Brrrrrrrrr - its chilly up North!!

Trip Start Jul 27, 2003
Trip End Jul 26, 2004

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Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Hi all,
Our first week in New Zealand for you. New Zealand feels like a bit of a cross between Scotland and the US!! Lots of green hills, fresian cows, sheep and rain...and wooden houses, postboxes and Liquor stores! Its been so cold after Fiji and they are having a late Winter Season (even the Kiwis are complaining about the weather!) It is raining in the North Island and the South Island just had the worst snow in 20 years, which is actually a bonus for us as we have booked some Skiing and Snowboarding lessons as the ski season is going to run till the end of October now! Always a silver lining in these black clouds! We are back on New Zealand $ (obviously) which is great for us as there are $3 to our pound! So we just divide the price by 3.

Monday 22nd September
Brrrrr its freezing. Today was a bit of an "admin" day as we were so knackered from the night flight from Fiji and we had loads of stuff to do like washing and sorting and emailing etc. The bus from the airport was $11 and a cab was $45 so we asked a couple in the bus queue where they were going knowing there was a high chance they would be heading to Queen Street as that is where all the big backpackers are based. They were going to Queen Street so we decided to share a cab into town. We got the cab to drop us off at The ACB (Auckland City Backpackers) as loads of people had recommended it. Driving into Auckland was just like driving into and city in England. They had Stagecoach Express buses driving throught the streets, WH Smith and McDonalds. It felt like we had arrived home. We got dropped off at The ACB and went to check in, as it was 7.30am they said we had to wait till 10.30 to get our rooms so we dropped off our bags and headed out to an Internet cafe across the road and bought an hours time for just $2. We hadn't been online for a week so it was nice to get some emails from home and get some sent. We made some calls home to say we were still alive and then took a wander down Queen Street. We found a camera shop so left our films in from Raro and Fiji to get developed and then headed back to the ACB to get our room.

The ACB is a huge office block which has been converted into dorms and private rooms. It sleeps 600 so was the biggest we had come across. It was new looking and modern with good security, you needed your key to get into the main door and operate the lifts. They also have loads of fast PCs a big kitchen, a lounge, launderette, 2 TV rooms, hot showers (a rarity as we hadn't had a hot shower in 3 weeks), a travel agent and a job centre and it was all 24 hours.

We headed up to the 5th floor to our room, you would not believe what happened next.... all I can hear from the door next door is the thick Irish accents of Kevin and Brendy!! This place is 6 floors with a 100 beds on each floor and they were next door. There door was opened a jar so we walked in to tell them to keep the noise down, they couldn't believe it. We can't seem to shake these boys off!! We had a bit of banter with them and arranged to meet later so we could get stuff sorted. Simon went to get some sleep while I got a hot shower and properly clean with shampoo and conditioner and mousse. That may sound odd but I hadn't had any mousse for 2 weeks, which for my frizzy locks is unheard of. It felt so nice to be in a shower that didn't have half the Beach in it with you. I then emptied the entire contents of both rucksacks and put everything apart from the clothes I was wearing into the wash with twice as much as the recommended powder! They still didn't smell like my Mum makes my clothes smell when she washes them!

I sat and read about Auckland in the lounge while the wash was on and it was so nice because I knew about 20 or 30 people that walked past. They had either been staying at Varas in Raro or on one of the islands in Fiji. Most of them you never remember their names but it is nice to know you can go and chat to someone and catch up on what they have been doing. I transferred the washing into the drier which was a 40 minute cycle so I headed out to get something for lunch. I was surprised by the huge Japanese influence here, almost every other person was Japanese and there were loads of Sushi bars. I grabbed some Sushi and then headed back to get my now clean clothes. I went back to the room to wake Simon and then went out to walk around Auckland. That evening we went out for a couple of drinks in the bar downstairs called The Globe as we were given free drinks vouchers on check in. We then went for a very long sleep.

Tuesday 23rd September
Today Simon, Brendan and Kevin all fancied chucking themselves off the Auckland Harbour Bridge!! So at 9.30 we were standing outside reception waiting to be picked up by The A J Hackett Bungee team. We headed out to their offices where the boys were weighed and harnessed before heading out to climb the bridge. Having done a bungee before (double the height I may add!!) I had no desire to do it again especially not in the cold. I did however get to go up with them so was given a harness for the bridge climb. We walked the walkway under the bridge and then climbed up to the bungee pod. Then one at a time the boys threw themselves off the bridge. You could opt for a head drunk where they would work it so you dunked your head into the icy cold harbour. With it being cold enough the boys sensibly all opted out and dived to about a foot above the water.

