A pretty, sh***y city

Firstly, apologies for the radio silence, took some time to chill out and get used to being back home.
Also, to me, the whole point of writing and publishing it is that there is something interesting to actually write about. Me lounging around in a hammock soaking up the limited UK sunshine does not make for a riveting read! 

 

That’s not to say I did absolutely nothing, there’s been a few summer fayres and events, like the Natural Living Expo, held in the National Botanical Gardens of Wales. 
The venue always worth a visit, even in the Welsh weather. 

I conquered the hay maze! Also received an unusual back massage whilst laying on my back. I was in bits the next day, in a good way.
The whole event consists of plenty of stalls, all centred around natural living and health, mental and physical. All put together by the Old Mill foundation.
A more local event was the Gower Chilli festival. Celebrating the many ways you could possible add chilli to anything, I like chilli but draw the line at it being in cake, beer or gin. But that’s just me! 





My favourite event of the ‘summer’ in Swansea so far has been the outdoor screening of ‘Twin Town’. A movie set and filmed in Swansea. Everyone who was of age at the time it was released knows the words off by heart, and after 20 years the city celebrated its anniversary by having a movie screen placed in Singleton park, a band playing songs featured in the film, and even the Welsh Male Voice Choir as a grand finale.

Goosebumps.





http://www.natural-living-expo.co.uk/

http://gowerchillis.com/

https://cinemaandco.yapsody.com/

Lions

I couldn’t stay away from Laura too long. Just before I left she found out there were tickets available for the British Lions v the Blues…
She planted a seed.
Like a dog with a bone I found us some tickets and booked my flight back to see her! 


Happiest girls in the world right now!


Shameless self promotion! 



Although we lost, it was still an awesome atmosphere, incredible experience, and I am most definitely glad I stayed in New Zealand that little bit longer to be a part of it.


Laura suggested we stay behind after the game so we could meet the lions. Unfortunately, their egos must have been a little too bruised as they didn’t make an appearance, but we did meet some of the Blues!


Charlie Faumuina.


Sonny Bill Williams.


Scott Quinell, from Llanelli, back home! 


We have no idea who this guy is, and I’ve asked everyone I know, checked the Blues website, checked the Lions website-no idea! Answers on the back of a postcard if you know!


And last but not least, John Spencer the Tour manager. 
Just for the record, I learnt who all these people are by being here, I do not profess to know the first thing about rugby. I support Wales but wouldn’t know who they are if I bumped into them on the street! 

Touching a Kiwi

We had stayed in the Bunkdown hostel in Whangarei, where they told us about the Native Bird Recovery Centre, where you can actually touch a kiwi bird.
We thought an experience like this would cost quite a bit, but it’s only a $10 minimum donation to help keep the centre running.


This is Sparky, he was caught in a trap and lost his leg, he would have died in the wild, but here he has a full life, munching on worms and helping educate the children of New Zealand.



This was definitely one of he best experiences in New Zealand. Being so inexpensive too was a bonus for the budget traveler. 
Robert, the founder of the centre is full of facts and information, and his passion for the birds and their care shows. 
He found us worms to feed Sparky.


The centre helps all kinds of birds, the website even has a webcam to watch eggs hatching that have have been abandoned and rescued by the centre. 


I have included the link to the website as this was literally the best experience, and it helps injured animals.
http://www.nbr.org.nz/sparky

Whangarei

Only a short walk to see Whangarei falls, then a stroll around the town basin.




The local school kids had painted all the teams that will be taking part during the British Lion Tour.



I’d read about Mermaid pools in Matapouri bay. Bit of a climb to get there, especially in flip flops!


So worth it.


Crystal clear, lagoon-like pools were our reward for our trek.





The beach itself was alright too…






Had some fun playing with the slow-mo video.





This was mine and Laura’s last weekend together before I move onto my next travels, so naturally we had to have a drink to celebrate.


Didn’t take too many beers before we were subjected to unwanted male attention..






Naturally, not much sight seeing or even moving was done the day after.

Eastside

 
As we made our way south from Doubtless bay we discovered a chocolate factory and gelateria in Kerikeri. After sampling some chocolate and ice cream, we realized it was the sister factory of the one we visited in Marlborough in the South Island.


We camped in Paihia and woke up to views over the water.



Paihia is the place where it all began…with Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
This place was amazing, experienced another cultural show, had a free guided tour around the grounds and the museum was really well laid out which made it easy to understand.







The museum offers a free guided tour around the treaty grounds, made the most of that.


Giant ceremonial canoe which we were told Lady Diana had a ride in even though women are not supposed to go in the war boats.


The stump of one of the three Kauri trees. Photo doesn’t really show how huge this tree was. Two of me could have laid across it, I wanted to try, but this is sacred ground and tomfoolery of that sort is disrespectful.


The flagstaff with the three flags associated with New Zealand, the Union Jack, the Maori flag and the flag we know and love today.
Onward south with a stop off to the Hunderwasser toilets. 



Marlborough Wine Tasting

I’m not a wine drinker but up for a tour that includes wine and beer, and the Hops N’ Grape tour does just that. 


Woke up to the sun shining over the river. Picked up by Cameron, our guide at a very reasonable 1030.


Cameron taught us a little about how to tell the different grapes by looking at the vines, and showed us around the winery, this brought us up to a reasonable hour to start the tasting! 









These wines went down rather nicely, and it was good to learn how to actually appreciate the taste and ‘nose’ of each drink.






Onto the next winery, and lunch (after five tasters I was well on my way!)





After more wines and lunch it was beer time! 






Another wine tasting session…


By this point Laura and I were in fits of giggles over nothing…a sign of a good day if you ask me.





More wine before some cheese and chocolate tasting! This tour had everything! I did embarrass myself in the cheese shop by telling my cheese jokes.





*page missing*

Charleston

 
Charleston is home to the glow worm caves. There is pretty much nothing here apart from the campsite we are staying at, the glow worm caves and their cafe. Or at least that’s all we saw…

When we went to book the glow worm caves we were faced with two options, one was just a walk through the caves to see the glow worms. The other was walking through the cave, in a wetsuit, carrying a tractor tyre inner tube, seeing the glow worms and tubing down the river…
Yup. We squeezed ourselves into wetsuits and plundered into the darkness! 
What an experience! 

This post is so late as I’ve been trying to get the pictures off the water proof camera, but am not that technically minded. So failed. But there is a link to laugh at Laura and I down a cave..
http://www.caverafting.com/nggallery/page-27/album-108/gallery-3513/