Barry Frost

This is Barry Frost’s personal website.

April 2001

Haven’t written in a week but that’s because we’ve been such busy bees. Napier, as I said, was a fab little town. We explored Art Deco buildings, played lots of mini golf (Sue, sadly, coming out on top by one pathetic stroke), visited the Mission wineries (partaking in an excellent Pinot Gris and Geburztraminer) and a small brewery. Left, spent one day in Palmerston North visiting the NZ Rugby Museum and arrived in our new home, Wellington, on Saturday.

Within five hours we’d found ourselves a home: a downstairs flat in nice little suburb called Kingston, fully furnished and with a TV, video, washing machine etc. We even had the luxury of turning down people whose houses we’d visited and who’d rung us back offering us rooms. Now it’s the slightly less easy task of finding a job and replenishing our rapidly depleting bank balances. Don’t even want to think about how much money we’ve spent since leaving our jobs in Auckland!

Another “inconvenience” is a $95 fine for having our rental car towed away yesterday. Very embarrassing and very stupid: we parked down a semi-pedestrianised paved road in the centre of Wellington next to all the other (legally-parked) cars. The ground markings were exactly the same, no yellow lines or anything. What we failed to spot was the shutter in front of the car leading to an underground car park with a crappy sign telling you not to park. Completely missed it. No excuses, though, just an untimely thirty-odd quid to pay Wellington City Council. Seems like a nice place, otherwise, and we met up with ex-housemates Joanna and Dan on Saturday who rave about the place. Think we need time to get our bearings and start looking around us more!

Can’t recommend White Island, New Zealand’s only active marine volcano, enough. The obvious comparison is that it was like walking on Mars. We were guided through drained sulpherous lakes past massive vents that shot out superheated invisible sulpher dioxide that created clouds that blocked out the sun. We saw green lakes, odour-less sluphur deposits and walked through the ruins of a mining company’s attempts to build a factory that had fallen victim to an eruption. You could tell it was a bit dangerous by the fact that they gave us gas masks and hard hats but they weren’t needed. Excellent day.

To even things up a bit, Gisborne (our following stop) was thoroughly horrible and our hostel even worse. We’re now in a much better hostel in a much nicer town - Napier - and are looking forward to doing some wine and beer tours and exploring the Art Deco buildings along the seafront. Apparantly the majority of the town’s buildings were levelled by an earthquake in the thirties and re-built at the height of the Art Deco movement.

Moving on to Whakatane today after a good week in Rotorua. On Tuesday we went to the hot-water barium Polynesian spas - very relaxing, much like a really hot (44C) bath and apparantly good for you. Wasted Wednesday morning by getting up at 5.45am to see Arsenal getting knocked out of the Champions League but it meant that we could drive to Waiotapu Thermal Reserve to see the Lady Knox Geyser erupt at 10.15. Thought its regularity and accuracy was a bit strange and (sadly) it turned out that some bloke dumps a kilogram of washing powder down five minutes before. Anything for the tourists.

In the evening we went to Tamaki Maori Village, an excellent replica of a traditional Maori village at which your coach (with its elected chief) is greeted by Maoris in costume sticking their tongues out, rolling their eyes, grunting and waving sticks and spears at you. It’s supposed to be intimidating and a show of force. Dances, games and songs in the Wharenui and then a Hongi meal in the Wharekai which is cooked underground. Superb finale at the end of the night where all the guides and coach drivers perform the Haka inches in front of you. Can see why rugby teams facing the All Blacks get a bit rattled having to face that each match.

The Wai-o-tapu “Wonderland” was a bit crap, just lots of smelly sulpherous mud pools and bubbling water. Best part of the week, though, was going back to the Luges - a cart that you freewheel down to the bottom of a big hill really fast down a windy track, overtaking, going over jumps and swinging round corners. Of course I thrashed Sue over our five rides despite her whining about me almost knocking her off of the track and other pathetic excuses to be crowned Best Luger In The World Ever.

We had an unpleasantly stressful and eventful journey to our first “stop”, Rotorura, yesterday that included almost running out of petrol, being given a hire car with a radio/tape player that doesn’t work (for three weeks!) and broken/lost sunglasses. We’re staying at the Kiwi Paka YHA youth hostel along with a couple of coach-loads of schoolkids who generally enjoy running around and shouting at each other. Mental note to self: no more YHA youth hostels.

Rotorura’s a big town built on and around hot springs, geysers and bubbling mud pools after a volcanic eruption in the 19th century. It’s quite amazing walking down the street where steam clouds billow out of drains and bushes seem to be on fire. Photos to come. And there’s also the small matter of the smell: it’s a sulpherous, eggy pong that lingers in the air and is surprisingly much worse than Helen’s. We’ve been to the Government Gardens museum, complete with Victorian baths (now in ruins) and will be having a go at the Polynesian Spas this afternoon. Also planned for later in the week is lugeing, zorbing, a “traditional” Maori concert and hangi (meal).

Not much time to write (sorry). Have scanned some new photos in - scroll to the bottom of the page - and will write some explanations as soon as I can. Hopefully the filenames will give you some idea.

Where’s your Year Ending In One now, eh?!

Why do you always think of something witty and damning to say after the event? I’m unlocking the hostel door to my room at 7pm last night when this old woman with a German accent comes out of her room and says, “I would like to ask you to shut and open your door quietly please. No noise.” I shrug, she disappears and I go back down the corridor to find Sue and then return a couple of minutes later. The door swings close behind me, not noisily but forcibly enough so that the latch catches. Knock knock, “That was not quiet. I just asked you to be quiet. No noise please.” I’m speechless and just gawp at her until she goes back into her room. I neglect to remind her that a) this is a youth hostel, the stupid old bat, and that noise is inevitable, b) the doors need to be banged so that they’ll actually lock properly, c) it’s only 7pm, and d) that she should get a life and stop bothering poor backpackers! Just because she’s old, it doesn’t mean she can talk to me like I’m five years old!

