Friday 11th April – lake and mountain

As Sophie and I both had the morning off we took Marvey for a walk around Lake Mangamahoe. The lake is man made and built with the intention of giving people a great view of Mount Taranaki. The last time we were there it was cloudy and we saw nothing. Was sadly the same again, but still a great walk – Marvey was exhausted!

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No sign of Mt Taranaki

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But a lovely picture of Sophie and Marvey

Lunch was yummy – cheese, marmite on ciabatta!

My plan for the afternoon was to pop into town to get ssome coffee. But when I got to the end of the road 2 guests from the lodge were stood there still trying to hitch to Edgmont National Park. Having nothing better to do I gave them a lift!

It’s only about a 25 minute drive to the Egmont visitor centre, but its mostly up, it was chilly there when we arrived. A shame as I would have gone for a little walk, instead I popped into the centre for a nose.

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Must go back with a friend or longer arms

Spent the evening watching Flight of the conchords and chatting to Phil and another running guy, Igor

Thursday 10th April – horses on the racecourse

Up 5:15 for boot camp I bumped into a v confused Alan on the way out – why would anyone be awake at this time??

Saw horses/jockeys at the racetrack at the end of the road. It was odd as I’d never seen them there before and it’s what my sisters ex used to do. His funeral is today, it made me think about him as I drove on.

I arrived early at the studio today. There was no one there at 5.45, no one arrived until 5.57, not an early get there and chat place, especially that early in morning!!

Bootcamp started with run round block then 5x 60 sec plank/40 sec rest – just how I love to start the day! Did lots of kicking pads though and that was fun, the pressups in between not so much…..

All done by 7am! Was invited for coffee at what I thought was called Funerals – odd name for a cafe, but did check. Couldn’t see it, may have been Federals – I passed one of those, will have to check next week!!

Back to a darkened hostel for a peaceful breakfast and coffee – a treat to have quiet time!!

Said goodbye to John, he’d already been out and done a run, we swapped boot camp chat – he trains with the same guy!

I went into town to get lunch and applied to be a volunteer with the DOC – general volunteering and to be a hut warden in Edgmont National Park (Taranaki).

As it was pouring with rain I offered Sophie a lift home from work, took a while to find her down at East End beach, I also need to learn how to demist the car properly!!

There’s a Home Show on in NP and have a couple of guys from there staying. One guy, Phil, and I sat chatting, he’s a big runner, done the longest day (coast to coast done in 1 day)

Wednesday 9th April learning that ANZAC is more than a biscuit

Oh, so, stiff!

The effects of boot camp/running had kicked in by morning!

It was a rainy day so sat writing my blog and taking it easy.

In the afternoon I headed to the library and then to Puke Ariki to listen to a talk about Gallipoli – where ANZACS (Australian and New Zealand army corps) lost many many lives in the first world war – it was very sad, fascinating and surprising.

Dairy farmer John was also there, he has tickets to the ANZAC day service next year – 2015 is the centenary year. We went for dinner at a fab Thai restaurant in town before coming back to the lodge. The girls were watching Valentines Day – a truly awful film!!

Tuesday 8th April – bootcamp

Up 5:15am

Sippie and I were off to boot camp! (She did later admit she’d turned her alarm off at 2am in the hope mine wouldn’t go off either and we’d just sleep – naughty Sippie)

Out of the hostel by 5:30 to discover that someone (is me) had left the inside light on in car overnight….. Sure enough, flat battery. I was awake enough to know you can’t jump start an automatic car, cue flapping, closely followed by me remembering that one of the selling points Tom had mentioned about the car was that it came with a battery charger!!! By the light of a phone we found it, read the instruction, I was nearly electrocuted, but eventually we got it sorted and charging…. It said to give it 15 minutes, we waited 12, there was boot camp to get to!

During those 12 minutes I discovered that in my other pocket I had my head torch, would have made life so much easier!!

We sat in the car, crossed our fingers, turned the key and hurrah! The engine started! In a circuitous way we made it to boot camp just in time.

Good grief, it’s been a long time since I’ve worked that hard, made me miss Jel and BMF! Sweating and breathing our way through circuits 1min on, 40sec rests, runs round the block in between…. Did mean we saw a beautiful sunrise though!

Got to use a grinder, what Nikki uses on the boat for up to 4 minutes at a time. My one minute explains why her arms look so amazing – it’s so hard!

We made it out alive and after a quick trip via New World for orange juice we made it home for breakfast! A while later Sophie was up and treated us to almond croissants – yum

We then showered and set off for a walk to see a lake – Sophie’s suggestion, we should have asked more questions……. The lake was up. Up a relentless set of steps, all up, no downs, no flat bits…… Not ideal terrain after the morning exertions. We followed the Mangorei track up to the Pouakai Hut.

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New Plymouth from the hut

True to form I fell and bashed my knee, hip and palms – now have great bruises!

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The hut was cute, but after being hot from walking we soon cooled down. Lunch was courtesy of Sophie and left over from the place she works – delicious baguette of brie, salami, gherkins and rocket.

Revived we carried on to see the lake…. Sophie then revealed it wasn’t so much a lake as a small pond…..

