Today is the day I swam with bottlenose dolphins. I'm jumping ahead here but, it was a real good experience. We took a boat out from the Bay of Islands on the Dolphin Eco Experience. Cool chicks Floppy and Bromlin guided the way. Spotted some dolphins and managed to get in for a swim. We were so lucky to do this as they don't always see them and even when they do there are so many conditions and rules that need to be met for people to get in the water. Must have been our lucky day. The sun was shining and a pod of about 15 dolphins were skooting around the boat and flipping out of the water, ready to play. We got kitted out with some snorkles and flippers and jumped (actually slid) on in. What incredible animals. Alot bigger than I expected them to be with some of the males measuring up to 4m. They are so playful and inquisitive, getting right up in your face for a wee investigation. They have to be entertained to stay around so there was alot of diving down and spinning around on our part too, it was pretty tiring and the water was freezing but obviously not thinking about that at all at the time. I managed to be pretty acrobatic and at times was apart from the group swimming between three or four of them. They done lots of tricks for us, jumping and spinning and putting on a right wee show. Hands down one of the most incredible things I have ever experienced. Ever. Dotting about the pacific, chilling with some wild dolphins. As you do. Casual. I was totally blown away by the whole thing, we were so lucky to get to see them in their natural habitat like that. Complete chance whether you get to see them from trip to trip. I am so thankful we managed, I will never forget it, it was absolutely amazing. Ok...I'll stop the gushing now I'm sure you all get the idea that I had an above average time out there.
Ok, so, previous to that trip we had arisen early to catch our bus at 7am. Driver Jared is super friendly and helpful and the bus journey is like a tour with a few stops and alot of commentary on where we are and what surrounds us. The Kiwi Experience bus hooks us up with accomodation at our destination and discounted activities if we wish to take part, all during the journey. Rhona and I, after much deliberation, book up the dolphin trip and a day trip up to Cape Reinga for the following day. Jared drops off the afternoon trippers at the wharf - five of us and we boarded the boat about midday after munching our soggy sandwiches. You guys know what went down out there already...It was a beautiful calm, sunny day but the boat was pretty small and since we were far out, the water was choppy as. Many people were sea sick but, we were fine so, ah well. Jared our bus driver to thank for us being on that trip as he convinced us to change our day. He had checked the weather for the day we had booked and the winds were going to be higher. We thank you little baldy Jared. Out of the water on the boat we were frickin freezing and suffering shakes of a ridiculous magnitude but full of joy and laughter. Jetted back to the wharf and walked the 5mins to our hostel where our luggage had been dropped off. Lovely little homely hostel with big glass doored rooms which open to the outside. Only four in our eight bed room which was pleasent, one of whom was Phillip - German lad from our bus. Had some chat and a chill out before hitting the BBQ dinner and enjoying a few glasses of red. Mingled with the travellers, notably Levi Cherry (ACTUAL name) - Texan stargazer and Madelaine - Sweet swedish girl who says we must look out for Loreen, Euphoria on eurovision. Apparently it's a winner. I don't even know if that's been actually. Well out the loop. Danced the night away, enjoying some New Order. Can't complain eh?
Day trip today to the most northern point of the north island, Cape Reinga. Two girls on our trip from the Experience bus Evelyn - Melbourne chick and Catherine - Canadian nurse aka Iron woman, both really lovely and chatty. Start the drive, empty stomach and wine fuelled evening made this a bit uncomfy. Also, absolutely nackered. Travelling is a well tiring job :). First stop was at Puketi Kauri forest to do a short trail walk and see the native trees. Hugged the big one in there (800 years old, a baby!) as apparently it energises you if you give it a cuddle. Needed that. Back on bus to the best bakery in New Zealand. Quite a wonderous little place inside but you could easily overlook it from the outside. Fresh pastries and cakes and breads cover the place. Picked me up an apricot and custard twist, proper hit the spot. Onwards to 90-mile beach (56 miles long...) and drove right along the side of the water. Pretty spesh bus. Excellent. Stopped halfway for a short while to take in the scenes then moved onto Te Paki sand dunes for a spot of exhilarating sandboarding. Some friggin speeds you belt down those bad boys at reaching about 60km/hr. Sand mouth but entirely enjoyable. Hard work climbing up for a go but blasted up six or seven times to relive the joys before getting back on the bus with sand burns.
Our driver Barry was a great guy. He was so passionate about the places he was showing us. Cape Reinga is a very sacred, spiritual place. It is believed after 7 days on earth, spirits leave from this point to journey into the spirit world. Barry lost his son who was killed by a motorbike when he was just 5 years old. He said he lived bitterly for so many years (hard to imagine his character this way) but when he one day came to the cape he managed to shake the anger and negativity. People believe spirits can hear you from here and they journey up to say all the things they wish they had said when they had the chance. This was an emotional tale for me, on a bus full of people, suffering a slight hangover and sand burns. Tears may have been shed but I can neither confirm nor deny this....You can plant a tree up there and follow its progress forever. Barry had done this and visited it often. A postcard recieved from this point is considered a collectable and gives the reciever good luck - Lynnie, I hope that's working out for you. Arrived up at the Cape around 1pm in the beaming sun and had an hour or so to take it all in. A little lighthouse rests on the tip where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. You can actually see the meeting point as there is such a colour and current difference. A couple on our tour got engaged! Boom.
Headed back down to Paihia stopping at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom which displayed lots of beautiful Kauri furniture. It's pretty ace looking but super pricey. The swamp land in the forests preserves the trees and some have been dug up from over 30,000 years back which are still alive. Big buisness. The biggest one discovered is displayed here in the form of a spiral staircase. The next stop after here was Mangonui for "the best fush and chups in the galaxy". Pretty goooood fish and chips. Blue fish is what they were serving up, never heard of it but pretty tasty stuff. Location was even sweeter with a dining area over the harbour. Fantastic finisher to the day. Hit the supermarket, the kettle and the internet before watching a movie in the hostel and calling it a night.
Barry was talking about opening a big complex up north near the Cape doing accomodation, weddings, activities, bit of everything really. I really wish him all the best with this and will be keeping an eye out.
Had a long-ish lie with no alarms set. Noice. Rhona and I chilled out then headed to the beach to do more of the same. Sunny and warm but occasional clouds. Stayed there all day until about 3ish. I went a run. Dotted about the place having to repeat on myself because the place is so small! Cooked up a big pasta dinner with Catherine and Evelyn then hit the beach with a bottle of wine to start off St Paddys celebrations. It's huge over here, think it's huge everywhere really. Any excuse. Cool to be down at the beach in the dark, hearing the waves, enjoying the chat and sipping the red. Checked out some bars but Pipi patch (hostel bar) was the most happening. Got some beverages including a few free baby guiness numbers. Had to be done. Intended to hike in the morning before catching the bus so didn't want to loose the heed. Pulled a move or five then were good and went to bed.
Woke up to miserable weather. Wet, windy and black. Decided against the hike as visibility was so poor. Chilled in the hostel with some films and internet time. Watched Taken (eeek) and I love you man and some of that menal Bear Grylls character taking New Zealand by the balls. Bus back down to Auckland around 2pm arriving back there after 6pm. Checking into the hostel in Auckland bump into Jess (fiji road trip driver) and Levi Cherry in the reception. Such a small interlinked travel community. Six of us all headed out for dinner at Windsor Castle for the cheap tasty burgers. Back to base for laundry doing and bed time.