Friday, 21 April 2017

Exploring Whangarei Heads for Easter

Easter was looking like a bit of a washout with Cyclone Cook threatening to destroy all of our plans.  Deemed “the worst weather event in 68 years” and with the Met Service berating Kiwis for not taking weather warnings seriously enough, we were determined to go away for Easter so we played it safe and booked a cabin rather than a camp spot in case the cyclone came to fruition.  We had the tail end of Cyclone Debbie the week previously with pretty bad flooding and slips causing havoc, so we waited with baited breath for Cook to wreak his wrath.  And waited. And waited….

Clouds but no cyclone cloud

I got sent home early from work as a precautionary measure and took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping , tidy my room and head over to Birkenhead to climb with Morry – a journey that would normally take 40 minutes at 5.30pm took 19 due to everyone escaping earlier on in the day.  Score!

The cyclone came and went in the blink of an eye – there was a little smatter of rain in Auckland and suddenly it was battering the East coast and we carried on our jolly way.  To be honest I was slightly disappointed…I was prepared for my roof blowing off and cows flying around in twisters.

Anyway it meant we could still go away for Easter without the threat of our tents blowing away (unlike New Years!) so we drove up to Whangarei on Friday morning, via a slightly scenic route due to a ton of traffic on SH1.  We drove to Onerahi boat ramp in Whangarei Heads and bartered with the kayak rental guy (I had declined to take my own, for fear of it blowing off in a cyclonic wind) to get $10 off a kayak rental for a few hours.  The island we wanted to explore (Limestone Island) was only 500m from the coast and I resented having to pay $80 to kayak that distance when we could have swam it!   We paddled out and landed on the other side of the island where we were met by Amy and Colin.  We disembarked and went for a wee walk, discovering the remains of an old, abandoned concrete factory.  Amy joked that this was the kiwi version of Angkor Wat and it was fun to jump around on the old relic.  (Old being like maybe 40 years old!) 

Band cover

We also discovered incredibly friendly sheep that I took great joy in petting.

We then did a walk up to the top of the island and back round to our kayaks where we headed back to shore.  Adnaan and I stopped for a dirty dinner of burgers and chips before joining the others at the holiday park where we made friends with Camilla’s childhood friends, Rupert, Myfanwy and Lucy, who were all really nice. They all played a boardgame whilst I semi snoozed on the sofa and then we headed to bed.

In the morning we headed off to Whangarei Heads where we began a 5 hour tramp on the Bream head track to Peach Cove hut.  It was pretty hard going, a) because it was up hill for a lot of it and b) I am pretty unfit right now, having not really done a proper hike since Cape Brett in December. However it was beautiful and we started to have lunch at the top of a nobbly bit of rock that was very scary to climb up as there were no ropes and steep drops to the sea either side.  Then it started to rain so we packed up and had lunch further down the track at Peach Cove, which was a slightly disappointing little bay.

We drove to the supermarket to purchase supplies for the evening – I picked up bottle of wine and told Adnaan to go away as he doesn’t have ID and they’re strict in New Zealand.  He was all ‘ahh nahh it’ll be fine I look old enough’ and lo and behold – we get ID’d and aren’t allowed to purchase the wine. Sigh.  We sent Camilla back in to buy it for us and felt like we were 16 again.

We drove down to Uretiti to camp the night – I have ALWAYS wanted to stay here because the name makes me laugh so much.  However as campsites go it is slightly disappointing – it’s very busy and it’s right by the highway so not that relaxing.  On the plus side, the beach is pretty awesome.  We made a campside dinner and watched the stars (we saw an amazing one that went from bright to dull to bright to dull as it shot across the sky, then nearly collided with another – amazing) then walked down to the beach to watch the moonrise – it was one of those big orange ones.

In the morning we spent a few hours playing in the sea before driving down to Waipu for a coffee.  We meandered home, stopping off at Piroa Falls – I have driven past the sign so many times but never actually stopped, they’re quite cool but not for a day trip, only if you’re passing, and finally stopping at Puhoi for some cheese. 

We miss Ben so we kept a spot open for him

I got home, had a nap, then Adnaan came round and we watched the Lego movie – I was a bit silly and bigged it up to Franzi and Adnaan so of course they were slightly disappointed and didn’t find it as funny as I did the first time round.

