Swapping your Thongs for your Uggs!
Our last walk around Manly Bay at sunrise before heading to the airport for New Zealand, surprising how busy Manly is so early in the morning, people catching their last wave before catching the first ferry to work, runners, walkers and swimmers all on the sea front to greet the new morning ready for another day, but for us, it was our last time (maybe) we will see the sun rising over Manly. It felt quite strange that we were finally leaving, Manly had become our home, if only for a short time, we were comfortable here, our two large cappuccino's, two sugars in one, our order known at the café after our morning walk, we knew how things worked here, it was going to be weird leaving yet we were ready to leave, ready to start a new adventure.
Crossing to Sydney on the Manly ferry for the last time (maybe) sitting on the open deck enjoying the last of Australia's autumn sun (maybe), even a pod of dolphins swam by to wish us farewell, seeing Sydney's skyline unfold (for the last time (maybe)), passing the Opera House and the Bridge, it is
truly a beaut of a city. Next stop Auckland, New Zealand.
Unfortunately the freight ship sailing schedule didn't work out, which wasn't a bad thing after seeing how rough the Tasman Sea can get. We flew with an Argentinian airline that's logo looked more like a toilet than its supposed Condor, which would probably explain the food! Wedged in your seat for the three hour flight, which was nice, sitting there with your knees tucked neatly behind your head, leaving just enough room to breath!
We had made it to Auckland, NZ. Before our trip became huge, we had just planned to go to Japan and then straight to New Zealand, seven countries and six months later we were finally here! The first thing we noticed was the crisp chill in the Kiwi air, thongs firmly packed away, it was time for warmer footwear.
Pris, Priscilla nope the name doesn't ring any bells, a car you say, no sorry, only joking Patricia but on the subject of cars, we would like to introduce Lionel our trusty rental mobile, our wheels of steel, our sliver bullet, our nondescript sudan made with 100% real plastic trim interior,
Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet is a popular way of describing something or anything cool in NZ, as in; the infinite rolling green hills, Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet; the rocky coast line, Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet; the black volcanic beaches, Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet; sugar, Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet; the list goes on.
On the subject of Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, the North Island is turning out to be more than a pleasant surprise, this may be because people tell you to do the north as quickly as possible then get to the south, for this reason we were unprepared for how stunning the scenery that “wow's” us around every corner would be, both on land and sea. It really is truly beautiful, a mixture of Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and Peak District all shaken up, pumped full of steroids then put together with all the best bits on display.
We pulled up at Ahipara, a small town with a surf beach that featured in the classic Endless Summer surf movie, it was only apt that our hostel was called Endless Summer! Not only is it named after a pretty cool surf movie it also happens to be the best hostel in the world; admittedly we have not done extensive research
into world hosteling but this seemed to tick the boxes, in the renovated historic property ✔, great atmosphere ✔, great views of the bay from the veranda ✔, cute dogs ✔, surfboard/sand sledges ✔. The intended stay of two nights turned into four, we even considered the option of staying until the car needed returning to Auckland but on balance there was the whole of the North Island yet to discover.
Rob may not have found the perfect wave in Oz but signs were looking good for NZ when a surfing session at Ahipara turned out to be the surf beach where in one session Rob caught more waves than the whole time in Oz!! A crisp swell to go with the crisp weather Rob surfed till sunset.
We made it to Cape Reinga, the furthest northerly point on NZ, however when we got there we'd been duped, it turned out the bay around the corner was further north, however, the point did tell us was how far it is to London at 18,029 km's, having driven 22,000km's around Oz this distance seemed way too short, we could have driven home and still had 4,000km's to play with!
When we eventually managed to drag ourselves away from the “best hostel in the world” we set off to the east coast of Northland taking the scenic road, passing through the most beautiful bays and landscapes before arriving just outside Russell in The Bay of Islands.
We Do Ron Ron Ron, We Do
This is where we met our lovely host Ron at another fab hostel, for the first night we were the only ones there (the advantage of traveling out of season), it was a log cabin to ourselves - Sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet. The path at the bottom of the garden led down to the tidal estuary where yachts were moored and as the tide went out the oyster beds were revealed, oh yes and then there was the glorious sunset, another corker of a hostel. Before coming to NZ you hear about the high standard of the hostels but when here you can appreciate that these are not any old hostels, these are NZ hostels. Our host Ron popped over from his house to spend a good part of his evening giving us the fascinating history on the local area and more, including snippets of his interesting life
and travels around the world with the NZ Navy. Our exploration of the local area had a whole new light on it after our history lesson.
The next day was rained off and we mean rained off, it did not stop but luckily we were able to get cosy in our log cabin with two ladies; Israeli and French who had hooked up to travel together a few days earlier. Ron came over with chocolate and banana muffins freshly baked from the oven and still steaming, he thought we needed “cheering up” on account of the weather - sweeeeeeeeeeeeeet. The afternoon was spent playing Stonewall (a board game with wooden walls) and Wist; these are not necessarily games to play with new friends that you want to form bonds with; it was everyman for themselves. By some stroke of luck we all came out the other end on speaking terms!
