Today I spent the day exploring and relaxing in the Bucklands Beach area of Auckland, where Will and Juliet live, and planning the next leg of my travels. It will be with reluctance that I leave the wonderful bubble of life here – I have been looked after incredibly well, and have benefited hugely from their excellent company, culinary prowess and appreciation of fine wines. Alas, I fear pasta and pesto, and other ghosts of student frugality, may come back to haunt me from here onwards. However, this adventure is all about, to quote someone I met on a surf holiday a couple of years ago,”‘having a dip in lake me” (tee hee!) and I think it will be really good for me to strike out on my own for a bit.
So, from a combination of diligently trawling through the educational introductory chapters of the Lonely Planet, which I usually ignore, and doing some serious people-watching over a couple of long coffees (I blame Auckland’s awesome ‘flat white’ coffees for my regression back towards caffeine-addiction),I have learnt many new things about New Zealand and its people. I’ve shared the best with you below and have also included one completely made-up ‘fact’ in the list – I’ll leave it up to you to guess which one this is.
- New Zealand was the first country in the world to offer women the vote.
- One in four New Zealander adults are obese.
- The most common cause of serious injury recorded by hospitals in New Zealand is ‘sheep-related incidents’.
- New Zealand has the longest place name in the world (making the Welsh contender look positively monosyllabic). Here goes… Taumataahakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaugahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. Wowsers. The abbreviated translation of this is even more bonkers:’The Brow of the Hill Where Tamatea, the Man with the Big Knees, Who Slid, Climbed, and Swallowed Mountains, Known as Land Eater, Played his Flute to his Brother’.
- There are only two native mammals to New Zealand; both are bats.
- There are still some native kauri trees living that are over 2000 years old.
- And finally, my favourite. I feel a bit bad about this one, because it seems like I’m mocking the Maori belief system. Really I’m not, I have great respect for their spirituality, but this has to be shared… This story forms part of the Maori story of creation. Brace yourselves… Maui, a Maori demigod ancestor, tried to cheat death by attempting to crawl up the birth canal of the goddess of death, Hine Nui Te Po, in order to reverse birth. However, little did he know that the goddess had razor-sharp obsidian teeth inside her vagina. When she woke up and realised what was happening she crushed Maui between her thighs, and you can imagine the sticky ending he came to (but probably don’t want to envisage too vividly).
And anyway, on that lovely image I’ll leave you for today, as I have to get up at 5am tomorrow, no less, to catch a bus up to the far north. The woman from the hostel told me on the phone to bring all my food supplies with me as there weren’t any shops in the place where I’m staying. Pasta and pesto here I come – wish me luck!