Published: October 30th 2011October 30th 2011
Monday October 10th 2011, the day my World Cup trip begun, proved a hectic day.
A total runaround, mad dash of a day it was. I had so much to get done at work, while at the same time I was calling the Bank and Credit Card company to notify them on me being out the country. Purchasing foreign exchange, and picking up the odd last minute item. After finishing up at work (managing to get all work complete!), I headed to the airport at around 3:40pm. I had done my check-in online already so I needed to be Cape Town International near 4pm. My flight, on Emirates, was to depart at 6:10pm. I met the family at the airport and made final adjustments to my luggage before getting my bag wrapped in plastic like a typical Saffa.
Checked in, through security and to the boarding lounge! Game time!
To get the trip started with a bang, somehow while taking my phone out my jeans back pocket, I managed to get my left index fingernail caught. RIP! I had torn a strip of the nail down the one side. Blood. Joy. Way to get this trip started.
Once on board I did ask a flight attendant for a plaster. She brought me a little hamper! Problem sorted.
The travel time to Rotorua, New Zealand from Cape Town was set at 35 hours. Stopovers in Dubai, Brisbane and Auckland airports. The longest leg was the 14hr 30min flight from Dubai to Brisbane. I was lucky enough to sleep through a big chunk of that time. All flights were on time, until the Air NZ flight to Rotorua. Bad weather had caused a few cancellations of flights and after an hours delay we were told to board. The little plane was quite a contrast to the previous planes I had just spent the past 30 odd hours on! I fell asleep almost immediately and woke up on landing, having just missed a few failed attempts to land due to the poor weather! New Zealand time, this was Wednesday October 12th.
Walking into the terminal I got a classic greeting from my uncle Tony: a finger to break the ice, followed by a few laughs! Myself, Tony & Deb drove into Rotorua for a Maori Festival at the Convention Centre. I was led to believe Deb would be
performing at the event, as part of a Ukelele band and only after a while of wondering when she'd be going on stage did they spell it out that it was just a joke! A Ukelele is a small Maori guitar. It was a festival linked to the Sports Academy in the region, and also one of Maori culture. I had photo's with ex All Blacks Buck Shelford and Hika Reid while at the function. I tried a Maori delicacy, Kina, which is raw sea urchin. For me, it was a bit soggy and the appearance put me off! Charlie, a guy at our table, told me that usually Maori men eat Kina after a night on the piss...so I was laughed at a bit for eating it then and probably more so for not enjoying its taste! The Hangi pork was delicious though and could have been the best food I had in NZ. My uncle got me trying a couple local brews right away while the live music was on the go. Waikato Draught and Mata. The Mata, a Hangi style flavour, was different - really different! I think it was the perfect way to start my stay
I was staying on a dairy farm, north of Rotorua, where my uncle works. The next day, Thursday October 13th, was my 1st morning waking in NZ. After a sleep-in, Tony and I drove to see their new place, a Lifestyle Section (Smallholding). After the visit we went into Rotorua to Skyline where we got the Gondola up to the top of the hill. Perfect spot to get a view of Rotorua. I rode a Luge down the one track and hit a fairly high speed. We got the Gondola back down, and then were off to Te Puia. Here we went on the guided tour of the place. Catching a glimpse of the Kiwi, watching Maori carvings being created, shown weaving of flax for garments, watching the boiling and bubbling of mud at Ngamokaiakoko Mud Pool while en route to the geysers. The Pohutu geyser is the largest and most famous and we waited a while before water began to erupt. It was quite cool to see that, even though the eruption we saw was nowhere near the max height of 30m! Back to the farm, and Tony and Deb made a great dinner where I
had my first big cut of red meat in NZ!
Friday the 14th we all set out to Rotorua where I collected my RWC Semi Final match tickets. After a bite to eat in town and picking up Debs friend Booboo, we headed around lake Rotorua to do a short walk up to the Hamurana Spring, which is the largest spring on North Island NZ. On the way home we passed by their new place again, as well as grabbing a beer and snack in the busy small town of Tirau. We all headed into Tokoroa for a few games of pool and a solid number of handles (draught beers). Lion Red, Waikato and Speights I think...Speights handle was not impressive (I'm sure it was the Speights...). Was a cool night at Pockets Club and at the Tokoroa Club. By the way, I was asked for ID at the Rotorua Maori Festival and at Tokoroa Club! So I'm looking younger! Sweet!