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Can you spot the 'lake'?

She was right, it was tiny, the photos are very misleading! We had fun trying to take equally misleading photos, selfies and pics on timers

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BMF buff!

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Almost made it!

The trip down was so much easier, but further than we remembered, eventually the steps lessened and the boardwalks became longer. Back in the car we headed home for cup of tea and to watch Up – neither Sophie or Sippie had ever seen it – shocking. Also started reading 1Q84, awesome book

Eventually I dragged my tired body for a shower, of seemed only polite as I was meeting a friend (dairy farmer John) for dinner.

We went to Good Home, really nice pub, I had a chicken and brie burger – super yummy. Had an early night, the cows don’t do lie ins!!

Monday 7th April – first in a week of days off

The plan for the day was to apply for a lab managers job that was posted on Friday night.

So I was up and off into town to the library and find a free computer. This was all easily done, not to easy was bumping into an ex-sunflower lodger who was sacked after he didn’t turn up for work for 2 days – an incessant talker – you get 30minutes on the computers and I really didn’t want to spend it talking to him….. Several rude 1 word answers later he half got the message and shut up long enough for me to fill out the form and attach my cv and cover letter.

Next job on the list was pump up the car tyres, had an aborted attempt the previous day when I couldn’t work the machine, this one was much easier!!

Jobs for the day done it was time for lunch and a lazy afternoon watching ‘What happens in Las Vegas’ a v trashy film, but good afternoon viewing!

The laziness was made up for by heading back into town and to Frontrunner – a very friendly running shop that has a running club every Monday at 5:30. I’d spoken to the guy over the weekend and he was very sweet sending everyone off and saying he’d run with me, we went off and a fair pace I checked my garmin and it was 7 something minute miles – I run at more like 10mins/mile! So we slowed down a bit!!

We were doing a really nice run, out to the seafront and past East End and Fitzroy beaches to the lake. I was doing OK, we ran past Sophie working at East End beach and out along the coastal walkway, but decided that I’d turn around at 2 miles, wanted to complete the run and heading back then would mean a doable 4 in total, 6, the planned distance was probably going to be too far. The guys checked I’d be OK getting back, I promised I’d see them at the shop and turned around. Felt better running at my own pace, I was helped along by a beautiful sunset over the sea. I ran back past Sophie to discover her stood at the side of the path with a glass of water for me!! Gratefully drunk I carried on back to the shop and had a good stretch with a lamppost while I waited for the others.

They weren’t too far behind, with promises to be back next week we said our goodbyes. Back to the lodge, shower, dinner and bed – early start tomorrow

Sunday 6th April – leaf blowing is fun!

Working out time differences between NZ and the UK has been confusing, NZ, Oz, UK clock change and today a NZ clock change.

Only one person in the lodge forgot about the change, I was just awake early, made worthwhile by being there to tell them they could still being bed!

Nice relaxed morning shift, even more relaxed by Alan appearing and we stopped to have a coffee and a gossip! By the time we’d stopped talking my shift was over, I had been about to sweep the driveway so was going to put the brush away when Alan revealed he bad a leaf blower – that was me playing for the next 30 minutes- they’re so much fun!!

The rest of the day was lunch, chat rachel re jobs, blog catch up and read a book I’ve been saving – The Time Keeper by Mitch Albom

Saturday 5th April – 5 months away and a banking miracle!

It’s 5 months since I left the UK – how did that happen? I had been telling people recently it was 4!

I got up to find Sophie wrapped up in a duvet in the conservatory, it was lovely, she jumped up to say hello and I got the most amazing hug :-) Even if I say it myself the Sunflower Lodge does attract the loveliest people.

It was my first morning working at the Lodge, thankfully it was pretty quiet so I could refamiliarise myself with everything (including Sophie reminding me of the code to get into the office!!).

I’d had a bad nights sleep worrying about sorting out my Halifax card that was declined yesterday….. Phoning the bank, in the UK, on the weekend did not fill me with glee. So once the morning shift was over I went to reactivate the money on my Skype account when I spotted an offer of free Skype calls to any landline (and some mobiles) all over the world – needless to say, expecting my call to be a long one, I signed up.

It has to be said that it wasn’t as bad as I hoped. They’d put a stop on my card as they’d had some returned mail, the stop could be removed – so no need for a new card – phew! But as there’s mail-forwarding on my post I wondered if I could give him my parents address for the future….. Apparently not without me knowing my mobile banking number (I don’t) he said he’d post out a new one and then I could change the address over the phone. I asked him what if the post gets returned to them, we’d then be in a viscous circle – he didn’t like this point, so we agreed to wait and see what happened!! But card autophorised to work again, so for now I’m not complaining.

To test out Mr Halifax, I headed into town to put some petrol in the car – much to my relief the card worked!! What I couldn’t get to work was the pump up your tyre machine but half a job done…..

Had an uneventful afternoon on reception, finished in time to have dinner and watch Harry Potter!

Friday 4th April – back to New Plymouth!

George had good plans to walk me to the bus stop, that was never going to happen, leaving the flat at 8:30am?!

Instead I tickled his feet to wake him up – he loves that….. – said goodbye and headed for the bus stop.

