Auckland - Paihia - Cape Reinga - Mercury Bay - Rotorua - Waitomo..., New Zealand
So I'm in New Zealand! Next bits started and as always I am having an aaamazing time, so here's the news...
I had a full day of travelling from Cairns to Auckland but got their middle evening so it wasn't too late. I'd said my goodbyes to a sleepy Beth and Patrick in the morning and made my way to the airport feeling so much more confident than I had been leaving Thailand. I checked into the Base and finding there was nobody else in my room yet had the evening to myself making some dinner and catching up on the emails, quite a nice way to revive myself for the usual meet and greet in the morning, but just as I was getting snuggled, in walked a couple who I'd been on the last Oz bus with up to Cairns, Laura and Greg, we recognised each other and had a catch up which was cool- yet again the countries were merging!
The next day I had another lazy day, a nice big sleep in and then got myself over to the Kiwi office just outside of the city to sort out the rest of my travels and to book my first bus (having difficulties with the door to start with, but no need to ask!!). I had a wander around Auckland to get my bearings for the rest of the day and it just sort of disappeared. So Sunday I actually started doing things properly, I got up and found Laura and Greg had found Mary (from Oz too) so we all had a walk around Auckland and then sat in the park for a bit soaking up the unexpected sunshine! We went to a pub in the afternoon and felt very happy not having anything to do! In the evening we had a two hour game of Nominations which being the novice that i am won so that was a really good night.
The next day me, Greg and Laura got on our first Kiwi bus north of Auckland up to Paihia. On the way we stopped off at a Honey Centre for some delicious honey bagels and then just as we reached Paihia before having time to check in we went straight to a boat to do some dolphin swimming! We grabbed some lunch quickly and jumped on our awesome adventures boat. It took us quite a while to spot the dolphins but then we found a pod of about 5/6 and they were swimming up to the boat, jumping up in front of us, it was beautiful. Unfortunately we weren't able to swim with them as they had a baby with them and didn't fancy being attacked by a mother dolphin in its own territory! But we could watch them for just over half an hour and then had to move on for their own protection.
On the way back we stopped at a little cafe surrounded by the most beautiful hills, crystal blue water and greener than green grass, I was having to take a few moments just to process how amazing it all was, I wasn't expecting the scenery to hit me so quickly after just being there 2 days.
The next day I had a day trip up to Cape Reinge, the northern most point of New Zealand. We had a crazy Kiwi Bus Driver who had the strangest voice but there was a whole bus full of us so it was a nice atmosphere. We drove along the 90 mile beach, (which turns out not to be 90 miles in fact but more like 90km but hey that's not the point).We stopped at the top of the Ta Paki stream in front of these huuuge sand dunes and the bus driver jumped out and chucked us each a boogie board for sandboarding!! The dune was huuge, it took us quite a while to get up to the top and then once we did we chucked down the board, threw ourselves onto it and there we were off!!! It was so so fast and a gamble as to whether you ended up in the stream at the bottom or not, the first time for me was ace, second time nearly at the end I came flying off and got a mouthful of sand after doing a few rolls before being able to stop! 2 times was enough for most people just for the walk back up, so after dusting ourselves off we piled back on the bus and drove to the Cape Reinge lighthouse. We had a short coastal walk along the top which again was absolutely beautiful (have a feeling I'm going to be using that word quite a lot in these blogs on New Zealand!) along the way we could see the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific, there was a distinct line of white at the point and a really bizarre thing to witness. There's also a tree along this walk called the Pohutukawa Tree where Mauris believe the spirits pass through to the other world here, it's just a single tree on a rock face, outstanding that it can survive in the conditions it's right next to the sea. After this walk we stopped at a shop/cafe which had a staircase built out of huuge tree in the middle of it and then went on to Mangonui for a fish and chip stop on the wall just like being at Weymouth at home. The last bit to our day trip was the Puketi Kauri Forest where we did a board walk through the trees which were some of the biggest in the world. It was a really good day, so packed in and then we had our last night in Paihia with the rest of the group.
