It has been a packed couple of days up north so brace yourself for a long one. The day we had all been waiting for had finally come. After three days of walking around like backpackers, we had finally moved up in the world. We had gotten ourselves a car. Waking up bright and early after our last night in Auckland we wasted no time getting to the dealership. We quickly signed our savings away and we finally had our gorgeous Nissan Tiida.
Not wanting to waste a second with our new baby, we sped away from Auckland heading up north to an area creatively entitled Northland. On the way we busted out the tunes in our non-optional sing-alongs, however we were often interrupted by 'Frank' our creatively named GPS telling us where to go. As it was quite the drive up to our final destination for the day, Paihai, we had several stops, the first of which was called Piroa Falls.
Hearing about Piroa falls somewhere online we had no idea what to expect. Thankfully Glazer was on the ball and led us to yet another hidden gem in this glorious country. This waterfall was spectacular. Hidden on a dirt road that most people would struggle to find, it was but a 5-minute walk from our car. Whilst the water was freezing there was zero chance we weren't getting in and made a lovely splash as we jumped from a cliff above it. We must have spent a good 30 minutes there splashing about in the pools, hiding from the rain and swimming in the waterfall itself. It was just an awesome way to start the road trip off.
From there we kept on trucking, stopping at a few other attractions along the way. Whilst we drove past a lot of beaches, there was one in particular that we couldn't resist getting out and taking a couple of snaps. We also drove to a town renown for its mosaic toilets and made sure they were all in working order :P. As the sun was beginning to set, the rain moving in and us getting a bit antsy in the car we made one final stop at another waterfall known as Haruru falls. This time the falls were a bit big for us to get underneath, however we watched and laughed as some kayakers below decided to take a paddle in.
After a long day of driving we finally made it to our hostel in Paihai, a beachy town, known as the gateway to the north. Here we settled in, met our roommates (who turned out to be 5 Scandinavian girls :D) and headed out for a bite to eat. We had a romantic dinner overlooking the water, met some more new friends (this time from Brazil) and watched a bit of the tennis before crashing for the night. One point I must add was that during this intense tennis final, Oots and Glaze were taken on in a bet determining the outcome of the match by a local. However it seems like the local was fairly new to tennis, underestimated the length of a match and gave up after the first set. Glazer and Oots drunk free that night. :)
The next day we were up bright and early again knowing we had quite the drive ahead of us. Wanting to make it all the way to the top of NZ and back before the sun set, a three our drive each way, we were out there door by 8:30 and on the road. Reaching the top, known as Cape Reinga just before midday, we were all wondering why on earth we had made such a looong drive. However as soon as we stepped out of car and walked out to the viewpoint, we knew exactly why. With grassy hills behind us, beaches to our left and amazing oceans views covering the rest, it was one of the most beautiful places we have seen so far. Whilst it was windy as hell and did rain occasionally whilst we were there, we didn't even care, we just wanted to take in the view as much as possible.
Moving on from there we began to make our way back down to Paihai, realizing it was the only place that we could realistically stay that night. That's not to say we went directly home. First stop on the way back home was very much a spur of the moment decision, finding a sign to sand dunes on the way down. A 10 min drive down a dirt road took us to the biggest sand dunes we have seen in our lives. Despite it still being windy, there was not a moment's hesitation before sprinting up the beasts. The top was even windier, making it difficult to see at all. After we recovered from the sprints, which almost made some of us sick, we took lots of photos and then got out of there quick. Being too cheap to pay for sandboards we mearly rolled down the hill. It was good fun until we realized how much sand had gone up our pants.
One place we were told we had to visit whilst we were up there was 90 mile beach. Being the only official beach highway in the world we wanted to check the place out and have a bit of a dip after getting sand all over us. To get there however was a 10km drive down a dirt road through the middle of a forest, setting a very eerie mood. Glazer's choice of music wasn't helping the mood either. Nevertheless we did make it out the forest alive where the scenery changed very quickly to beach. Once we got to the beach we realized there was literally nothing else there but beach. So we took a quick walk onto the sand, looked at a dead fish, watched the 4WDs come screaming down the sand and took a dip in the freezing water. It was well worth the drive, however it would have been a lot better if we had a 4WD to tear up the sand.
After a quick detour from lunch we headed back to home, realizing that it was getting late and we had no accommodation that night. This is when we picked up the first; of I hope many, hitchhikers. About 10 minutes away from home we found a guy (Callum) on the side of the road looking lonely. Finding out he was going to the same place as us and we would only have him in the car for a little while we told him to hop in. In all honesty, we expected a lot more from him, maybe we expected too much. Yeh it was nice that he wasn't a crazy or a psycho killer, but he was just so boring. He didn't regale us with stories or ask us questions; he kind of just sat there. That didn't stop us however, we continued to belt out the tunes and talk our usual garbage.
The rest of the night was kind of a quiet one, filled with searching for cheap accommodation, finding a decent feed and catching up on the wi-fi. Paihai is not exactly the most pumping city and so we took it easy and hung out at the hostel.
Day three was an absolutely packed day starting with waterfalls and ending with one amazing boat. Heading out of town once more, we went and did a bit of shopping before heading to yet another waterfall (I think we are up to three) called Rainbow Falls. After a huge hike of 100m, we headed to a viewpoint overlooking the falls and knew we once again had to dive into it. As this one was a bit bigger than the previous one we jumped in, we thought we may need to take some sort of a raft. However after stuffing around with bamboo sticks and vines for 10 minutes we gave up and just hoped for the best.