Saturday the 15th we all went into Tokoroa and had a quick walk about the main area of town which also had a Saturday farmers market on the go. After saying my rushed goodbyes as the driver
waited for me to move my ass and get on board, I was off to Auckland!
The 3hr 30min journey went by fairly quickly and I had a good chat with an Irishman, David, who had been touring NZ since the RWC started. He was also heading up to watch the Semi Finals after a few days in Taupo. en route in rained quite a bit, but nearer Auckland the skies had patches of blue. The Intercity Coach dropped us at the SkyCity terminal in central Auckland and I navigated my way to City Travelers Hostel where I had a room booked for the night. Online it showed they were booked up for Sunday night, but I wanted to avoid moving hostels and had also struggled to find another hostel near the CBD. I planned on asking on arrival if anyone had cancelled, which I did to no success. But I was told to check again at around 9am the following morning. In the mean time Deb had organised a place to stay if the hostel couldn't take me, so I had emergency back up! It wasn't required as the following morning I had my bed again. Although I'm
sure I was overcharged...anyways!
So after checking in, I pulled on the All Blacks top, and a red top to show my Welsh support and headed off to the start of the Fan Trail at the Auckland Viaduct area. The Fan Trail was a 5km route from Queen Street to Eden Park Stadium and it had lots on the go! I stopped in at a bar about half way for a few refreshments in the form of handles! Arriving at the stadium I was psyched for the game and the vibe was pretty good. The weather started turning and near kick off the heavens opened! I decided to leave my seat before the rain got heavy and get shelter along the staircase, which paid off as within a few minutes the entire staircase to the bottom was crammed with people! A few minutes later people who had risked the rain came down dripping, clothes wet right through...not nice. The wind was icy and those drenched people must have frozen over the next 2 hours at the game. I was dry :-)
The atmosphere at the start of the game was incredible and the Welsh anthem really took it
up a level! The game itself began nicely, but after the Sam Warburton red card the game declined. The French did nothing but defend against 14 Welshman and nobody liked that. The French played an ugly game and the Welsh fought extremely hard. The crowd really got behind Wales and we tried hard to help them get the point they needed to beat the French. But it was not enough. France winners 9-8.
I had planned to get the bus back to the CBD, as ticket holders got free public transport, but somehow I missed the turn to all the buses! So I ended up walking the 5km's back!
Sunday the 16th was the reason I was in NZ. All Blacks vs Australia! Massive Semi Final! I was up early and I was starting the Coast to Coast walk from Auckland Viaduct to Manukau Harbour at Onehunga. It was a 16km walk and I had printed out the info and map before leaving to NZ. I bought the Sunday Herald and a litre of Ruby Grapefruit juice from the Dairy (little cafe) near my hostel on the way to meet up with a friend of my dad, Theo,
for breakfast. We handed over parcels and had a good chat over a great bite of bacon and eggs for breaky. I then headed out to begin the 4-6hr walk.
The walk takes you through fantastic parts of the city, and as I walked along I read the story of the place or feature. Soon, after passing a few places of interest I got to Albert Park along Princes Street. The sun was out and after having a look around and getting a few pictures I decided to have a bite to eat and read the sport section of the paper while in the park. Heading off to the Auckland Museum located in the Auckland Domain, the walk takes you through parts of the Auckland University campus. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time, so I decided not to get a ticket to enter the museum. But the building is located at the top of Pukekawa or The Hill of Bitter Memories, and you get a great view across Auckland.
Outhwaite Park, which dates back to the 1840's was passed along with the Auckland Grammar School en route to Mt Eden. Mt Eden is the tallest volcano in Auckland
at 196m. It was a steep little climb to get to the top of the crater but the views over the area were awesome!