The next morning me Laura and Greg had been planning to do a kayaking trip but it was chucking it down so decided to cancel it and use the money for something else further along the line so had another lazy morning with practically the rest of the whole bus crammed into the TV room watching a film as it was monsoon weather outside! We got back on the bus and drove straight back to Auckland to get there early evening. We checked back into Base and then met up with Lee - Laura and Greg's friend but someone who I had also met in Australia! The four of us treated ourselves to a Nandos for tea and then went to the bar downstairs for a reallly good night; $5 drinks for the night helped a lot! Greg also won a pool competition so we had lots of free beer from that too, we got in at about 4 and then I was speaking to Al till about 6, went back to my room to very nearly climb in my bed with a Lee in it! Realising he was pretty much passed out I just climbed into his, and then all got very confusing when he went to loo, came back (to the right bed this time) to find me in it! He had been pretty drunk when he got to hostel due to the free wine on Quantas and that was before we went out!!
I got up at about 10ish feeling bright and ready to go leaving the rest of them in bed! I went on a hunt for a haircut but didn't want to risk it with anyone so just going to let it grow till I get back! Did some dangerous "woolly jumper" shopping in the afternoon which was very satisfying but probably not a backpackers activity, but i needed some warmer clothes so it's justifiable! We had free Domino's Pizza in the Globe Bar that evening and went and bought some more afterwards and spent the evening in the common room eating too much and playing cards! :o)
On Friday we got on our first Kiwi Bus south. On the way we stopped at Maungauhau (Mt Eden) to catch the views over Auckland and couldn't believe the luck we were having with the sunshine. In the afternoon we had a scenic coastal walk to Cathedral Cove, an absolutely beautiful beach, the water was so blue and the brave went for a dip while the rest of us watched with our hoodies on in the sun on the beach. We spent a while here which was really nice, walked back and then got to Mercury Bay early evening. We cooked some pasta and then in the evening we all went to the "Lost Springs" which was a spa, naturally heated by the geothermal activity. It was gorgeously hot and we could swim into little caves, surrounded by trees, it was an amazing night, we didn't feel like backpackers sat in this beautiful place with our cocktails (to which i managed to get free in the end!). We were all soo relaxed after this we sat in the lounge in the evening and played some cards but all we wanted to do was get snuggled and we all slept soundly that evening!
The next day we jumped on the bus and went to the Karangahake Scenic Reserve, we did a nice walk through the hills and walked through the pitch black 1km railway tunnel, over rickety bridges and through the trees. It's really nice doing all these activities with your bus load which is a big difference to the Oz one, really liking it. We had a quick stop at Matamata, the filming location for Hobbiton and then got to Roturua in the afternoon. We went to the Te Puia- thermal park, saw geysers, boiling mud pools and kiwi birds and had a chilled out afternoon at the hostel. In the evening we had the Tamaki Tour of a Maori Village, we had another crazy Kiwi bus lady on the way taking her hands off the steering wheel and swaying her arms and beeping the horn just randomly through the night! We got to the village and witnessed a Maori challenge at the start, with dancing, singing and the challenge of the warriors. Then walked through to the village and saw the weaponry displays and fighting techniques etc., it was all very well laid out. We had the waiata songs and Poi dance show next tucked up in the warm and then finished off the evening with a huge buffet cooked underground Maori style. It was a really good night and we all went to the hostels bar in the evening to finish off a pretty amazing day!
That Sunday we packed up from Roturua, some of the bus went to an agricultural show, but I went zorbing! It was aaamazing, so glad I did it, although i was planning on doing the dry one where your attached to the ball but then everybody said that the wet one was better so I changed my mind with my bikini left on the bus 10 minutes down the road, so i stripped off and did it in my bra and knickers!! We got to the top of the hill, the lady filled the ball with warm water and I had to superman dive in through the hole! I rocked myself off down the hill and went through an obstacle course type thing so was going up the sides and all over the place, it was an amazing feeling, totally disorientating though, and i had to hold on to my knickers on the way down, it was so so good! Fell out elegantly through the hole and had to wait dripping wet for the bus to come back with my towel, getting a cheer from the bus as I stood there in my underwear! So worth it though.
We then stopped off at Agroventures where there were all sorts of activities to do, Greg, Mary and Lee did the swoop which hoisted them up how ever many metres, then Lee had to pull a cord which made them plummet to just a metre or so above the ground before swinging back up pendulum style! I just took this opportunity to dry off and get back in some clothes, but it was very entertaining to watch!
We arrived in Waitomo in the afternoon and chilled out in our chalet accommodation which was a nice change, having a proper house, we soaked in the sunshine in the afternoon and then in the evening had a few drinks in the kitchen with the others and finished at the bar down the road, was a really good night and I couldn't believe I'd been in New Zealand for over a week already, especially with the amount I'd packed in! Was looking forward for the next 6, absolutely love New Zealand! x x x