We had one last night at Rose's before heading off, which of course involved a late night. It was a lovely stay in Paihia; Rose is a great host, the Bay of Islands are wonderful, and we met some really nice people. Paihia attracts an eclectic bunch. There is a high Maori population, good solid Kiwis and many Europeans who are staying for various amounts of time. Rose attracts many of the interesting ones. Lucy was a lovely Brummie who popped out to NZ about 18 months ago, stayed at Rose's for a few nights (which became 5 months) and now has settled. She shares Rose's passion for a party, still manages to run, was hugely welcoming and open and helped make our stay. Jane was another of the gang who had also popped out, stayed for a good stint at The Pickled Parrot and is now reasonably settled in Paihia; she was the sensible one and would leave a gathering whilst she could still function. We also met the energetic Nancy; a Maori who has helped Rose out from time to time when some of Rose's Maori neighbours had become a little difficult. Finally, we met Dan, who is a twenty something local running the local kayak centre and had the charm, warmth and laidback attitude of a man lucky enough never to have worked in an office. Rose's clients could be a little more odd though: the junkie who was always shaking and would occasionally have wine for breakfast; the man in his late twenties who still skateboarded and spouted huge amounts of k*** s; or the fifty something hippy who wanted to talk to everyone. The lasts desire to talk may have come from her job as a teacher of the severely deaf, which is a very worthy job. The bit that fascinated me is that she taught them to communicate through music and I can't keep images out of my head of men or women shaking tambourines in the faces of stroppy London bus drivers as they try to ask for a ticket, or maracas being clinked in the ears of the illegal immigrant behind the counter of a burger bar in an attempt to communicate the desire 'to go large'. I am sure that it is more subtle than that. Anyway, those we met, and the presence of Smartie, Truffle and Raven (Rose's dogs who we got to walk along the beach a few times and who occasionally slept with us) made the stay in Paihia lovely.
We are now on the road again having picked up our campervan in Auckland. The vans all have names and I was very disappointed to find that we were hiring for too long a period to be able to have 'Porker'. Instead we have KC, who is so far holding up and proving reasonably comfortable. It is a little small, and tensions do rise as we both try to get the van ready for bed, but we are settling into a good routine.
We left Auckland at about 6pm on the 16th and got as far a Coromandel, which is on the peninsula of the same name and forms part of the instep of the NZ boot, on the first night. We then have been exploring the peninsula, before heading cross country to Waitomo, which is where we now are. The more we see of NZ, the more we love it and we continue to say 'wow' far too often. At times the landscape can feel very familiar, perhaps a little like the Welsh border area (on the English side - can't see why you would want to cross over). The hills are rolling at times and more dramatic at others, but never intimidating. Many of the trees are European varieties or share the same colour and shape as those seen at home. On closer inspection, the palm trees, giant ferns and upside-down pines become apparent and the cicadas become deafening and we realise that we are somewhere very different. But it is overwhelmingly green (even in late summer), often backed by beautiful blue sea, and very quiet.
This (20/02) morning we attempted to have a dip at the Hot Water Beach near Hahei. Hot springs can be found at low tide and what you do is dig a hole and sit in very hot water. We attempted this in a very British way, and armed with nothing more than a dust-pan to act as a shovel, we tried to find a good spot. Finding a source of heat was the easy bit - it made our feet warm, but finding it in a location was not overwhelmed by waves proved harder. I spent a good hour battling against the sea before realising that King Canute had already proved that what I was attempting would only lead to failure. The one saving grace was that there was another Brit couple trying the same tactics nearby, much to the amusement of the two local couples who chose the perfect spot within seconds of arrival and were in lovely pools within minutes. We eventually joined forces with our fellow Brits and looked stupid together - but still achieved sod all.