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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 235: The world is getting smaller!

NEW ZEALAND | Friday, 27 June 2008 | Views [1002]

The famous Maori haka!

The famous Maori haka!

Friday 27th June

I didn't have anything planned for the day and so had a good lie-in, something that has become a rarity over the course of this trip. Really, I have become such a morning person, and it's been due to the fact that I have to be up to make a move onwards, or have something planned which requires me to be up and out 'early doors'.

I got showered and went to make some breakfast, and began to fry up some potatoes that I had cooked the night before. It just so happened that I had enough ingredients to make a fry-up, the first I had in a long time. I was busily frying away when I heard a familiar accent coming from across the kitchen and looked to see a girl with a familiar face. It turned out that it was Mairead Magee, the sister of my good friend Declan. I knew she was going to be in New Zealand but we hadn't yet been in touch. It was such a random meeting, but also very funny. She had only recently arrived in NZ from Australia, and was travelling around the North Island with her boyfriend Campbell.

We caught up over breakfast and the guys asked if I wanted to go with them to the luge track on the edge of town. As I hadn't made any plans, I jumped at the chance, glad that I now had an excuse to avoid making a decision as to what I was going to do for the day. We drove over in their car and bought tickets for the luge track, which involves sitting on little go-karts (minus the engine) and rushing down a hillside track of twists and turns. I also bought a ticket for the 'Sky Swing' in which people are strapped into a seat and flung into the sky like a catapult, and all of this is done in the name of fun.

We had to take a gondola to the top of the hill, from where we would start the luging. Once we got up there, a grey cloud engulfed the whole of Rotorua, so badly that the town disappeared before us. We sat and had a drink for about half an hour until the skies cleared. Once we got going, we had a great time zipping down the hillside (we had to take a rather slow sky-lift back up to the start of the track each time but it was also quite relaxing despite the occasional rain shower).

After we finished the luging, I got strapped into the 'Sky Swing' and the seat was drawn back further up the hillside. Once I got to the top, the seat stopped and the attendant put his hand in the air, a signal for me to release a chord that would set me free from the harness that was holding the seat in place. It was fairly high up and the thought ran through my mind that a bungy jump would be much higher, and therefore a greater test of my mettle than I might have initially thought.

Anyway, I didn't hang about and pulled the lever and the rush of acceleration was incredible (and apparently gets up to a speed of 100mph). I screamed at the top of my lungs as the seat sped over the edge of the hill, towards Rotorua in the distance. The seat swung about for a bit but the initial rush was over very quickly. It was good fun and also cheap at about six quid a go.

Mairead & Campbell were leaving Rotourua but left me off at the hostel before they set off for another destination further north. I hung about the hostel for a few hours before I was picked up by a bus that was to take me to a Maori cultural eveing run by the Tamaki Family. Some of the guys on the Magic Bus had gone the night that we had arrived in Rotorua but I wanted to leave it for another night when I had more time.

Our driver – a guy called Wati – picked us up, and the bus was already busy with a crowd rowdy, alcohol-fuelled women from the Rotorua Social Club. After we did a few more pick-ups at the other hostels, we set off for the 15km trip out to the 'Tamaki Village'. The rest of the bus was made up pretty much of backpackers, mostly British. Wati managed to get everyone warmed up on the way out with a few jokes and the odd song. The rain was out once again and the cold was biting. We were greeted by a bunch of guys dressed in traditional Maori gear and who entertained us with a traditional dance.

We were then taken into a sheltered room and treated to Maori song and dance, and this was also quite enjoyable. The guys did a form of the haka and put a lot of passion into it. After this, we were taken into a large dining room where we gorged on lashings of food that had been prepared in the traditional hangi, an oven that is created by digging a big hole in the ground, building a fire, and then cooking the food – meat and vegetables – on hot stones. We had chicken, lamb, fish and vegetables, and it was all cooked to perfection (the lamb was particularly good). I had deliberately created a big gap inmy stomach during the day so that I could put away a few platefuls. The staff sang a few songs at the end and really made a good atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. After the evening finished, we were taken by bus to our hostels. It had been a good night, really worth doing, and well run.

I got back to the hostel and packed my stuff as I was moving on the next day to Taupo. I had the room to myself, a real rarity, and it was good to have a bit of space.


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