I was picked up early one morning off the street (pre-arranged I wasn't just hanging around the streets waiting to be picked up!) in the middle of Auckland with a feeling of pure terror in the depths of my stomach; not only was I going on a three day tour alone but I had to get on a full bus and find somewhere to sit! I handed in my bags, was ticked off the list and climbed up the large steps to the bus - looking down the isles I noticed everyone had the same idea; sit in a seat alone if you can. So I slowly started walking down the bus and chose a seat next to a lovely girl called Alice and to my relief we became fast friends.
The journey to Paihia was about 3 hours but chatting the whole way with Alice it felt more like 1. On the way to Paihia we stopped at the Manginangina Kauri Walk to see the Kauri trees - "Kauri are among the world's mightiest trees, growing to more than 50 metres tall, with trunk girths of up to 16 metres and living for more than 2000 years." (http://www.doc.govt.nz/conservation/native-plants/kauri/)
All parts of the Kauri trees were used throughout history - the wood for building and the gum for glues and fire starters however due to the immense amount of time it takes for the Kauri trees to grow they started becoming extinct and New Zealand authorities put all remaining Kauri trees under protection in 1987.
We arrived in Paihia dumped our bags in our rooms and went straight out onto the lake to go Kayaking - something I have never done before. We were taken out for about 5hours by a local guy and spent the afternoon intermittently drifting and chatting and paddling around the waters, stopping for tea after we saw this beautiful mini waterfall. It was fabulous if a little tiring!
Paihia is a very small very quiet little town so after Kayaking and the mixer BBQ the accommodation put on we returned to our rooms for an early night - we had a very early start up to Cape Reinga in the morning.
First thing the following morning we hopped back on the bus ready for a busy day of 90 mile beach, sand boarding and sight seeing and this day certainly didn't disappoint!
Starting with 90 Mile Beach - we didn't drive along the whole beach in the bus as there is a high change of the bus sinking in the wet sand but the drive that we did was great fun, sand spinning up from the wheels, waves splashing closer and closer to the bus and eventually pulling over and dipping our toes in the water.
Next stop was sand boarding - you probably can't tell from the pictures but these dunes were absolutely humongous! Climbing to the top was an achievement in itself! Once at the top the true height and steepness (is that a word?!) hit you as you were given instructions on how to go down the dunes face first. You lean on your elbows, tuck your feet in and use your knees to steer and slow down. Speeding down those dunes face first was thrilling but unnerving - awaiting at the bottom was a stretch of water and nettles, if you didn't stop in time you were sure to go in! Fear of doing this myself and going to fast meant I spent the entire ride with my knees dug firmly into the sand which resulted in splitting my favourite trousers - that's what you get for being a thrill seeker haha!
After we dusted ourselves off as best we could (we had sand in places you should never have sand) we piled back onto the bus ready for the peak of our day trip - Cape Reinga. There are literally no words to describe how stunning it was there, as we arrived the rain clouds spread and made way for the blue sky and sunshine, the pictures here can do the talking.
Below was the money shot; everyone qued up for a photo on the edge:
The lighthouse and famous sign post stating the distance from that point to popular countries.
How staggeringly beautiful is Cape Reinga? Looking back over the photos I can't quite believe I was there, seems like a dream.
The following day before we headed back to Auckland we took a quick dolphin boat trip back in Paihia with the possibility of swimming with dolphins.
Being the animal lover I am I was naturally beyond excited at potentially swimming with these immense creatures but unfortunately the weather turned once we were out there and it wasn't possible. However seeing so many beautiful dolphins swimming next to the boat just about made up for it (just about!).
As always with my experience of New Zealand on the return journey to Auckland we stopped on the side of the road and saw a beautiful waterfall:
And that concludes my trip to the North Island, next stop the South and the Bottom Bus; see you there!