Tuesday, March 11
After a leisurely start we caught the bus for the airport. Good thing we allowed an extra hour. First they couldn’t find my reservation. I’d booked it with American Advantage points and eventually it showed up. Then they couldn’t find the second flight of Sue’s itinerary. Once that was located we were asked for proof of onward travel. Sue hadn’t booked anything yet and they wouldn’t let her on the plane without it so got on my laptop, purchased internet time and quickly booked a flight to Fiji, waited for the confirmation, then emailed it to the Qantas supervisor. Later, while waiting at the gate, the lady who checked us in found us, handed Sue a copy of her Fiji ticket and wished us well. Very nice!
The landing in Brisbane was a little hairy. It looked like we would land in the ocean, then approaching the runway, the wings wobbled back and forth before we touched down….HARD. The guy next to me even said that was one of the hardest landings he’d experienced too.
The flight to Auckland was uneventful. I had to check yes to carrying food as I still had a couple of peanut butter sandwiches (they FED us on the plane!) AND we’d been in the rain forest. First they were going to make us dig out our hiking shoes till we assured them that we hadn’t WORN them, just the sandals on our feet.
The shuttle dropped us off nice and close to the hostel and we checked in around 1 am NZ time, 10 pm for us. We paid for an 8 bed dorm but got upgraded to a private room for the same price. Nice!
Wednesday, March 12
We moved our stuff to the room booked by G Adventures. Helena (Denmark) and Melanie (Germany) were already there and the 4 bed dorm was VERY tight so good thing we’re all getting up in the morning together.
Sue and I set out to explore the city. I checked out the YHA to see if I’ll stay there when I come back. Auckland appears to be the “Toronto” of New Zealand. People rushing everywhere and every language under the sun being spoken. 4.5 million people live in NZ with 1.5 million of them in Auckland.
We looked at things to do in the city and took a ferry to Devonport where we climbed Mount Victoria.
Back in the city, I found some great free wifi at Burger King and updated the blog before heading back to the hostel for the group meeting.
Thursday March 12
Only 11 in our group and Simon, our CEO buys yogurt for breakfast. Yay! We had lots of room to spread out on the bus and by 8 am headed north to the bay islands.
The views along the winding roads were beautiful and lined with sheep and dairy farms and lots of logging areas that had been clear cut and replanted. We passed a few logging trucks filled with massive logs and stopped at a park with a huge kauri tree.
We passed through several small towns with Maori names and stopped at a bird sanctuary in Whangeri.(pronounced Fungari) Robert showed us a crested penguin that had been found way out of it’s natural area and will be flown south in the next couple of days. He also introduced us to Sparky, the one legged kiwi who even allowed us to touch him.
Our destination for the night was Paihia Bay where we boarded the boat “The Rock”. Rowan took us out to a calm bay where we did some fishing for snapper. I caught the first fish and after that just seemed to feed the fish the squid on my hook. None of the snapper we caught were big enough to keep so it was fortunate we weren’t counting on them for dinner. The crew entertained us by giving us rope puzzles to solve and then fed us a delicious barbecue dinner. Yep, there was a barbecue on the boat.
Once it got good and dark we went out on kayaks to check out the phosphorescent algae. Pretty cool! Some jumped in for a swim after. The warm felt really warm but I didn’t relish being cold after. Wimp.
We sat around the fire (yes, a wood stove type thing on a boat!) and roasted marshmallows and then went to bed upstairs on our tiny bunks, 6 of in the room with 3 men and 3 women. Logistics were fun 🙂
It was chilly but most of us went snorkeling anyway right after breakfast. Our reward was lots of pretty blue fish, some rock cod and even two eagle rays. I continued till I had goose bumps on my goose bumps. Rowan moved the boat closer to Motorua island (in Maori means island number 2) where we hiked to the top and then around to the other side and were rewarded with fantastic views of the bay of islands.
After lunch Conrad gathered us to talk about urchins. He cracked them open and some of us tried the roe. That was …. salty and kind of fishy, not terribly unpleasant but not something I’d like to eat often. Apparently it’s a delicacy worth lots of money. Hmm. Okay. Next we tried “kinna shots”. He cracked open the urchin, then, with a knife, scrambled the innards and we drank it. Disgusting! It’s supposed to be good for you. Yuck.
We’d been very lucky with the weather considering there was a cyclone approaching. Luci was supposed to hit late afternoon. After disembarking, the crew of the Rock quickly set off to park the boat in safe harbour for the storm.
After checking into the hostel, it started to spit and get windy so all the things we’d hoped to do were pretty much cancelled. We went for a drive instead and checked out a waterfall, the Waitanga treaty centre and back to the hostel for a nice, long HOT shower and some time to just chill before dinner.
Dinner was barbecue again. They like to eat meat here too 🙂
Plans all got changed with the onslaught of Lusi. She wreaked havoc everywhere. The tide went up over the road and left stuff everywhere.
Some of us went to the Maori cultural centre where we got lots of information on the history of New Zealand and enjoyed a presentation by some Maori people. Ryan was elected our chief and participated in the traditional greeting. The rest of us just enjoyed the show, a little scary at times but very entertaining.
We picked the others up from the hostel and drove around Paihia to see the damage. Then into another town with a funny bathroom for lunch.
The next stop was at the Whangarei waterfall where only 4 of us braved the elements and got soaked in spite of a rain poncho and a nice man handing out umbrellas. We saw several others on the trail so we weren’t the only nuts.
Back in Auckland, I checked out another hostel for my return trip here and went to Burger King for internet. Then off to join the others for Thai food 🙂