Although we set off from Sydney at 9am, due to a slight flight delay, the time difference and the three hour flight time, we arrived in Auckland mid afternoon. We ordered a taxi to take us to the hostel as we’d been told that was cheaper than getting in one at the airport. We had booked to stay at the Base hostel in the centre of the main shopping street. We checked in and went for a wander down towards the harbour. We kept seeing groups of people dressed as superheroes and we were slightly perplexed why so many people were in the same fancy dress. It turned out to be after the opening ceremony of the Masters Games (like the Olympics but for all ages) and we’d stumbled across all the athletes having a bit of a party in fancy dress! It was a great atmosphere even though we were very confused for a while. We bought food from the supermarket for dinner and I prepped myself for the upcoming bus journeys with healthy snacks – there are these amazing protein energy balls similar to bounce balls over here: a blend of dates, cocoa, nuts, dried fruit/vanilla/other flavours like peanut butter, all rolled in desiccated coconut and they are delicious! I also splashed out on an $11 big bag of dried fruit and nuts (with dark chocolate pieces) and some apples. That evening we also went for a drink in a place in the harbour. We tried to get into an Irish Pub but had left our passports at the hostel and they understandably wouldn’t recognise our British driving licences. Fortunately there was a bar nearby that we could get into and order a round of ciders without any question of ID! All in all, a pleasant first evening in Auckland.
One big thing that we had realised about New Zealand as soon as we stepped off the plane, was that the temperature was significantly lower than Aus! The next day we had a well-sought after lie-in and a leisurely breakfast/brunch, before getting the train out to a big shopping centre. The three of us needed more layers as it was only going to get colder as we travelled down to the south island and we were still in light summer clothes. After a long but successful shopping mission, we returned to the hostel to regroup, get ourselves ready for a nice meal out for my birthday celebrations and have a couple of illicit drinks in our hostel room.
It was the day before my birthday but we decided to celebrate in Auckland as we didn’t know what the Bay of Islands would be like. We headed to a place we’d been recommended by the hostel reception called Mexico but unfortunately when we got there they said they were just about to close (bear in mind it was only 9pm!) so we headed back towards the harbour where there were lots of eateries. We managed to find another Mexican place on the waterfront which the owner said he would keep the kitchen open for us as they were just about to close too! The food was delicious, not too spicy for Rhianna, and we got given sombreros to wear whilst we were eating – I didn’t realise how heavy they were.
After our meal we walked past another Irish bar that was blasting out live music so we decided to head in. The place was packed, mainly with a 50th birthday party, so although we felt pretty young everyone was having a whale of a time. It was hilarious watching the drunk middle-aged party goers dancing, and the band were good too, playing lots of old songs. We only stayed for one drink as we had to be up super early the next day but it was a fun evening.
The next morning we were up mega early for our first bus of the Kiwi Experience and it was hard to get going. After checking out, Rhianna and Katie kindly gave me some birthday pressies: a little wooden koala keyring from Aus, a mini Lush shower gel and a carrot cake. So cute! Fair play to their stealthiness getting the gifts too – an impossible task when you’re spending 24 hours a day together. Anyway, we hopped on the Kiwi bus for our first journey north to Piahia in the Bay of Islands.
Our driver was a guy called Martin and the drive to Piahia was five hours with a comfort stop to see a waterfall. On the way we booked an excursion through the bus driver to go kayaking that afternoon as my birthday activity. We checked into the hostel, somehow managing to get near the front of the whole bus and headed to our room which was full of other travellers on the Kiwi Experience too.
It was sunny enough to eat lunch in the outside seating area by the hostel kitchen so we sat there and chatted to the other travellers. I had treated myself to Falafels and hummus and we shared out my birthday cake too. It wasn’t long before it was time to go kayaking so we quickly got changed into ‘waterproof clothing’ (swimmers and shorts) and waited at the front of the hostel to be picked up.
We to the kayak centre/hut and got introduced to the rest of the group going on the water – turns out they were the Canadian volleyball team here for the Masters Games and therefore had strong arms for kayaking. We got familiar with the sea kayaks – they have proper steering, who knew? – and headed out into the sea. We had two guides with us who, once we were out on the sea, directed us towards an estuary which had a waterfall upstream. This water was significantly calmer than the sea that’s for sure. Katie and I shared a kayak, with Rhianna drawing the short straw and being partnered with another guy who ended up making her do all the work (sorry Rhi!). Our group slowly paddled up the river towards a fast-flowing waterfall (see below)
On the way back down the river we played some games in the kayaks, which mostly included the guides shooting us with water guns. Somehow that was fair. We rafted up and as it was my birthday I had to walk all over the other kayaks to the end and back. I’m so proud that I managed to do it and didn’t fall over. Here’s a few snaps of us in some very fetching life jackets:
I’d had a great time kayaking but I was tired and missing home so that evening we went out for fish and chips in a nearby bar in an attempt to make me feel better. Because of the time difference and having just arrived in NZ it didn’t really feel like my birthday. It feels silly typing that now as I was in such a beautiful place but I felt homesick. At the restaurant I managed to have a quick call to my boyfriend using their wifi and message my Mum. After dinner I was exhausted so I was pathetically in bed by 9pm whilst Katie and Rhianna went to the hostel bar for a bit. That’s the end of my wallowing, promise!
Watch this space for Bay of Islands adventures part 2, including visiting the most Northerly point on the north island and Dolphin watching.