I headed down Mt Eden toward Mt Eden Village where I had decided to get a bus back to the CBD as it was near 3pm and the game was nearing. On the way down I took a wrong turn and ended up doing a big loop extra. Waiting for the bus there were a few people also going to the game who had come down from Northland and the one guy had been to Cape Town before so we chatted about that and the upcoming match. The bus took near 40min to arrive and when it did it was full already, so the large group waiting had to hang on for the next bus due in 20min. We figured the next one may be full as well, so we decided to get a taxi and split the fare 4 ways. After struggling for almost 10min we managed to get a cab, driven by an Afghan who had been in NZ for 10years. The taxi worked out well and we each paid 5 bucks. I
headed to my hostel and after a shower I had my pizza I had collected on the way and a couple beers. Then I was off to do the Fan Trail again!
The atmosphere near Party Central/Viaduct area was awesome, and the Fan Trail was up a notch from the previous night. Everybody was super excited, but you could sense the nerves as well! I had a mixture of both! Again, I ended up in the same pub along the way for a couple handles and then found my way to my category A seats at Eden Park. The teams were busy doing their warm up routines when I arrived. The kiwi's next to me gave me a beer on arrival and very soon the teams were out there lining up for the anthems! It was awesome and then seeing the Haka live topped off a massive build up to the game! The game itself same epic and Cory Jane had a blinder! The atmosphere at the stadium was incredible throughout and the crowd was fantastic. It was a special game and the AB's took it 20-6. The AB's were totally dominant and Quade Cooper had another shocker in
the Wallaby jersey! Auckland CBD was pumping after the victory and people were going crazy! It was cool to have been a part of that night.
Monday the 17th I headed out late to Mt Eden Village to continue my Coast to Coast walk. The weather was worse than the day before (sunny day and no rain at the game), but there was no rain at least. I continued toward One Tree Hill passing through Melville Park along the way. The One Tree Hill itself is located in the One Tree Hill Domain and lies alongside Cornwall Park forming a 220 hectare estate. After spending a bit of time at the monument, I walked down to the exit of the Domain and had my take away lunch before continuing the route. The next section of the walk was nothing spectacular and the last major feature was the Onehunga Blockhouse in Jellicoe Park. The Blockhouse dates back to 1860 when residents sought protection for perceived attack by Maori. After a short while I had completed the walk and then had a drink at a cafe in town before catching the train back to Britomart in Auckland CBD. I had a
look about the Fan Park before collecting my bag from the hostel and then catching the airport express bus from Britomart.
Next stop: Wellington. The flight down was on hell! In all my flying I have never had a problem with my ears, but on this flight I was in pain! And they gave me trouble until the trip was over a few days later. I was seated next to two guys from Wellington, Jesse was one of them and he reminded me of Israel Dagg. They had gone up for the game as well and we killed travel time with interesting conversation. The flight attendant happened to be the same woman who was in the Air NZ safety video with the All Blacks, so she had people making comments and asking questions during the safety demonstration and flight.
At Wellington I met my 2nd cousin Geoff at the baggage carousel. Wellington welcomed me with a chilly rain. I got a glimpse of the city by night on the way to Lower Hutt. I met Jo at the house and we had a chatted a bit before i hit the sack.
On Tuesday the 18th Jo took
me all over the Wellington region and we stopped at Mt Victoria overlooking the CBD and the surrounds. She showed me the seaside suburb of Seatoun, where my Great Aunt, Aunty Helen, had lived. We drove all around the coast and caught a glimpse of the mountains of the South Island in the distance. We also went up to the viewpoint at the Brooklyn Wind Turbine (oldest in NZ). After the driving tour of Wellington, Jo took me to a beachfront restaurant (an old lifesavers building) where we met Liz and Amber for lunch. The spot was popular and was packed. The food was really good, I had a beef dish with Quinoa and butternut. Jo took me to the top of the hill where the Cable Car station is, and I explored the CBD the rest of the afternoon. I wandered the Botanic Gardens and had a look around the cable car museum before hopping on down to Lambton Quay, the street where the car runs to. I aimed for the Queens Wharf and explored along the way. I stopped in at the Museum of Wellington City and Sea where I spent an hour or so learning about the
city I was in. After making my way to the opposite side of town, I decided to try out one of wellingtons hundreds of coffee shops. I read a bit on the upcoming RWC Final , before meeting up with Geoff after his day at work. Geoff & Jo took me to their son Daves house in an outlying town. I had a great time at Dave and Elaina's and they were really awesome people. I was right in the middle of the Flu and my voice was shot along with a virtually non existent hearing! Not the best first impression I had been making on all the family in Wellington!
