Disclaimer – this post will contain a lot of private jokes: you’ll just have to fake laugh. It also includes the *worst* picture of me and Hedd together. It’s worth sticking around for.
Hello all and welcome back… I had given up on this blog because I kind of got busy and it is quite a job. But then, I flew home and reunited with many many people and got asked about it and why I had stopped. So… I’m going to pick up where I left off and drag us all into the present over the next few posts and then we’ll go from there.
(The four of us in Sydney)
First though – shout out to my grandparents. This effort and blog is almost entirely going to be engineered for you. I feel guilty every day that I’m so far away from you, please know that I think of you every single day.
So Hedd came to New Zealand! It wasn’t her first time – she’s a well traveled lady. But still she came to visit me and my intention was to do all the things she hadn’t done the first time round. Before this part, I flew to Sydney to meet her and my other gal pals for a quick reunion, Australia style. Which as far as I can work out means having to put on semi nice clothes and drink and laugh a lot and pretend that I don’t want to punch every Australian I come across in the face.
We basked in the sun and (quite a lot) of rain, caught up on all things to date which took about 30 seconds because we talk every day and then laughed mostly about things in the past and how Charlie once thought that your forehead was called a foreskin (first private joke).
After our short stint in Sydney, me and Hedd departed for Auckland to pick up a car and do a whistle stop tour of the North Island. I’ll make it very clear now – Hedd is a huge LOTR fan – so naturally our itinerary involved all things Middle Earthy.
First on the list was Hobbiton. After a sweaty evening spent in Matamata at the house of some old lady on Airbnb, who was suspiciously racist for a host in a prime tourism spot, we grabbed brunch at, of all places, a Hobbit café.
(No idea why the rubber duck is there)
As we drove through the luscious countryside, we were both mesmerized by the views. So much that I nearly crashed numerous times – I’m sure if you look through my previous blogs there will be mention of how I think ‘all Kiwi drivers are terrible and the roads are a death trap’. Well turns out the problem is me. But we’ll gloss over that.
It was a stifling hot day and me and Hedd wore matching outfits (HA GAAAYYY). It was an interesting tour and very informative about the filming, the location and the attention to detail of the set. And you got free cider at the end in a hobbit cup… bonus.
We then drove on to Taupo, stopping by a hot stream on the way.
I think it was around here we followed signs for a tourist stop and ended up at some kind of poverty stricken housing estate in the middle of a forest. It was just like something out of an American film, toys on the road, children riding scooters and all the Dad’s sat on the front decking in a chair watching anybody who drives into the estate. I quickly span the car round, fearing for our lives, and continued onward. We headed out for dinner and a walk by the lake before doing the Tongariro Alpine crossing. If Hedd reads this, I hope she starts smiling already… ‘yeah bro’.
After a 6am start, our initial plan was to climb Mt Doom, a classic looking volcano (pictured above). I had read that it was a tough climb, but when Hedd read a blog post about just how tough, specifically the line “Let’s just get this out of the way. This hike sucks at times”, the plan was quickly shelved. I’ve included the link to this blog – it really is quite a piece of comical piece of art.
Instead we opted to do the walk, but even that had its problems. The car park had a 4 hour time limit and the walk was 20km and ended at a different location. The car park attendant (CPA) was, for me, the highlight of the day. The conversation went a little like this:
CPA: *broad Kiwi-maori accent* “Hey guys so what are your plans today?”
Me: *excitedly* “Climb that! *points to Mt Doom*
CPA: “Yeah, sooo, we kind of don’t recommend people climb MT Doom. The car park has a 4 hour limit, I could give you 5 hours, and maybe you could climb half way up, I don’t know, you might get to the top you might get half way, but just see. But like I say, we don’t recommend it, last year we called the helicopter out at least once a day to rescue people from it”
Me and Hedd: *whimpering* “thank you for your concern we’ll stick to the normal trail”.
We drove on very confused – could we climb it? Should we climb it? Is he saying we likely will need helicoptering down? Or is that just stupid people? Are we stupid people?