This thing was gigantic. It made the last one look like a drizzle. We ummed and ahhed for quite a while thinking whether or not to actually jump in and how to do it but eventually we dove in and hopped out the other side, ending up behind it. We took a few happy snaps there, swam under the falls themselves and then started the arduous 200m hike back. Now whilst you think im joking about the arduous bit the swim and hike combination did prove to be too challenging for some of us. To put it nicely, not all of us left the falls with breakfast inside of us.
We headed back to Paihai for one final time, excited for our final activity up north. After being in Israel and knowing how fun boat trips can be, I put it to the boys that we should book another. The only difference this time was that this was boat was quite a lot bigger, and the trip was going to be overnight. Hopping on the boat at 5pm, we didn't really know what to expect. All we knew was that we were forking out quite a bit of cash and hoped it was going to be worth our while.
It certainly did not disappoint. The 22 hours we spent on this glorious boat known as 'The Rock' will be something I recommend to everybody who goes to NZ. The people were great, the food awesome and the activities unbelievable. After getting settled in and casting off, we met the crew and passengers (about 24 in total) and commenced the trip with the traditional paintball competition. Attaching a wooden duck, known as Matilda, to the back of the boat as we drove, each passenger got three shots to hit her and win themselves a free drink. This was surprisingly difficult and in the end only three people were able to hit the duck. By the time we had finished that we had arrived at our mooring for the night, a beautiful bay, a part of the Bay of Islands.
As soon as we arrived we were straight into the next activity and that was a little bit of fishing. However this was no ordinary fishing. Whilst everybody else was simply hoping to catch a fish for bragging rights, between the three of us there was something much more important at stake. The first person to catch a fish between us was given the right, nay, the honour, of naming our gorgeous Nissian Tiida. This made everything very tense. As you all know fishing is very intense as is but this now took it to a new level. Every wobble of the rod and tug of the line put us all on edge. It wasn't helping that others were catching fish left, right and centre. Eventually Oots did pull away with the first fish and he was begrudgingly given the naming rights. He did however decide to keep his decision to himself until we reached our car once more.
By the time we had finished fishing it was already past nine and thus dinner was next on the agenda. The crew had prepared a feast for us, with bread rolls, salads, pasta, sausages and even steaks cooked to perfection. Before we ate however, the boat has a tradition that one of the passengers makes a little speech about where they came from or how they got to the boat that night. I don't exactly remember who spoke or what they spoke about but I found that this little speech made dinner just that much better. After he spoke everyone was sitting together, cracking jokes and of course having a few drinks.
However the night was not over yet. As half the crew cleared our plates, the other half prepared the kayaks for a bit of night kayaking. Looking out the back of the boat into the pitch black everyone wondered how on earth we going to see. Nevertheless we set off into the darkness hoping for the best. As we moved away from the boat our eyes began to adjust and we were able to see more and more. We started to see all the stars above our heads and bioluminescence underneath us. It was really something special.
Once we returned to The Rock, it had become really late and most people decided to go to bed. Us being us, we jumped straight back in the water, heading out for a bit of a midnight swim. After splashing around for a bit we hopped back out and huddled around the fire with the few others that had decided to stay up. However we didn't last there for long, absolutely w***ed from the day we crashed soon after, wrapping up a phenomenal day.
The morning bell on the boat was rung at 8am however we managed to sleep straight through it. Waking up at 8:40, we bolted downstairs hoping we had not missed out on brekky. Realising we still had a bit of time, we had a quick morning splash before hopping out and helping ourselves to breakfast. By the time we had finished up, the boat was ready to go and so we headed out to another Island, this time to do some snorkeling. Ill be honest, the snorkeling here was pretty crappy. There was not much fish and the plant life there wasn't anything special. The thing that saved it for them was collecting kinna, a pointy sea creature that we were going to eat on the way home. Whilst we hurt ourselves doing it initially, after a while we managed to get pretty good at it, bringing up quite a few.
From there we moved on the boat once again this time to a beach where for the first time in quite a while we were going to be on dry land. After a lovely kayak to the shore, the whole group set off on a hike, scaling the Island we were on. It gave us some awesome views of the area and the chance to take some amazing photos. Once we returned to the beach a little game of beach cricket and Frisbee was started, making for some good fun. However we didn't have much time on the sand as we had quite a long boat ride back.
As we started our last trip on the boat, everyone got stuck into lunch and prepared their stuff to go. However, the activities weren't over yet. As I said before, the Kinna we caught in the morning, we were planning to eat. As such as we motored back into Paihai, one of the crewmembers started cracking them open and serving it up for people to taste. Of course, there was no hesitation from us and we got straight into it finding them surprisingly tasty. The crewmember was so impressed with our willingness to try it, he served us up an entire Kinna, organs and all and said that all crewmembers on the boat drink one of these during initiation. We once again threw it back, however this time it was anything but tasty.
We eventually got back to Paihai ending off our amazing 22 hour trip. We said our farewells and thankyous and headed off in a hurry as we still had a good 5 hour drive to our next stop, Hamilton. The rest of that day was filled with driving and eating which I wont bore you with as this blog is long enough. To those of who got this far well done and I promise the next entry wont be as long. Oh and for all of those who were wondering what Oots named the car, he decided to call it Pegasus. That's all for now.