Travel tales #14: Homestays and Wellington suburbs

I am writing up my gap year travels from 2006-2007 so that I can self-publish a book to pass on to my niece and nephews. I hope they will read about my adventures and be inspired to explore themselves…and I hope you enjoy my travel tales.

Te Kaha and Wellington, New Zealand, April 2006

Our final leg of the ‘East As’ trip with Kiwi Experience took us to Te Kaha, where we had a ‘homestay’ with a Maori family in their extended house overlooking the beach. It rained the whole time we were there, but we did some exploring (and some of the group decided to go for a chilly dip in the ocean) and when the rain got too much we cozied up in the living room watching films and playing board games.  In the evening our host, Reena, cooked a lovely three course meal for 17.  We devoured pumpkin soup followed by a delicious hot buffet, then peach crumble and trifle.  It was lovely to have a home cooked meal and be made to feel so welcome, comfortable and at home.

After dinner we chilled out together and had some drinks, and one of the girls on the bus, Kerrie, was a medium so she gave some of us readings for $10 (about £3 at the time).  She told me I had a lot of ‘energy’…

Ten of us stayed in a big room that night, which was set out as I would imagine a boarding school dormitory to be, with single beds lining the walls (rather than the bunks that we had become used to).  It was great fun, and we sat in our beds chatting until we fell asleep one by one.  I felt like I really bonded with the group over the week and it was a real wrench to say goodbye to them all when we were dropped off in our different hostels the following afternoon.

A few of us ended up back in Taupo together so we met up for dinner that night, and afterwards found a local club to dance the night away in. I noted down the names of everyone on the bus, along with where they were from, and although I have seen none of them since I will remember that trip for the rest of my life.  So, thank you for the amazing memories and company: Jerry (driver, Taupo), Liz (Oxford), Ally (Yorkshire), Dominique (Bristol), Nikki, Naomi & Mandy (Hull), Luke (Cornwall), James (Somerset), Kerrie (Peterborough), Lisa (Kilkenny), Ruth (Thomastown), Leanne, Alma & Jane (Sheffield) and Seena (Denmark).

The following morning I was up early for the 8.00am bus to Wellington, the capital of New Zealand that sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. It was a long drive from Taupo so we didn’t stop much on the way, and on arrival I made my way out of the city to the suburb of Lower Hutt to stay with Charlotte, who had been friends with my old boss in London since they met at university.  I met her on my previous trip to Australia and we stayed in touch, and she had kindly invited me to stay with her.  Charlotte had set out from the UK on her own gap some years before and ended up stopping in New Zealand and not returning home.  I spent a lovely and relaxing few days at Charlotte’s, exploring the local area whilst she was out at work.  One of my trips took me to a small town called Petone, which is well-known for Jackson Street, a heritage-listed street of galleries, cafes, restaurants and shops filled with 1930s architecture. Petone is also known for it’s community characters who shape its atmosphere.  As 100% Pure New Zealand says:

In a walk down Jackson Street there is a good chance you will meet an Olympic champion, a Samoan chief, ex All Blacks, a politician, an international chef or people that simply just exude passion for the area

Flowing under the whole Hutt Valley is a natural artesian spring.  Te Puna Wai Ora, the spring of life, is a meeting place for people from around the region to get their free, untreated water straight from the ground, bubbling up through layers of rock and filtered naturally to the surface.


‘Windy Wellington’

Previous travel tales:
#1: Nerves
#2: Departure
#3: Tug boats, peaks & pandas
#4: Islands, animals & markets
#5: Sunshine & hostels
#6: Fun & feijoa flavoured vodka
#7: Bays, bravery & the meeting of oceans
#8: Dolphins & premieres
#9: Glow-worms & geysers
#10: Thermal baths & wonderlands
#11: Prisons, earthquakes & wineries
#12: Surf and scenery
#13: Farms & galloping horses