Thankfully the rain had stopped, so the walk as lovely, and happily I remembered the way!

Another Naked bus to New Plymouth with a small stop in Hamilton Central and New Plymouth and finally dropped off at the Boys School. Mt Taranaki was looking particularly fine as I walked to the hostel – the lovely Sunflower Lodge.

Dropped my bags in reception and found Rachel making up Ana and Conal’s old room – sadly they’d moved out a couple of weeks ago, but only to Fitzroy so not far away. Then Marvey appeared and actually ran down the corridor to see me – such a lovely dog!

My old bed was empty, but rachel didn’t want me moving into an empty room, so I ended up in room 3 on a top bunk :-(

Then Alan came home, had a big hug, quick catch up with promise to catch up soon.

I located my car keys (I’d left them here in case they needed to move the car) and headed to the supermarket to stock up, get my money off petrol voucher and get petrol.

Sadly it didn’t go according to plan as my Halifax card was declined…. All rather embarrassing, but thankfully, after giving back some eggs and cheese, I had enough cash to pay, so no petrol for the car tonight!!

Thursday 3rd April – off to Hamilton

Good old Auckland and The Attic

After a good sleep I was up and out to the library to upload more photos to Google Drive – the library has amazing WiFi and it’s free so wanted to make the most of it!!

Treated myself to a Korean pancake (veg and cheese) for lunch, went back to the hostel to pick up my bag, walk to the bus stop, or where I thought the bus stop was….. Was wrong, had to ask a bus driver where I needed to go, had 2 mins to get there and thankfully they were running late as usual (although I did get a telling off!)

An uneventful journey, got off at the university stop and walked through the campus to Momento, my allotted wait-for-George spot, and sat in the sunshine drinking a coffee or two

When George arrived (he’d had a test) we headed back to the cottage he stays in. It was at this point the heavens opened, we ran through campus, George shrieking and people looking out their windows at us passing by!

I met his lovely housemates and we had a good gossipy catch up before having a really fab Chinese takeaway for dinner. We then headed to the rec room to play ping pong, I surprised myself by not being too bad, certainly no worse than George!!

It was George’s housemate, Lauren, birthday the next day, so to celebrate early we went and bought some drinks and headed home to play cards. George’s friend came over with ‘boyfriend issues’ and they disappeared for a heart -to-heart, so Lauren taught me a new card game – diamonds – a crazy drinking game where all you have to do is guess the colour a card will be for 5 in a row. If you get it wrong you drink and have to start again until you get it right or you run out of cards!

By midnight George was done being agony aunt, we sang Lauren Happy Birthday and then headed to bed!!

Wednesday 2nd April – pancakes and a return to NZ

This morning Maddie and I both set alarms – Wednesday is pancake day in the hostel!!

We were down in the kitchen just after 8am and there was no sign, so we made toast instead – then discovered pancakes (with lashings of maple syrup) start at 8:30 – we’d not missed it at all!! And a couple of days ago I’d found a coffee plunger for sale for $3/£1.50 so we had a celebratory coffee too!

Getting up so early meant I had ages to pack my stuff…, or so I thought, with much faffing the time flew by and so I was forced into a panic shower and a rush to checkout – oops

Then all there as to do was sit with my stuff (their luggage room is only for guests arriving, not leaving) and watch a DVD! For the first time since I arrived the TV room was empty and having browsed their list, Toy Story was put on and I was soon joined by Maddie and a couple of others – no one can resist its charms.

Forcing myself not to cry at the ending, I pottered off to make some lunch and then catch my bus to the airport.

After queuing for ages to check in- stuck behind a chaotic group of Argentinians who seemed never to have stepped foot in an airport before – I got to the desk with a cheery hello. Where are you going today? Auckland. Do you know the contents of your bag? Yes. Do you have a return flight and can I see it? Err…. Sorry, what?

It seems that they’re pretty hot on making sure you have a flight out of NZ before Qantas will let you fly in, something to do with them being fined $1000s….. So I was sent round the corner to purchase a ticket…..

While I queued I wondered what ticket to buy and when for? I figured back to Oz would be cheapest and in 6ish months time, the latest I could do! I got to the counter, explained to the lady, she agreed Oz was the best option, I told her when, she said I could only get a visa for 3 months, I said I was sure it was 6, she phoned her supervisor, they checked NZ immigration website together then finally agreed 6 months would be OK…… So for $208 I now have a ticket out of NZ to Sydney on 23rd September……

Rushed back to check in and was relieved to discover no queues, as it was getting close to the cut off time, checked in, through security and headed for the gate.

Wasn’t long before our flight was called and we boarded. What I love about Qantas flights is that you can start watching the films etc before you take off, so I managed to fit 2 in on our 3h flight – Last Vegas, really funny and Philomena, good but I think the emotion was lost somewhat with the plane noise and not being able to hear the sound properly (less important in a comedy!)

Last time I landed in NZ it took forever to do luggage, passport control and customs. This time my bag was one of the first to appear and I zoomed through the rest – hurrah!

Soon I was sat on the airport bus heading back to the city and The Attic my home for the night.