Wednesday 7th December I left Sydney at 5.40am with my friend Emily who had a taxi into Sydney city paid for by work (thanks Em!!) so I was able to jump in that and then get the train onto the airport. Was sad saying my goodbyes to Emily at the train station…firstly because it has been sooo good to get to spend time with her and Matt again and have so much fun together, but secondly because it was a real feeling off'here I go, Its me on my own again' kind of thing. But I knew I would be grand, I have just been spoilt for the last 12 days!! Sydney airport transport is great! You get the half hour train from the city and you get off, literally walk up an escalator and you are in the airport! Very very handy.Got checked into my flight nice and early and was able to relax for a few hours, enjoy some free wifi (horray!) and use up my last Australian coins to buy a second breakfast in McDonalds in the airport ha ha!! Couldn't have those coins going to waste!! Flight to Auckland was just 3 hours which was great; I really enjoyed it! Sat back, enjoyed a good film ('My Way' or 'The Way' cant remember - really good!!), was fed and watered for free! Perfect!! Immigration in New Zealand is really interesting; really thorough! They even check the bottom of your shoes to make sure you are not brining in any dirt or soil if you have been on any jungle treks etc recently. Luckily I had washed down the soles of my shoes since my Thailand jungle and elephant trek! Buses in Auckland are great for the airport, run every 10 mins into the city, so did this, along with a German girl who was also traveling alone. I hadn't pre booked accommodation, as was arriving mid afternoon so plenty of time to sort something, but knew the area I wanted to head towards to find a hostel. Found a good hostel pretty quickly, 'Queen street Backpackers' on Fort Street, smack bang central location and the friendliest kiwi reception people ever, which was great. The hostels here seem to cost around 10-13 pounds per night, but all seem to come with proper kitchen facilities, cookers, fridges, living area with tv etc, so that's very different from south east asia. So I will now be able to starteating and coking in the hostel - in south east asia there were never kitchen facilities but when you could eat out for around a few pounds maximum you didn't need to cook in!!
I explored Auckland on Wednesday and Thursday 7&8th December, I really like the city actually, its not too big, which is good for me as I don't get as lost!! Explored the ferry terminal and also the harbour and viaduct area are really beautiful with lots of big boats docked up and lots of fancy bars etc.At night the harbour was really pretty with some Christmas lights in the shape of a tree up on of the big boat sails! Took walks around the city seeing the main sights which seemed to be the harbour, queen street for shopping, Victoria park, Albert park, the Sky Tower and Aotea Sqaure (where randomly people were doing a camping protest against banks). In Auckland, day 2 I had my first 'interesting' encounter with some Mauri people…I jumped on the free city circle bus to see the sights etc and there were around 10 really drunk Mauri men on there, just randomly riding around on the free bus ha ha - but they were really loud, shouting things (Like 'come and sit on my knee love') and nt to be awful…but they really really STANK!! Also spent a lot of time planning my stops for new Zealand…wouldn't usually plan ahead that much but with Christmas and New Year hostels and bus services are getting booked up, so a very helpful kiwi guy working in the hostel sat down and helped me plan out what I can see and do in the next 5 weeks to include spending Christmas in Wellington with my friends Emily and Matt (yay!!) and also new years in Queenstown! There are a few different bus companies you can take here (eg Kiwi experience, Magic Bus, Stray bus) but they are very expensive as they organize trips etc for you, so you don't have to do as much planning etc, but I decided to go with the cheapest option and buy a 15 stop pass from 'naked bus' - basically just includes the bus trips, I sort all accommodation, trips etc out myself. So got all that sorted and booked in most legs of my jounrey etc which was exciting!
Left Auckland midday on Friday 9th December, bound for Paihia - a coastal town in the beautiful 'Bay of Islands'. 4 hour bus jounrey was okay and found a hostel quickly as they are all on the same street in Paihia. Hostel called 'The Mousetrap' ha ha! Really lovely hostel. Friday happenned to be Paihia's christmas celebration float parade ...so lots of people dressed up and riding big tractors or floats, parading through town! Was quite amusing to watch. Strangely the men were all painted in black body paint and the women were dressed up as Egyptians...not quite sure how that linked with Christmas, but then again I am in New Zealand, its hot and there are christmas decorations!!
Saturday 10th December was ana amazing day....I had booked a trip with 'Awesome NZ' tours to take me from Paihia up to the very northern most tip in new Zealand, Cape Reinga. The day started out at 7am and the first stop was at the Manginangina Puketi Kauri forest where we got to see lots of the famous old 'kauri' trees which are trees that can live up to 4000 years old! The 'thing to do' here is hug the biggest tree, random I know, but of course I did, along with a cheesy photo!! After the tree hugging thing we stopped off at Te Paki stream, and SAND BOARDED down these massive sand dunes. Was awesome! Unfort it was super windy for this, so sand blowing absolutely everywhere, but was so exciting. Got a cool video of me sand boarding down, wobbling and falling off and the bottom like a right clumsy fool, haha!! After sandboarding we stopped off at 'Topotupotu Bay' for some lunch and great views. We then headed north again on the bus to the very north tip of N.Z; Cape Reinga. You do a 20 minute walk along a path, right to the tip. There is a lighthouse there and a touristy signpost with different cities signed in different directions. Cape Reinga was fab to visit though as its believed to be the jumping off point for souls as they depart on their journey after death, into the new life. It is steeped with Mauri beliefs here and you cannot take food or drink on the walk to the north tip as it is beleived to interfere with the spirits. An amazing thing to see at Cape Reinga is where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific ocean; they meet and you can quite clearly see the point where they meet as its marked with waves that break toegther, and a slight change in the colour of the 2 different waters, quite amazing to see.
Tomorrow morning I will leave the 'Bay of Islands' and head to the beautiful Coromandel area of the north island. Have heard quite a bit about it so am looking forward!! :)