Sunday, April 23, 2006

DAY FIVE - Sunday 23 April

The call from the balloon man came at 5.45am ... definitely all off, too gusty apparently!! Although I had already been woken by text messages from a friend of a friend - a little confused about who he was contacting - asking if I needed beer picking up!!! So of course I answered "yes" :o)

As no ballooning, we all got a bit of a lie-in and decided to opt for plan B - John to take us out on his charter boat along the Waikato river! Woo hoo!! First off to a cool cafe and an art/ceramics place, Splashy, for a spot of brunch. V good! Had to halt my mum buying the shop out ... all very tempting and original stuff.

John, our boat captain and host for the weekend, is an absolutely fascinating man; ex-teacher and obviously well-educated. I learnt so much about New Zealand's colourful history from him in that weekend. A very balanced view too; not all 'bloody europeans this' or 'bloody maoris that'.

The boat is moored just up the road, about 2-mins drive away at their other house, which they rent out. The business is Kotare Ventures and the boat is called Te Torea, which is the Oystercatcher bird (in Maori). Nice little powered cruiser, can accommodate about 12-15 persons .... book him up if you're in the area!!

So we headed up river, past 'Taupiri' - which is a mount with a Maori cemetery ("urupa") on its lower slopes, some of which were really quite elaborate and a lot have solar-powered lighting so it's spookily brightly lit at night! We then turned up the Mangawara stream, but our onward journey was hampered by some twerp who had put a fishing net across the whole width, so we couldn't pass and had to turn around :o( So, we retraced our steps back along the Waikato!

John has quite a sense of humour and kept talking about the Taupiri navy; basically the fleet of his two charter boats! He even has a hidden inlet he has nicknamed "Pearl Harbor"!

Anyway, eventually back on dry land after a freak heavey downpour, typical of the tropical North Island of NZ. Spot of lunch .... some more Kiwi history ... tour of their gardens, which are beautifully ramshackle and filled with all manner of plants, flowers etc .. oh, and heaps of pottery in all shapes and sizes!

Back on the road to Auckland, managed to avoid the traffic building up in Huntly for Tiger Woods' guest appearance. Quiet night watching King Kong, directed by Kiwi Peter Jackson - how very apt!!

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