Once we had done our food shop and (successfully) got petrol, we headed up north about 4 hours from Auckland to an area called The Bay of Islands (BOI) and the coastal town of Pahia.
Scott did the driving and took to it like a duck to water, quickly getting used to driving a large automatic vehicle and overtaking slow drivers, made easier by the fact that in NZ they drive on the left like at home. After getting out of the city and onto the quieter roads we soon saw that the country actually did have more sheep than people! On the way to BOI we passed through a town called Whangerei which looked pretty sweet and they even had a place called Sheep World which was full of bright pink sheep! Very strange.
On the drive up to Pahia the weather was pretty bad and the rain got really heavy; as Pahia is a coastal town and the main attractions are outdoors on the beach/sea we were getting a bit worried that it would be a wash out and a waste of time, but we persevered anyway. We reached Pahia around 7pm and picked a campsite just outside
it for the night which we had read about in our guide book. It was called Twin Pines and had great facilities- a huge kitchen, lounge area, nice clean toilets and showers and was set in nice grounds close to the Haruru waterfalls. It’s much easier than we thought to find sites, and you just park up and use the facilities for a small fee, although we think we found the best one we will use our whole trip here! So we parked up, got our food etc out the van and Scott cooked a yummy dinner of spaghetti bolognaise, it was really nice actually to cook for the first time in 5 weeks although the washing up hasn’t been missed at all! After dinner we chilled in the lounge area for a while with other people who were using the campsite too (Two NZ guys who were working up there and an English couple who were moving out there) before going back to the camper to set up our bed for the night. It was rally cosy in the van and had much more room than we thought, probably a novelty but we loved sleeping in it that first
The following morning it was still raining heavily and we were thinking of driving straight back down south towards Auckland, but first cooked breakfast in the kitchen (scrambled eggs on toast), put the camp bed in the van away and had a shower. By this point the rain had stopped and the sun was out much to our joy, so we packed up the van and drove round to the nearby waterfalls, which were really pretty but not as impressive or anywhere in the same league as Iguazu in South America, before heading into Pahia town to see what we could do that day. We really wanted to do an activity through the ‘hole in the rock’, a large whole in a rock (surprisingly) in the middle of the sea which you can zoom through on a jet boat at high speed. Unfortunately the sea was too rough so the trip wasn’t going, but we found out about another one called Dolphin Discovery, which was a 4 hour boat cruise where you could possibly spot dolphins and see a few of the different islands in the bay as well as see the hole in the rock, so we
booked on this for 1.30pm.
It was leaving from a town nearby called Russell which used to be the capital of New Zealand, and is a 15 minute ferry ride away from Pahia so we parked the van and headed over to Russell on a small ferry. Once we got there the weather had got even better and it was pretty hot, so we walked around the tiny town for 20 minutes and saw the oldest church in NZ before settling down on the sea front in the sunshine to some good old fish and chips while we waited for our cruise. The fish was so fresh and it was such a lovely setting, no wonder so many people immigrate over here.
Our boat arrived and we got on, sitting upstairs in the sun, of course as soon as we set off and the wind picked up it got chilly but it was amazing to be in the middle of the (very blue) ocean, something we didn’t think we would get to do in NZ. After about 20 minutes the boat slowed down and the captain said there were bottlenose dolphins nearby! We were both really excited about
this and thought there might be one or two, but there were whole pods of them around the boat which was just incredible to see in the wild, they were jumping out the water and swimming right up to the boat it was really amazing. We then carried on sailing towards the other bays and the hole in the rock, as the captain thought the seas might have calmed down by now, but they hadn’t so we couldn’t go through it although we went right up to it and got some great photos. The hole was formed by the erosion of the rock by the sea and weather and although it was quite a big hole we weren’t sure it was big enough for a boat to go through, although it must have been or they wouldn’t do the trips through it.
The captain then announced he had been told there was a whale nearby and we were going to try and see it. We were both really excited about this as we had never seen a whale in the wild but after 20 minutes of trying to find him we couldn’t so gave up and headed towards one of
the small islands in the bay. On the way there we saw more dolphins, which were lovely, and we stopped again for a while near them. The captain then said these ones were a pod that we could get in the sea and swim with if we wanted to! Scott jumped at the chance to do this while Vic, much as she loves dolphins, was a bit too cold to get in, so she took the photos while Scott got in his wetsuit and snorkel and jumped in the cold sea with the dolphins and a few others from the boat. The crew on the boat were shouting at the people in the sea telling them which direction to swim in and where the dolphins were. They said you had to make noises underwater and move a lot once you were near the dolphins to get their attention and interest; everyone was swimming like mad changing directions all the time as the dolphins kept moving; a few times Scott could reach out and touch them as they were so close, and they were swimming around him which he said was amazing if a little bit scary at times, as they
are bigger than you think up close but so gentle. After about 25 minutes the group was called out of the sea as the dolphins had swum off, and Scott came back with the biggest smile on his face, before having to jump back in the sea as his flipper fell off and started floating away! He got it by diving down and everyone clapped, before he got back on the boat freezing cold and we realised we hadn’t bought a towel with us...luckily a friendly guy near us lent him his which was good as it would have been a cold trip back for Scott otherwise, although he was so happy from his dolphin experience it probably wouldn’t have bothered him that much.
We then stopped on a small island with beautiful views over the ocean, where we had time to warm up and have a cake before getting back on board and sailing back to Pahia. When we got back it was almost 6pm and as we didn’t know where we wanted to go next and it was getting late we headed back to the campsite we stayed at the night before. On the way there we
stopped at a local supermarket so Scott could buy a fishing rode as he was desperate to do a little bit the next morning and we also managed to find a computer repair shop (which was actually someone’s garage) to repair the charger socket on our laptop. We were both really tired from being out at sea but had enough energy to cook a dinner on the bbq of lamb chops, corn on the cob and jacket potatoes (we are not eating well as you can see!) before getting ready for our second night in the camper van, hoping the next day the weather would be good again and we could spend a bit more time up in this beautiful part of the country.
When we woke up, it was fairly cloudy, after having breakfast and giving it a few hours we decided to head south to our next destination, however before this we had time to stop at the Waitangi Treaty House where the original UK/NZ treaty was signed on behalf of the British Crown, James Busby and various Maroi chiefs. The Treaty itself is short, consisting of only three articles. The first article of the English version
grants the "Queen of England" (actually the United Kingdom) sovereignty over New Zealand. The second article guarantees to the chiefs full "exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties." It also specifies that Māori will sell land only to the Crown. The third article guarantees to all Māori the same rights as all other British subjects.
We then pulled up by the side of the beach and whilst Vic’s prepared an amazing, gourmet meal of Japanese Pot Noodle, Scott tried his hand at sea fishing. After several unsuccessful casts and the reel falling off twice from his £2.50 child’s fishing rod he got frustrated and decided to snap the rod in half before calling it a day.
We then packed up, got in the camper and drove south back through Auckland (with a quick stop at Sheep world - So Vic’s could get some pictures with the pink ‘Barbie’ sheep) toward the Coromandel Peninsula, in search of more sunshine and new adventures. . . .
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