As I said in my NZ ‘rugby’ blog, I managed to see a fair bit of this awesome country in-between following the Springboks round. Having our own transport; read blue and purple painter’s van with a $3 mattress from the Salvation Army, made all the difference (both in terms of affordability and ease of getting around) and it was incredible living out of a van for 2 mths.
So after a week in Wellington and the Bok’s 1st game, Dyl, Gersh, Stillerman and I headed to the south island for a few days (we had to be back in Wellington for Bok game #2). We ‘cramponed’ it on Fox Glacier, enjoyed breakfast with the seals at Kai Koara and spent a mad two 2 nights in Queenstown (QT).
QT is a beautiful ski town known as the adventure capital of the world and while Dyl and I couldn’t afford much, we were able to race our karts down the wicked luge tracks, get ridiculously close to the canyon in the shot-over jet boat and smash a hand grenade or 2. Yours truly also splashed out on some wine drinking and ‘cheese plattering’ – I have no discipline when it comes to wine and cheese! Or just alcohol and food in general.
Speaking of wine tasting and ‘cheese plattering’, you must visit Waiheke Island if you fancy such things. Just a 45 ferry ride from Auckland, this small island boast 19 wine farms! Jas, Sammy and I tried out 3 farms and at each we sampled both a bottle of the local grape and a gorgeous cheese platter. And then to top things off we went for dinner and this Saffa had his 1st lamb shank. It was quite the day for Jazza.
It was on my 2nd visit to QT that I was introduced to the Cowboys Bar. Fully kitted out with stuffed Elk and Deer on the walls, various horns all over the place, a mechanical bull to one side and proper saddles round the bar for seats, every night from 6-9 is $3 beers and free snacks. Not to mention the cowboy hats you get given as you enter. What a bar!
Given the Bok schedule, the majority of time was spent wandering about the north island and there is so much to see and do … geysers, zorbing (where you roll down the hill in a huge ball filled with water) and phenomenal luging in Rotorua, amazing caves in Waitomo (you wade and tube through a cave with only glow worms as light), two phenomenal days of hiking in the Coramandel region, a spot of cheese tasting in Eltham, some culture in New Plymouth (Dyl and I checked out the local museum), a few hrs of hiking round Mt. Terinaki and for the 1st time since working at Winterpark in Colorado a good few years back, some skiing at Whakapapa.
(In NZ, the ‘wh’ is pronounced ‘f’. True story. You try asking for directions with a straight face.)
Dyl and I also tried to boil an egg at so called Hot Beach – at low tide, the volcanic activity under the surface means you can dig a hole and just chill in super warm water. Well most ppl dig holes and chill. Dyl and I tried (and failed) to boil an egg while a Frenchman in this blue banana hammock cooked us all some mussels. Deeeeelicious. The mussels I’m talking about.
It was whilst road tripping round the New Plymouth area that we read about this Elvis Record Room in a tiny town called Hawera, which I just had to check out. KD has the most *phenomenal* Elvis collection you’ve ever seen – over 10,000 records, heaps of newspaper clippings and pictures + all sorts of other Elvis paraphernalia and it’s a must visit whether you’re a mad fan of the King like myself and or just someone who enjoys his music when it’s on, like Dyl.
One of our best nights in NZ was at the Coroglen Tavern. Coroglen is pretty much a 1 horse town with a pub we’d heard we had to visit. So Dyl and I popped in for a quiet drink on our Coramandel road trip to watch some rugby. Before I’d even made it to the bar, however, I was approached by a guy called Fred, a local lumberjack and tavern regular. After hearing about our daily diet of peanut butter samies, and 2 min noodles and baked beans, he insisted he buy us dinner. What followed was the most gorgeous egg, cheese and beetroot burger and the biggest bowl of fries you’ve ever seen. UNbelievable! The lads insisted we join them for a few so our 1 quiet drink turned into what must have been 12 pints in 3 hrs (these boys drink quicker than anyone I know). Yours truly also won his maiden pub pool competition and the kiwis were not happy!
Pratty (who I must add played for Hawkes Bay in 1969 with the then center of NZ) insisted we continue drinking at his place once we’d closed the bar and when we explained we were in no shape to drive, he shrugs his shoulders and tells us that he lives next door. You gotta love drinking beers at a lumberjack’s house in a 1 horse town in NZ while you listen to Freddie and Queen, Dire Straits and the Boss (to name just a few) on record. Yip, Pratty’s got a huge collection of records! Pratty’s final words for the evening before we headed off to sleep in the garden: “Boys, in the morning, have a shower, use the toilet, make yourself some coffee. And then f*^k off!”. What an absolute legend.
The huge night with Fred, Pratty and the lads was just one of many, many large nights and many of these nights/early mornings ended with a quick- shop pie (NZ has a massive pie culture) or a McDonald’s Angus or Wendy’s rugby burger. Luke I’m confident wins it with 3 pies in 1 sitting for sure though.
The bars in NZ are super strict with ppl who’ve had too many and I can’t tell you how many bars we were thrown out of. “Intoxicated, intoxicated, intoxicated. Why don’t you lads walk round the block and get a feed”. After much trial and error we learnt that the trick was to find a good spot and stay there because trying to get into a place at 3am just proved too difficult. I was so tempted on many an occasion to answer the bouncer’s question of have you been drinking with a “yes, I have. I think that’s reasonable given that it’s 3am. And really – who comes to these sorts of establishments sober”. But they never saw it that way.
As I said in my rugby blog, there were so many ppl in town and it was just *phenomenal* to enjoy NZ with such a wicked bunch of ppl. I also met fantastic ppl along the way (both kiwis and foreigners) and many of them were introduced to this fabulous thing that is a hand grenade.
All in all, it was the maddest 2 mths in an awesome country with UNbelievable people and truly a once in a life time experience.