After the bungee we were dropped back at the ACB and we went to get something to eat and pick up our photos. Having the photos I then went to the internet cafe to update our Travelpod. Upon checking my emails I found I had one from the Travel Agency people that we booked our campervan with to say they had a problem with our booking (which I made and paid for in June!) I phoned them up and the girl I had booked with had since left and they had found that she hadn't actually booked the campervan out with the company so our booking hadn't been made even though I had paid them. Anyway after a long "discussion" with the manager I managed to get a 10% discount and a couple of extra days as they were unable to have one available until the 29th instead of the 25th as I had booked. This was a bit of a bummer as we didn't want to spend 4 more days in Auckland. Kevin and Brendy to the rescue, they had a car booked for 21 days and were heading North to a region called The Northland which is the region North of Auckland for a couple of days before heading South.

We would head North with them and then they could drop us off back in Auckland at our campervan before they headed South of the North Island. I also had an email from James (one of the guys we met in Rarotonga from Auckland) He had left us his number to hook up. I gave him a bell and we arranged to meet him and Joe at The Globe tonight. We headed back to the ACB and read for a while before heading out with Kevin and Brendan. It was good to meet up with Joe and James again. James invited us all over to his place for the weekend in West Auckland. This worked out really well as we could fit in a few days in The Northland and then meet up at James' house for Saturday and Sunday nights and pick up our Camper on Monday - I love it when a plan comes together.

Wednesday 24th September
We headed off with Kevin and Brendan to pick up the car and make our way North along the East Coast on the "motorway" I say that in the loosest sense of the word! We drove for about 2 hours to a place called Whangarei where we stopped to stretch our legs at Whangarei Falls an 86feet high waterfall. It was a really pretty place on the edge of Parahaki Scenic Reserve. It felt a lot warmer here than in Auckland. We then headed up to Paihia which is a town in The Bay of Islands which is a bay with 150 islands dotted around blue waters filled with dolphins and whales. We arrived and found ourselves areally nice dorm called The Mousetrap. It was full of really nice antique furniture and felt more like staying at someones house rather than in a dorm. We headed out to get some famous fish and chips across the road and it was shorts and T-shirt weather. Its quite weird only a few hours from Auckland yet 10 degrees warmer. We were given some free drinks vouchers and headed to a bar called the Salt Bar to cash them in. We were given a raffle ticket each and our free beer and were told it was karaoke night. The first five people up would get a free drink and the winner would get a $40 bar tab (beer was about $4 so equiv to 10 pints). The boys all decided that this was a good idea so put their names up. Before the Karaoke began they held the raffle and Simon won!... a t-shirt..which I promptly nicked. The boys all got up and sang "You've lost that loving feeling" from Top Gun as the lines from Top Gun have become a bit of a theme on this road trip. They only went and got into the final!! After a few more beers and singing..some really good...some really bad I decided to hit the sack as I wanted to get up early as you have a better chance of seeing the dolphins early. I left the boys drinking and I awoke at 2am when they came home having won!!! They sang New York New York and somehow managed to wooo the audience into voting for them. The winner was announced at 1.00am and they had till 1.30am to use their bar tab as we were moving on tomorrow night. Of course they succeeded!

Thursday 25th September
I awoke at 7am and woke SImon whilst leaving Kevin and Brendan to sleep off any hangover. We headed down to the dock and got ourselves on the dolphin conservation boat with 6 others and headed out to look for dolphins. We were searching for a while and then suddenly we came across a pod of about 20. They were amazing. They came up to the boat to play. There were some babies in the pod and they swam in front of the boat jumping up at us. It was so amazing, if there hadn't have been babies there we could have gone for a swim with them but it is illegal to swim with babies. I think there will be lots more chance to see and maybe even swim woth dolphins again.

Our boat was out for 4 hours and we got back to the pier and met up with Kevin and Brendy to head North. We were going to the far North Peninsula and it would take about 3 hours. We stoipped off at a little place called Mangonui and sat on the seafront with some Bluenose Fish and Chips. They were gorgeous. We then carried on North. We got to a place Waitiki Landing which was just a service station with a restaurant, bar and cabins. This is where we were going to stay tonight. We were only 20km from the Cape Reinga which is the North Peninsula and it was only 4pm so we decided to carry on now and see it.

