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We were all thrilled to hit the road for our Xavier Rudd Road Trip 2016, to see our favourite human and his totes amazeballs band on tour around New Zealand ... five gigs in six days! We went with our human, Kaz, and her friend from Melbourne, Amy, who we met Amy last year at Wanderlust on our2015 Xavier Rudd Road Trip.
The first gig was in Auckland at the Powerstation, where we've seen Xavier play twice before. We went into the city early, and I was moved to donkey tears by this beautiful tribute to the wonderful Mr. David Bowie. We were all fortunate enough to see the David Bowie Is exhibition in Melbourne in September, and were heart-broken to hear of his passing.
The Powerstation is a little problematic for us ... it's an R18 venue, so Dover and I have to smuggle Ferhad Junior and Rebek in as they are both underage. Luckily, being small giraffes, they're a little easier to smuggle in than if they were human! We do feel sorry for the young humans who want to see Xavier play live. We think he'd be better off doing a tour of New Zealand Surf Clubs ... then everyone could see him, and he could catch some waves between the sound check and the show. Plus, surfers would be more respectful of his music than some of the drunken rabble that turn up in pubs, and after he'd done one gig, they'd tell every other surf club he was playing at how awesome he was and to buy all the tickets.
(L) Amy, Kaz, and Little Peppe outside the Powerstation. (R) It looks like Amy, Rebek, and Ferhad Junior have found a Xavier Rudd poster with Kaz on it - LOL.
We've seen Xavier play at the Powerstation three times; once by himself, once with Bobby Alu and Uncle Tio, and now with the full United Nations band, but a partly different band to the one we saw in Bendigo, Geelong, and St Kilda in Australia in September 2015.
The Powerstation gig was a great way to start our Road Trip, and very exciting for Amy, our Australian human. Because she usually sees Xavier playing in Australia, she's used to seeing him play big venues that are often seat-allocated. Even if they're not, and you can get to the front of the stage, there's always a barrier and then a gap of several feet between you and the stage. She was beyond stoked that at the Powerstation, she could lean on the stage! Go New Zealand!
Our Xavier Rudd Road Trip wasn't all about Xavier, although we did play his music for most of the trip, along with some sweet Bobby Alu and Nahko tunes. We actually used Bobby as an antidote to Blackstar ... Bowie's last album was musically fantastic, but we did have to listen to some happy hammock music afterwards! On the way south we stopped off at the Otorohanga Kiwi House to show the Aussie human some Kiwis. It's way cool there - we went last year on the way to Womad. Can you Find Ferhad Junior amongst the butterflies? (ANSWER)
We had a night off from our Xavier gigs in New Plymouth. Xavier was playing in Wellington but Kaz said it was too far for her to drive in one day from Auckland to Wellington. Ferhad Junior was furious and didn't speak to Kaz all the way to New Plymouth. He was going to sulk and not come to dinner with us, but Rebek had words with him and he came along, albeit a bit huffily. Boy, did he change his tune when we arrived at the restaurant!
The Deluxe Diner is a new (well, new since we were last in New Plymouth) 1950s style Retro American Family Diner Cafe - Restaurant, with fantastic decor, AWESOME service, and the most amazing menu ever ... especially for our human, who is a coeliac. The owner/chef is also a coeliac, so he understands. It's not a fad diet. Kaz and Dover shared pulled-pork tacos, while Amy, Ferhad Junior, and Rebek shared a vegetarian burger. Yes, it was big enough for one human and two giraffes. I was a bit naughty and had chocolate cake for dinner. Hey ... a donkey only lives once! I did have to keep fighting Dover off, though. Kaz has promised to take us back when we're down again for Womad.
Can you spot Dover in the restaurant? (ANSWER) And Ferhad Junior by the burger? (ANSWER)
The following day we took our Aussie human (and Kaz!) to Puke Ariki, the fabulous museum in New Plymouth. Ferhad Junior was a little disappointed that the History of Surfing exhibition had finished, but soon perked up again at the stunning new Sunlight-Ihi-Komaru exhibition, especially when we got to go inside the sun! LOL. We had lots of fun with the light.
Kaz, Rebek, and I have fun with the sunlight ... while Ferhad Junior pretends to be an astronaut. Ground Control to small giraffe ...
