Round World Trip
Thursday, February 17, 2005
Auckland to Paihia
I woke up with a start this morning, as I realised it was 7:15, and I'd slept through my alarm ( which was set for 7:00). After quickly showering and packing, I walked up the hill to the bus terminal in the back of the sky tower building, and caught my bus to Paihia with plenty of time to spare.
The bus headed north, over the harbour bridge, and as it did, it was apparent why Auckland is sometimes refered to as the city of sails - there was a huge marina next to the southern side of the bridge, with a forest of masts.
We travelled along motorways of some time, and were soon in rural areas, however pockets of outlying Auckland suburbs stretched out for almost an hour. The country soon became hilly with a patchwork of forested and grassy hillsides. Occasionally the coastline was visible, and was sometimes beach, sometimes rugged.
The bus driver pointed out various towns and features along the way. Comically, much of it was virtually unintelligable with all the Mauri names.
After a couple of hours driving, we stopped at a teahouse. Another two hours ,and we climed one last hill and saw the Bay of Islands. I found that my hostel was about a kilometre or two from the bust stop, so set off. Paihia is a tourist town. Not as bad or as big as as Queenstown, but similar. The town fronts right along the beach/coastline of the bay.
The Mayfair Lodge backpackers was about 200m from the main beach. I dumped my gear and walked back to the beach and sat under a tree where I finished my book (Patricia Cornwall - Blowfly). Walking around the headland again to the main part of town, I checked out where everything was, then returned to the beaqch near the hostel for a swim. The water was very pleasant, but I found that my small travel towel was not very good at getting my swimmers dry, so my shorts got fairly wet on the way back to the hostel.
I booked a sail cruise of the bay for tomorrow, then went next door to the supermarket to buy some dinner after changing, then cooked and ate at the hostel.
Friday, February 18, 2005
Bay of Islands Cruise
There was a guy snoring like a steam train last night, so about half an hour after going to bed, I grabbed my sleeping gear and matress and took them into the adjacent pool table room, where I was able to sleep well.
After dressing in the morning, I discovered that the weather looked pretty bad for sailing - overcast with dark clouds. I packed some stuff for the boad, and walked around the bluff to the wharf, and waited for the boat to come.
After some time, the boat (Gungha II) came and there was also a crowd growing on the wharf. The boat didn't look big enough to easilly accommodate the 15 or so people. As we boarded, however, it was apparent that there was adequate room after spreading out. (It was a 65ft yacht)
We motored out of the wharf area, and the skipper had me stee the boat, whilst he readied the sails.
After unfurling the sails, we sailed peacefully for a while past islands and headlands which were partly forested and partly grassy. After some time we came to an island with a pretty cove. We went around the island, checking for dolphin, then came back to the cove. During this, we saw some gannetts diving after fish.
The cove had a sandy beach with grassy hills on one side and bushy on the other. The water was very clear and aquamarine. Anchoring near the cove, we piled into the tiny dinghy in two loads of eight, and went to shore.
On the island, we climbed up the steep grassy hill to the top. There were excellent views, despite the cloud, expecially of the cove where we had anchored.
While we were up the top a huge power catamaran arrived and started ferrying hordes of people to the beach, this was our cue to go back to the boat. Whilst we were on the island, it was spitting rain, now, it didn't matter, as we went snorkelling around the rocks on the edge of the cove. There were lots of fish to see, many big fat ones about 40-50cm long. I also saw a school of tiny fish which drifted around me, as though I were one of the rocks.
After swimming, it was still spotting a tiny bit of rain, as we had our lunch. Unfortunately, the rain had also brought a drop in the wind, so we motored past more islands until we found some wind, which we used, still on the lookout for dolphin.
The skipper mentioned that some locals sometimes refer to Paihia as "Pay Here" as they are very similar in pronunciation, and it is completely a tourist town. He also mentioned an island "Robertson?" which is the only one with an english name, and so is used as a meeting point, as the Maori names often cause confusion.
