Hello again people! I am literally going to pick up where I left off in the last post.
Unfortunately I have no pictures for the first half of this blog post. I know, this makes me sad as well.
Luckily we were not due to be picked up until 12:30pm by Dory and his bus after our late night at the lame bar in Rotorua. This meant a semi-decent lie in until check out at 10am. This time we were on the way to a special night with a traditional Maori family at Lake Aniwhenua. Not going to lie, I can’t remember the names of a lot of things we were told, or even the tribe’s name. Even if I did, I really don’t think I’d be able to spell it. So I’m sorry in advance if I offend anyone with my description below of what we did.
The niece of the woman who owned and set up the lodge we stayed at hopped on the bus half way to our destination. She gave us a brief history of the Maori people and the tribe she is from. We went into a forest where she showed us ancient markings from hundreds of years ago and taught us about battles between different tribes and the use of silver fern in helping your tribe members finding the right path. Silver fern is bright white underneath; the tribe would turn it over as it became clear in the moonlight.
We then went to this sacred place (this is where I become offensive) and we’re welcomed into this family through a ceremony. An older lady was singing in the Maori language and another guy spoke in the same tongue, apparently accepting us. At the end we lined up and had to touch noses with the elders. It was definitely an odd experience as you’re not really sure if you should close your eyes as you lean in or stare at them directly as your nose touches there’s. It felt very much as though you were leaning in for a kiss.
We were then taken inside this sacred building, which I can only describe as the equivalent to a church. It had handmade sculptures and woven designs. It was beautiful. After being treated to a cup of tea and biscuits, we headed back to the bus and were taken straight to the lodge where we had a choice of cabins to stay in. Inside the cabins was a little kind of attic room on top with a double bed where Jason and Lorraine stayed and then 2 bunk beds below where Ritchie, Theresa and myself slept whilst Jess and Anna joined Tara in a nice cosy room with it’s own bathroom and TV. I was offered to join, but I just never managed to move my stuff over and fell asleep pretty quickly later that evening.
We watched as several chickens, cuts of pork, potatoes and stuffing was lowered into a hāngī, a traditional earth oven, and covered with cloth and then soil to cook for 2 and a half hours. In that time some of us had signed up to play Maori stick games where we were in a circle, each holding a stick, and throwing them to each other in a certain rhythm. We had to throw them to the next person and then every fourth throw was to the person beyond the person next to you. We were struggling to complete the rhythm without dropping the stick and then on the last go when we were all determined to get it, I was the only one who didn’t catch the stick at the end. Of course.
After this we quickly learnt the Hakka. Please watch the YouTube video of the all blacks doing the Hakka if you haven’t already. Unfortunately, the girls weren’t allowed to stick their tongues out to look scary, but stood there, arms folded with scary wide eyes. It took us a while to get this right as well.
Finally the food was ready and all of us were starving. We watched as they carved the chicken and pork. I don’t usually like pork, but I watched as the knife went through it like butter. Some of the guys from our group had made fried bread and oh my goodness it was delicious. It reminded me of the fried bread Britt and I had in Budapest that they covered with sour cream and cheese. This was just nice with butter. I will have to find the recipe! And then we filled our basket bowls up with as much food as we could. I definitely had eyes bigger than my belly. We were also invited to use our hands to eat… I wasn’t going to say no to that. Pudding was just store bought cakes and custard, still very welcomed though.
After we had had our fill of food, the niece explained to us how usually the next day we would take the left over food to the local school and give it to the children who had no food of their own. Unfortunately it was the school holidays so we couldn’t do this and instead packed the food up for the old people. The rest of that night was filled with laughter. I may have eaten half my Easter egg before bed and got the giggles really bad. I climbed on one of the top bunks and pretended to stare at Jason and Lorraine in their little attic whilst they slept. Yeah…. I can be weird sometimes.
The next day we woke up early to start our journey to Taupo and then Whakahoro (Blue Duck Station). We first stopped off at some hot pools, which were an effort to get to as initially we thought we would have to walk through mud that came up to your knee, but then the smart ones of us decided to swim down the stream and get to the pools that way. It was kind of nice and relaxing and I tried to forget about the weight I had gained since coming to NZ. Dory nearly drove off without people again, of course.
