Hello! I am back in Plymouth and have just started recovering from the cold I caught on the long journey home! I must say that I haven't really experienced any jet lag, which is quite a relief. The closest thing to it was me falling asleep for a bit at the table after tea last night - but that was for about 5 minutes.
I last entered a blog when I was in Auckland, before I headed north towards Paihia and the Bay of Islands. I had another night in Auckland which was really nice. I went to a Wagamamas (my first time) with Sandy and had a fantastic meal, then we discovered that there's some nice small streets in Auckland city centre with some decent bars. So I don't mind Auckland as much now! Although it definitely isn't the best of cities.
The next morning we started on a new Stray Bus heading north and there were only about 9 of us on the bus. It turned out to be possibly the most friendly bunch of people so far on the trip!!! We made a stop to see a giant Kauri tree, which I hugged. Then we headed towards a lovely beach where we hopped onto a glass bottomed boat in order to see some marine life. Unfortunately that day the water was a bit murky but we could still see the fish. We saw alot of Red Snapper. We also saw some cool caves around the Bay. After this we carried on up and ended up arriving at Paihia in the late afternoon. I was delighted that Sandy had decided to do a skydive that day, along with a couple of the others. That evening I had the absolute pleasure of watching her skydive DVD at the bar (they played it over and over again!) - the best skydive DVD i've seen yet! I won't say what she was shouting when sitting on the edge of the plane before jumping but it was one of the funniest things i've seen! :-)
The next day we all headed further up north on a different bus called the 'Dune Rider'. It was a long and full day but really worth it. We got to go to a park where an amber coloured gum is/was extracted from trees to make all sorts of things, including jewellrey. Then we headed up to Cape Reinga, which is beautiful. The sea was so blue - turquoise in parts and there were gorgeous cliffs and lots of sunshine. At Cape Reinga, the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. It is said that you can actually see where the two seas meet. And indeed, there is this kind of curvy line that looks a bit like two seas meeting. But in all honesty, I think that the theory that it is a sand bank underneath creating that 'line' is more likely! After that we carried on towards some huge sand dunes where we tried a bit of sand boarding. I'd done this previously in Western Oz but this time the dunes were much larger and we used body boards (the same as you use in the sea). Getting up the dune was excrutiating - I was so out of breath at the top! (Will be exercising in the new year me think!) And when I went down on the board, it was a bit fast but at one point the board just slowed down and came to a stop! So I ploughed my hands into the sand and had to give myself a push down again. Sandy got completely stuck half way down! I noticed how the blokes went down faster - I think its better if there's more weight because when I went down the dune with Keira in Oz, we went really fast!! After sand boarding we were back in the bus and went for a drive along 90 Mile Beach. It was a vast and lovely beach but it's not really 90 miles long. We finished the trip eating some fish n' chips, (pronounce as fush n' chups NZ style), that are supposed to be the best in NZ. They were indeed very nice, particularly the fish - although the Brits amongst us all agreed that you just can't get chips like at home.
That evening we all ended up in a bar on the one road in Paihia that you can really 'go out' on. We managed to have a bit of a boogie and a few drinks but by this stage in the trip, right at the end, I was getting tired so easily! I think it was in anticipation of the long journey home and actually being home itself. But a good time was had! Even when a weird man kept flailing his dreadlocks towards us on the dance floor!
The next day I went on a boat trip. The boat was called 'On The Edge'. When we first got on the boat the weather was quite bad! (Unusual for how it had been so far in the Northland) and we were having to protect ourselves from wind and rain. But as the day went on the sun came out and it ended nicely. We were given a smashing lunch and went to an island where we could walk to the top and get a 360 view. The boat had about 50 people on it, which I thought was a bit too many really. But I still enjoyed the day. That night we went out again to a bar where there was an open mic night. It was really relaxed and a nice way to spend my final proper night in NZ!
I said bye to Sandy and others in the morning in order to head back down to Auckland. On the way there we stopped at a stunning beach for a bit and I really savoured the hot weather and surroundings, knowing what the weather is like back home. When I arrived in Auckland I felt a bit strange because I knew I would be heading straight for the airport in order to start the journey home. I actually started feeling quite sad a couple of days before this, because I knew that the adventure was coming to an end.
The journey home was OK considering! The only bad thing was catching a cold. On arrival, I felt really happy to meet my parents and our journey home on the icy roads went safely. On the way home I felt overawed by how beautiful the snowy woods and fields looked and it felt good to be home. Driving past Stonehenge is a good thing to do too! I've realised that i'm a rare case, in that I love home and all it offers, as well as loving all the different scenery and people abroad - its an equal appreciation! And i'm glad because I met alot of people who seem to completely dismiss home as if they just don't even want to think about it! But I am lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.
So my journey is over. Only 3 and a half months, which honestly felt like a year because of how much happened. I experienced such highs and lows that I feel eager for more because it makes you feel that little bit more alive. I absolutely loved the people I met and I really hope I stay in contact with many of them. I suppose I learnt a few things on the way:
1. Travelling does not necessarily make you a 'better' person but it gives you the best stories to tell, the best memories to keep and some of the most interesting and exciting friends.
2. Push your barriers a little bit further than you would normally do and do it on the spur of the moment because you will experience thrills you didn't know existed.
3. Don't eat gone off cheesecake.
So I will spend Christmas with my family and enjoy seeing my friends again and also start thinking about where i'm heading in general. I can see now that things do not have to stand still if you don't let them.
I leave you with a quote from Mark Twain:
"Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today."