The sun put his hat on the next day and we were off; yet more sounds of “wow”, “look at that” and “I see the sea” were heard from Lionel all the way to Tutukaka.
This Place Makes Rob Sick!!!
Had Rob had enough of traveling, living
Under the waves
Poor Knights Islands
out of a bag or was the scenery too stunning, could it have been the corned beef hash we ate the day before; which incidentally we prepared hurriedly whilst the kitchen was empty before anyone saw it; this was not the gourmet feast expected to be served up by a world class chef. Then as if you could not have timed your watch by it two people walked in just as we dished up! Ain't that always the way? We could see the looks of “what the hell is that that's crawled onto their plates?”, but we didn't care we tucked in with gusto for a yummy, comfort food feast.
Tutukaka is home to one of the best dive sites in the world; the Poor Knights Islands where only the walls of the volcano remain which make up the Islands; a warm current flows down from the east coast of Australia to give the water a subtropical temperature. We were booked onto the next boat out for a full days diving. The very next morn was early, bright, crisp and still, all great diving conditions except the early and crisp bit! We stayed in a cabin on a campground
Before diving at Tutukaka and the Poor Knights Islands
in walking distance from the marina and after a steaming bowl of oats were ready for anything! We boarded after being kitted out with our winter warmer wetsuits, Rob for scuba diving and Kirstin for snorkeling. The boat took a smooth line out of the millpond harbour and out passed the headland, the first thing most people noticed was the three metre swell that smashed against the rocky coast, we were now heading into the same three metre swell! Up and down, up and down, it wasn't so bad, seeing all sky then all water as the boat rocked up and down.
A couple of people were looking green within minutes of leaving the stillness of the harbour and given biodegradable sick bags, so it was best not to hold onto the bag for too long, that's what you get when you book an Eco dive trip! Everything was going well, the Poor Knights Islands were in spitting distance, we only know that because a couple of chunks hit the island!! It was about this time that Rob's colour drained straight into the Tasman Sea leaving him with a pale green complexion.
Rob kept it together and his
breakfast down, everyone donned their semi-dry suits with hoods, as if putting on all your scuba gear when you're feeling a bit crook wasn't difficult enough, Rob then had to strap a 15kg weight belt around his waist, bending over to put his flippers on with his breakfast rushing to his head, then waddling to the edge and jumping off the boat, well maybe more of a belly flop!!!
The diving and snorkeling was fantastic if not a little cold and rough at times, strange to see so many tropical fish in such cold water. Following volcanic rock faces through tunnels and caves, seeing the sunlight bursting through the electric blue sea. Everything was going great until the end of Rob's last dive, it was then time for Rob to feed the fishes!!! Enough said!!!
We were treated to a mini concert in one of the worlds largest sea caves by Roody the Scotsman and his bagpipes (please don't ask us why Roody would take his bagpipes diving with him!) and then some nifty skippering by our captain who took us through a volcanic arch which was imaginatively named “The Tunnel” with not much room for error!
The journey back was much better and even better once on dry still land and better still when you had a beer in your hand, not sure if it was the beer or the feeling your still on the boat but Rob was rocking! Luckily Kirstin had managed to keep the side up without displaying any symptoms of the green sea monster!
Ice Cream Headache!!!
From one of the worlds best dive sites to one of the worlds best left hand surf breaks, we were heading to Raglan and we had acquired a hitchhiker for some of the way, the same chap with the bagpipes but thankfully his pipes were now locked in the boot! It's once again amazing to find out about someone and that someone being Roody McLeod, a very unassuming kind of chap that has hitchhiked and piped his way around the world and we were dropping him off at Waipu where his ancestor Reverend Norman McLeod arrived in 1854 and still today a little piece of Scotland lives on in New Zealand.
We arrived in Raglan just in time to see the sky turn to pink as we walked down to the black volcanic
beach, already the temperature was dropping, winter has its feet firmly under the table and has made itself very comfortable there, it's nice and warm in the sun but when the sun's gone and the wind picks up, it's that wild wind that blows straight through your head leaving your ears numb, you can't feel your nose running until it's too late! Our first full day in Raglan was rained out but it gave us a chance to explore the cafés and Hamilton, New Zealand's third largest city.
Even the dropping temperatures didn't keep the hardcore surfer in Rob out the freezing water! In fact, Rob was warmer playing in the sea than Kirstin playing surf widow on the beach! But getting out of the warm water and walking up the beach in freezing winds, turned any exposed skin blue and the onset of brain freeze, even tying a boot lace was a challenge! Nothing that a hot cup of coffee, a couple of TimTams and a 45 minute hot shower couldn't sort out!
Raglan was a cool place but not even the best left hand breaks in the world could keep us from the rest of the
North Island but that's for another blog!!! We, Kiro would like to apologise to any Kiwi's who are offended by the photos taken which do not do New Zealand's stunning scenery any justice!!! We thank you.
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