I think I had picked up the cold on the bus to Auckland and then being at Semi Final 1 between Wales and France in the icy wind and rain just finished me off. The next 2 days in Auckland I got the cold progressing nicely (and the screaming at the rugby just killed the voice). By the time I had landed in Wellington and met Geoff (along with the ear bursting on the plane), the cold had set in!
The following day Jo drove me up
Hutt Valley to Kaitoke Regional Park where I did the 3 hour Ridge Track through the indigenous forest. The start of the trail was location of Rivendell in the Lord of the Rings. It was a beautiful area to hike through and the region is enormous. A fantastic hike that Jo made possible by taking me all the way there. That evening Amber, Lou and Liz came over to Geoff and Jo's for dinner and it was an enjoyable evening! Great dinner and awesome people. The limbless swimmer topic...haha, yip it was a good evening.
On my final day in Wellington I caught the train into the CBD to spend the day before being met by Geoff and Jo who took me for dinner at a restaurant/bar, The Backbencher, opposite the Parliament buildings. I had my first seafood meal in NZ - Calamari (apart from the 2 bites of Kina!). Also had some dark beer....I think it was Speights although now I'm doubting it....but this was the nicest dark stuff I've had.
Amber and Lou met us at the Wellington Railway Stations Platform 9, where I was catching an overnight Intercity bus back to Auckland. After saying cheers
to all, I jumped on the bus and managed to get a window seat. The overnight bus was really comfortable and a good experience. Cheap as well!
Arriving at the SkyCity building again, I found a locker to leave my bag until the end of the day. It was 7am on arrival and I made my way down to the furthest end of the Auckland Harbour area on the Harbour Bridge side near Victoria Park. I sat down at the end of the pier and had breakfast. Amber had packed me 2 rolls and grapes which I had then. Perfect as no coffee shops or cafes where open at 7am! I spent the morning along the waterfront, visiting the Cloud and fan Park area again. I went to the Waka Maori exhibition and met rugby players: Glen Osborne, Adrian Cashmore and Tanerau Latimer. I then headed off to grab some lunch and then went off to the Sky Tower where Theo had given me a buy 1 get 1 free coupon to use. I offered it to the couple in front of me in line and we each scored NZ$14! Decent. I went to both observations decks and the
views of the city where amazing. It let me plot the places I had been around the city. I stood on the glass deck, and even though I knew it was safe, I still felt uneasy looking down! Leaving Sky Tower I bumped into the Welsh rugby squad who were doing a bit of a walk about before their Bronze medal match with Australia. I met a few players including Adam Rhys Jones and Toby Faletau. I ran out to find a liquor store for a few beers and bottle of wine as gifts and then to unlock my bag from the locker.
I had run out of cash in my bank account and forgotten my credit card pin to draw cash from the atm....and only had NZ$3 in my wallet. I needed NZ$8 to get my bag out! I had tried at quite a few stores to try get cash, but all unsuccessfully. Finally at Sky Tower gift store the cashier sold me a gift voucher for 10 bucks and then I used it to buy a couple dollars worth just to get change in coins! Sorted perfectly!
I had bought an airport express bus ticket earlier
so I headed straight down to the bus stop and hoped right on. That was that. A mad rush last day to end the trip!
The flights home were tough! Getting drug swabbed in NZ and Australia, long uncomfortable flights, getting hassled by Dubai security and then getting pulled over by customs in Cape Town. The official thankfully didn't open my bag in the end after numerous questions. If he had, 8 bottles of beer and a bottle of wine would have popped out! Over the limit!
The trip to New Zealand was absolutely brilliant and all my family over there, in Waikato and in Welly, spoilt the hell outta me! I have to return, especially to do some hiking. The Milford Track, Tongariro, Mt Taranaki and Stewart Island looks interesting. The All Blacks semi final was mind blowing and my entire time was enjoyed!