5th - 11th February (Whitianga to Paihia)
What a day! I asked the hostel owner where to hitch from and he managed to get me on the bus over the bridge to an area called Bethlehem. From there it took me another eight lifts to get to Whitianga. About seven hours to travel a little over 100km with a few rain showers along the way. When I finally arrived it felt like I hadn't got past Bethlehem as there was no room at any of the hostels. The thought of hitching on again straight away wasn't a pleasant one so luckily I managed to get a $60 room above a pub restaurant for $40, there were three beds but I had the room to myself. Spent the rest of the day wandering around the small town, had a couple of beers in the two fairly dull pubs and watched some of the rugby sevens.
The weather was still miserable the next day so I decided to give the local walks a miss and hit the road again. A short walk, a hitch from an old guy who came here from Oz to avoid arrest for tax evasion and never went back, and then from 3 young lads from Thames (where I was heading) with a car thick with the smell of dope smoking and Rage/Nirvana playing from a laptop. It only took about an hour and twenty to get to Thames and the weather was no better. I wandered around the small town, ate at the bakehouse, did the $10 tour of the disused gold mine, met a 47 year old canadian called Tim at the hostel and went down the pub with him for a game of pool. In the evening I went to see the Borat movie (with only four other people in the cinema) then ate at the hostel, drank wine with Tim followed by whiskey.
I had hoped to go to the 'spectacular' pinnacles walk in the morning but the shuttle bus wasn't going due to bad weather. I hung around for a while considering wether to hitch hike out or not, played some pool and drank some beer and eventually decided to take the $24 bus to Auckland, this felt like a defeat but I couldn't be bothered to stand around getting wet although the weather brightened up as soon as I booked my ticket. The bus was boiling hot and there was a lot of congestion on the way into Auckland. My first impressions were not great, too many cars, tall buildings and people. The 'Surf and Snow' backpackers is big and decent enough although there ia lots of traffic noise at night. I phoned the police about some abandoned suit cases in the street and walked to the pier area which although only a short walk felt like a nice relaxing spot with nice bars and restaurants. Back at the hostel, a 21 year old Japanese lad had managed a half bottle of J.D., I knew from experience that this has consequenses. He later fell out of bed, made lots of thrashing about noises and ended up under my bed. I was worried that he might chuck up under there so me and another English lad in the dorm lifted the bed and lifted the Jap back into his bed. Earplugs helped me to get a decent nights sleep.
My morning visit to Qantas went much easier than I had expected, all the dates I suggested for my South American internal flights were okay - the only problem is I almost picked the dates at random because I have little idea of where to go or how long it takes to get around. I decided to head north to Paihia, in an area known as the bay of islands. Thirty minutes of walking towards the motorway junction and thirty minutes of waiting followed by a lift from an old American tourist called John, the two hour journey went by quickly as he was quite a talker. A middle aged woman took me a bit further, then a lorry driver took ne the rest of the way, stopping for a while to unload some roofing off of the back. I arrived in Paihia at 16.00 with lots of thick cloud, light showers, some blue sky and strong sun. Cap'n Bobs is a nice hostel with nice views of the sea. After visiting the supermarket I cooked steak and jacket potatoes for dinner followed by triple choc ice cream, all accompanied by $6 plonk - lovely! I spoke to some people including Conor from Ireland who just happens to be on the same flight as me to Santiago. Unfortunately Cap'n Bobs was booked up for the following night so I carted my stuff down the road to the pleasant Mayfair Lodge where George the owner is very helpful and chatty. I spoke to Mum, Dad and Carly on the phone. The weather was still humid with showers but supposed to get better tomorrow so I booked an $85 boat trip with the hope of swimming with dolphins. Walked to Waitangi where the treaty between the white settlers and the local Maoris was signed before continuing on to the Haruru falls, nothing too exciting but it was something to do. I watched a Maori cultural show at Waitangi for $12, the sun came out so I lazed around for a while before heading to the supermarket.
At the supermarket I spotted a cute girl (Jen) who turned out to be staying at the hostel, in my dorm with her hot mates Sian and Caz. I spoke to them for a while, they recently graduated from Nottingham Uni and are also heading to South America. Girls like that were never in my league and when one of them said I would probably like the Thomas Crown Affair becaude her dad likes it I realized they never would be. Still, it was nice to spend time with fit, intelligent young women. Sian looks like the girl from smack the pony.
Hurrah! Perfect weather for the boat trip.
The catamaran was a bit overcrowded, especially when we were all trying to photograph the dolphins. We weren't allowed to swim with them because they had a baby. I burnt some bits of ny back that I didn't manage to reach with the suncream - this would peel a few days later. The trip was pleasant, a little snorkelling, a walk on an island and hot dogs for lunch.
When I got back I fell asleep on a patch of grass by the sea, only to be awoken by a hen party who wanted group photos with me before abducting me in their tour bus as far as the bar for a drink before leaving for their next port of call - good fun. Later went to a couple of bars with the girls from the hostel.
Next day, I took the ferry to Russell, ate fish and chips before walking to flagstaff hill and long beach in the hot humid weather. Russell is a quaint little place. Back to Paihia for a walk to a lookout point. Used the hostel internet to book the inca trail for April and put some photos on the blog. I watched 'The fastest Indian in the world' a good NZ film starring Anthony Hopkins.