New Plymouth in the afternoon (5 hours from Levin). On the way to our destination we saw Mount Egmont, also known as Mount Taranaki hiding behind the clouds. We could see a little bit of snow on the mountain and the clouds in the shape of the mountain. Driving into the town we had the Tasman Sea in front of us. This time we stayed at Ariki Backpackers hostel, which was right next to the Bus Centre.

The hostel looked old, the dorm room was stinky and shower was flooding the whole small bathroom. But, because of the service and people running that business, I’d totally go back to this hostel next time I were in New Plymouth and recommend it to everyone. While checking in, we got brochures and maps package, the sheets were with 2011 Rugby World Cup logo and in the evening there were ear plugs in a bowl in the main hall, just in case the world cup party went too wild.

We left our luggage in a room and went to see the town. But first we had to book tickets to a bus to Auckland, because G. suspected we may not be the only ones having the same plans. And again, the receptionist, Yvonne was very helpful and we could make calls from their office. InterCity had only one seat left in the morning and G. didn’t want to miss the All Blacks game on Friday the evening on TV. Naked Bus had was only in the afternoon. The last option was Dalroy, which was the most expensive, but G. was happy to book the tickets anyway.

It was already late afternoon and we were getting hungry. The shops were closing and there were actually two pubs where you could watch rugby. The first pub was Crowded House recommended by Yvonne and my guide book. It was crowded and a bit posh. The second one was an Irish pub, some Paddy something and I really wanted to stay there, because next to that pub there was a big white tent with posters informing that the John Butler Trio was playing that night with Little Bushman as its support. The tickets were $70, so I thought I could listen to them sitting outside. I didn’t have enough guts to come up to Tom Callwood, who also plays with The Phoenix Foundation, when they were having sound check. I wasn’t sure if he remembered me from the gigs in Scotland last winter.

Anyway, we stayed at Paddy’s, had dinner watching Scotland v Georgia with two Dutch who play for their national rugby team. At the end of the first half I sneaked out and sat down outside to listen to Little Bushman.

I didn’t stay to listen to the second band. It was getting cold, so we went back to the hostel where was pretty quiet and peaceful. I spent the rest of the evening in a tv room talking with two Texans and a Canadian.

The next day we wanted to see Mt Taranaki but the shuttle was expensive. G. used his personal charm and Yvonne offered that her dad could take us there by his car. We’d have to chip in for petrol about $15-$20 per person.

Fred picked us up at 11 a.m., the sun was shining and first he took us to Paritutu, a steep-sided hill on the west of the town. When we got there, I realized I had left a memory card from my camera in my laptop. We left G. climbing the hill and Fred and I went back to the hostel. By the time we got back, G. had already went down the hill. They gave me five minutes to go up the hill myself, but I just went a half way and had enough. The weather was still nice when Fred showed us Sugar Loaves (not lumps 😉 ).

Then we drove to Mt Taranaki. (Did you know that it starred as Mt Fuji in The Last Samurai?) It was cloudy and cold. In town it was 16 °C and at the mountain it was 8 °C. Fred stayed at Visitor Centre and G. and I went to take a walk up the mountain. On nice days, it looks like this, but all we could see was this:

We had been walking for 20 min when I got tired. I hate steep surface and I’m too lazy to get fit. G. wanted to walk for about 10 more minutes and then go back, but hail storm came to rescue me. We quickly went back to the Centre and I really enjoyed a muffin and hot chocolate in a warm cafe while watching the rain and hail outside.

It was still raining when we decided to go back to town. Fred showed us new Coastal Walkway and the new bridge and then in a beautiful Pukekura Park we finally saw the sunshine. Some attractions in the park were pretty funny. If you wanted to see the fountain, you had to press the button, but it still didn’t work.

But the waterfall worked.

It was a great day spent with Fred and before we said goodbye, he gave us poncho in case it rained that evening during the game and even if it didn’t we could keep it, because we might need it in Auckland (and yes, we did need it there; every time I use the poncho, I’ll always remember Fred). What a good and wise man.

At the hostel the temperature was raising. I could see mostly Americans and their supporters.

We could take a shuttle to the Taranaki Stadium or follow a blue line. We decided to take a walk. I love the atmosphere before the game and looking at people. Some of them put a lot of effort in their costumes.

This World Cup is the first one for Russia. Initially, I wanted to support the USA, but when I heard Russian anthem, I felt like home. I went to primary school when there was still communist system in Poland and I had to study Russian. I guess I wasn’t aware how deep that stuff stuck in me. Anyway, the US won, but I was happy Russia scored some points as well.

After the game we went back to the town centre and in the same tent where Little Bushman played the day before, there was a cover band playing really well some good stuff, so we stayed and admired teletubbies, cowboy and some other weird characters having a party. After a while the room got full with Russian astronauts, soldiers, wonder women, guys wearing t-shirts with CCCP and C.I.A. prints and more cowboys.

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

ups and downs

Saturday started not very happy for me. I realised I had left my bag with toiletries in bathroom last night and when I went back in the morning, it was gone. I shouldn’t have gone to bed so late. It makes me absent-minded. I asked the cleaners, but there was no bag left in their room after the night shift. Either they lied to me or someone from the backpackers took it. It made me feel a bit down for a while. I couldn’t even comb my hair! Good thing that I had my toothbrush from the plane in my rucksack, so I at least brushed my teeth. One of many loses during my journey, I guess.

Getting on-line for free cheered me up. H. had texted me that the Library had free wifi, so finally I could catch up on what’s happening in my world, like TAIKA WAITITI IS IN DA HOUSE! 😀 He’s a bigger rugby fan than I thought. I’ll have my eyes all around my head every time I’m in Auckland now.

H. also let me know that the All Blacks were going to be in Aotea Square on Queen Street at 4:30 p.m. The square was almost on the other side of the street! The Library closed at 4:00, had enough time to leave my laptop in my hostel room, grab my camera and be back before the ABs arrived in their white coach. There was already a big crowd, because the program started at 3:30. Later I found out that I missed Holly Smith’s performance. 😦

One of the first who got off the bus was the couch, Graham Henry and then the rest followed.

The team was welcomed by Maori dancers. They performed haka. I couldn’t take a proper picture, because I was snapping without looking into my camera and others were doing the same thing. The good side of this is that you can now find plenty of videos on YouTube from this ceremony.

And then the team moved onto stage. I managed to take this photo of Dan

And a couple of other ABs

The ceremony started from prayers, dance, songs and official welcomes in Maori

Then the rest was in English, luckily. Everyone got a cap and a gift from the city

Richie McCaw, the captain said a couple words and the ceremony finished with singing the New Zealand anthem.

The guys stayed on stage for an official photo then on the way back to their coach they were giving autographs. I didn’t even try to get close to the barriers, it was so crowded. I was about 2m from Graham Henry, though. They didn’t stay long. The All Blacks came and it rained. It rained when they were leaving.

So no Sky Tower tonight too. I went to a store for my toiletries along the Quay Street and found The Giant Ball at Queen Wharf.

Auckland is getting ready for this gigantic festival. Today I saw in Sky City more redecorations for new bars and restaurants, when I went to collect my tickets on matches I’m going to. Am I really here?! Is this really happening?!