Friday, December 19, 2008

Day 5: Still Friends

Nico has made a discovery: there are no Orcs on the East Cape. Auckland was boring and expensive, so we booked a bus to Opotiki for early Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately in fact, there are no buses around the East Cape, only big stupid backpacker tours which cost a bomb and we don't have any bombs. But I REALLY wanted to go there! So, we had to hitch. Sorry Mum. But really, it was the easiest thing in the world and Nico has a wooden tennis racquet so we are safe. And it only took us 16 rides, to get from Opotiki to Napier (hitching along the shoreline the whole way), where we are now.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself! The East Cape is gorgeous; lush, green and isolated. And, unlike a drive along the Great Ocean Road, which flies by the car window fairly quickly, we were forced to keep stopping and waiting around for our next lift. So we really did get to see it. Our first ride was with a youngish Maori dude (maybe) in a flash ute. We sat on the tray of the ute and took photos of our success. He didn't take us very far, just to a tiny servo in Tirohanga. Where we thought our luck had run out already. So we started hassling random people at the servo. We'd coaxed a guy to give us a ride about 5km, when a nice, ice-cream eating grandma stopped and picked us up. I won that one (Nico and I have a slab riding on this competition!), coz she said she didn't mind picking up girls.

After telling us her life story, the grandma dropped us off in Hawai, where there was a ferocious looking beach and piles of driftwood. But before we had time to eat even one whole pack of crackers an awesome grandpa, Kuru Ned (Ned with a K, like knife) picked us up and took us ALL THE WAY to Te Kaha. Now, HE was an interesting bloke: 75yo, driving a shitty old pickup truck, who has lived in Toorak (of all places) and now lives on his son's Kiwi farm in Te Kaha. We liked him so much we gave him a nip of our Manuka Honey vodka from the hip flask.

Flushed with success, we thought we'd keep trying, hoping to get to Hicks Bay (another 80km), but it was already five o'clock, so THAT was a super dumb idea. But a nice Kiwi couple picked us up in their Tarago and took us not very bloody far. Then we made them feel guilty so they took us to a campground in Waikawa. Actually, not really a campground, just a private, sheltered grassy spot off the highway. Nobody there but us and nobody who seemed to want our money either. So we had a swim (slash wash) in the ocean, cooked up an instant feast and had our first night in the tent. Cosy, but FINE - and I have a new love in my sleeping bag!

Next day a young stoner Maori dude in a car with no plates picked us up coz his grandpa had just died and he thought a good deed would make him feel better. That was kinda weird. Then he was telling us how much property he had. Even more weird. Anyway, dude dropped us off at a bend in the road and we waited and walked a bit till some foreigners in a campervan took pity on us, but not for very long. Actually, they took us further than they were going. A weird trend that saw at least two other cars doing u-turns and coming back to get us coz they felt guilty. Funny mob over here!!

A business man gave us a ride from Whanarua Bay to Waihau Bay, and informed us that there IS, in fact, a bus that goes along the East Cape (which turned out to not be a 'real' bus at ALL, and a mail van/courier thingo. So we went into the shop at Waihau Bay to enquire. The girl behind the counter was pretty nice, and she asked Juanita, who was eating her brekkie, about the bus. Juanita, didn't know, but she said if we waited till she finished her brekkie, she'd give us a ride as far as her kids' school, 20km before Hicks Bay - an offer we couldn't refuse!

And she was a CLASSIC. She had five kids, and must have been around 30 or so, and she was/is studying teaching. She had her first OE (overseas experience) last year, which involved visiting family in the amazing locales of Dandenong and Sunshine. She was the kind of person you couldn't imagine in a bad mood though, exclaiming 'choice' and 'nah, STOP it', when I told her of our plans to climb Mt Hikurangi, and she also told us a bit about the local Maori tribes in the area. Cool Maori chick.

After a few more rides, we made it to Ruatoria, where we had to book in to attempt climbing to our death...I mean, tramp up Mt Hikurangi. The guy at the info centre almost talked us out of it because although he could drive us out there (20km from town), he couldn't pick us up the next day. Bit rough, considering we had to hike 10km up to the hut and a further 2.5 to the summit, which I wouldn't even call hiking, I'd call scrambling!! Oh, Nico calls it fun, I think. Even though we started this crazy scramble to the summit at 4.30am, yes, in the dark with our nerd lights on. And he thinks I liked it too! Which may be true. Even though, when we got to the summit I felt as though I would either vomit or cry and I honestly wasn't sure which. Luckily, neither as it turned out. But really, it was fucking amazing. The view from the highest non-volcanic peak on the North Island (1754m), the first place to be touched by the sun each day, was nothing less than spectacular. Climbing down, scary, but we made it.

Anyway, we said we'd make our own way 20km back to town. And make it we did!! Seriously, best place for hitching ever. A civil engineer from Birmingham picked us up off the main road just outside Ruatoria and we tried to keep our eyes open all the way to Gizzie (Gisborne), another 128km, where we did not very much apart from pig out on fish n chips and $2 half-handles at Smash Palace (have you ever heard a better name for a bar?! It had a DC3 - that's a plane, for those who DON'T know -smashed into the roof, kinda, and heaps of signs, bikes, machinery and weird memorabilia hanging from the ceiling and all over the walls), oh yeah and the other thing we did in Gizzie was SLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP, for 11hours, sweet as bru.

All our other drivers were interesting and weird in their own special ways, but probably the 2nd best (after KNed) was Rick1, who picked us up today from Muriwai, with a dead lamb on ice in the back of his station wagon. He was going as far as Palmerston North and said he'd take us all the way to Napier (nearly 200km), if we didn't mind listening to opera and going for a swim in Mahia on the way. Jeez, life's tough.

Covered in seaweed, we made it and we're staying at the Criterion Art Deco Hostel in Napier. It's cool, and reminds us of The Shining. We have done such exciting things as eating ice cream and clothes washing (Nico accidentally put all his clothes in the wash and then had no pants to wear, so had to wear mine!!). We went down the street and spent a packed at the supermarket and Nico cooked us up a FEAST! Probably the last feast we'll have in a while, as we're headed for Taupo tomorrow, to try and get ourselves onto the Tongariro Northern Circuit. But it's not definite yet, as bad weather has cancelled a lot of trips lately, and we won't find out till 2pm tomorrow if we can do it.

In terms of our itinerary, we've worked out and booked (don't worry Mum, no more hitching - on the Nth Island at least) everything up to Golden Bay for NYE. So we're off for 4days tramping in Tongariro National Park followed by three days on the Whanganui River Journey, by canoe (!) and then straight down to Wellington, across to the Sth Island on the ferry and then...nothing, sweet nothing for a couple of days.

Any questions, please direct them to my manager, Mei Keng Cheong at 1/35 Morrah Street Parkville.

Laters Xx