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Robin John’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 02 Oct 2011

Location: Hamilton, New Zealand

MapWith Bev and Kevin Freemantle, and a visit to huge gold mine.
As a result of an initiative by Trudi Gatland, wife of the Wales Head Coach, and friends, families from Hamilton offered to host Welsh supporters visiting Hamilton, which is the Gatland's home town. So since Thursday I have been hosted by Bev and Kevin Freemantle, keen rugby supporters and enthusiastic to show the hospitality that New Zealand families can offer. I have had a great time, visiting local places of interest. Kevin is a keen walker, so we have done lots of walks, particularly along the Waikato River. For Friday and Saturday we all went to their beach house in Whangamata at the base of the Coromandel Peninsula on the east coast (Bay of Plenty). The local beach is a favourite spot for surfers and on Saturday there was a surfing competition underway. Usually a small town, in summer it is overflowing with visitors, the population growing from 5000 to 40000.
En route we visited Waihi, which has been a gold mining centre for more than 100 years. Since 1988 the gold has been extracted from an enormous open-cast pit/gold mine in the centre of the town. It is around 260m deep and the vehicles and equipment near the bottom looked tiny. Environmentally the site and the gold extraction process is very carefully managed to ensure there is no local pollution. In a few years hence when the mining is finished, the pit will be filled with water to create a boating lake.
On the drive back to Hamilton we visited Katikati, where the Freemantle family had lived previously. This town is now known as 'Mural Town'; on many of the shop and house walls along the main street are painted large scale murals, mostly on rural themes, which makes for a very interesting walk around the town.
Today (Sunday) we will be going to the next Wales game, vs Fiji, the last game of the pool stage. A victory here will ensure Wales a place in the quarter-final stage of the competition, with Ireland the likely opponents in Wellington. Last night there was a gathering in a local pub for Welsh supporters, so there was lots of singing (and the occasional pint!) and a vote of thanks for Trudi Gatland, accompanied by a proud rendering of the Welsh National Anthem.
Robin