The next day Sam, Adnaan and I went to an indian supermarket which was AMAZING – did you know that you can buy eggplant (aubergine) that are round, or long and skinny, not just the normal size we know? They also have a huge spices and flour section where you scoop it up in bulk.  I was amazed.  We ate some indian snacks then stopped off at a Chai shop for more indian snacks and chai, which upset my belly  but tasted amazing. Then I rushed off to the airport to pick up my visitors – Tom and Liz!  Technically they’re not just visitng me, they’re looking at the country as a whole for a holiday but I’ll go with they came all the way to see me :-P  It was SO nice to see them again :)

I picked them up and we went to Devonport where I took them for a walk up a volcano, then we wandered along a beach before heading home where I had another Friend Show and Tell and we ate tacos and swapped stories.  In the morning they walked to work with me which was nice to have the company, and that evening I joined them with Liz's friend Rochelle at her house on the North Shore - they were really nice people and I hope they can be my friends in future!

Friday, 7 April 2017

Things the UK does better than New Zealand

Supermarkets.  I actually MISS Lidl, Sainsbury's and Waitrose and sometimes Tesco.  (maybe I miss their familiarity). Eitherway Countdown is OK I spose, Pak N Save is too yellow and hard to find stuff, New World is too pricey and I don't even step foot in the other ones that are more expensive.

Cereal.  Weetabix taste different. So do Cheerios.  I don't want Uncle Toby Cheerios I want Nestle Cheerios with the added sweetness.  NZ has a piss poor selection if you don't want muesli or porridge.

and on that note. Sweets. WTF is a Moro bar?  And a Cherry Ripe? Where is my Lion bar and my Drifter and my Fruit Pastilles!

Road signs.  Adam pointed this out to me - the lights on a zebra crossing aren't lights, they're little bright orange discs not the big flashing bulbs we have in the UK. No wonder I nearly run people over all the time.  

Look! A stupid disc!! 

Road markings.  The words on the road are written backwards!  A year later and it still takes me  second to work out what they mean.  For example, in the UK if we were driving along a road and written on the road was "Stop Here", in NZ is would be "Here Stop" because i guess they expect you to read the first word first.  

Way Give?

Pubs and nightlife.   I walked past a really cool pub on Thursday at 7pm (happy hour) and it had about 5 people in it.  In London this would be rammed from 5pm onwards. Sad!

Central heating. And insulation.  My house is made of wood. It's well pretty and has wooden floors I'd die for in London and has a pretty little verandah (or a "dick" if you're a kiwi) and nice in the summer but in the winter jeez it's cold. Zero insulation. AND NO CENTRAL HEATING. WHAT THE FUCK DO I LIVE IN THE 1900s? We have these gas heaters but only 2 (one in the hallway which doesn't work and one in the dining room which only heats the dining room and kitchen and is then redundant when you turn on the oven)  one of which doesn't ignite and a fire. A fire! To be fair I do love the fire.  In fact it's going right now because it's a bit nippy but every 5 minutes we need to get up and blow on it and do fire maintenance.  But I do love it.  It's well romantic.

Public Transport.  Oh gosh this is truly terrible.  Auckland has one main train station in the CBD (Britomart) and it has 3 lines coming out of it. 3 WHOLE LINES.  The lines don't even go North.  And if you wanna get to another town you have to get a coach or fly. I think there's one train line on each island.

Haggis.  I don't think there is haggis here.  Maybe in the south island. 

Old Buildings.   There's nothing old and made out of stone here. Maybe like one building. But that's it. I miss architecture.

This blog post was written out of frustration that I didn't get a job I really wanted and it would have provided me with a Visa to stay here so now I am trying to think of good things about the UK and bad things about NZ so when I have to come home it makes it easier. And I have had a glass of wine and I have peed 3 times and I have a nice happy buzz after crying for 5 minutes on the road side with my friends. And now I am listening to a Jan Blomgvist playlist and he's really good and you should listen. I am assuming he's a he. I should prob check. Bye. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

A really random weekend

So that random weekend I just had (2 weekends ago now).

On Thursday evening Camilla and I went to an open air poetry slam in Aotea Square (Auckland's version of Trafalgar Sq - except about a 10th in size). It was quite good but not amazing.

On Friday evening Camilla was celebrating her birthday a wee bit early and had the most awesome idea for it ever.  We had a pot luck under the stars!  We drove down to Whatipu - the most beautiful beach area an hour out of Auckland, and made it just as the sun was setting.  My gosh the drive was just beautiful - you drive through Huia and it's like a miniature version of Marlborough Sounds, it is stunning. I can't wait to take my kayak out there and explore more.  The sun caught a layer of mist hovering on top of the water which was turning pink in the light - I wish I could have taken photos.