We motored back to the Paihia wharf, and cut an hour off our cruise, as some of the people had a bus to catch. I felt a little miffed that we didn't sail more, rather than using the motor.
Returning to the hostel, I bought some food at the supermarket then veged out for a while till dinner and bed.
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Harere Falls, Russell
Today, I slept in a little, and got ready slowly, as I had planned to walk up to Harere Falls, which wasn't that far (only 3km by road from the hostel). I walked around to Waitangi (where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed), passing the local Marae, then crossing the bridge.
The track started a few hundred metres after the bridge, and first skirted the golf course, then came to a modest lookout with a view of the mangroved estuary. Along this section, I saw a perfect curled up tree fern frond, which was quite pretty. I soon came to a small sign which said I had covered 1km and had 4km to go, which was a fair bit more than I was expecting. I continued on, beside the river, through bush which was not very pristine. At one point I crossed a large tributary of the estuary, and over a section of boardwalk in mangroves. In the mangroves, I could hear popping sounds every so often, which apparently were from snapping shrimp.
After about 4.5km, I was starting to wonder where the falls were, but as I rounded a bend in the river, I could hear, then see the falls. The falls were interesting, but not extra impressive. The fell directly into a section of the river lined with low cliffs on both sides, and which was still tidal. Unfortunately it proved to be a popular spot, especially as it was accessable by road, and soon after I arrived, there were 10-15 people there. I sat on the grass above the falls, ate some lunch and relaxed.
The walk back seemed to go faster, and I was soon back in Waitangi. The house where the treaty was signed is now a tourist attraction, but I didn't feel like paying $10 entry for it.
I'd decided I wanted to go to see Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga, so booked a trip for tomorrow. The ticket included a free return ferry trip to Russell - across the bay fron Paihia, so I set of for the wharf. Near the wharf, I transfered the last of my cash to my wallet for Russell, then I boarded the ferry - a small fast catamaran. Soon we were in Russell.
Russell is a much smaller village than Paihia, with a somewhat less touristy feel. I walked through one part of town, then saw a sign to Flagstaff hill, so followed it up a steep road, then a short track to the top of the hill. There were good views of the surrounding area, including a big cruise ship in the bay. The hill is famous for another reason however, because it was here that the first govenor lived and worked. The flagstaff being a symbol of Britain, was chopped down four times by a Maori warrior.
After walking back to the town centre, past several historic houses, I went to buy some hot chips, and discovered to my dismay that the money I had transfered in Paihia was now missing. It was about NZ$100. This had turned into an expensive day. I replemished my funds at an ATM, and was thinking of going to a free concert that was on in an hour, but didn't as I needed to buy food for the next few days, and organise my gear for tomorrow.
After eating burritos again at the hostel for dinner, I set my alarm early, and went to bed
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Ninety Mile Beach, Cape Reinga
I woke up a little before my alarm at 6:40, and soon discovered that I wasn't completely well, as I had diarhoera, and a slight stomach ache.
At 7:30, I caught the bus outside the hostel, and we headed north. I discovered that there were 4 or 5 other busses doing a similar journey to us today, some of which I'd seen while waiting for the bus. After about 45 minutes, all of these busses pulled up at a forest carpark. Fortunately we were first there, so we walked around the boardwalk without too many others crowding (our bus had only about 10 people on it). The boardwalk went to the first mature Kauri tree that I'd seen. It was huge - fairly tall, but with the fattest trunk I'd seen - it must have been 5-10m in diameter.
Everyone jumped back on the bus after the short break, and we continued north. After a stop at the last cafe/teahouse on the route, we headed for Ninety Mile Beach. After accellerating across the soft dry sand bordering the beach entrance, we settled down to driving north on the hard wet sand.