We also went to Pukekura Park, which was really weird as we've never been there when Womad wasn't on. It was strange not to see the flags flying and hear the music playing. But it was cool the animals were still there. There's a little zoo in the Park, and while the humans used to leave the animals there when Womad was on, the animals had words about the noise and not being able to sleep. So, now every year they move them out before Womad starts, and we don't get to catch up with them.
They're all awfully cute, although Rebek and Amy became upset by the behaviour of the capuchins and had to leave. Ferhad Junior, although a vegetarian, thought it was "totes-amazeballs-David-Attenborough-awesome" ... one of the capuchins was having lunch and, err, felt it needed tenderising first.
We walked for MILES ... but it's easy to do that in New Plymouth as the boardwalk is so stunning. We're all counting down till we go back in March for Womad 2016.
(L-R) Chilling with some Nahko and Bobby at her campsite in New Plymouth; Lookout Little Peppe; the humans getting excited.
(L-R) Our human, Kaz, at the waterfall in Pukekura Park; Ferhad Junior at the kiosk, kicking himself for not having his surfboard with him; Dover on the boardwalk somewhere between Fitzroy Beach and the central city!
(L-R) Some funky Waitangi Day flags flying proud; the funky funky chairs in the theatre at Puke Ariki; the funky funky funky inside of the sun!
(L-R) Chilling at the waterfall; one of the lovely bridges at Pukekura Park; we caught the otters at bath time.
(L-R) Meerkats ... too much cuteness; a couple of feathered friends.
(L-R) Ferhad Junior was too little to pose with the butterfly wings - so Kaz Photoshopped him; Kaz waiting for Taste the World at Womad with our friend Jax Hamilton ... it could be a long wait!
We thought Xavier's gig at The Mayfair would be a gathering of lovely humans who wanted to listen to good soulful music, after all, New Plymouth is the home of Womad, and the humans had all paid $50 a ticket. Sadly, this was not the case. We have seen an audience be disrespectful to this beautiful music twice before. Once at the Waihi Beach Hotel (surfers should show more respect to a fellow surfer) when Xavier walked off stage, and once at Wanderlust last year when he gritted his teeth against those who talked all the way through Spirit Bird. But the gig at The Mayfair was by far the most embarrassed we have ever been because of humans (well, other than when we see Donald Trump on the news).
The people at the back of the hall talked so loudly throughout the entire gig. It wasn't that noticeable when Xavier and the UN were doing a loud song, but when Melody and Alicia were singing with the spirit of their ancestors, the disrespectful humans were so loud they had to restart. Xavier tried to shush the audience, and then the whole band just stood there until they quietened down a little (but not completely). This happened in two songs. The third time it happened, Xavier walked off stage. The band looked at each other, and then followed him. Ferhad Junior was mortified. He usually loves humans, but he was very angry with some of them this night.
After about 10 minutes the band came back, and had obviously decided, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Bobby Awesome Alu did a LOUD drum solo that drowned out not just the rowdies in the pub, but probably drowned out every pub in a five-mile radius! It was epic. Even the rowdies went nuts. And then then band had a massive really loud jam session for 45 minutes ... they switched instantly from a deeply spiritual band to a Friday-night pub band, and it was brilliant. They had fun, the respectful front half of the audience had fun, the disrespectful back half had fun, and our youngest giraffe danced so hard he fell off the stage.
After New Plymouth we hit the road to Taupo, but not the main road, or even the back road. We had planned to take The Forgotten World Highway, Highway 43, but Kaz allowed Daniel (our GPS) decided to take us along a back, back road ... it was brilliant! We saw cows on the road, stopped to pick blackberries, and saw a magnificent white stag. Eventually we hooked up with the Forgotten World Highway about 10 miles west of Whangamomona.
We've been to Whangamomona twice before, and we love it. Population 171, Whangamomona is a Republic. Yes, really - Kaz had her passport stamped and everything. Totes awesome. In 1989 regional council boundaries changed, making Whangamomona part of the Manawatu-Wanganui Region. Residents wanted to stay as part of the Taranaki Region, so on 1 November 1989, they declared themselves the Republic of Whangamomona. Although the move began as a protest, Whangamomona retains Republic status, and holds a Republic Day every two years. Their first President (a human called Ian Kjestrup) was elected without his knowledge and served for 10 years. The next two Presidents were a goat (Billy Gumboot) and a poodle (Tai). A human then took over again, although his nickname was Murtle the Turtle. He ran against the first president and a cross-dresser called Miriam. Ya gotta love New Zealand!
