After Christmas I had 5 days left of my trip to NZ. I didn’t want to waste them but I didn’t know what I could do in that time. Annoyingly my flight was 2nd Jan but at 1 in the morning so really I had to be back in Auckland for New Year. So I decided to do some research and came across the Stray bus. I could get a bus up to Paihia, do some trips from there and actually see the Bay of Islands. An area of the North I’ve really wanted to see but didn’t think I’d get a chance.
So bags packed, I snuck out of my hostel at 6am, I think about an hour after the rest of my room went to bed (I’m getting old) to find my stray bus. It’s about 4 hours up to Paihia and we stopped at a few places along the way.
By the way if you are travelling solo, Stray is a great way to meet people. Just hop on and off where ever you want, depending on the pass you have. I met some lovely people on my bus who I ended up hanging out with for my last 4 days!
First stop to see the huge Kauri trees, that are thousands of years old. This one is only 800 so still has a long way to go.
After the trees it was back on the road for a bit until we made it to Paihia, which was as pretty as I’d imagined
We all ended up in the same hostel on the same trip to Cape Reinga the next day. I’ve always wanted to go to Cape Reinga, which is the most northerly point of the country and where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. You can so clearly see the difference it’s incredible….
It’s a 500km trip there and back so it was quite a long day but I think definitely worth it. Our first stop was driving along the incredible 90 mile beach which is actually legally a road. So odd seeing cars driving up and down the beach and when we stopped to take in the view it was very strange to just see our coach hanging out on the beach ha
I also found what I think is a jelly fish ( see above!) if it’s not then god knows what it is. Looks like an alien.
After we finished driving up 90 mile beach which is actually only 55 miles long, we went sand boarding on the dunes which was awesome. Bloody difficult actually getting up there ( the photos below do not show how steep it is and how hard it is to walk up soft sand) but so much fun coming down. First time I was pretty slow, second time I put my feet up and shot down.
Note to anyone doing it, I’m still finding sand in my clothes 10 days later!
Apparently if it’s just rained it’s lethal and people go so fast they shoot over the stream at the bottom and into the long grass. Luckily this time around it was brilliant sunshine and not a cloud in sight. This land is owned by the Maori people and the sand dunes stretch for miles and miles. When you join the main road afterwards you can see them stretching for miles along the coast line.
Mid afternoon we made it to Cape Reinga! Along with the crowds. Our guide said he’d never seen it that busy in 4 years. But it was after new years, most kiwi’s have a pretty long summer holiday and the weather was stunning so I suppose it was to be expected.
We walked down to the famous lighthouse that looks out over the joining seas.
I took hundreds of photos as the view was stunning. Every shade of blue you can imagine. Anouk and I ( a Dutch girl I met on the bus) just sat and watched for a while, just looking out to sea and taking in our surroundings. Not every day you get to spend time in such a place. I felt on the edge of the world.
I was so pleased I’d made the effort to come up to the cape, it wasn’t cheap ( nothing is in NZ) but totally worth it. Especially for the word famous fish and chips we had in Mangonui on the way home – fish n chips with this view 😊
When in the Bay of Islands you must go out on the bay so it was time for a spot of dolphin watching. Usually when you partake in dolphin watching trips you don’t see any. Apparently these guys have 90% record of seeing them and we were not disappointed!
I’d booked a boat trip to the hole in the rock on the bay of islands and again we had perfect weather for it.
After a while I think our captain was getting nervous we wouldn’t see any dolphins and then we found some. A pod of about 18 (he thought) common dolphins, all playing in the waves behind the boat and jumping out of the water. Unfortunately my picks don’t do it justice and the internet in India ( yes I’m behind as always!) is not good enough to upload a video so I’ll have to add that on my Instagram instead! I’d never seen so many dolphins before. In Chile I’d spotted a few in the distance but never this close and this playful. Later on the afternoon we were also lucky enough to spot Bottle nose dolphins too. So very lucky on our trip. If I were to do one again, I’d try do a smaller trip with fewer people, maybe try hiring a boat of my own ( you don’t have to have a boating license in NZ, which I found out a little too late) but the trip was still enjoyable. I also later found out whilst watching the inflight safety video on Air New Zealand that our captain is featured and the boat I was on. He was explaining that no smoking was permitted on board and the whole video is based on the bay of islands! I exclaimed to the gentlemen sitting next to me on my plane that I’d been on that boat two days ago with that captain and quite frankly he did not give a shit and looked a me a little bit like ‘oh god I have to sit next to this crazy Brit for 11 hours!!’ Haha.
I digress! The captain dropped us off at Russell, a pretty little village across the bay. Our bus driver had told us to go into the Hotel there, the Duke of Marlborough and find the first alcohol license ever given in NZ and we did. I must get that photo of Marlose, one of the Dutch girls I’d met.
Russell was formally a pirates haven. Nicknamed the ‘Hell hole of the pacific’ for its lawless and rowdy port, walking through Russell is like stepping back in time. You can imagine it; what it must have been like. Either that or I am picturing Pirates of the Caribbean in my head ha.
We walked up to the view point our bus driver has also suggested. Great thing about Stray is if you don’t have much time the drivers also act as guides and tell you the best places to go. It was boiling hot and I think steeper than we thought it would be. I was only wearing sandals but it was worth the walk as you could see out across the whole bay!
ight we grabbed dinner and sat down by the water and watched the sun go down over the bay. It's a pretty special place the Bay of Islands. I wish I'd had more time but thankful I got there.
On New Year's Eve some of us were getting the bus back to Auckland. It was a chilled day but I had a proper catch up with my sister (oh the wonders of FaceTime this time around) and I have a feeling 2018 is going to be a good year. Reflecting on 2017 whilst on a bus back down to Auckland was emotional. What a great end to 2017, a fantastic 5 months of travel. A year of firsts for me and a year of changing perspectives and views of myself. I'm not one who usually likes change and I like to have a plan, in fact I always have a plan but for 2018 I don't. I don't know what it's going to be bring, and for once that doesn't fill me with dread and anxiety but excitement.
We saw in the new year on the bridge down in the Harbour, watching the fireworks from the Sky Tower. For once sober as I wanted to start 2018 with a clear head – damn I've definitely hit my 30s!
Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2018 brings health and happiness to you and your dear ones.
P.s thanks for reading my blog, it's appreciated 😊