Week 24: New Zealand
Day 1: Land of the Long Grey Cloud
With our flight to Auckland taking off at 8am, we arose at the unreasonably early time of half 3 and drove to the airport. A coffee with Freya (Rory’s sister), and a quick argument about how fake Beyonce is (you know, really make her miss me) we boarded the plane. Bio-security in Auckland airport gave us the first impression of how laid back the people of the Land of the Long White Cloud are. When trying to declare the GoPro as it had been underwater in Cambodia, I was told that people talk slower in New Zealand so to chill out a bit.
Auckland greeted us to grey skies and that misty rain that soaks you to the very core, making us miss Britain. Once settled into the Hostel we did some grocery shopping, saddened that dining out three meals a day costs a bit more than the £10 it did in Asia. It being Valentine’s Day however we did treat ourselves to dinner in one of the 4358 Sushi restaurants in Auckland. Following this, and after being awake for 19 hours, we settled in to bed to watch Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Romance to the max.
Day 2: Just Another Aucklander
Originally planning to catch the bus today to start our travels, after no email we had to spend another night in Auckland and took advantage of the extra day to climb Mount Eden. After basking in the full city panoramic views, we hobbled back to pick up our bags and took them to a new hostel (due to our original being fully booked for the night). After dumping them, we went to explore our new part of the city and chanced upon an open air concert as part of the Auckland Arts Festival. Sitting in sun loungers listening to folk covers in the glorious sunshine, we felt that the extra day had turned out in our favour.
Finally confirmed on our bus, we settled in for a boring night of prepping for travelling up north with the craziest highlight being having a “pint” at the rooftop bar of the hostel.
Day 3: Walk Fat Boy, Walk
Waking up at stupid o’clock, and trying to not disturb the others in our dorm (another big difference we have now come to terms with, private double rooms rarely work out around the same as two dorm beds in New Zealand like they did in Asia) we got ready to truly start our travels!
Today we made our way to Paihia, beginning our Kiwi Experience tour of New Zealand. En route we stopped at Whangerai falls for a soggy leg stretch, and arriving late afternoon checked into our surprisingly cheap hostel complete with tennis courts and pool (realising we forgot our swimsuits). Due to being super relaxed and content during our stay in Australia, especially as one of us was working in a cafe that allowed her to eat nonstop, both of us have developed small paunches. So, with weddings to attend when we finally make our way home to Britain we have decided to dedicate the next few months to long walks and healthy eating, so where better to start than New Zealand? Today, we began our pact with a walk through Opua forest to a little lookout point. Some of us finding it easier than others, the views from the top were definitely worth the pain and suffering the 45 minute walk inflicted.
Returning to the hostel, we each hopped in the shower (one of which in the ladies had had a massive hole crashed into it since we had arrived) and cooked some dinner. Clean and fed, we went to bed. Like the cool dudes we continue to be.
Day 4: Why the Chicken Crossed the Road
Our first day of experiencing some of the Maori culture we had both been excited to learn about. An early start to make it to the Waitangi treaty grounds, the site where New Zealand became a country in controversial circumstances. After paying the extortionate price of $40 each to get in, we decided to take full advantage of everything the grounds had to offer. Starting with a wander round the museum, followed by a guided tour and finished off with a “cultural experience” show put on by some of the Maori people.
Heads full of information and some of the standard guilt you seem to experience when visiting almost any country in the world as a British citizen, we went on a nice stroll/hard trek (depending on who you ask) down to the Haruru falls. Strangely at the falls, chickens outnumbered tourists. After being harassed for scraps of our lunch, we got up to leave to find that one of the chickens had shat on Clare’s leg. Exactly 50% of us found this hilarious.
By this point of our trip to New Zealand, we have now realised that alcohol is a bit expensive here, meaning the constant buzz that was maintained in South East Asia is now a distant memory. It has now been replaced with eating in, watching a film and normally being in bed by 10 due to the copious amounts of early starts.
Day 5: Not So Long Beach
As part of our Kiwi Experience pass, today we were going further North. In fact, as far North as you can go, to Cape Reinga to see where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea meet. Along the way, we stopped at Paketi Kauri Forest and felt seriously insignificant against the giant trees. Then we drove along 90 Mile Beach (which in reality is only 55 miles long, but who’s counting?), being warned the entire way by our lovely driver of how easily vehicles can get stuck in the sand. Also, not to swim with the sound logic of, “if the locals don’t, then it’s definitely not a good idea”. But that didn’t stop some steriod pumped insta-famous tosspot from stripping to his shorts and galivanting in the waves with his GoPro on a selfie stick. Unfortunately, our driver was proven wrong.
Once along “90” Mile Beach, this was our opportunity to body board down some sand dunes! Clare chickened out but trekked up the monster dune anyway to film ol’ Rory give it a couple of go’s. After this, we went to the Northern most point of New Zealand, to Cape Reinga. The turquoise tones of the Tasman Sea and the sapphire darkness of the Pacific Ocean colliding really were, without sounding pretentious (which is impossible) awe-inspiring. Sufficiently impressed, on our return journey we stopped in Mangonui and spoilt ourselves with ‘Fush’n’Chups’ while watching the glittery water in the harbour. Deciding to spoil ourselves even further, we bought a 6-pack of beers and watched a film. But, continuing to impress with our wild behaviour, we were still in bed before 11pm.
Day 6: Suburban Russell
With time before our bus back to Auckland, we decided to catch a boat to visit Russell, the once capital of New Zealand and formerly named the “hellhole of the pacific” due to the drunken debauchery and numerous beach orgies of the 19th century. Far from this persona, it is now an idyllic town built around the tourism of it’s past reputation. And a very sweet one at that. We walked to a small beach, explored a tiny craft market and had lunch by the water watching some ducks. A pretty good day out!
Similar to our feelings when we left Goa to return to Mumbai, we were reluctant to say the least to leave our seaside getaway of the Bay of Islands to return to the big city. But, needs be and the tour must go on! So after a long boring bus ride, we were back in the big smoke and happy to find there was a boy in our dorm asleep before we were.
Day 7: What It Says On The Tin
After an early rise (which we were soon to get used to), we were on the bus and on our way to Hot Water Beach. Meeting our bus driver Kyle “rhymes with smile”, we started to understand what the Kiwi Experience actually was. Each day, buses left the stops and drove to the next filling the drive with commentary and stopping at places of interest for walks so we could stretch our legs. Today, we stopped at Cathedral Cove and Rory went for a dip followed by a shower in a waterfall. All the while being filmed as Clare tried to capture a perfect remake of that scene from Casino Royale. But, alas, he is not Daniel Craig.
The accommodation for the night was at a Top Ten campsite with all the options being the same price. Lucking out entirely, we got ourselves a private twin cabin with our own porch and taking full advantage of the facilities, we barbecued some sausages while befriending a nice Kiwi couple. Full of food, we sat on our porch with some beers before heading for Hot Water Beach. With natural hot water springs flowing underneath, the idea is to dig your own hole and have a strangely hot sand bath while watching the sunset. However, it’s no where near as romantic as it sounds. We arrived late, without the slightest clue of where to start digging (with no spade) but luckily found our BBQ friends and were invited into their hole (giggity). It soon became obvious that it was like any other beach in that you spend the entire time redigging holes and trying to find a place to sit that isn’t bloody roasting or freezing cold. All the while, lying in weird positions in your bathers with people you don’t know. An odd experience to say the least but it’s a beach and the waters hot. I wouldn’t expect any more.
Giving up entirely, we returned to our wee cabin and had a couple more beers while enjoying the privacy we rarely get these days.