Wait, where am I?
We landed in New Zealand on the 20th November yet I keep having to take a few moments to remember where we are. It may be because this is the 3rd country and we’ve been on 6 flights to get here, or it might be because the scenery makes this country look very familiar, a little like Wales or Scotland dependant on where you’re looking.
Auckland was our first stop where we had a few days before we were to hop on the Kiwi experience bus. So we took a day trip to the island of Waiheki, an island full of wine and sunshine which was nice after a day of rain, a drastic difference from the warmth of Fiji.
1 coffee stop, 1 view of a waterfall and 4 hours later we arrived in Paihia.
One early Monday morning in November we began our Kiwi experience trip in Auckland, first meeting a Swedish couple Albin and Matilda at the bus stop who were also starting their Kiwi experience that day. North we travelled with a coach full of backpackers being inundated by the driver with information and clip boards to complete on the journey. 1 coffee stop, 1 view of a waterfall and 4 hours later we arrived in Paihia. Sunnier than Auckland but still a bit windy, we took instructions from the coach driver on the next few days activities, checked in to our hostel and wandered up the beach. One pizza and two happy hours later we bumped in to Albin and Matilda again in another bar, from there we enjoyed two more happy hours, a bbq at the hostel and another two happy hours. Local wine in happy hour is really nice.
The next day we boarded a bus to the bay of islands, a rather long drive to the very top of the north island which took in some great scenery. We stopped to see where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasmin sea then headed to drive the 90 mile beach (which isn’t actually 90miles long) but first stopped to do some sand boarding, in the rain. What’s sand boarding I hear you say, well, you climb to the top of a very high sand dune, which is really hard work, then you surf down it using a boogie board. Sounds simple enough, looks quite scary from the bottom and top of the dunes that look almost vertical and the boards look amazingly fast. I hesitated a lot at the top fearful of falling head over heels then ended up going down quite slowly as was breaking with my legs too much but the most difficult thing is actually the climb up the dune, enough for me to only want to try it once.
From there the bus drove along the 90 mile beach, doing a few donuts and racing a motorbike along the way. Finally we ended the day at a harbour stop to savour some local ‘fush and chups’. The chips weren’t the usual British chip shop kind but the fish was really tasty.
“I’ll take that one”, became a repeated phrase.
The day after we headed off on a boat tour around the bay of islands promising dolphin spotting and the possibility of swimming alongside them if there weren’t any babies. The tour involved delivering post to the private islands and learning about the millionaires and the varying sizes of islands they had purchased. “I’ll take that one”, became a repeated phrase. The Dolphins we’d spotted had young with them so we couldn’t go in to the water with them but were delighted at how close they swam to the boat and we spent a good half hour enjoying their jumping through the waves. Later in the day we did have a chance to jump in the sea for some boon swimming. The boon is a net the boat uses to lower people in to the sea to swim with the dolphins, boon swimming is when you stay in the net and the boat moves, mostly round in circles causing you to be pinned against the net often with a few other people. It ended up to be quit enjoyable after you got over the shock of the cold water temperature and found a place in the net to hang on for dear life.
We had one more night on Paihia before the Kiwi bus headed back to Auckland, we ended the evening with a pub quiz, we did surprisingly well but you can’t stop kicking yourself for the questions you got wrong, Andi!