Taking Over Control Kiwi Style

Hamilton – Saturday, 08 January 2011

As you may have figured from the previous blog post dear readers, I (Emma, Melanie’s big sister) have lately been intruding Andrew’s and Melanie’s easygoing, laid-back outback life. The last 11 days (should have been 14 days if not for lousy Lufthanza) I have been forcing a tight though well-planned travel scheme on our lovebirds, leading us all over the beautiful NZ North Island.

We already reported about a big part of our tour in the previous post, but it goes on. Not only the travelling, but also the celebrating. Because as many of you know, only 4 days after the beginning of the New Year, it is my little sister’s birthday.

Since Melanie was complaining that her last few birthdays had been rather crappy (because of exams or badly timed paper deadlines) Andrew and I figured that we needed to try to make this year’s birthday a special one. But there was a problem: in my tight though well thought-out travel scheme a 300 km car ride was planned on the 4th of January (Mel’s birthday). That obviously was no fun activity to celebrate her birthday… So we decided that this year Mel’s birthday would not be the 4th but the 3rd of January! Because that day I had planned something completely different. Something much more fun than a car ride and something Melanie (as we all know her) would enjoy so much more: a wine tour! As we actually already told you about this tour in the previous post, I will just conclude that Mel indeed liked it very much (except that after a while her (and for that means all of our) ass(es) really hurt from the bike saddle).

In the evening Andrew and I prepared a great birthday dinner. Melanie asked for tapas and to surprise her and she got both. After heaps and heaps of finger food (as asked) we gave Mel a big surprise. You see, from the beginning of the evening we had been pretending that we were busy preparing a fantastic dessert, and huuuge was Mel’s surprise when we finally presented it to her:

English Jelly

A typical English raspberry jelly!!

Honestly, you should have seen her face (I wish I had taken a picture). But of course we are a way better sister/boyfriend than that. So after a hilarious minute or so we got out the real (obviously not self prepared) birthday cake.

Yummy Chocolate Cake

As you can see her smile was suddenly a whole lot bigger.

On the morning of the 4th we had a little after party by ways of a super birthday brekkie, with balloons, birthday cards and a bright pink birthday crown.

Birthday Brekkie

After a last morning stroll in central Napier we headed for Whakatane (pronounced “Fakatane” and renamed by us with a slightly naughtier deviation) where our following trip would take place.

The next morning we got up early to catch the ferry that would take us to White Island. White Island is a small Island some 40 km from the coast of Whakatane. It actually is a volcano, and though it is dormant now (the last eruption dates from 2000) there is still a lot of thermal activity going on. We had to wear gas masks (which came really handy from time to time because there was a lot of sulfuric steam coming out of the ground) and safety helmets (of which the purpose was rather unclear - not quite sure if they would really help us in case of an actual eruption).

The trip was really cool: we saw heaps of dolphins on the boat trip to the Island.


And because of the good weather we got a great view of the crater lake (pH -0.4) and the yellow sulfur pits. And after the tour we could even take a dip in the ocean.

White Island
With Protection
The Sulpher
Lake Death
Death Walk
Iems Swimming

In the evening we drove to Hamilton where we would stay for 2 nights, because this was somewhere in between Raglan (where we wanted to go surfing on Thursday) and Waitomo caves (where I had booked a so called “black water rafting tour” on Friday).

So on Thursday we drove towards the beautiful West Coast, hired some surf boards, wriggled ourselves in some wet suits and faced the braking waves at the beach of Raglan. I soon discovered that I had lost most of the techniques I had learned 3 years earlier, so I decided to just have the waves have a go with me and enjoyed some serious splashing. Luckily Andrew and Melanie were a bit better so that at least not the entire beach was regarding us as those funny inexperienced tourists. After a delicious meal (Melanie finally had the Eggs Benedict she had been dreaming about since her arrival in NZ) with beautiful ocean views, we returned (tired but happy) back to our camping.

Delicious Meal

After a good night’s sleep we started our journey to the Waitomo Caves on Friday. The caves are one of the main tourist attractions of the North Island, and there are many ways to explore and visit them and of all those tours, we of course choose the most daring one. Or at least the most daring sounding one. You see, whereas all other tours just consisted of walking down the caves, following a guide and listening to his comments, our tour promised a thrilling expedition, rafting down an underground river, jumping off waterfalls, etc.

Well it really was a cool tour, but in our opinion they could just as well call it a “black water dobbering (floating)” tour, because honestly, that was what half of it actually was. After having wriggled ourselves once again in wet suits and safety helmets (Mel complaining that she hadn’t really been feeling very fashionable because of all the tours and trips I had organized, making us wear all kinds of special suits and unsexy safety equipment), and after we were thought by the guides how to squeeze our asses in a tube (something like a tyre) and jump into the river with our asses squeezed in those tubes, we were all prepared for our underground trip. Thing is, because of the summer season and the lack of rain, the river wasn’t quite that impressive. The first part the water was too shallow to raft/float in so we had to walk this part, and then when it got deep enough we could continue in our tubes, but still the water was really calm, so the rafting actually was much more of a peaceful floating downriver, enjoying the spectacular views in the cave, including the zillions and zillions of glow worms that truly gave the cave a magical touch…

Or at least during the first part of the trip. ‘Cause after a while the guide told us that the glow worms weren’t actually worms, but maggots. And that the light was just produced by their excrement. So that we were actually looking at “shiny shit from maggots”.

And with that bombshell I leave this blog back to our world traveling lovebirds.

Looking forward to taking over California again!