Was a bit narked for the rest of the evening but it didn’t stop Sue, Amy and me from enjoying Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, an absolutely amazing kung-fo type film in Chinese with subtitles but with incredible direction (by Ang Lee), scenery and special effects. Simple storyline but lots of fight sequences extremely well done. I’m not really into martial arts films but I thoroughly recommend you see it. Off to Whitianga this afternoon: will write more from there.

Briefly back “home” at the City YHA in Auckland until Monday. Went down K-Road with Amy and Sue last night and discovered bars and clubs we’d aimlessly wandered past while living here which looked fantastic but which we were too knackered for. If only we’d seem them before, kind of thing. Had a lazy day at Starbucks and Victoria Park Market before we leave for Whitianga on Monday. Starting to get a bit tired of living out of a backpack and am really looking forward to working our way down to Wellington so that we can find a permanent bedsit/flat: somewhere that’s ours, rather than another fecking hostel.

Will also be good to catch up with Dan and Joanna down in the capital and also watch a bit of Super 12s and see the Hurricanes in action at the Cake Tin. They’re a bit like the Manchester United of NZ rugby with big names like Jonah Lomu, Christian Cullen and Tana Umaga. Doesn’t look like I’ll be able to watch the Footy FA Cup Semi-Final between the Arsenal and Spurs on Sunday. Firstly, it’s on at 2am over here (so no pubs will be open) and secondly, no TV channels are even showing it so I’ll be relying on text messages from my Dad. Feeling very confident after we saw them off at Highbury on Saturday and then beat Valencia on Wednesday. Always close matches but even with Glenn Hoddle as their new manager, I think we’re just too good for them at the moment. Just a big shame I’m not back at school to get revenge on Nat, Hadj and Fat Matt for all the shit I took when Spurs beat us in 1991! Come on you reds!

Didn’t get to swim with the dolphins after all but had an amazing day nonetheless. We were on a big jet boat tour and, although we found a couple of “pods” of dolphins, we couldn’t swim with them because there were baby dolphins in both and swimming with juveniles isn’t allowed. All the same Sue, Amy and I got to lie on the bow of the boat as the little scamps jumped out of the water at you, showing off, doing little jumps and spraying water at us. Apparantly they love it when you talk or sing to them, not because of the sound (which doesn’t penetrate water) but because of your facial expressions, just like human babies. Very difficult to take photos - by the time you’ve pressed the button all that’s left is a splash - but I’ll scan some of my efforts when we get back to Auckland.

Yesterday we had a day’s coach trip to Cape Reinga on a Kiwi Experience bus. Kiwi bus journeys are more like activity days out rather than just a means of transport because they stop off along the way at interesting points such as waterfalls and historic stuff. On this trip our slightly odd driver Wallace drove us along 90 mile beach along the west coast of the North, splashing through the water and then on to sand dunes which we Boogie Boarded down. Very knackering to walk up the soft sand and then it was over in seconds as you hurtle down the slope lying on the board. The Cape was quite impressive and you could watch the Bank of Columbia where the waves of the Tasman Sea (bit between Oz and NZ) and the Pacific Ocean crash together.

Going to Kerikeri tomorrow to watch a traditional Maori dance thing and then we’re back on the bus back to Auckland. I’ve hired a car for us and then we’re driving up the Coromandel Pennisula - the eastern part of the prong at the top of NZ - to Whitianga and its hot pools. Starting to feel like proper backpackers now!

The last thing the locals are prepared for in Paihia, the sub-tropical capital of the Bay Of Islands, is rain. There’s absolutely bugger-all to do here that doesn’t depend on sun and lots of it. So when we arrived on Saturday to be greeted by monsoon-like rains and winds it put an obvious dampener (arf) on things. Amy, Sue, Helen (who’d come up for her last few days in New Zealand) and I decided to press on regardless with our plan for a Bay cruise up to “The Hole in the Rock” despite the crew’s exceptional but sensible offer of a refund. Our resoluteness proved to be especially fool-hardy given Hel’s and Amy’s sea-sickness and the fact that you couldn’t see anything past the dense rain. Will put some photos up soon but trust me, Amy was decidedly green. Sue and I, however, took a perverse pleasure in battling the elements, taking photos in the downpour and holding on for dear life as the catamerang pitched and rolled. In an attempt to look learned, I’ll claim it was like the opening act from The Tempest with Prospero’s full anger unleashed on us. Basically, it rained like buggery.

Yesterday was officially the Worse Day Since We Left England as the rain got heavier, there was a power cut, nothing was open and the hostel bar inexplicably and idiotically shut. The hostel-full of bored backpackers decided to ignore the alcohol room ban and got slaughtered, dive-bombing into the swimming pool and generally hooning about like the listless fools they/we are. Sue and I managed to play more than thirty games of rummy and drunk a comparably large amount of wine. Let there never be another day like it.

Fortunately, the sun came out today and Sue and I could return to our favourite passtime of drinking in the sunshine by the beach. Sadly, Helen returned last night to fly out to Australia. Have fun Welsh Bird - we’ll miss you lots and lots! Swimming with dolphins is booked for tomorrow and then a trip up to the toppermost (must be a word) tip of the country - Cape Reinga - on Thursday to surf down sand dunes and gasp as the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. Just hope the nice weather gods love us.