We had lunch at the historic Whangamomona Hotel - and Kaz was stoked to find the hotel's awesome signature burger is available gluten free. Take that big city restaurants that only offer chicken salad to coeliacs!!! Ferhad Junior was beyond stoked when a group of motorbikers rode up - vroom vroom vroom.
(L-R) Me by a funky wall; inside the Whangamomona Hotel; the humans get their passports stamped.
(L-R) Can you see Ferhad Junior sitting with the motorbikes? (ANSWER); Kaz wearing a Xavier Rudd singlet and a Tree of Life necklace she bought in Bendigo on our 2015 Aussie Xavier Rudd Road Trip, listening to Nahko & Medicine for the People, in Whangamomona, with fresh blackberries picked off the side of the road on The Forgotten World Highway and divine Kapiti ice cream - boo ya - life is good; Dover, me, Ferhad Junior, and Rebek at the eastern Welcome to Whangamomona sign.
From Whangamomona it was on to Taupo, and by the time we arrived the humans just had time to have showers and get changed (and Ferhad Junior who had motorbike grease on his t-shirt) and then it was off to Wanderlust New Zealand 2016 at the beautiful Wairakei Resort.
We only go to Wanderlust for Xavier, but having said that, it's not only Xavier that makes it wonderful. It's a lovely gathering of good humans who all care for the planet and each other. If the whole world turned into a Wanderlust Festival, it would be a much better place.
As I said earlier, one of the best things about us animals following this particular human around is we discover a whole lot of other wonderful humans and musicians (like Nahko). Wanderlust 2016 was no exception, where we discovered Matiu te Huki, a truly beautiful human, and a very talented performer. The set he did with his band and dancers was stunning, and what a musician ... after snapping strings he managed to play the bass rift for a song on just one string!
8.30pm was Xavier Time. After a year of touring this was the final gig (for now) of this incarnation of Xavier Rudd & the United Nations, and the humans at Wanderlust certainly saw the band off in style, and gave them the respect they deserve. (Take that New Plymouth humans!) It was a fantastic gig, for both the audience and the band, and everyone boogied the night away ... Ferhad Junior got so hot he took all his clothes off! Naked dancing giraffe.
On to Sunday afternoon, and we were totally spellbound to spend another hour with Xavier and some humans in a tent while Xavier talked about his music, his family, and what inspires him. Ferhad Junior was beside himself to be sitting just a few feet away from his idol, and even more stoked when he finally (after 16 gigs) got a photo with Xavier. He really wanted to ask for an interview, but Kaz said there were a lot of other humans who wanted their photo taken with Xavier so it wouldn't be fair for one small giraffe to take all his time. It was tough for Ferhad Junior, but he could see what Kaz was saying although he sulked a little until Kaz told him it will happen one day, "When it's meant to". "Ooooo," said Ferhad Junior, "you mean like when the United Nations came together when they were meant to without Xavier consciously looking for a band or anything?". "Exactly," said Kaz. "Boo ya," said Ferhad Junior.
Ferhad Junior cheered up even further when we all got hugs off Matiu te Huki, and Rebek was even given a hongi, which moved our environmental activist giraffe to tears. He said it was one of the beautiful experiences of his life, and then ran off to hug a tree.
Ferhad Junior was also thrilled to catch up with Jason Corliss again, who he met last year. Jason is one of the owners of Organic Mechanic, who make and sell
the world's finest organic superfood smoothies (and give away optional free hugs).
Read their story here - it's very moving.
Ferhad Junior catches up with
with his friend
from Organic Mechanic
The entire marquee of 500 humans had a mass hug-in for Spirit Bird. A very moving experience for all the humans, for us, for Xavier, and a wonderful way to finish our Xavier Rudd Road Trip 2016.
Some lovely acoustic Xavier for you ... he did some songs he hasn't performed live "for ages", which was a real treat, for us and him.
We hope you enjoyed reading about our Road Trip. If you did, why not check out the rest of the website, and please, Like us on Facebook, and tell your friends about us ... and especially tell any little humans you know.