Ok, so the last couple of weeks have been incredibly intense. I’ve barely even had time to send messages home and don’t get me started on the wifi situation. Whoever told me wifi was more accessible in New Zealand is a liar. Anyways, I have a lot to talk about from my time in New Zealand so far; nearly every day there has been a new adventure and now that I have taken a few days ‘break’ from my tour, it’s about time I shared them.
Arriving in Auckland was tiring. I think it was around 6pm when I finally got to my hostel, Queen Street Backpackers. It felt like an old, abandoned hotel, but there was free wifi and that seems to be the only thing I care about these days. Not long after I settled down in my dorm, Claire came back from doing a food shop. She was from Ireland and had moved to New Zealand on a working holiday Visa, already securing herself a job within a week of being here. Another girl in the dorm, Simone from Rhode Island, was also working in Auckland. And actually, the other two girls who were sharing with us were also working, so really I was the odd one out.
So my first few days in Auckland were spent failing to walk to mount Eden, going on a random trip with Claire to look at a potential house for her to live in and getting drunk. Definitely a great way to start my New Zealand trip. I booked for my stray tour to start on 8th April. The bus was due to leave at 7:40am somewhere down the street I was already on. So I made sure I got up at 6am, had a shower and was ready to find this bus. I wondered up and down the street for about 10 minutes until I saw a Stray bus drive past me… I held my hand out as though to say, ‘Hi, wait please, I want to get on you.’ But did it stop? No. I kind of didn’t know what to do after that, so I walked around for another five minutes until I resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to come back for me and headed back to the hostel where I had to ask the girl at reception to check me back in because I got left behind. Thankfully she checked me into the same room and I basically slept for the rest of the day and had to explain to my new friends why I was still there and not in Paihai.
However, this was a blessing in disguise as when I finally got on the bus to Paihai two days later on 10th April, I met some of the best people. I made the mistake of guessing Ritchie was American because of his accent. I felt bad when he shook his head and said ‘No, a bit more north.’ He was actually from Alberta in Canada. He seemed kind of shy to begin with, but seemed happy when we got talking! When we finally got to Paihai (pronounced pie-here), we checked into the Base hostel. Ritchie and I were in the same room along with Tom and Christle, two Germans, Jason and Lorraine, an Irish couple and Wes, also from Canada, who had dreads and ate uncooked noodles.
As soon as we were all in the room together, I said ‘So guys, this is our room. This is our group.’ I asked the Irish couple what their plans were, as Muesli, our driver had suggested some places to visit. Jason and Lorraine planned to head to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and then get the free ferry to Russell (New Zealand’s first capital city). So myself, Ritchie and Tom joined them. We spent most of the walk to the treaty grounds getting to know each other. Lorraine and Jason had been travelling the past 14 months, first in Asia, then a working holiday for nearly a year in Australia and then China before coming to New Zealand with another working visa. Ritchie had already spent a month in Australia and then has 4/5 weeks in New Zealand. And Tom, the cutie, at only 18 had been working in Australia and has already got a pilot’s license for small aircrafts. Pretty impressive.
Once we got to the grounds, we found it actually cost $40 to get in, so that ended up being a fleeting visit and instead we headed straight to the ferry that would take us to Russell. Muesli had suggested getting the ‘best ice cream in New Zealand’, which of course we had to do. And I have to admit, my coffee flavoured ice cream was pretty decent. We then walked to the top of the view point where you could see all of Russell and Paihai. We got back to the hostel ready for the BBQ we had ordered. Admittedly, it wasn’t the best, but you got a beer with it and beer makes everything better.
The next day we went on a pre-booked trip to Cape Reinga, the most northernly point in NZ. It was stunning; it was the reason I came to New Zealand, the beautiful scenery. It felt like a picture in front of me. And we got there at the perfect time of day when the clouds had cleared and we had a beautiful sky. After this, we went sand boarding. Our driver/tour guide, Dys had already proven himself slightly odd by this point, but the next thing he said put us all off making friends with him. ‘If you’re pregnant, and you’re thinking of keeping it, don’t go sand boarding.’ Erm, what? So random.
I definitely wore the wrong clothes for this (jeans). There was a little river of water at the bottom of this steep sand dune we were meant to be sliding down. Most of the people were fine and were able to slide across it easily. Jason failed a little by falling off and getting wet. Then it was my go and Dys told me to lean forwards when I got to the water and then my jeans wouldn’t get wet. Oh really now Dys?! I did as he said and immediately tumbled off the board, getting absolutely soaked, head to toe. I was so happy when I remembered I brought spare clothes with me. On the way back, I got chips and gravy after moaning about craving gravy and potato all day.
