September is New Zealand (and Australia) Month
Anyhoo, as I am scouring my travel books and remembering all of the trips I took while I lived in New Zealand (let's not forget the month I spent in NZ, three years before I lived there), I can't help but want to share with you all the wonderful discoveries I was blessed enough to experience.
Yes, I have posted a bit about NZ on this blog, but this time I wanna post the minute details, those places I went to for a day, which I vaguely remember but I have this great picture and oh yes, more things are coming back to me - those kind of places! Also the bigger places and the awesome stuff I was able to do...swimming with dolphins, watching penguins mingle with sheep, hiking in glaciers, horseback riding in LOTR territories, even visiting the set of the film!
This will be a great way to overdraw from my memory bank and get even more psyched for my upcoming adventures, getting me to focus more on doing the stuff I haven't done - or just relive the memories of the scenes past. I will also be posting stories and guides to certain areas of Australia...especially since I JUST found my journal and a bunch of photographs from that tim.
I've decided I am just gonna start from the top of the North Island of NZ and make my way down as the month goes on.
So, to start:
Cape Reigna is located at the very tip of the northernmost finger on the north island. It's just very north.
It's also an amazing and special place where the churning South Pacific Ocean slams against the wily Tasman Sea.
I only had a few weeks left in New Zealand when I decided I needed to do one last trip. I had been in the country for well over a year and hadn't set foot into the "Northland," aside from a few random beach journeys into the outermost reaches of Auckland city.
My plan was to explore the much-hyped Bay of Islands - basking in the rays of the late summer sun - and then catch a bus tour up to The Cape to witness the northernmost point and to frolic merrily on the golden fine sands of 90-mile beach.
Clearly, it didn't occur me to me that it might rain the entire time I was celebrating my last hurrah.
And that's what it did.
The first day, I flew up to Kerikeri for the sake of time. It didn't take very long in that tiny plane and I promptly grabbed a shuttle heading to Pahia, the main town of the Bay of Islands.
It wasn't at all what I expected and that's probably because nothing really seems right when it's raining, especially in a place in which every photo shows gorgeous blue waters, green headlands, golden sand and azure skies. Instead it was just a small, beachside town done up in various shades of grey.
At least the hostel I was staying at was nice:
Cap'n Bob's Beachouse
The owners were very nice and the hostel itself had wonderful views from the delightful decks and common areas upstairs. The bathroom area was rather large, with shower stalls (if I recall correctly) but the backyard had wonderful spots amid tropical greenery for socializing. The dorms themselves were spacious, modern and clean.
It's located a little bit out of the main centre of town (and when I mean little bit, I mean like 10-15 min walk, no biggie). But it's very close to a supermarket, as well as Waitangi, home of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This place is full of cultural icons from the colonial-style treaty house to its detailed whare (spiritual house) and imposing waka (war canoe). This of course was the place where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed on February 6, 1840, between the UK and the NZ Maori's. The three flags - UK, Maori and NZ - that wave proudly above this spot are stoic reminders.
It's one of those places you have to visit in New Zealand, if not just to get a glimpse into the history of this amazing yet turbulent land.
That said, I never went there. For the life of me I can't remember why. I guess after having New Zealand history drilled into my head at school, I figured I knew enough. Either that or the rain had put a damper on my spirits.
It's amazing how much stuff you forget over the course of 6 years - I'll admit I had fuzzy ideas of where I was staying in Pahia and actually had to look at pictures of the various backpackers online to remember where exactly it was that I stayed. Now, I know, Cap'n Bobs, and on that note, Pahia has PLENTY of backpackers and hostels to go around.
The bus trip: "Magic offers a great 1 day tour to Cape Reinga called 'Northern Exposure' - This is one of the most action packed and diverse day trips on offer throughout the country. Travel north from Paihia through land significant to the Maori people and rich in native Kauri forest, shown magnificently in the Kauri Kingdom. Get your blood pumping by sliding down the mighty sand dunes on a boogie board and travel to Cape Reinga, where the view of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean crossing is spectacular.
The specially designed coach will drive along Te Paki Stream and Ninety-mile Beach before passing through some of the picturesque small towns in the area, and enjoying New Zealand’s best fish and chips!"
And so, I awoke super early, tip-toeing past sleeping backpackers and caught the bus to Cape Reigna. The buses all depart from the Mariners building outside the Paihia wharf, which wasn't a far walk from the hostel.
The bus adventure was fun, but being a single traveler I felt slightly out of place with all the pairs on the bus. Either way, it was a very long trip (literally all day) which felt even longer because we were followed by a rain cloud throughout the journey.
Our first stop was to walk amongst the giant Kauri trees, which were once widely harvested for their gum. While I had seen these stoic trees before, they still managed to impress me. As did the jungles of New Zealand's only native palm tree, the nikau.
Afterwards we cruised further northward, past sleepy fishing villages and pastoral farms which linger in my head like fragments of a dream. Eventually, when we couldn't go any more North, we had reached the Cape.
This is what it looks like on a nice day:
And this what we got to see:
As disappointing as it was to see the Cape in all its stormy glory (I admit, it was kind of moving and powerful), it was even more of a let-down to reach our next destination...Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually NOT ninety miles but I digress).
This is what it looks like when its nice out:
And this is what it looked like when our bus cruised onto the wet sands:
It was neat to drive along the beach, though I had already done this a few years ago on Fraser Island in Australia, and the expanse of this sand was massive. But honestly...who likes the beach in the rain? No one strayed very far from the bus and before long we were bound for our next destination.
For the life of me I don't remember why I didn't partake in the fun that is taking to a boogie board and sliding down massive sand dunes, but I had a feeling it had something to do with me not wanting to get wet. Either way, it was fun to watch - wish I had been more adventurous! I also had done something on Fraser Island (again) which ironically was also in the rain, so I wasn't too put out. Me + beach = rain, apparently.
The rain stuck around the remainder of the trip back - I have ambiguous memories of stopping at some barn/cafe for some sort of meal and listening to Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" on the bus radio (hey, it was March 2004!).
Of course, the last day I had in Paihia (was due to fly out that afternoon), it was nice and sunny. I spent a nice hour or two sunning myself beneath a pohutakawa tree on the beach in front of the hostel. Ahhhh, hopefully THIS time when I go up to NZ's Northland for a quick road trip with my bestie, the weather gods will be as nice as they were on that last day!