Chapter 7: I go north, and I come back.

Trip Start Oct 01, 2003
Trip End Nov 2004

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Friday, November 7, 2003

I'm really in love with Auckland, but I realize that might just be because after a month on isolated islands it's great to have good shopping opportunities (and good food & entertainment options) just steps away. Sunday night after dinner I went to the movies with my dorm-mates and saw "Kill Bill Vol. 1," which I really enjoyed. Nice to see that Tarantino hasn't lost his stylish touch.

Monday was my designated supply-shopping day, so the first order of business was to replace my malfunctioning camera. After calling Canon and consulting several shops, it made more sense to buy a new one and hope for an insurance check down the line, because the part that needed to be replaced cost $500-$800 (NZ), it would take weeks to fix, and I had no idea how they'd be able to get it back to me eventually. So I shopped around and painfully slapped down the credit card. At least I can take good pics again... the old camera stopped working back in Oarsman's Bay, so Fiji is mostly documented on a Fujifilm disposable.

My Visa Card liked the exercise, so I moved on to the electronics store and bought some cute & tiny speakers for the i-Pod. Still not satisfied, I ended up plunking down for a Nintendo Gameboy Advance SP All Blacks special edition gaming system. (Ha). A few people in the Cooks had Gameboys, and I was envious (natch'), so once I saw a version only available in NZ and with the snazzy All Blacks logo, I decided that would be the perfect souvenir. Not to mention it would make the upcoming bus rides much more bearable...

The next day I took the obligatory trip up in the Auckland Sky Tower for a look around. It's a nice enough tower, I guess, but the only problem is that Auckland is a pretty average-looking city with few recognizable landmarks besides the Tower, so once you're up on the viewing deck there's not a whole lot to see besides urban sprawl and a few hills. Still, had to do it, if only to try out the new camera before I left the city.

Wednesday morning I boarded the Magic Bus bound for the Northland. Magic Travelling is one of several companies that specializes in shuttling backpackers all around NZ to the major sights and destinations. My ticket for the next month+ starts in Auckland and ends in Christchurch, and I can get on or off pretty much any time I want, and for any number of days. Nice.

The first part of the trip brought us up the west coast of the Northland, where we stopped to see some enormous Kauri trees, dawdled in the town of Opononi to watch a hilarious 1955 promotional video about "Opo the Gay Dolphin" (r.i.p. 1956), and ended up at the Bay of Islands in the town of Paihia. As far as I could tell, the Bay of Islands looks a lot like Acadia National Park in Maine, so I decided not to hang around too long - chiefly because I was very cold. The Northland is windy, and it was cloudy, so my clothes that served me so well in the South Pacific were looking worryingly insufficient for the NZ countryside.

Yesterday I took a trip up to Cape Reinga, which is almost the northernmost tip of NZ. It's pretty barren and desolate up there... at the Cape there's just some scrub vegetation, a lighthouse, and of course, a lot of wind. The Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea (part of the Indian Ocean, I'm told) right off the Cape, and the sight of the two differently-colored seas crashing into each other and mixing and making huge waves was undeniably impressive. On the way back the bus drove for 30-ish miles on the beach ("90 Mile Beach" - a misnomer), and we stopped for a go at "sand-boarding." It's just what it sounds like: the driver stopped the bus and handed each of us a body-board, and we climbed an enormous (few hundred feet high?) sand dune in single file. Then we slid down the VERY steep slope. It was a great adrenaline rush, but I could have done without the mouthfuls (and ear-, nose-, and shorts-fuls) of sand. Later that afternoon we took a break at the "Ancient Kauri Kingdom," which sells heinously expensive but beautiful crafts made of 40,000-50,000 year-old Kauri wood that's been brought up preserved in swamps. Anyone who's interested in purchasing a $35,000 couch can let me know; I'll put you in touch with the appropriate people.

I met 4 very friendly Swiss travelers on the bus Wednesday; 2 of them (Conny & Herbert) came up on the Cape Reinga trip with me, and when we returned to Paihia that night the other 2 (Denise and Andrea) had cooked the 5 of us an amazing dinner! It was my first real home-cooked meal in ages, so I was so excited by the feast: chicken, mushroom risotto, foccacia, salad, and wine! This morning I wandered around Paihia and caught up on my paper journal, and then took the Magic Bus back here to Auckland in the afternoon. Tomorrow I'll be on the southbound bus on my way to the Coromandel peninsula, and from there I'll continue south next week to Rotorua, Taupo, and eventually Wellington. Things are great at the moment... hope the same is true for you back home! Later,

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