Thursday, September 05, 2002

Greetings from wherever I am,

As much as I hate to have missed Darius's single being
released in the UK, I've been continuing to enjoying
myself out here in New Zealand.

Listening to the radio has been quite funny at times.
The profanity laws must be different here or
something, because they've been fing and blinding on
the like sailors. Sweary sailors. We were listening to
Ski FM in the central plataux region - and the station
is on EVERYWHERE, playing a wide variety of music,
terrible adverts - one features a hideous Forest Gump
Impression "mumma always said snow is like a box of
chocolates, it melts in the sun". The main reason
people listen is for the Ski report - to find out
what's open. The main reason we turn of the radio is
because of Pink - her latest singles "Making Me Ill"
aand "Don't let me get me" are played absolutely
everywhere. I don't dislike the songs, but the blanket
airwave coverage has made me sick, Jo even more so.

We haven't been watching too much TV, and so I've been
catching up on some reading. Band of Brothers, The
Full Montezuma by Peter Moore, Walk in the Woods by
Bill Bryson , The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier &
Klay by Michael Chambon. Peter Moore was one of Jo's
picks and was a very fun read.

When last I wrote, I was in Taupo, visiting places
that smell different (to put it politely). It made me
sing this klittle song (to the tune of Abba's
Fernando"): "There was something in the air that
night, it smelt like shite, in Taupo".

We relaxed in the hot springs there, which was fairly
unexventful except for one kid thinking i looked like
Jack Osbourne
Which I don't entireley agree with.

After a particularly competitive game of Scrabble in
which Jo refused to belive that "dank" was a word
( so there),
our next stop was National Park. National Park is
right next to Whakapapa (pronounced fak-a-papa without
giggling if possible) where there is a pleasant ski
field on the top of mount Rupehu, an active volcanoe
(which last errupted in 1996) .

The main reason we visited there was to meet up with
Tom Scruby, an exeter uni friend, who is working at a
cafe on the ski field. He seems to be having a cool
time there, and we had a pleasant time one evening
when the local bar organised a shnapps belly button

National Park public transport isn't great, so most
days we would hitchhike to the top of the mountain
(the first time since New Years 2001/2) - but that
turned out well and we met some nice people. We almost
hitched a lift in a stretched white limo with the
license plate "GWBUSH", but we didn't so that doesn't
make a very good anecdote, sorry. On the first day we
tried Snowboarding, but a combination of horrible
weather, a rubbish instructor, and painful boots was a
little off putting. On the second day we spent 10
minutes on the ski field before the entire mountain
was closed due to blizzard conditions. We had to wait
3 hours for our coach - the one that was supposed to
take us was blown off the road on the way up. The next
2 days the weather improves and we got a good days
skiing in. Joanne had never been before, and after a
few initial tumbles, she seemed to pick it up very
natrually. After this encouraging progress we tried
another slope higher up and Jo was left rather out of
her depth. My bad. I think my dad did something very
similar the first time my mum went skiing.

Our next stop was Rotorua - the
geothermal tourism capital of NZ, in fact its tourist
slant has earned it the nickname "Rotovegas". It's
moto is "Feel the spirit", but could have been "wiff
the egg", as the air has quite a strong nasty smell of
sulphur. We paid another visit to a hot spa, , which has alceline and
acidic pools, strong in all kinds of revitalising

That evening, we did the must do activity in Rotorua,
a Maori hangi (feast) . It was
pretty commercial, but had to be done really. The
highlight for me was Jo exposing our Bus driver as
being a bit of a charlatan. She wanted him to explain
the difference between the words Waka and whaka - and
he was forced to admit that he couldn't actually sweak
Maori... despite taking the piss out of us as he tried
to teach us a few basic words a little earlier.

On Saturday we visited the NZ maori Arts and crafts
insitute at Tev Whakarewarewa ,
but it was pretty touristy and we weren't overly
impressed. We far mor enjoyed the Agrodome . This place is the home of Zorbing
- rolling down the hill in a large plasic ball. I was
tempted to do it but decided against it. Very cool was
their sheep show - with lots of breeds, dogs doing
tricks, and sheering. Jo got to feed a baby lamb &
loved it the wee softie. We took photos of the sheep
Orking (check out to
see what i mean - a very funny website)

Our final day in Rotorua was hired a car and went on a
big geothermal tour. We started off at Wai-O-Tapu , home of the famous Lady Knox
gyser. It goes off at 10.15 every day - with a little
help from some soap powder which is poured into the
gyser. Next up was the Waimangu volcanic valley where we took a boat cruise around
lake rotomahana and saw the still active mount
Tarawera. It was very beautiful, but weirdly the
area's main attraction (its spectacular pink and white
terraces) were destroyed over a hundred years ago. The
area's life was completely destroyed, and everything
is starting from scratch - it is bbilled as a look at
how life first began. Last on the day's itinerary was
Hells Gate , boiling
mudpools (that you can bathe in too). I think we'd
burnt out on seeing all these geothermal sights (and
smells) though and were left fairly underwhelmed.
Joanne commented on some people over a sulperous
cavern "II don't know why they're hanging around all
this stinking sulphur - just for the hell of it".

Leaving a trail of sulphur behind us we drove to
Aukland, stopping at Waitomo, to have a look at the
glowworm caves . We has an
enthusiastic guide called Zane ("'cos I'm in-zane"),
who only had 2 fingers on one hand. The cave & glow
worm were well worth it and it was quite magical
floating in the darkness, illuminated only by the glow
from these tiny creatures.

When we got to Aukland it was quite a weird sensation.
We've been away from large cities for what seems such
a long time that the experience was a little

Anyways, I'm here now, but will leave tommorrow wo go
have a look around the very north before returning
back & leaving for Sydney.

Hope all is well with whatever you're up to.

Take it easy, Mark

Postscript - Gabrielle replied as follows:

Sounds like a fantastic time! Just time now for pedantic picky comment
from Aunty Gabs: for a graduate AND a player of Scrabble, your
spelling's APPALLING! I cannot put these gems down to typing errors....

(yours first, then correct)

sheep sheering -> shearing
tommorrow -> tomorrow (okay could be a typo rather than ignorance)
alceline -> alkaline

By the way, you don't look like Jack Osborne, feel relieved (I should

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