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Ash’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 23 Aug 2007

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

MapYou sometimes get days that can change your whole personal perspective of a country, and The Tongariro Crossing was one.
After nearly catching hyperthermia in the car & sneaking in a hostel lounge for some warmth, Alex and I did the 9 hour trek up and over Mount Tongariro (2000 metres). The openness of the scenery was breathtaking and climbing up untouched snow was very rewarding. Definitely my highlight of New Zealand. Few half sharp snaps added.

I decided to chill out my last few days in NZ, a bit like after you’ve seen a great band at a festival and you know no one will beat them so you go back to your tent. Well, it hasn’t been all too quiet…

Made my way up to Mount Maunganui where I met back up Sanneke the Dutch teacher. It’s a pleasant beachy town but I only had time for a few jars in one of the many Irish pubs.

Me & 16 girls (New Zealand is a bit of a fantastic fanny fest by the way) caught the bus to Auckland on Wednesday. Home to a third of the population, it isn’t highly regarded amongst locals & travellers a like. I like it though.

A few of us gathered in the bar for our free meal & cheap beer last night which preceded quite an interesting game of bingo. It’s routine bingo, until of course, you win. Anyway, me & this Japanese kid ended up having an amusing dance off to “Kung Fu Fighting.” The quirkiness of the circling Jap had him way ahead until I pulled out some David Brent moves securing myself a much needed Tiger Beer top. I weren’t even pissed!

Today, sporting my shiny new top, I went on some free city tour ran by one of the backpacker companies. We hit the Sky Tower first (the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere) and one of the attractions there is that you can jump off the bloody thing. Wishing to illustrate, the bus offered someone a free $200 jump and of course, I won it!!
Anyone that knows me, know I have a problem even going up to the viewing decks of such buildings so throwing myself off into the Auckland skyline was a challenge. I think my fear is almost cured as I loved every minute of it & the views were spectacular. Probably the worst bit was coming to a sudden stop in front of the viewing deck where all the tourists start laughing and photographing you dangling in mid air.

Spent the rest of the afternoon at some of Auckland’s look out points and drinking ale in a pub garden as it’s been a scorcher today.

Back to Melbourne in the early hours for what will be a strange & busy day. Feels like a lifetime ago already since I lived there. Then it’s on to a total change of scenery and South Africa.

As for New Zealand….not the most memorable country I’ve been to, I haven’t had many moments of “perfect-ness” and I probably won’t be adding many of the flash-packer* e-mail addresses I’ve received, but it’s a stunningly beautiful country.

With more time & luck with the weather, it’d have been better but still, I think different cultures and hard travelling are the things I find most rewarding. Don’t for one minute think that means I don’t love the country or haven’t had a fantastic time.

The Kiwis are surprisingly different to the Aussies. They are even more laid back and friendlier; I think the average local response time after getting out a map was 2.1 seconds.
The Kiwis still endorse English culture a lot more whereas some Aussies seem to feel a bit resentful towards us. Possibly, Australia being colonised and NZ not, I dunno. Either way, they’re different and without spending more time here, I shouldn’t elaborate.

Anyway, my peculiar travel snobbery aside, I’d recommend the place to anyone and I very much doubt there’s a more all round beautiful country in the World.

See you in Johannesburg.

*Flash-packer – A person who intimates the lifestyle of a backpacker whilst carrying a suitcase full of make up or hair gel. They can often be spotted speaking in a Queen's English accent and mummified in toilet roll before taking a dump.