A long walk and a Geographer’s dream

Itinerary:

  • Auckland – Paihia
  • Paihia – Cape Reinga – Paihia
  • Paihia – Auckland

My days so far have consisted of all pre-7am starts. The route to first pick up the Kiwi Bus was quite some venture in itself; a car journey to the domestic airport, where I met a lovely bus driver who took me around to the international terminal so that I could get the bus in to the city. All before 6am!

Anyway, once aboard the Kiwi Experience bus everyone seemed to be very quiet. I don’t know if this was tiredness or shyness but luckily a lovely German au pair, Anna, asked to sit with me and I made my first travelling friend. Phew!

Our bus driver was called Fly (they obviously all have these obscure names), who dealt with various admin and informed us of Auckland and surrounding town history and villages on route North to Paihia (Bay of Islands).

When we arrived at the Pipi Patch hostel, I then had free reign of the afternoon. Buddying up with some other roommates and bus goers (Emma, Emily, Emily, Monique and Josephina), we went to ‘El Cafe’ for lunch – Paihia’s number 1 rated cafe on trip advisor, don’t you know. The food was fine. Nothing really to rave about.

We followed our friendship-forming lunch date with a hike. Some might call this a bad idea. Some of the group did call this as a bad idea! Not me. I suggested the 1.5hr walk to Huaruru Falls and in classic geographer style, also became the navigator (Anna and Abby would be so proud that I have continued this from Interrailing!).

The walk itself wasn’t as scenic as expected, taking us through the mangrove forests which were quite dense and dark. The path stated that a medium level of fitness was required and they weren’t wrong! But the falls were totally worth it at the end:


We chose to walk along the roads back and my God were we glad to reach town, following our 14km round trip! I guess keeping fit on this trip might happen after all. After stocking up on food at the local Woolworths (it’s still alive, people), we headed back to Pipi Patch for a BBQ of steak, hot dogs and various salads and beer. I could get used to this lifestyle.

The rest of the evening consisted of wine, the hostel and local bars and dancing on tables. *insert generic alcohol-fuelled night*.  And off to bed with alarms set for the 7am departure to Cape Reinga.

The next morning, bright eyed and bushy tailed, we loaded on to the bus, this time driven by Scratch (see, mandatory obscure name). He told us it would be a long but fabulous day and he wasn’t kidding.

We first drove a few hours out to 90-mile beach, which is in fact “only” 55 miles. Oh my! Pictures won’t do this justice but for miles and miles you could see only sand and water (the Tasman Sea) and dunes. As we drove along the sand, we passed some walkers trekking one end to the other. And I thought yesterday’s scenery was monotonous! As a place to visit though, the beach was just pure and utter bliss.

From here, we went up North to Te Paki sandunes. New Zealand’s tallest (max 140m) and largest expanse and a rad place to sand board! My inner wimp meant that I took a while to get speed up but once conquering the initial height fear, I was hurling myself down the dunes face first.

After grabbing some lunch and resting sore calves after climbing the dunes, we drove up to Cape Reinga – where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea and New Zealand’s most northerly point.

It just so happened that 400 bikers were also attending the Cape that day and made the experience extra surreal. This point also happens to be a Mauri sacred area and as such, was a very peaceful place of honour.

Our bus journey back towards Paihia took us up in to the forests to see the native Kauri trees; a very expensive type of hardwood used to build parts of Buckingham Palace and other well-known historic buildings. Apparently the Queen visited here on a tour of New Zealand and they wanted a picture of her by the forest sign. But typical Queenie ended up with a photo much like this:

Despite the full-on day, we made dinner and got ready for another night out. This time pre drinking in our room and then going around the corner from the hostel to Sandpit bar, where one of the girls knew the bartender. Needless to say it was a fairly legless night, ending an hour away from the hostel at the bartenders house, along with some of his Kiwi friends. They called this house ‘The Palace’. Situated in the middle of the forest, with giant fire pits, a decking the size of your standard house, and an unreal view across the valley, it was easy to see why.

‘The Palace’ offered the most incredible view of the sunrise but considering the time, we had to head back to Paihia in time for Emma to make her day excursion. Emily and I just grabbed our towels and went to the beach to catch up on a morning of sleep that we’d missed the night before. It was a day of struggling, and the bus at 2pm could not come soon enough so that we had 4-hours of uninterrupted sleep!

Unfortunately once back in Auckland, the sleep deprivation again caught up with me and I was fast asleep by 9pm, initially even still in my clothes from the day!

But there we have it, day 6 of ‘life from a bag’ and so far, so tired!

Gabby x

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