Jess had signed up to do a skydive, so when we stopped off at Huka falls, she, along with Kaya, Amélie, Hiten and Tara were whisked off in a limo. We didn’t see them again until after our lunch break in Taupo where I spent an hour desperately trying to find wifi as we were warned there wouldn’t be any for the next two days. I was kind of tempted to do my sky dive here, but I’ve told myself to hold out for Fox Glacier. It’s the most expensive, but the best in the country.
We arrived at Blue Duck Station quite late in the evening. It was very much in the middle of nowhere. Our stray bus had it’s own little lodge with a small kitchen. It was cute. Dory had announced we’d be playing a beer pong tournament that evening. Jason and Lorraine obviously went together and will for now be known as Team Spuds, Jess and Anna teamed up and Ritchie decided to go with Andi; odd choice for Andi since Ritchie had proven a disappointment when they played together in Hahei. So it looked like I had no one to partner up with until Dory was shouting around for a partner and everyone nominated me. Thank guys.
To be fair, we managed to make it to the final. I thought I would disappoint Dory, but my underarm throw seemed to work and I managed to score a decent amount. Unfortunately there was one cup left each and one of the Danish guys managed to sink our last cup and won the medals. There was no runner up prize.
Later that night, after a few more drinks I remembered I had bought a box of chocolates to play an Easter egg hunt that never happened. So, being my drunken silly self, I decided to hide all the chocolates around the lodge, inside and out. I crept back in the room and shouted ‘Hey guys, who likes chocolate?!’ They all just stared at me… ‘I’ve hidden a load of chocolates in here and out there for everyone to find.’ Immediately everyone left their seats and started running looking for these chocolates. It was the best thing I had seen. Such childish excitement and people were so happy when they found them. Kaya amazingly found 3! I was nice and put one each on my dorm mate’s beds, just because they be ma pals.
I woke up the next morning feeling absolutely terrible. I ached all over, had a stuffy nose and dry throat. I just wanted to sleep all day, but I had booked to do clay pigeon shooting at 1pm. After taking some Advil and moving around a bit, I started to feel a little better, but I still struggled with life and my extremely cold shower made me feel worse. A few from the bus had been hunting earlier in the day and came back and put a bag of fresh goat meat in the table. I couldn’t help but feel repulsed. I hated the idea of people actually paying to go and shoot animals for enjoyment. One guy tried to show me pictures of the dead goat strapped to his back, but I refused. They tried cooking the meat later, but apparently you need to let it rest for a few days; it was very chewy. Despite being disgusted with the way the animal had been killed, my foodie curiosity got the better of me and I tried a tiny bit of it. It was ok, a little tough, but nothing special.
Clay pigeon shooting was interesting. We got 5 practice shots and then 5 competition shots. Jason was amazing and hit every one. I missed all the practice shots, though I reckon my first couple of shots I wasn’t holding the gun right, as now I have a massive bruise on my arm. And the rest I sort of rushed because I knew I was shit. The competition round I actually hit 3/5 which was kind of exciting! I just took my time and properly looked down the barrel at target and then it was easy.
Team spuds and Anna had also been on a horse ride along the hills; the pictures looked stunning and I was kind of jealous! We went for a little walk back to the reception area where we took turns to throw an axe at a target. I didn’t hit it once and the Danish guys all laughed at me. And then we wondered around the animals, trying to feed cows and then a pig ended up biting Ritchie which was hilarious to witness. Jess and I lit the fire that evening and we all just chilled knowing we had to leave at a silly time of 6am the next morning.
The 20th April was the day of the Tongariro Crossing. A 20km hike through the mountains and past Mount Doom. We were told it would take us 7 hours, including an hour of going up the Devil’s Staircase. It was tough. I knew I didn’t want to turn back, but there were times I wished I had. Lorraine and I took it slowly going up. The stairs were the worst; your calves would burn and you’d be out of breath after about 6 steps. But once you get up there, it is totally worth it. The red crater is beautiful to look at and once you get to the very top, you look over the emerald lakes. Reaching these lakes, you have to slide down this ashy dirt, feeling like you’ll lose your balance any second and tumble to your death. That was a but dramatic, but that’s what it felt like. We caught Kaya, Amélie, Jess and Ritchie at the end of their lunch by the lakes as we sat down to enjoy ours. It was only a quick stop as we found it to be colder the longer you stayed still.
