05.01.2017 - 12.01.2017 22 °C
You would think that with a lot of free time on your hands, it would be easy to relax your pants off. However it seems that we are keeping up the same pace as last year and try to do everything at once. As a result we’ve been quite the busy little bees, which of course we are more than happy to tell you all about!
So up to the Northland sounds like the perfect place to learn how to relax again… and as you may remember we were about to catch a bus to Paihia and do just that.
Carrying our backpacks through half of Auckland to get on the bus showed us two things:
a) Even after selling half of our belongings on Marktplaats we still own too much stuff and seemingly brought it all.
b) Desk jobs don’t improve your fitness.
On the bus ride up north we enjoy the change from city to countryside and get a taste of the real New Zealand - soft green hills filled with many many sheep and cows, forests filled with ferns and traffic on the wrong side of the road.
In Paihia we walked to the hostel realizing that the Bay of Islands was very busy - “no vacancy” signs everywhere. Luckily we made a reservation before coming here… or so we thought. Upon arrival in the hostel the nice English lady behind the reception came close to a nervous breakdown when we told her we had a booking and it was through hostelworld.com.
Apparently hostelworld.com bookings had not been coming through to her in the past few weeks, resulting in overbooking and other awkward situations. After calling her hotel and hostel friends in the area with no good result, she thought quickly and put us up in her “spare room”, which turned out to be the guest room of her own house. Very nice! It came with three dogs, including very round sausage dog Truffle.
We learned that one of the reasons why it was so busy in Paihia is that Kiwi’s themselves have summer holidays, and all come up for a nice bit of beach and BBQ. Keeping to our relaxing plan we spent a day on the beach, enjoying the sun and going for a new-years swim. We quickly got restless and also booked lots of activities for the days after!
Rise and shine… for a 8 o’clock morning tour looking for dolphins! According to the operator we were pretty lucky to get a last minute spot on the boat. So off we went, accompanied by Kendra and Martin and their in depth knowledge of the pods living in these waters. Our little red wristbands would allow us to swim with them if the conditions were right…! Not even 15 minutes out of the harbor we spotted a large group of the bottle nosed friends.
We quickly learned that among them were 1-year-old French Toast and 1-month-old (!!!!) Clooney, who was first sighted and received his name on the spot. Unfortunately, having babies was one of the conditions in which it wouldn’t be allowed to swim with them. The reason is really cute though: baby dolphins are too curious and would forget to drink their mothers’ milk. Cruising along the bay we also spotted plenty of birdlife, including the smallest penguin in the world. But no dolphin group to swim with, so that remains an open item on the bucket list for now.
Isabella had the great idea to do a short walk through the mangroves towards the Haruru Falls in the afternoon. This walk only required a “medium” level of fitness. Maybe we haven’t reached that level yet (ouchie).
Another early morning followed where we joined our driver Chris for a visit to the subtropical rainforest filled with New Zealand’s native Kauri trees followed by a tour through the Kawiti family’s very own Glowworm caves. It turned out to be a great day as we were the only two people on the tour. This allowed us to chat away with Chris about all things. Being Maori himself (Ngapuhi tribe), we learned a great deal about Maori culture, their history and the Northland.
For the forest tour we picked up local tour guide Bill, who has strong ties to the Kauri trees. With him we visited the Lord of the Forest, which Maori call Tane Mahutu – a 2000-year-old Kauri tree that measures incredible 13 meters around. It turned out to be difficult to hug! Bill honored the tree with almost magical singing and playing his flute. Rounding up the day we admired the “milky way” of glowworms in the dark above our heads and went back home tired and satisfied.
After so much relaxing we were very pleased that our bus next day would be leaving at 8 AM. ^^ And what a ride it was! It wasn’t only long but the first 5 hours Murf, the driver, made sure we would remember it. Cooling the bus to 10 degree with a constantly blowing air-condition and regular shouting through the microphone that this is not a tour bus but a regular transport with tight time schedule. We were more than happy to reach Auckland alive (admittedly well in time) to change to the second 4 hours bus to Rotorua, the geothermal capital of New Zealand.
Located in the middle of a large volcanic zone, Rotorua well… smells like teen spirit. Smoke and bubbly mud come out of the ground everywhere and it’s safe to say that you shouldn’t fill a water bottle from any river or lake. Even in the gardens of people’s houses there often is a small thermal spring. Could be handy to cook dinner!
With all the activities and early alarms lately we decide to take things easy over here, and after checking into the Crash Palace hostel we sleep in and walk lazily around the town (bubble bubble, mud mud ). Michael finds out that the smelly air here doesn’t work well for the stomach and makes sure you don’t feel like scrambled eggs for breakfast. A thermal footbath is very nice though.
In the next few days we gather a nice little fellowship in the hostel consisting of Clara (German speaking Belgium), Ayleen (Germany) and Kaitlyn (USA) and head out to the large Redwood forest just outside town for big trees and beautiful views. The evening is filled with an interesting combination of beer, hot chocolate, popcorn (salty), skittles and playing Yahtzee.
Fully relaxed we plan to take our budget travelling to the next level by trying to hitch hike our way to the next destination, Taupo. Throwing all the puppy eyes and charm into the mix, will we succeed?
Find out on the next episode!