Sunday, January 30, 2005

NZ Waitangi Day, and the Circle Line Pub Crawl

Well last week we celebrated Australia Day over here, but this week it was the London-based Kiwi's who came out in force to celebrate their equivilent National Day of-sorts: Waitangi Day..

Instead of just hanging around the Walkabout pubs, or en-mass invading the local Slug & Lettuce's to drink Snake-bites and sing John Farnham, the Kiwi's in London have a fantastic tradition called the Waitangi Day Circle Line pub crawl, which we couldn't resist taking part in..

Most of you back home wouldn't know know where or what the Circle Line is, so take a look at the London Undergound Tube map by clicking on the map linked below - it is the yellow line which travels more or less around the central area of London, and comprises over 20 stations along its length, and with the usual delays and dramas takes plenty of time to get around - most locals avoid it where possible..

Normally the Waitangi Day pub crawl happens on the closest weekend to Waitangi Day (its on the 6th of February), however this year, London Underground thought they'd get one step ahead of them all and programmed a weekend of engineering works which shut down the Circle Line on that weekend... But a smart kiwi a few weeks back decided that they would all simply move it forward one weekend, when the line would be open and the day could happen as usual! So a notice went up the internet, and word of mouth did the rest..

The idea of the circle line pub crawl is to travel from stop to stop, hopping out at each station, staggering to the closest or least crowded pub, having a pint (or a half if you stand any chance of getting all the round!), going back to the station and getting on the next train, travelling to the next stop, hopping off and repeating... Imagine though, with 20+ stops, this ends up in various states of messyness!

Chris outside the pub of choice near Sloane Square tube

We met up with a Kiwi guy I work with, Chris, who's a transport planner from Auckland, and his group of friends who had made a late start at Sloane Square on their crawl - our first stop with them was at a pub next to Victoria Station (bottom of the map) after we'd already been to St James Park looking for them.. There were literally thousands of kiwi's everywhere along the circle line, singing to the tube staff, chanting on the station platforms, attempting to drunkenly ride in the tube carriages standing up without holding on; you name it they were doing it!

One of the packed pub's near Sth Kensington tube station, on the way round to Westminster

Once our pints had been downed there we had to make a mad dash east to Westminster Station to make sure we got to see the traditional 4pm mass-'Haka', performed by 100's of shirt-less kiwi's in Parliament Square, which is a huge rectangular park in the middle of a roundabout directly opposite the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and in the shadow of Big Ben!

Photos from the 4pm Haka

We arrived 30 seconds too late for the 4pm performance, so we quickly headed down the street ahead of the crowd to have our 'Westminster Station' pint at the Red Lion - 45 minutes later we returned to Parliament Square, where the crowd was gathering again, but this time the guys that we were crawling with took it apon themselves to gather and lead the 5pm Haka!! A proud moment for the guys as they screamed with 50 or so very white & shirtless kiwi's behind them - unfortunetly for once I actually didn't have my camera with me, so it will be just a memory for them to tell the grandkids.. (Correction: I have obtained photos of the 5pm Haka!!) as one of them said to me afterwards as I passed him back his shirt and jumper: "I'll be able to tell my grandson I led a Waitangi Day Haka in Parliamant Square in London"

Chris's mate prepares to lead the 5pm Haka!

The lads in action, with the Houses of Parliament as the backdrop - Awesome!!!

The final roar at the end of the Haka and handshakes/high five's all round!!

crazy kiwi's playing Rugby in Parliament Square earlier in the afternoon

The atmosphere at each of the unfortunate pubs closest to the tube stations was fantastic, with everyone in All Blacks jerseys, their favourite NZ provincial Rugby team jersey, or NZ cricket team shirts and some wearing the very popular 'beige brigade' 80's-style World Series Cricket tight poo brown t-shirts.. There was also plenty of fancy dress such as a group of guys dressed in sheep outfits, a NZ police officer, and plenty of groups with union footballs and even a few blow-up sheep making the crawl with their owners..

one of the sheep on the pub crawl; and the NZ policeman complete with woolly hat with badge!

While a few of our group continued on along the circle line after Westminster towards Temple and beyond, we had to head home to begin getting ready for Daniel's fancy dress house party that night..

Finally the Kiwi's have something over us - this was a fantastic day that Australia Day never came close too!


Note: Some photos in this post courtesy of the Gum Tree website, because I forgot to take my camera with us -


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