And this is where is all started to go wrong for me. Still feeling ill, once we had climbed our last hill, I blew my nose and on came a nosebleed. Anyone that has known me for a while will have heard to story of me being taken to hospital after having 15 nosebleeds in one day and then having one so bad I could barely breath and my nose nearly had to be cauterised. Anyways, thankfully after a mild panic, it died off and we continued our journey that finally began to descend.
However, about 4km from the end of the hike, whilst going down some stairs next to a waterfall, I manage to, I guess, misjudge a step and felt my foot and ankle go. I actually heard a loud crack and was convince for about 5 seconds it was broken. Instead of panicking, I sat down and let the shock go over me. It was that horrible sickening feeling you get when you stub your toe or something (I compare it to running a cage over my foot at work), but times 100, and makes you sweat and feel faint. Once I could feel it again, I tried moving my foot. Luckily it didn’t appear to be broken and I wouldn’t need a helicopter ride out if the mountains. It was still incredibly painful though and I had to wait a few minutes before I felt I could walk on it. So it ended up being a low decent down. I felt bad keeping Lorraine and Jason back, though they said they didn’t mind.
It wasn’t too bad to walk on; it mainly hurt when going down steps and killed when I stepped on a rock funny. I just wanted to stop and for the pain to be over. We finally got to the bottom after what felt like an age, but then had to wait an hour for the next bus to come pick us up. The Danish guys who had also hiked Mount Doom ended up finished only 5 minutes after us. After not moving it for an hour, my foot was really beginning to hurt. I couldn’t move my toes without pain going all the way up to my knee. It was agony. I was trying my hardest not to cry because of the pain, but when we were waiting to check in at the hostel, I just ended up collapsing on the floor and then Andi walked past and asked me what was wrong. I said I was fine whilst trying to hide my face. He got Jess for me who checked me in, then she and another girl helped me to the dorm whilst team spuds and Ritchie got my bags.
I finally took my shoes and socks off and found two great big lumps where my tendons surely were on my foot. I was shocked at how big they looked as I thought I was being a pussy with the pain, but it looked like I had done some serious damage. I had to limp to dinner where I was telling the story to other people, and I showed everyone the bruise on my arm from the shot gun. Everyone gasped at the size of it. With that and my other ankle already swollen due to some sort of bug bite, I was definitely in the wars.
We sat around and watched Rogue One whilst drinking beer that evening. This was our second last night together, so everyone was getting a bit said about having to say goodbye. Some of us would be stopping in Wellington for a few days longer, whilst others, such as Jess and Anna, would be sticking on the bus.
My foot was double the size the next morning. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. When we finally arrived in Wellington, Ritchie and I attempted to wrap it up, which helped a little, but I was still limping. Before our Stray night out, we had a ‘free’ dinner and went for a little walk around and ended up going to a night market which was pretty cool. I was able to straighten my hair for the first time in months thanks to Lorraine’s straighteners and it has gotten sooooooo long. Obviously not as long as it’s been before, but I was surprised to see how much it had grown. Poor Jess who had taken my flu finally perked up and we headed to the bar Dory had mentioned. We drank cheap beer and wine and free shots. Dory even got team spuds a jager and red bull each before heading to a club called ‘Danger Danger’.
It was a very interesting club with a few interesting people. We danced for most of it, I don’t know how I managed. Our red wrist bands got us drinks for $5, which is cheap by NZ standards. The DJ was playing classic 90s and 00s music with us all singing along and loving life. One of the Danish guys kept handing me drinks to drink with him. I tried to get him to smile, but he only did it sarcastically and looked grumpy again. At one point I think he accidentally drank Anna’s drink and was trying to get me to come with him to the bar to order a replacement drink whilst he paid for it. At time time I thought he wanted me to explain to the bartender what happened to Anna’s drink as he kept pointing at me and saying ‘explain’. He picked up a glass and dropped it in front of the bartender who preceded to pour him water and a security guard told him to drink it and then leave.
Not long after, team spuds, Lisa and I all left and of course we bought a Maccas on the way back to the hostel. Hiten, Suz, Anna and Ritchie all ended up staying out til 5; the first 3 needing to be up at 6 to catch the ferry to the South Island. I still don’t understand how they managed it.
I’m going to leave my farewells til the next blog post as I’m not really ready to say goodbye to any of these people yet!
P.S. If any medical experts want to advise me on what I should do with my foot… i.e., if I desperately need to visit a doctor, please let me know.