Foreigners vs. Kiwis

Here’s a fun fact for you travelers, sometimes the touristy stuff you do when visiting a new place is just as exciting and interesting to the locals as it is to you. Who knew, right?

I found this out the other day when I invited a mate along as company for a few trips I had planned. Then his flatmate found out about one of our stops for the day and was keen to join us. What is this wondrous magical place I was taking them to? A small town called Tirau. And what were we going to see? Corrugated iron buildings in the shape of a dog and a sheep.


Mom and I had seen these buildings from the bus three years ago when we passed through town on the way to somewhere else (probably Taupo). She and I were talking the other day and she told me the postcard I sent her shortly after my arrival had been taunting her (it had a picture of the dog on it). She had to know what was inside! So I told her I would investigate and report back to her.

I’m told people come from all over the world to see these buildings (how true that is I’m not sure) but even people that live 15 minutes away get excited to come out and see them. Blair and David, a couple of mates (David also being a workmate) have lived in the Waikato area their whole lives but have never gone into the corrugated iron dog and sheep. How sad. Thank goodness I came along.

I was making them get up at 8:30 in the morning, heaven forbid, so our first stop was breakfast at the Alley Cats Cafe. I’d actually been into the cafe before. I’d made a special stop on my way back from Taupo back in November, simply because its name was one letter away from a cafe back home I used to frequent. Oddly enough, the two cafes do have vaguely similar atmospheres about them, and the chai here, while no where near the same as back home, is pretty decent.


Clearly, Blair hasn’t gotten his coffee yet. David is still too sleepy to be grumpy. 

When we were all excessively stuffed with food, we tottered back to the main street to see what all the fuss was about this dog and sheep.

First stop was the dog, which turned out to be the iSite for Tirau. These are the visitor information centers you find all over New Zealand. They are filled with various souvenirs of a clunky, mass produced, occasionally cool nature as well as lots of travel brochures. The ceiling was quite nice. It had been painted a lovely sky blue and covered with pale clouds and rimmed with the rolling green hills that comprise most of the Waikato region.

After I bought a few postcards highlighting the prolific nature of corrugated iron in Tirau, we moved onto the sheep. These were just next door and there was a ewe as well as a ram. One of them, the ram, is having its head redone soon. Half of the inside is empty because of this, while the other half is still occupied by The Honey Shop and small cafe.

Since I knew I would be writing this blog later, I left David and Blair to find some shade while I walked down the main road a ways to get more photos of corrugated iron signs. There were some really nice ones. My favorite is probably the one for the Enchanted Cafe. The Alley Cats Cafe one is a close second. I took a bit longer than expected when I stumbled upon a little book nook and browsed for a second. Blair and David were just where I left them.

We left Tirau behind and dropped David back off at home before Blair and I continued our adventure with a stop in Hamilton. He was in need of materials to make a couple of YipYip Martian costumes, I was in need of an earring and some vegan chocolate chips (which I didn’t get because the stupid shop was closed. Instead I came away with an earring and a graphic novel. Classic me).

We crossed one more thing off our agenda with relative ease. Now it was time for the fun stuff. We were off to the west coast to see Bridal Veil Falls (not the Yosemite ones, obviously) and check out the beach at Raglan. First stop was the falls.

When you visit New Zealand for the first time, something you might notice is that it has waterfalls. Everywhere. It basically looks like the country is leaking. Like it’s a giant boat and eventually the whole island is just going to sink into the ocean because there are so many holes in it. But they are also very pretty.

Now, these Bridal Veil Falls were not as wavy and fluttery as the ones in Yosemite. The falls there aren’t quite as heavy and the wind catches them and separates the water into a fine mist, giving it that veil-like appearance. The falls here were nice as well, but in a different way. The water fell thicker and looked more like a veil worn for obscurity rather than allurement. There are lookout points spaced out along the hillside. Blair and I started at the top and worked our way down. He was hoping to jump in for a swim (the day was getting quite warm) but there was no good way to make it into the pool. He would just have to wait for the ocean.


Blair decided to take an alternate route to the top, in lieu of the last few staircases. 


Ooo, it’s pretty! There’s a bridge, and some water. Nice!

After walking down and back up 260 stairs in the muggy New Zealand bush, we were both sufficiently sweaty and ready for a cold drink. We hopped back in the car and drove the short trek to Raglan. Our first stop was the Blacksand Cafe, which was a recommendation by a friend of mine. We split a bowl of chips and Blair enjoyed a thickshake while I sipped a chai. Only after this did we go to the beach.


Blacksand Cafe, so named because Raglan has black sand beaches. 

I’ve had bad luck with beaches so far in New Zealand. On both my visits to Tauranga it was rainy and not good beach weather at all. That day at Raglan wasn’t as bad but it was far from you classic sunny day at the beach. But there were still lots of swimmers, surfers and people lying out on the sand. Blair got to enjoy his swim and I got to enjoy a walk down the beach. I hadn’t brought anything to swim in, or a towel, and didn’t feel like jumping in in my knickers again. I was happy to wander across the sand, my feet falling into miniature cave ins in the sand and the hem of my pants quite damp after the first set of waves reached me.

I love the sound of a beach. They are like giant white noise machines. The waves are both rhythmic and asymmetrical in nature. And the ocean, such a big thing, it makes you feel small and puts your problems into perspective. I’m never happy or sad on a beach, I just am. I settled on a segment of a tree set back from the shore. I watched the occasional person pass, picked out surfers out in the waves, all of them waiting for a good one to come along. Eventually Blair finished his swim and came down to find me.

Our checklist was complete. Both of us had things we wanted to get done that evening so once the sand was rinsed off our feet we walked back to the car and began the drive back to Matamata. Of course, on the way back, I took the obligatory ‘you fell asleep in the car, haha’ photo of Blair. If he reads this blog, that will be the first he knows of it.


I’ve got five more days of work ahead of me, travelers. Time to come up with next weekend’s adventure.



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