I’m glad we did take his advice in the end. We had a great walk, lots of conversation and blisters. We also saw lots of people attempting the mountain climb and it did look dangerous. Keeping to the track, it is a busy walk and everybody says Hello. We could only get half way before having to turn back, but that was good enough for us (even if we did miss the emerald lakes, arguably the only reason most people do this walk).
As we returned to the car, with a quick cool off in a water fall, we both couldn’t wait to get into bed and put our feet up, but the day had other ideas. I think, well I say I think, I must have left the lights on on the car because the battery was dead, so we had to call the breakdown service to come and rescue us. But we really were in the middle of nowhere and I mean the middle of nowhere. But we drove off before he could tell us how much we owed him, so if you’re reading this mechanic man, I am forever in your debt for rescuing us.
(Hedd I’m sorry for making this publicly available, but my goodness what a terribly hilarious picture)
The next day we headed toward Tauranga and did another walk toward a huge waterfall. On reaching the viewing point, we met a very lovely, but very stoned, young chap sat up against a rock. I think he offered? to take a picture of us and this is what he managed. Could we look any more gigantic? We laughed, solidly, for a lengthy amount of time.
(Me at one with nature, I don’t think I’ll take up naturism but never say never)
When we arrived in Tauranga we went for fish and chips to watch the sunset.
I tried to explain that fish and chips are eaten with your hands here because apparently some aspects of life are still like being a caveman and cutlery is frowned upon – I’m almost certain she didn’t believe me until somebody asked for a fork in the fish and chip shop and the poor girl nearly got her hand bitten off by the workers speech about ‘how you eat fish and chips with your hands’. It still puzzles me, but I’m here to integrate not dictate!
After our day in Tuaranga, we headed back to Auckland to fly to Christchurch and begin our South Island tour. We had a nice Maccas mealbox for four between the two of us and sat behind a lovely gentleman on the plane wearing a vest who had an arm pit that smelled like, and I’m not joking, a taco/quesadilla mix. It was just like walking into a Mexicanos.
On Day 6 of our NZ tour, we picked up a car and started the drive to Queenstown. We stopped many, many times, mostly to look at the lupin flowers.
When we arrived in Queenstown, we headed where everybody-who-goes-to-Queenstown heads and got ourselves a Fergburger. We had wanted to do some hiking in Queenstown, but the weather was dodgy so we opted for a smaller walk and stumbled upon a scorpion infested cute waterfall and plunge pool.
(Me looking for swimming things that I thought didn’t exist until scorpions entered the conversation)
It was all going well until I got out and Hedd said “yeah there was a scorpion thing on the rock you were on but I didn’t want to say anything because you wanted a picture”
(me filming a head and shoulders ad with the scorpions)
We then headed back up North to camp for the evening at Lake Pearson. I’ll just get this out of the way now – I have never ever had a night more polarising than the one I’m about to describe. It was both great and grim all at the same time.
We turned up at Lake Pearson and were joined by Devon. We had a great evening, a little walk by the lake and the sun setting between 2 mountains. A truly great experience.
We then set up camp and sat round, listening to music and having a few drinks. Apart from getting bitten a lot (by mosquitoes, not Hedd), this part of the evening was great too.
Then came the tenting. My god, the tenting. I didn’t fit in the tent. I was sharing with Hedd, who by all accounts, is a great person to sleep next to. Lads if you’re reading, take note of that. So that was not the problem. The weather, which picked up and with it came the wind and rain, really was a problem. It was probably just some ‘mildly bad weather’ but to me in that tent it felt like I was in the middle of Hurricane Katrina or The Beast from the East. I was cold. I was wet. I was so miserable. I reckon I slept a maximum of 45 minutes.
(Those were my exact words)
The next day, I was moody. I said that I would never do tenting again. As we drove to Hanmer Springs, no amount of coffee could sort my mood. Hedd still laughs at this, I even punched the car door.
After some much needed R&R in the hot pools, we left smelling of egg sulphur and went back to my house for pizza and bed before Hedd departed early the next morning.
Hedd – thank you for the effort and for being you. I can’t put into words how much of a good friend you are. If for some reason I ever have to attend your funeral – just know that I would read out a version of this and our euro trip and use the word rare find a lot. Nobody will laugh, but I know you would.