I am now onto my 2nd week of classes, which are all going well despite some heavy amounts of reading that I have neglected! Right now, academia is (fortunately) not the most interesting aspect of my life, so this post will be dedicated to my weekend trip to the Bay of Islands (or rather, the town Paihia) & Cape Reinga. Beware of a long post! It all started with a '93 Lucida turquoise rental minivan, a countless number of free tourist brochures, and some serious last minute planning. We rented the car and booked the hostels only a couple hours before departing at 4 pm on Friday afternoon. (No need for panic--with my driving record, I deemed myself unfit for driving, despite my extensive experience with minivans. We had two good drivers who managed to stay on the left side of the road. For the most part.) It was a long drive (which seemed even longer, being squished in the middle seat of the back row) before we arrived at the Pipi Patch hostel in Paihia.
On Saturday morning, we headed out to the beach to meet our two Maori tour guides and get in our waka (Maori word for "canoe"). Little did I know, I was assigned to the baby 2-person canoe to paddle with one guide, while the 6 others were in the BIG waka with the other Maori!! (I swear, I was singled out because they knew I was the strongest of the bunch.) After paddling along to some good Maori songs, we stopped in the middle of the harbor to collect our own pipi, a type of shellfish related to clams. It was a real fright when a few slithered out of the tiny crack of their closed shells! We stopped to walk to the top of one island (there are 144 islands in the Bay of Islands) for a breathtaking view, and at the next island we enjoyed a feast of our steamed, freshly caught pipi. A couple friends and I even tried our first oysters, which our Maori guide cut off from a rock on the beach!
We returned to our starting point in Paihia, bade goodbye to our Maori friends, and took a vehicle ferry to the historic town of Russell, where we took some touristy pictures. After stopping by the Haruru Falls, we departed to our next destination: the base of Ninety Mile Beach.
Our 7-person party arrived late Saturday evening at our 5-person cabin (two lucky boys slept on the floor), after seeing (should I say, counting?) many sheep on our drive. Full from a homemade dinner of spaghetti, we drifted off to sleep with Scott continuing the previous night's bedtime stories--excerpts from his New Zealand Lonely Planet book. (I definitely did not retain much of that information due to my extreme exhaustion.)
Next morning started bright and early at 7:00 AM. We took a quick detour to Ninety-Mile Beach (which is actually 55 miles long. buh dong?) before driving up to Cape Reinga. After admiring the view for some time, we walked to the lighthouse, where we saw the collision of waves that signified the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean. After leaving Cape Reinga, we hiked up these giant sand dunes, where people normally "sand-toboggan," but we just sprinted down the steep slopes at superhuman speeds. (Because it's off season, we couldn't find a toboggan rental place, but concluded that our way was exponentially better.) We raced back into the car to hit the Giant Kauri Kingdom, taking a good look at Tane Mahuta, the 45-foot-circumference tree deemed "Lord of the Forest."
Funny story to bookend the trip, we ran out of gas. Cruising in neutral, we watched as the meter went from the orange warning light to the red warning light. Luckily, we made it to a gas station, but, unluckily, it was closed. So we flagged down a driver, who satisfied my New-Zealanders-are-extremely-kind presumptions and led us to his friend's house, who provided us with enough gas to make it to the next town. (Yes, it was the perfect set-up for a horror movie in which we are killed off one by one, but we made it out alive.) We arrived back home in Auckland around 10:00 pm and I fell fast asleep to count some imaginary sheep.
Apologies for the long post! I tried to be succinct, but I wanted to share every bit of my trip. Hope you enjoyed it!