We arrived and rushed down to the beach to meet everyone else sat on a huge tarp.  I went straight to the waterfront and took some photos and stood in the warm water just thinking about how incredibly content I felt and how lucky I was to be able to do this - to leave work on a Friday and hop in the car and drive a little while to the most beautiful spot and watch the sun set on a remote beach with friends.  I almost didn't know what to do with my emotions.  The photos below didn't do it justice.

When the sun set I went back and joined the group and we ate the food everyone had brought and talked and pointed out star constellations.  It was awesome.  At one point me, Adam and a few others went off to find some caves in the dark - I forgot my torch so relied on everyone else's.  We didn't find the cave and it got a bit rocky and I kept hurting my toes so I headed back but they carried on and disappeared for ages.  Just as we were about to leave for the campsite they came back very excitable and turns out they'd found phosphorescents so went for a naked glow in the dark swim. I was SO jealous but no one would go back with me so I have to go back there again and camp sometime soon!!!

Back at the campsite we pitched our tents in the dark and I decided as it was such a warm night not to put the fly on - something I have always wanted to do!  It was brilliant - I got the nicest sleep ever right under the stars but knowing I wasn't going to get bitten my mozzies, and with a gentle warm breeze across my face.  It was a little bit damp in the morning with condensation but apart from that it was such a cool experience and I'd recommend. Assuming you don't need privacy.

We went for a quick swim, then drove back in the morning and I had a few dull chores to run including picking up a mattress and baking some cookies before heading off to my work friend Adeola's babyshower.  This was random - we played twister with balloon babybumps, pin the sperm on the egg and other babyshower party games (I never knew such things existed).  I left and met Ben, Sam and Adnaan at my house and we headed out to the Auckland Pride festival which was pretty cool, nice to see people putting such an effort into something they want to show off and celebrate.  Afterwards Shanyn was having a BBQ at home and he kindly cooked us dinner and Adam served us and we didn't need to lift a finger, it was fab! We ran out of light so had lots of fun pouring glowsticks into a bottle of water (video on my instagram) - it's sooo cool as it's like glow in the dark bubbles. Do it if you're bored.

The following morning was the randomest of them all - I had agreed to be a Princess for my friend at work's daughter's birthday.....I had to dress up in a princess dress and then sit and paint kids faces for an hour. I was half scared half excited - and I actually quite enjoyed it.  Though i thikn I overestimated my face painting skills...I reckon I am pretty good on my own face, but not so great on a small child's face covered in cake and snot that's constantly moving....I ended up doing a bunch of butterflies and rainbows and a unicorn horn for one little girl (when you read unicorn horn, think white triangle with a bit of pink and gold haha).  A boy came up and asked for a dragon, so I told him I could compromise and do a snake instead - he was ever so polite and thanked me profusely which was adorable.  The kids were all really cute actually, and thought I was Cinderella  so I played along and made up stories like I found my shoe that morning which is why I had 2 and not are very observant!!

After that I rushed off to meet Sam, Adnaan, Lachie and Gokul at Woodhill to go mountain biking.  I thought it'd be funny to turn up in the princess dress but it was too hot to wear so I bailed on the idea. This was a beginner MTB challenge set by my friend's company Waywiser (I think I have mentioned this before, but to recap it's like meetup but specifically for outdoor sports, and they have started setting challenges for the site members so every Monday we have been doing the trail run challenges and I won the last one (not because I was fast or anything ut because I encourage everyone to come running with me, haha)).  Anyway turns out we turned up too late to get the whole challenge done so we just did a bit and ended up on intermediate trails and no word of a lie I nearly pooed myself as one part we had to go down a really steep hill and it was a bit scary.   It was fun but exhausting and I felt like I was holding the others back a bit so I left them to do one more trail whilst I headed home via a stop at the icecream shop.

And I think that was all of that weekend - a busy one!

The weekend just gone wasn't quite as action packed but it was good nonetheless.  On Saturday me, Amy and Colin took our kayaks out for a wee trip to Mahurangi Bay.  It's sooooo much fun having your own kayak - you can do whatever you want with it!  We spent a good amount of time floating about in the sea beside our kayaks rather than in them because that's equally as fun, and kayaked across to Mahurangi West where we climbed a tree and kayaked back again. I just mapped it and it was 6ks so not too shabby for an afternoon's work!

I think we're doing it wrong

Wet suit tan lines

On Sunday evening me, Franzi, Shanyn and Ben went to the Stardome Observatory and watched a presentation on the night sky. It was SO COOL and I want to go back and watch the rest of their presentations.  The seats are comfortable reclining ones and you lie back and look above you and they project the night sky onto the ceiling and teach you all about the constellations you can see.  Because we're in the Southern hemisphere we can see a different set of stars to back home so it was really interesting. I love space I do!