A Travellerspoint blog

Auckland Revisited - again!

After an excellent but surprisingly tiring trip to Cape Reinga and The Bay of Islands the return to Auckland was brightened by the prospect of a reunion with the Italians and Young Ben for a communal dinner followed by drinks at the Globe nightclub where the redoubtable Selena would be getting back on the booze Aussie style.
As I returned somewhat after the others I missed the group dinner however Alex did cook my share of the provisions and turned out a pretty decent spag bol in double quick time (the least I would have expected from an italian). Later in the Base club we played a little pool (Alex again surprising us with his abilities, this time with the cue) before my compadres retired to bed ahead of their next morning departure to the Hot Pool Beach courtesy of their Kiwi Experience bus.
Street art

Street art


An art gallery advertising one of their exhibitions in the street, neat idea

An art gallery advertising one of their exhibitions in the street, neat idea

Entertainment central

Entertainment central

In chinatown. . . . . surely not?

In chinatown. . . . . surely not?

Where sandwiches pack a punch!

Where sandwiches pack a punch!


After shopping for the coming week and wandering the streets for a few tourist photos I then decamped to the library to try and upload pictures on their free wifi - a task made all the more frustrating by an Argentine woman gabbling non-stop on the phone to what must have been her entire family back gome judging by the time she was on the phone.
Later I met up with Rich down by the Nomad hostel, where he and his mates were half way through a litre of the hard stuff, to pick up my travel adaptors which had finally arrived and to hear the sound system in his newly pimped motor (I suspect the ride to Coromandel will leave me with severe tinitis). The rest of my evening consisted of doing the laundry whilst overdosing on Series 2 of Dexter and a short sleep ahead of watching the England game (aired at 4am out here). This was followed by the two Chech travellers packing and leaving the dorm in the early hours - wearing a head torch with an extremely bright beam the guy managed to illuminate the room like those spotlights at a movie premiere and made more noise than the All Blacks squad during the haka, he seemed oblivious of both and took ages to decamp to the outside hallway having woken all of us up in the process! Still he did pop his head back in the room to say goodbye - how very sweet!

Next couple of days will consist of catching up on the blog, online albums, meeting Rich on Wednesday to sort out our road trip playlists and a few beers, pretty standard fare until we get on the road on Friday morning. . . . . . . . cant wait!

Posted by RoystonBoyston 02:52 Comments (0)

Heading North

The Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga

sunny

An early start on Friday, catching the Magic bus up to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.
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On the way we stopped off at Whangarei where there is a very picturesque waterfall which, given that they were 100 metres from the main road, was both impressive and surprisingly secluded. This was a great photo opportunity and hopefully a portent of the promised beautiful country to come up north.

On the journey up our small group introduced ourselves, a few brits, a quiet American girl and Kevin, from Germany!

On arrival at Paihia our driver Speedo gave us the whistle-stop tour which included a great view of the bay from the golf course and a quick trip to the supermarket to get the weekend provisions - mince and pasta! The Bay of Islands is a beautiful setting and Paihia is a small old fashioned seaside town which is pretty easy to do on foot.

After checking in at our hostels Kevin and I hooked up to do an afternoon stroll along the Waitangi trail to the Haruru Falls, a recommended route for all visiting hikers. Whilst the trail is measured at around 5km our hostel is another 2 km from the start and there are no buses in this quaint little town so expectations about the Falls at the end were already being raised. Hiking along the hillside and across mangrove swamps (on a raised wooden walkway) in the winter sunshine was pleasent enough but after a while the "are we nearly there yet?" and "how much longer. . . " questions began to get voiced. The falls were again quite picturesque but, in truth, were a tad of a let down as the horseshoe shape made for a good photo but the drop was pretty small. The return trip was a bit quicker and we were rewarded with a great sunset over the bay which my camera failed to capture in its resplendent beauty.
The falls at the end of the 7km hike

The falls at the end of the 7km hike


Day 2 was an early start for the action packed day trip to Cape Reinga and it was on this bus I met Selina, an extrovert Aussie, Sandra a German with a ready laugh, Ben  Hunter a diminutive Jock who, despite being in NZ for nearly a year, had recently turned 18 and could now go on tour buses on his own, and Derek, our Kiwi driver.

