Auckland to Bay of Islands
On Friday the 13th [!], I flew from Sydney to Auckland on Air New Zealand. It was probably the best flight I’ve ever been on — nice clean big plane with lots of leg room, and each seat had its own tv where we could watch tv episodes or movies or listen to cds. Yeah it was awesome. I landed around 5pm and spent the night at Aspen House B&B.
Then finally… the tour begins! I checked out at 9am after having a free breakfast and walked around a bit before meeting the bus. Finally it stopped before 10 and picked up a bunch of people. First on were me, 2 Dutch girls [19ish], a German girl [Anna, 20], and a Brit [Mike, 24]. Some older people [30's] also joined, including another American [Kendra], a Brit [Jill], Canadian [Dana]. Last on were a Frenchman [Francois] and French-Canadian [Isabelle, 23, a skinny blond wearing a tight black cotton dress... on a camping trip!]. There were a few others on the bus who had already joined [lots of Germans], in all about 20 people or so. The bus was set up with 2 rows of seats in front, then 3-4 seats along the windows facing each other [like a lounge], then 2 more rows [I sat in one], and 3-4 seats by the windows, and a row of seats across the back. The bus carries a trailer of luggage, bikes, and a built-in kitchen with food and utensils. Very handy!
We stopped for lunch at Uretiti rest area on the beach, my first glimpse of New Zealand beaches! Such beautiful blue water! I had some fun with my tripod and unfortunately witnessed some nude bathers on the beach. Then we stopped and did an hour walk through the Mangrove trees that grow in the river, and ended up at Haruru falls. Nice walk, a bit too fast-paced, but the falls weren’t that special.
We arrived at our campsite at the Bay of Islands holiday park, on a river! Beautiful. My tent [named Cinderella] was set facing the river and had the perfect view of the full moon over the water. We stayed here for 2 nights. This first night, we had to make dinner fast before going to see the Maori show. We were divided into 3 cook groups, and our first dinner was macaroni with meat and cheese – yum.
The Maori show started with everyone taking off their shoes before entering the Treaty House. We sat down inside and watched actual Maoris perform a story about how their Treaty of Waitangi was signed. Lots of native singing and stick-tossing. Males handle weapons by making lots of chants/grunts and doing odd motions with their arms and weapons. Really cool. We got to take pictures afterwards and I had mine taken with one of the actors. It’s a very colorful culture [red, especially].
That night there was a full moon and the stars were so clear over our camp. Beautiful! Except for how I neglected to snag a mattress and had to sleep on the hilly ground. Que painful!