Published: October 18th 2011October 18th 2011
Flying into Auckland on the 15th September feels like a lifetime ago right now, but I know I'll love remembering all the fun we've had since then for this blog, so here goes...
We were thrilled to arrive in Auckland where they had DRINKING WATER in taps and HOT showers and SHOPS that sell stuff. Even the cold and wet weather couldn't dampen that kind of excitement. We swiftly met Kate Jeffery (the fourth member of our team) and hit the town in search of Irish paraphernalia for the big match on Saturday (Ireland v Australia obvs...). To get us in the mood we watched the All Blacks beat Japan at the Auckland 'Fanzone' - a huge area set up on a wharf with big screens and bars and fun all round.
The day of the match we met the fifth member of our team - Emily Cragg - who unfortunately didn't have a ticket for the match but this didn't stop her getting involved in the facepaint and flag frivolities. We were lucky enough to be able to stay in a RWC flat, kindly lent to us by a family friend of Kate. I have to
say I didn't imagine travelling would ever involve a plush modern pad and sit down meal with wine, but I could get used to it. It would be rude not to mention Tona's incident with a glass door here - first nosebleed of tour! We sang our way ("Shoulder to shoulder..............") along the 50minute fan trail from town to Eden Park where the atmosphere was literally electric. The Irish fans were great craic and filled a good 70% of the stadium - although many of these were Kiwi's backing the boys in green. Still, it was like a sea of leprechauns! I'd taught the girls the words to Ireland's Call in preparation for the anthems which was a real spine tingler. The match was obviously just amazing and a win was more than anyone could hope for. We truly were hardcore Irish fans after this (I already was of course....) and we weren't going to be losing the Irish fans anytime soon - they really have taken over the North Island with their green hats and singing.
The Bay of Islands was our next stop - a really relaxing few days and our first introduction to how spectacular
the scenery here is. The highlight for me was fulfilling one my little girl dreams of seeing dolphins - and the real thing certainly didn't disappoint as they played alongside our boat and jumped out to say hi. Amazing. Cape Reinga, where the Pacific and Abel Tasman oceans crash together, and the 90 mile beach (actually about 60miles...) were both pretty impressive, and sandboarding down the huge sand dunes here gave us our first adrenalin hit of the trip. Fajita night back at the hostel was the perfect end to our stay at the very northern point of NZ.
Cracking on with the Kiwi Experience down from Auckland we reached Waitomo - a tiny town centred around the incredible limestone caves underneath it inhabited by gloworms. Obviously we signed up for a 5 hour adventure in then called the Black Abyss (why not?!) and I reckon it's the most fun you can have in a wetsuit in the pitch black.... probably. Abseiling, climbing up a waterfall, jumping into black icy water, flying down a zip line into darkness and bobbing along in rubber rings all featured, as well as some divine hot chocolate and cake!
our rugby fix, on arrival in Rotorua (a town surrounded by hot springs and sulphur - it smells, really bad) we somehow landed ourselves tickets to the Ireland v Russia game that evening. The flags make another appearance! As does Tona's ginger wig and hat - Jess's ploy to make her blend in with us Irish roses. This game had a totally different feel to Eden Park - the 'stadium' was like a local team's pitch with grass banks all round it. You could play 'spot the Russian' as the Irish had certainly taken over. I thought the stadium looked like the Quiddith World Cup from Harry Potter with all the leprechaun and green fancy dress (this is the first of my profound 'omg this is like that bit in Harry Potter when....' moments - the girls love it). A few rows from the front, we saw our fair share of tries being run in and joined in with the cries of 'put it in the hole' whenever Ronan was kicking. Oh, and also had a front row view of the legend streaker - not sure he made it onto the BBC footage. Rotorua after the match was buzzing and
we had great craic with the Irish fans celebrating their win. We found out the next day that every bar had run dry of beer and every cash point had run out of money - they were clearly not prepared for these fans - like no other!
The time had arrived for us to reach Taupo - the destination for our SKYDIVE which I'd booked weeks before and kept quiet from anyone at home so Mum could get her sleep still. I don't think I can describe how terrified I was the night before and all that morning - I felt sick and had to ask the guide at the skydive centre about what would happen if I was sick from nerves. But under the terror I was also majorly excited for the stupidest thing I've ever done in my life. It was all a bit real once we were in our blue onesies (Emily with her PJ's on underneath for extra warmth...normal) and being filmed in front of our pink (yes, pink) plane. I was last up to jump - not what we'd agreed previously but I wasn't going to argue - and had to endure Andrew's
banter that something on my parachute didn't look right - joker. I'm afraid writing about the jump itself is actually impossible as the OED does not have words to describe that feeling - it was just incredible. My mind couldn't process what was happening at first - thanks to the DVD I can just about rememebr it. After the insane freefall you then gently float down over the stunning Lake Taupo and try to digest what had just happened. Our screeches of 'oh my god this is amazing the BEST THING EVER' throughout our DVD's and on landing started a trend for describing everything we do. We'll have a skydive dvd viewing sesh when I'm home for all those who haven't seen it yet (Mum has a copy!).
We rode the high from the dive all day, literally buzzing and giggling the whole time and on to a fab night out with Dan and James (from uni, who we also met in Fiji). The next day was spent chilling in the natural hot springs in a local park, as you do. I decided hangover days should be more like this in England too.
River Valley was
a lovely stopover after the crazy antics of Taupo. We stayed at an isolated lodge at the base of an idyllic valley - the only other life around was the adorable spring lambs which prance about everywhere - me and Jess drove everyone mad with our repetitive 'awwws'. An epic roast dinner here went down a treat - it made up for the sleeping arrangements which was a giant room length bunk bed renamed the 'orgy room'. But no fear, we were tucked up and ready for 'Book Club' - another gap yah invention of ours - with our headtorches nice and early. I tried out yoga for the first time ever the next morning - surprisingly I really enjoyed it as I had visions of giggling the whole way through.
On our way from River Valley to Wellington we stopped briefly at the witty town of Bulls which clearly, like a lot of NZ, does not take itself too seriously. Everything is named to be a pun of Bull - eg 'Consta-bull' for the police station, 'Incredi-bull burgers' etc. Endless entertainment. Arriving into Wellington as the sun was setting low over the harbour was gorgeous and we
knew we'd have a good weekend here, especially as we had 2 special hosts - the lovely Yoshi from uni who kindly put up 5 girls in his flat for 2 nights (hero), and Tona's friend Lydia from her Erasmus year.
We crammed a lot into 3 days, including: the Te Papa Museum of New Zealand which took me back to many geography lessons on tectonic movements, a Portabello Road-esque quirky market, some cupcake eating, a cable car ride up to the beautiful botanical gardens (macro lense at the ready...), wear our England flags and facepaint to watch England beat Scotland at the Wellington fanzone, singing 'acoustic' swing low sweet chariot, drinking more jaegerbombs than anyone should ever consume (thanks to Yoshi), much dancing (some on tables), the cosiest sleepover ever and some Les Mills gym classes! A nice little collection. And I managed to speak to the bride in Ireland on her big day which MADE my weekend :) congratulations Steve and Carmel!
Phew, that was a whistle stop tour of our north island as we then embarked the ferry to the south island (interestingly, or not, by sailing north before going south). Wow it
has flown and we've crammed so much in! I know I already loved NZ by this point but the last few weeks since have, if anything, made me love it even more. Watch out for the next installment of the One Team One Dream tour blog as our adventure continues! Love to all at home xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
There are more photos below