Derek chivvied and chased us up all during pickups and the first couple of stops as we were in a race against the tide to get on and up 90 Mile Beach. Whilst the journey takes a while Derek frequently offered up bits of info about the region, the history and the legends of the north of North Island and keeping us amused with his positive Kiwi slant on life.

Onwards to 90 Mile Beach where we drove on to the sand and started tanking it north in an attempt to beat the unusually high incoming tide. Despite Derek putting the boot down and our old bus reaching nearly 120kph we were undone by an incoming "sweeper", a wave which comes right in and would take our axles off if we hit it at any sort of speed. As this wave showed up way before the critical point on the beach beyond which we would probably make the full trip, Derek promptly turned us around and belted back to our entry point before we could get cut off. Next was driving down the Te Paki river bed before a spot of sandboarding. Sad to say that the slope and shifting sand underfoot restricted this Fool to just one run but young Ben, dressed in a blue morph suit and ceremonial kilt, made several trips, the last of which Derek captured on video - if it gets posted on Youtube I will share the link - very impressive. And then on to Cape Reinga, almost the northernmost point in New Zealand and the spot where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. This is a sacred Maori site, where it is believed that the spirits of the dead begin their final journey. It is also ruggedly beautiful, has a lighthouse and great views, well worth a visit.
The lighthouse at Cape Reinga

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga


On the way back we stopped for teas and souvenirs at the Sacred Kauri Kingdom in Awanui where you can get food and drinks but also see an amazing staircase carved from the trunk of a tree which had been buried underground for 40-odd thousand years. Apparently this central staircase was carved (using chain saws) and then sited, after which the building was erected around it!

Afterwards we then stopped at the Mangaonui fish shop where they claim to sell the worlds best fish and chips followed by some tree hugging in one of the sub-tropical rain forests. 

Back at Paihia it was a quick dinner followed by a few beers whilst watching the All Blacks defeat the Irish in the first test then back to Auckland the following day.

Day 3 was a relaxing stroll around the bay, baguettes and a laugh with the boys whilst waiting for the afternoon bus back to Auckland.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:33 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Auckland City Tour, you need a head for heights!

semi-overcast 10 °C

With plans to tour the islands a little becalmed whilst Richie gets his motor pimped yesterday I took the free one day tour of the city courtesy of the people at Stray Bus.

Along with another dozen or so hardy travellers we embarked on their ancient tour bus, Jean, to tour the delights that Auckland has to offer. After a quick trip to the base of the Sky Tower our guide quickly awarded one of our group, Alex, a free descent from the viewing gallery - suspended between a couple of vertical wires he was lowered to the ground at quite a speed, something they call an assisted freefall over here. Can't say I was jealous of him, I doubt I would have been able to walk to the edge, let alone step off of it.

Alex descends the SkyTower

Alex descends the SkyTower



Afterwards Jean chugged us out to a great viewing point whilst Chuckie, our guide, gave us various little nuggets about the history of Auckland and a crash course in the vernacular ("kia ora" - hello, thank you and "sweet as" - everything is great). Following a stop at the grounds of the Museum we decamped to Ponsonby for a beer tasting (1 drink) and a quick lunch, then onwards and quite literally upwards to the harbour bridge where 3 of our number and a Swiss guy on another tour signed up to do a bungy jump into the Pacific.

Those who know the Fool will be well aware of his hatred of heights so you should be able to appreciate that the 10 minute walk along narrow metal gangways under the bridge to get to the "Pod" where people leap from was a mixture of sweat and mild terror. Photo opportunities are minimal inside the pod (the operators make shedloads of cash from the jumpers with their aftersales of video and online pictures) however some shots of the brave few are attached, showing their mental state ahead of their "jumps", at this point a big shout out to Adrian, Charlie, Tim and Catherine for their bravery.

Charlie looking apprehensive before his jump

Charlie looking apprehensive before his jump

After the jumps we trudged back to the shore where, once again, I felt relieved to have survived - quite rediculous in light of the fact that we were all harnessed to a guide rope all the way out and back. Needless to say this latest attempt to overcome my phobia was an epic fail, heres to doing a tandem skydive on south island in a few weeks time - I am assured that this is much easier than dangling by your ankles on a large rubberised rope.

Back on the bus and a short drive back to the collection point saw an end to the tour, thanks to all at Stray for entertaining me for the best part of the day.

Off to the Bay of Islands on Friday for a long weekend of beautiful scenery and some quiet tranquility. . . . . .

