By Jade Johnston
We left Auckland early in the morning, and despite Auckland’s rubbish public transport systems doing its best to mess up our plans, we still managed to get our bus on time (just). The reason we are taking the bus today, and not hitch hiking is that previsouly we had planning to go on the Great Walk around Lake Waikaramoana with my friend Eva and her friends Rebecca and Ruth. Since we had a planned start date, we had to make sure we got there on time.
Due to my ankle, and its various shades of black and blue, we are not able to do the hike. I was really upset about this, changing plans is always annoying for me and in New Zealand its especially hard to make a new plan that is suitable for those with sprained ankles. We sat, looking through the lonely planet, and I was getting super frustrated because everything that sounded interesting was some sort of outdoor activity, requiring all your limbs.
It was after a frustrating visit to a doctors receptionist – where I learned that I can’t afford the doctor – and the following trip to the pharmacist (much more helpful than a doctor anyways, and free) that we were given the advice to do the lake by kayak instead.
The night before our bus to Rotorua I called up some of the holiday parks in the national park and was directed to a local man who rented kayaks. I arranged with him to pick us up in the nearby town of Wairoa on the 11th. We planned to start our kayak trip on the 12th, meet up with my friends at their second campsite, and kayak back to the holiday park on the 13th. The perfect compromise.
Since James has not been to Rotorua and I have, I gave him a tour of the town park where who can see a variety of geothermal activity without paying any entrance fee. I also took him to the cheap ice cream joint in town. After our short visit and a picnic lunch, we headed to the motorway and found some cardboard to make our next sign: Napier.
Napier is a town that was destroyed by an earth quake and then completely rebuilt in the art nouveau style. It is a really pretty place and is surrounded by vineyards and fruit orchards.
Our first ride was with a lawyer named Ian who works in Rotorua but lives in Taupo. He took us to Taupo and drove us to a good spot to get a ride to Napier. Before we found a good spot to stop and wait for a ride we had to cross a bridge. As we walked across the bridge, and before we even finished making the sign, or even start holding it out – we already had a ride stop for us.
An older couple from Napier had stopped for us at the other side of the bridge as we were crossing. They had done heaps of hitching in their younger days, and were keen to pick up hitch hikers now. They had even hitch hiked across Canada and America when they were younger. They took us all the way into Napier, past a massive car accident involving a semi truck.
Once we arrived in Napier I called up the cheapest place in town that allowed tent sites but were told that all their tent spaces were full. However, they didn’t expect me to pull the pity card. “Oh, your full? Well do you know any other place in town were we can camp because I have a sprained ankle and can not walk well.” They made an exception for us.
The next day we booked a bus from Napier to Wairoa in order to ensure that we got there in time for the shuttle. Our ride was waiting for us in Wairoa and he took us down the windy dirt road that leads to the Te Urewera national park. I was releaved when we finally arrived because I was starting to get motion sickness in his van.
We stayed at the Big Bush Holiday Park who are the friends of the man we rented the kayaks from, and who were generous enough to let us stay for free since we were pitching a tent. They had great facilities with a kitchen, hot showers, and a sitting room with television and comfy couches which was a huge luxury and a nice way to escape the tent for once.
The next day we set an alarm to wake early. Time to kayak.