That evening, Lorraine, Jason, Ritchie, Christle and myself took part in a quiz in a bar, calling ourselves ‘Dumbledore’s Army’; my idea of course. It was a fairly difficult quiz presented by a Scottish guy, whose accent was great to listen to. We were in second place throughout and unfortunately just missed out on first prize. It was a great night, with people nearly getting naked standing on the bar! The next day was not so great. We had heard that cyclone cook was on it’s way towards us and unfortunately this meant our boat trip around the Bay of Islands was a tad… wet. It was so bad you could barely see the islands and you didn’t want to get out of the boat. I made the bad decision of doing so and immediately got soaked, with my hoody staying that way for several days after.
After this we caught the stray bus back to Auckland for one night before starting our ‘real’ journey around the North Island. Instead of a mini bus, this time we had a massive coach and a new driver, Dory, who would be sticking with us so long as we didn’t ‘hop off’. With him came a girl called Tara who was having a little kind of working holiday I guess for a week as she worked for head office at Stray. A lot of new people had joined our bus here, and Dory made us all come to the front, one by one and introduce ourselves over the headset to the rest of the bus. I was surprised to find there were only a couple of other Brits on board. After meeting so many in Aus, I expect a hell of a lot more. When it was my turn to come to the front, I told the bus who I was and that I came from a town called Kenilworth where old people came to die. This got a couple of laughs thankfully.
We had been warned that Hahei would be flooded that evening and it would be impossible to get there by locals in a pak’n’save. So we all bought a load of beer and stocked up on food. It felt like a treacherous journey there with the rain fighting against us. And I guess this Is where I realised that NZ roads are made out of corners. We did actually make it, however, and the rain just kept going. We were warned we would be stuck there if cyclone cook was as bad as it was predicted. We were in these little huts in groups of 10 which is where I met Anna-Maria, Jess, Kaya and Amelie. Luckily, at around 7pm, after I woke from my nap, the rain had magically cleared! I went to the common area to find a few of the others were playing Trivial Pursuit with Dory. After that, the drinking began with beer pong and card games. It was an excellent night.
Unfortunately, the next morning I woke with a migraine (un-alcohol related), and couldn’t walk with nearly everyone else to Cathedral Cove. It was quite sad watching everyone else leave! Luckily, Tom and Andi and Theresa all missed out too and we went as a little group ourselves later on. It possibly was even better ad the sun was setting. It was another great evening, and our dorm were up the latest (being around 11pm, so not late at all), playing games. The best one being Horse race. We were asked by a different guy on the tour to ‘Keep the noise down because the walls were a little thin.’ Which obviously made us want to make more noise.
The next day we headed to Raglan. Right now, I cannot remember for the life of me what we did in Raglan. I feel like it was something important, but… I can’t even remember what the accommodation was like! (I’ve remembered now, the accommodation was very much in the bush, but we got the watch Harry Potter. Besides this, it a lot happened.) Anyways, next up was the journey to Rotorua. On the way here, we did a tour of the Waitomo glow worm caves which were so beautiful. In one of the caves they put us in a dinghy boat and took us down this small river where the ceiling was really close, making the glow worm effect even more special. Unfortunately they don’t show up on pictures too well.
When we were leaving Waitomo, Dory managed to drive off without people twice. The first time, only half the group had come back from the glow worm tour and the second, half of that group had gone to the toilet and he had to carry on driving and come back for them. Jess, Anna and Theresa were not happy.
However, that was all to be forgotten as our next stop was Hobbiton!!! There was a definite air of excitement on the bus. I personally felt like I was going to wet myself. It was amazing. It felt smaller than I thought, but I guess it was made for hobbits. This was were they actually filmed the scenes from the movie, it was crazy. It was like going to the Harry Potter Studios all over again. Unreal excitement! My phone has been playing up recently, claiming it has no storage space left for photos, so I’ve been having to get Lorraine to take them for me and send them to me later. Thanks Lorraine!!
We walked through the actual village and you get to stand next the the doors, big and hobbit size! Then you get a free drink in the pub after, which we all gladly drank. It was a lovely day and I’m so glad to have done it now. It’s kind of one of the main things to do whilst you’re in New Zealand.
I’m going to finish this post on a funny note and tell the story of how we went to a bar that night in Rotorura, after a long day, and this guy from Ireland with straggly blonde hair and a weird ginger beard, wearing an odd Christmas style jumper started talking to me as I was about to leave. It was very odd and he said he was tasting me social boundaries. I said they don’t need to be tested as I want to go to sleep.
The next post will actually be up in a few hours!