Posted by RoystonBoyston 19:15 Archived in New Zealand Tagged auckland harbour bridge bungy Comments (0)

Auckland update on Lizzie II's birthday.

semi-overcast 15 °C

Auckland Harbour bridge

Auckland Harbour bridge


Its day 6 or 7 on the tour and, despite a few hiccups with the hostel, all is good in Foolsland.

Sitting in McDonalds, supping on a half decent Latte, I can reflect on an interesting first week. Despite now being in winter the Auckland weather is pretty good, sunshine in the am, cloudy and windy later in the day and a definite chill after dark, guess should have packed more long sleeves!

The Base hostel is like a factory, processing literally hundreds of backpackers, from fresh meat like me to those who resemble a well travelled yeti. Everything in the hostel is geared to taking as much money from its guests as possible, from selling sim cards for $10 which other hostels give out for free to charging for wifi. On the plus side they clean the place thoroughly every day and the bar linked to the hostel sells the cheapest drinks around, a fact not wasted on those looking to get smashed as cheaply as possible.

So far the Fool has ventured around the town on foot, great waterfront area and loads of shops, walked to and up Mt Eden, one of the 20-odd volcanoes that make up the Auckland landscape and ferried out to Rangitoto Island which is the most recent volcano, is aparently dormant, and provides for a great 360 view around the whole natural harbour. The new walking shoes are far from broken in but no sign of blisters so far.

People wise things are best described as international with many backpackers, loads of different languages and accents, and a large percentage of asians (chinese, koreans, japanese, thai etc). The whole city feels comfortable and safe, the streets are clean and girlies will love the shopping!

Enough of the boring fact stuff and on to the experiences so far:

Jetlag aside (just about recovered) if you are in the South Island beware Laura and Rachel from the small town of Waimate. I arrived back in the hostel room on Thursday to find these two already half cut from an extravagant lunch (with wine), taking slugs from another bottle of vino, and preparing for a large night out (they were in the city on a 3 day trip). These two can best be described as "a party in a bag", up for anything and ready to lead from the front - 30 seconds inside the Globe nightclub and Laura has already commandeered one of the dancing poles in there.
Bulls vs Chiefs, let the battle commence

Bulls vs Chiefs, let the battle commence

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On Saturday we went to the Bulls vs Chiefs game, needless to say the 2 girls supported the visiting team and dressed accordingly.
Laura and Rachel - chiefs fans

Laura and Rachel - chiefs fans


We were accompanied by Elena, the Italian winemaker I met at Mt Eden and who was as excited as the natives to get to the game. We were rewarded with an exciting match which went down to the wire and which the Chiefs won 34-41, afterwards it was back to the city for more alcohol and fun. The girls flew home Sunday lunchtime and, whilst I will miss them, I wont miss their return to the room at 3 or 4 in the morning, trying to be quiet but sounding like an invading army!
After match drinks with Elena

After match drinks with Elena


Sadly Elena has today left to return to Venice, whilst small in stature she has a large personality and I hope our paths cross in the future.
On the plus side I met Lei Tan from Beijing so I have a ready made guide and mentor for that leg of my travel, assuming he gets home before I arrive there.

Moving forward, tomorrow Richard (who I met in Miami last year) arrives back in Auckland so some fresk carnage is just around the corner. . . . . . . .

Posted by RoystonBoyston 22:22 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes skylines people auckland Comments (0)

Arrival at the starting line

overcast 12 °C

Following the second leg of the 12000 flight to New Zealand the trip to the hostel was pleasant and simple, much the same can be said of the staff at the Base hostel. Its a large place with all mod cons including traveller proof passkeys to thier dorms and lifts that some people might pay good money for if they were operating at a funfair! Location is excellent, close to shops, bars and even the harbour.

Auckland is apparently known as the City of Sails because they have the highest number of sailing boats per capita of anywhere in the world - judging by the lack of craft on the water yesterday they must all be in dry dock or storage for the coming winter!

It is a very clean city and the people are friendly but, as with modern times, there are all the usual store chains here making it seem like most other places one has visited. Interestingly we are based just round the corner from the Sky Tower, the tallest building and yet a smaller version of the Toronto tower visited last April, picture to follow.

Prices here seem to be higher than back home especially as the exchange rate is about NZ$2 to the pound! Looking to venture over to one of the islands tomorrow assuming the weather holds, watch this space.

Posted by RoystonBoyston 21:42 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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