Today we had our first journey on the magic bus. We had to be outside a hostel up the road at 7.20 and checked out of our hostel. Our driver was Steve (who looks like a young Graeme Garden from the Goodies with his mutton chops!). We get a little commentary as the driver is going along. We stopped a couple of times along the way for tea and loo stops. Listening to Steve we have our first cultural discovery of New Zealand - that everyone in New Zealand says "sweet as" all the time! It's really funny and has amused us the whole time we've been here. We arrived in Paihia around half 12. We stayed in the 'Bay Adventurer' hostel which the driver recommended. Our room was tiny, with patio doors opening facing the pool which we found out was a bad thing as everyone gets drunk outside your door when you're trying to sleep! We walked into the 'centre' of Paihia to have lunch and explore. It's a very small town - in England we would call it a village! We had a look round the shops and dipped our feet in the sea. We had an early dinner as we were going to see a cultural performance in the evening. We got picked up outside our hostel. The performance took place in the carved meeting house on the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The performance began with a tradional ceremony of visitors entering the warriors territory and accepted and offering of peace. We had to take our shoes off to go into the building as it is sacred to the maoris. The performance told the history of New Zealand from the land of the maori's ancestor Kupe, to the treaty with the Europeans. They performed songs and dances, demonstrated weapons and performed a haka. The coach dropped us off just before 10 and we had tea and went to bed!
We spent the morning doing jobs like posting, trying to book our next accomodation and groceries. We bought a picnic and walked to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds which took about 30-minutes. We had our picnic sat out on the grass where we were harassed by some birds! The Treaty of Waitangi is the agreement signed by Britain and the maoris in February 1840 in which Queen Victoria gained sovreignty over New Zealand in exchange for giving the maoris the right to the protection of the British. We saw the special waka (canoe) built to celebrate the centenary of the signing of the treaty. It takes 80 people to paddle! It's covered in amazing carving and is kept in it's own little building looking out over the Bay of Islands. We then walked to the carved meeting house. The carvings of stylised warriors are really impressive. We looked round the actual treaty house which is a little European style wooden house in which J Busby lived and prepared the Treaty. It was on the lawn outside this house that the treaty was sign. The approximate spot is marked by a flagstaff. We watched an 'audio-visual display' (video!) in the visitors centre which was so boring it literally sent us both to sleep! There is also a field with some carving on poles on the way back to Pahia which is one of the places the maori chiefs gathered to discuss the treaty. We walked back to the hostel and cooked dinner and went on the internet. We were kept awake by really noisy people for a lot of the night!
We had an early start today for our day trip to Cape Reigna. The coach picked us up just after 7. The driver was called Dyson. He was absolutely hilarious and called everyone 'dudes'!! The thing that made us laugh the most was that he kept calling his bus the 'party bus'! (bear in mind that it was predominatelt OAPs!) His reasoning behind calling it the party bus was that it had a bin!!!! As you can imagine this meant that for several weeks every time we were anywhere that had a bin it was a 'party whatever'! On the way out of town we got a brief glimpse of the Haruru falls. We stopped to do a short boardwalk in a forest to see a kauri tree. We stopped at a cafe for lunch. On the way he told us lots of maori legends about various places. The bus we were in had special 'truck suspension' to allow it to go off road! We drove along the 'Ninety mile beach' ON the beach! It's really odd! We drove all the way along the beach and splashed through a few waves which was fun. It looked very misty and mysterious. At the top end of the beach we went sand boarding! It involves walking up a huge sand dune, lying face down on a body board (like the foam ones you use in the sea) and sliding the whole way down! I found it pretty scary. When I got to the top and looked down I didn't want to do it anymore but by then there was only one way down! I twisted my back at bit at the bottom but otherwise survived! The funniest thing is how much sand you get covered in! You get sand in places you wouldn't imagine like in you ears and mouth and underwear! I had half a sand dune in my pockets! Our driver asked where we came from and then spent the rest of the day saying 'Cor blimey' to us! From there we drove up Highway 1 to Cape Reigna which was only a dust and gravel track! Fun in a big coach. At Cape Reigna we walked down to the lighthouse and back. You can see where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet and crash against each other. Maoris nelieve that when people die their spirits come here. Our next stop was at the most northerly safe swimming beach - Tapotupotu Bay. We went for a little paddle but the sea was very cold! We stopped at another seaside town for a cup of tea and then headed back to Paihia where he dropped us off at our hostel. We had some dinner and went to bed early.