We were driving along about 60 - 70 mph when suddenly without warning Route 1 turns into a gravel track it stayed like that for the whole 20km. We would soon find out that this was not uncommon infact most roads off the main road are like this. We got to a car park at the end where you could park up and walk the last bit to a light house at the tip of the peninsula. You could see where the Tasman Sea (on the West Coast of NZ) converges with The Pacific Ocean (on the East Coast of NZ). We could tell it would soon be dark so we got some photos and headed back down the gravel track to Waitiki Landing. Some of the drivers on the gravel were shifting quite abit and one guy spun his Honda Prelude smack into a cliff banking. Did I mention that car insurance here is not compulsory!! This guy didn't have any insurance and it makes you wonder how much hassle it would be if it had been us he had hit instead of the banking!!

We got back onto Tarmac and headed to the cabins. As you can imagine we are a long way from anywhere and the bar was full of locals and some of these Mauri's are big and a little intimidating looking so we grabbed a toastie and a box of wine and headed to our cabin.

Friday 26th September
Today we decided that we would find somewhere tonight with Kitchen facilities as we were all sick of eating convenience food. We were heading back down the West Coast. You can drive down a beach called Ninety Mile Beach as it is a hard surface. All the buses go that way but as our tide knowledge was zero and the fact that once you get on you can't get off for 90 miles we decided to give it a miss and stick to the roads. We headed to a town called Kaitaia to get some stuff from the supermarket to make Lasagne and garlic bread for tea tonight. We also grabbed some lunch and then started the long drive south to a place called Dargaville. We had travelled for about 2 hours and stopped off at Waipoua Forest which is famous for its magnificent Kauri trees. Kauri trees are massive straight trunked trees and are now protected after numbers diminished after logging for houses and boatbuilding. In the Waipoua Forest there is the Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) it is New Zealands largest living Kauri tree and stands 160 feet high with a girth of 46 feet and a volume of 8,635 cubic feet and looks every bit as big. It is about 1500 years old.

We motored on, stopping at the Kai Iwi Lakes which are lakes with beaches. We didn't stop long as it was raining and getting late. We arrived at Dargaville to find it was a bit of a shoddy town so we renamed it Dragsville and found a camp site about 12km out at a place called Baylys Beach that had cabins and a kitchen. We also had TVs in the cabins so we watched a bit of TV the first time since the US. We made a big Lasagne and the 4 of us sat chatting for a while before settling in for an early night.

Saturday 27th September
We were going to meet up with James and Joe this afternoon so we started on the road back to Auckland. There was a right thunderstorm throwing it down outside and there wasn't much on the route home to stop for so we headed straight to James' house. James lives in a place called Oratia which is near the coastal town of Piha on the West of Auckland. We got to his house which was amazing down a long sweeping drive and kauri trees on either side. We were greeted by his Mum and Dad who were extremely hospitable considering 4 smelly backpackers had turned up on the doorstep of their really nice house to stay for a few nights.

We were straight away given coffee and freshly made banana loaf. We headed up to the barn which was a cool room above the garage fully equipped with two big sofa beds, hifi, TV, fridge etc. We filled the fridge with some beer and wine and got some pizzas in and sat chatting and chilling in the barn. It was so nice to be in a house. We checked our emails on James' PC and pretty much had an early night.

Sunday 28th September
We got up to the smell of a fry up. James' dad Colin had the BBQ on outside and was making us bacon, sausage, tomato and mushrooms. We sat outside in the sunshine eating brekkie and drinking mugs of tea. Now this will give you and idea of the changeable weather in New Zealand as half an hour later we were standing on the beach at Piha getting absolutely soaked by the rain watching the surfers getting smashed by the huge waves. We headed to a shopping mall where we had fruit smoothies with Ecinachea and Vitamin C shots as we could all feel colds coming on. We then went to the video shop and hired some DVDs for the night.

We headed back to the barn and watched "Requiem for a Dream" cheerful stuff for a SUnday viewing (NOT!). We the watched Top Gun (don't ask!!) and then headed out to a Thai restaurant for Thai Green Curry to try and kill these colds before they kicked in. The Thai was delicious. We then went to a dairy to get some ice creams and swwets (they call sweets lollies here!!) We then headed back to the barn and watched The Recruit (good film) followed by Red Dragon. This was one of the nicest days we had had in a while, just chilling out without felling the need to go out and see stuff.

Well I will leave you there. We got our campervan in the morning and started a real road trip!! Keep in touch guys and hopefully we will get another log up soon. See you all soon.
Liz and Simon xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
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