After a fun night out in Auckland with people from the bus, I caught a different Stray bus north to the Bay of Islands. We were heading to the town of Paihia and first stop was Goat Island, so-called because historically it was one of the islands where seafarers would leave goats to ensure they had fresh food supplies whilst travelling up and down the coast to Auckland. They apparantly put pigs on there too, not realising the pigs could swim to shore, never to be seen again. It is quite a popluar snorkelling spot but it was very choppy so only a couple of people were brave enough to get in.
Next stop was a bird rescue centre where we got to meet a one-legged kiwi! The centre rehabilitates injured birds and releases them back into the wild but they couldn't let this one go as he only had one leg, having lost it in a possum trap. They use him for educational purposes and to increase awareness of how to protect them. We could stroke him and he had lovely soft feathers. He was much bigger than I expected! And could move surprisingly fast on one leg..
We arrived in Paihia in the afternoon and explored the 3 streets of the town. In the evening there was a bbq and quiz in the hostel bar. Unfortunately our team didn't win but there was an interval where individuals could compete to win a boat trip around the Bay of Islands, and I won! I would like to say it was my amazing knowledge or quick thinking which bagged me the prize but it was actually just a game of 'Heads or Tails'. Luck was clearly on my side.
In the morning I spent a couple of hours enjoying my free trip around the Bay of Islands. We saw lots of dolphins and visited 'The Hole in the Rock', a formation which speaks for itself. It was a lovely trip and I enjoyed it even more so beacuse it was free! On the way back I hopped off at Russell, the first permanent European settlement of New Zealand.
That afternoon I caught the bus south to Whangarei where the famous marine reserve, the Poor Knights islands, are accessed from. I had a fantastic day on the dive boat and managed two 75-minute dives. It was my first time diving in temeprate waters and it was cold, about 16 degrees - brrr! We had very thick wetsuits which helped but I was pretty numb when I got out. The dives were brilliant though. I saw lots of marine life including scorpion fish, rays, a carpet shark and eels. There were beautiful rock formations and large kelp forests. Fantastic!
After my dives I was picked up by the Stray bus passing through and got back to Auckland that evening. I went back to Rachel and Ben's place and spent a much-needed day resting and doing washing. I then caught a plane to Melbourne to stay with Vicky and Grant. G'day Oz!