I've been a bit slack in writing up our journey around New Zealand as of late, so it's about time I caught up.
Anyway, were was I...
We stayed the night at the roadside in Pokeno. In the morning after breakfast we headed back to State Highway 1. We needed to refuel the van soon, so we stopped off at a petrol station in Cambridge (nothing like it's English namesake). This is where the trouble started.
I filled the van full of diesel with no problems, but when I came to pay for it I ran into problems.
I gave the pump number to the bored looking woman at the till. She took my card off me and swiped it. I assumed the system was the same as Chip 'n Pin in the UK, so I entered my pin on the keypad and pressed enter. Nothing happened.Â After a few seconds it decided to reject the transaction. I looked at her and she scowled and barked "Select account!" at me.Â I asked her what she meant.Â She then gave up and got the manager, saying that I was causing trouble!
The manager turned up. I explained I was on holiday from the UK and there was obviously something I was missing, but I had no idea what the woman had meant by "Select account". The manager took one look at my card, saw the Visa sign and assumed it was a credit card. He swiped the card again and pressed the CR button on the keypad (making sure to make me look like an idiot in front of the ever increasing queue) and asked me to enter my PIN. Depite it not being a credit card, this appeared to work (thank you to Visa and my bank!!!).
You see, despite reading through the guide book and asking people about the country, I was unaware that in New Zealand, people have one card and attach all their accounts (credit, current account, savings, etc) to it, so you have to select the account type on the keypad and then enter the pin number for that card. It's a good idea in that it saves space in your wallet, etc - except that if you lose that one card then access to ALL of your accounts is lost. I just wish someone had explained that to me before I inadvertently pissed off a lot of people in a petrol station.
Anyhow, I eventually got back in the van and we were on our way. Next up - Hobbiton!!!
Being driven on roads that varied from bumpy to just gravel whilst having a rather queasy stomach is no laughing matter. In fact, I puked all over someone's front lawn (sorry about that whoever you are), though the toilet in the camper van saved many an accident.
Anyhow, despite my illness, we continued our journey, working our way down the coast through Auckland and onto Reporoa where we stayed for a few days and attended a lovely wedding. However, I'm getting ahead of myself.
The first place we visited on our Southward progress was Kawakawa, where there are some rather unique public toilets designed by Hundertwasser. They feature multiple coloured tiles with glass bottles embedded in the walls. A great place for a poo (one of many that day...).
We then continued to Whangarei where we visited the impressive local waterfall and had a lovely walk around the area.Â After sitting down nearby for a rest, we watched some local Maori boys swimming in the water, fearless of the nearby waterfall.Â One of them then proceeded to climb quickly to the top of a ridiculously high tree and dive into the water.Â We weren't the only ones impressed.Â The boys noticed some other tourists had taken a video of his dive and so went to them to see the resulting footage.
Onwards we went, to see Goat Island.Â We originally planned on getting a boat trip around the island as described in the guide book, but we were out of season so it wasn't running.Â Instead we clambered all over the rocky beach, noticing odd tiny copper sculptures embedded in the stone and the bizarre looking trees overhanging us.Â As there were a lot of rock pools around, I inevitably slipped one foot into a shin deep example to much laughter from Katherine and an old Scottish couple who had come from nowhere behind us to witness my mishap and laugh about it.
We decided that we would rather tackle Auckland's traffic in the evening rather than the next day, so we tore our way down State Highway 1 to find the little town of Pokeno as an ideal quiet place to park up for the night.
To be continued...
After the urban delights of Auckland, we drove north up State Highway 1 to the Bay of Islands. It's pretty much as it says on the tin, a bay with lots of little islands in it - though we didn't actually visit any of the islands.
Instead we first visited the small quiet coastal town of Paihia (I've still no idea how to pronounce that) and had a wander around. It's a lovely looking place, though I suspect it'd be heaving with tourists in the middle of summer.
We then headed a little further north to the Waitangi treaty grounds. This is the place where the treaty unifying New Zealand as a country for both Maori and Europeans was first signed. The area itself it fairly unremarkable, with a simple building known as the Treaty House, another meeting place building, a flag pole to mark the spot where the treaty was signed and a (modern reproduction) Maori war canoe. What is remarkable is that New Zealand seems to have benefited enormously from the Waitangi treaty, it certainly appears a more unified country than Australia.
We then headed up to see Mount Bledisloe and Haruru Falls. Spectacular views at both (I'll get round to putting the pics up when I get an evening/weekend day free - difficult in December).
For the evening, we decided to use the camper van to the full and so parked up at the waterfront in Paihia. Overnight, the trouble started...
My belly had decided it didn't like something in the local water or food, so was insisting on emptying itself at every possible opportunity. Thankfully, the camper van was provided with a toilet with a large enough waste tank and plenty of deodorising chemicals to put down it.
The next day I still wasn't feeling good. Thankfully, the water heater in the van was able to provide enough water for two quick hot showers. We searched out a pharmacy and I bought some anti-diarrhoea tablets, which in retrospect was a mistake.
Let me warn you about these things. While they do the job of stopping you needing to go to the toilet every ten minutes, it does mean that you puke several times during the day and have horrible stomach cramps, especially when being driven around on bumpy gravel roads. Two days of that was not fun, though we continued our holiday unabated.
Next, the Road to Rotorua!
I'm back in the UK now and absolutely shattered. I'll write up some of the highlights of the holiday in the coming days, but for now I'm too tired to think much beyond how tired I am.
I awoke in our rented campervan parked in a little town just south of Auckland at 7am on Saturday (6pm Friday UK time) and was awake from then until I got home at about 8am on Sunday. That's being awake for thirty-eight hours straight - something I've not done since I worked at Warthog Games a few years ago in the mistaken belief that working that many hours was worth it.
I tried to make sure I didn't sleep on the first leg of the journey to Singapore so I could force myself back to UK time. I fully intended to spend most of the second flight to Heathrow asleep, but the journey was so turbulent I just couldn't nod off. Fourteen hours of clutching my stomach to stop its contents from sloshing about is not my idea of fun. A bumpy landing at 5am on Sunday with a gusty galeforce crosswind was met with a spontaneous round of applause from the passengers. I don't think Boeing designed the 747 to bounce on runways, but this one did.
I slept a couple of hours yesterday morning and then tried to stay up the rest of the day, but only managed to stay awake till 5pm, which of course meant waking at 2:30am and not really sleeping the rest of the night.
After a slow day at work (living on caffeine all afternoon) I've managed to stay up till nearly 9pm as I write this, so I think I'm making progress on making up the thirteen hour time difference between New Zealand and the UK.
However, I was so tired I declined an offer to go to the pub tonight. If you know me, not going to the pub when invited is a pretty rare occasion.
Anyway, if anyone has any really good ways to get over jet lag, you know where the comment button is... Zzzzzzzzz...
Well, I said I wouldn't post again until I got back, but here I am in the middle of a six hour stopover at Singapore Airport.Â We're both pretty bored, though found some free internet stations.Â It's also flipping HOT.Â 32 degrees when the plane landed earlier.
Saw Pirates of the Carribbean 2 on the plane last night.Â OK, but not exactly spectacular.Â More of the same if you've seen the first film.
I'm off to New Zealand for a couple of weeks with my girlfriend touring the North island in a camper van, so I shall not be posting here again until early December.