The beach was very flat, with a wide are of wet sand, and a very wide area of breakers, with many many lines of white breakers rolling in at once. The samd seemed to stretch into infinity as it dissappeared in the sea spray in the distance. Low dunes bordered the beach with low shrubs and grass. The sand was a streaky light grey brown and was as smooth as an ordinary road. There were many fishermen on the beach, as a fishing competition started tomorrow, and occasionally, we had to veer around a person and rod to avoid catching their line.
We continued north along the unchanging beach for quite some time. Eventually, we came to a low headland which stuck out into the sea. We stopped to take in the scenery. There were impressive waves causing big plumes of spray occasionally. By this time, I wasn't feeling great, with a slight fever. After another short stint north, we stopped to see an islnad with a hole in it, forming an arch.
Finally we came to Te Paki stream, which was where we would leave the beach, 4km from it's end. We drove up the stream itself, which ran over sand, and between big dunes, and stopped beside the biggest dune of the area.
We got a body board each, and trudged up the face of the dune. It was very steep, and I was not feeling very well.
One after another, we slid down the sand. I was amazed how fast it was. I made it to the stream (Te Paki) but stopped in the middle. Climbing the dune again, I went even faster, hardly using my feet as brakes at all, and this time, skimmed right across the stream to the other side.
After the second run, I needed to take another Paracetemol/Codine tablet to keep my fever down. I lay in the shade of the bus on some grass, and was feeling pretty bad, and almost threw up after taking a swig of water.
Back on the bus, we drove to Tapotupotu Bay, which was not far, and while everyone went for a swim and had lunch, I sat under a tree, then dipped my head and feet in the surf. By now I was feeling slightly better.
Finally, we came to Cape Reinga, where I walked a short distance to the top of the hill, from which there were spectacular views of the cape, and the malestrom of two colours of water mixing - deep blue of the pacific, and a greener blue of the Tasman. I walked down to the lighthouse, and after looking around, relaxed in it's shadow for a while, whilst hordes of tourists milled around. (if you go to the cape, avoid 2:30-3:30pm when the busses arrive). By the time I left, there was no-one else there, It was the closest I'd be to home for quite a while, but still 2180km away.
Heading south on the highway, my fever was slowly climbing again, and I felt pretty bad. We stopped at a Kauri wood gallery/cafe, where I got a slushie which helped cool me. At this point, the driver also washed the bus, which was by now coated in sand and dust. After another brief stop for fish and chips (which I skipped), we arrived back at Paihia at about 6:15.
I packed my gear ready to depart tomorrow, as I'd booked a bus to Waipoura Forest, then went ot bed fairly early
Monday, February 21, 2005
Paihia to Waipoua Forest
After showering and packing, I walked from the hostel, around the headland, to the Bus/Ferry terminal. I didn't feel too bad, but then I hadn't eaten anything for almost a day. I sat in a park for a while, then the bus came and I boarded. The weather was pretty bleak.
We drove at a fast pace, and after some time, came to Rawene, where we had a break. I felt up to eating something and bought a pie, and still felt fine afterward. Moving on, we drove around the Hokianga harbour, with slight rain falling at times. We then started to climb up and down steep hills, and entered Waipoua Forest.
The forest was dense and lush, with lots of tree ferns. The road became very windy. We stopped at a carpark in the forest, and walked a short boardwalk to "Tane Mahuta" which is the tallest living Kauri in the world, and is a very impressive sight, due to it's tall, fat trunk.
After some more winding forest road, we arrived at the forest visitors centre, where I was getting off the bus. I paid for a camp site ($7 per night) and walked down to the camping area. I soon realised that the visitors centre is right on the edge of the forest, and the camping area had paddocks and pine forest on one side, and the native forest across the river. I selected a spot under some trees right near the river, and since my stomach had been sore, I lay down, and soon found I'd been asleep for a couple of hours.
I discovered quickly after this that there are lots of mosquitoes and sandflies in the camp area, and they all appeared to be waiting undery my tent fly for me to emerge. I felt I could eat dinner, and did, but felt a little worse afterward, and went to bed.