The 4 days I spent in the northlands
06.12.2011 - 09.12.2011 23 °C
Day 43 (Tue 06/12/2011)
Having been dropped off in the Jag at the Kiwi experience pick up point, I got on the bus which took us straight to a town called Paihia. This left at 7am so we were there by midday. Paihia is a small tourist town and gateway to the bay of islands. It sits just across the water, a short 10 minute ferry ride from Russell, a former NZ capital (now home to only 700 permanent residents).
The KiwiEx bus
After check-in, I went for a walk around the town with my new roommate, an animated Dutch girl. Having got some supplies and our bearings around town we headed back with the plan of going in the hot tub. Unfortunately this had just been cleaned and would take a few hours to heat up. During this time I hung around the hostel where I met the first of our new gang; a guy and a girl, Hayden and Brooke, respectively. They were both NZ locals exploring their own country. We made plans to form a team for the quiz later that evening.
I went in the hot tub which was gradually getting hotter then followed this up with my new found cheap and favourite meal, Fusian noodles. These are like super noodles but about 10x nicer.
The quiz team had now grown to include a leary Australian girl, 2 German guys, 1 0f which, Jan would make up part of the gang that would travel on further along with an animated Swedish guy who had previously been a high level tumbler.
We did ok in the quiz but didn’t win however we did win the best team name which got us a jug of some random liquid. Brooke also managed to win a separate game; the prize for this was a boat trip around the bay of islands. It turned out that she didn’t want to go on the trip so I offered to buy it off her. After some terrible bartering on her part I’d got the $95 trip for $20 dollars, I gave her $50 for it.
Day 44 (Wed 07/12/2011)
Alex had gone away on a trip for the day but the other 6 of us from the quiz the previous night took the ferry to Russell. When we arrived we pretty much walked straight across the peninsular to a nice beach on the other side.
On the boat to Russel
The beach at Russel
We played around on the beach for a while before heading into the sea. The waves weren’t too big but they were rolling waves, really good for body surfing. We swan quite far out and played in the waves before doing some sunbathing and gymnastics on the beach.
A classic group jumping picture
A seagull up close
Gymnastics on the beach
We walked back to the ferry, getting some ice cream on the way. When we got back to the hostel we still had loads of time left in the day, the group split with Jan and I choosing to go on a hike.
We had the shittest paper map in the world with a couple of poorly detailed hikes drawn on them. The map didn’t even show the complete route so we were only guessing at where we had to go. We started off walking around the coast until we were out of Paihia, we then followed the coastal walk path further along until it brought us out at a main road with no footpath. From here we continued down another path into the forest, this eventually led us out further down the same road.
During our hike we went on a random walkway through some mangroves
By this point we’d been walking for quite a while, just up the road we saw some shops and thought we’d ask people directions for the hike. No one seemed to have a clue about this mapped hike or could even tell us which was to go. One guy offered to drive us back in his van to look for the path; whilst we were waiting we popped into a bottle shop a few doors down and each bought a 1.25L bottle of 8.2% cider. When we returned, the guy had already left so we decided to walk back down the main road to look for the path into the mountains.
We pretty much got all the way back to the edge of Paihia and hadn’t found anything. It wasn’t all bad because we had our bottles which were now half drunk, with us also being about half drunk. As we walked back down the beach we met some local Mauri girls who were sitting on the beach drinking. We got chatting to them for a while before we continued on our way.
The tide had come in now so walking back around the coast was a lot more tricky. As we got nearer to the hostel we met 2 more German guys on the beach including 1 of the funniest people I’d met so far, Vladamere (he didn’t mean to be funny, he just was funny, probably exaggerated by me now being very drunk). This guy was stereotypically German, he had short spiky almost white blonde hair, wore some interesting clothes and a bum bag. He had just bought a fishing rod and was teaching himself how to fish. He ended up joining us for the evenings activities.
The German guy fishing
We were now on our way back to meet the others for fish and chips at 19:00, by now there was at least 8 of us in the group. We walked into town and all got food where we were joined by hundreds of seagulls; I thought it was hilarious to get them to come as close as possible by feeding them small portions of my chips.
We went back to the hostel to spend an hour in the hot tub which was now unbearably hot before heading out to rocks on the beach with a load of drinks. We’d now managed to build up a group of about 12 people heading down to the beach to play games. All in all it was a pretty funny evening ending in a game of 1-up-1-down with only 1 person getting what was going on.
Day 45 (Thu 08/12/2011)
It was another early start for the boat trip; I got to the boat and sat in a corner under my towel. The trip had 2 main purposes, seeing the bay of islands from the water and looking for Dolphins.
Some dolphins next to the boat
We saw quite a lot of Dolphins swimming along with the boat and jumping out of the water. They are so interested in humans, one day it would be good to get a chance to swim with them.
A dolphin jumping
After a trip out to the furthest island and through what it called ‘the hole in the rock’ we headed back for a short stop on one of the other islands. Here I walked around the coast for a bit on the rocks and went for a swim in the sea. I wanted to swim across to another island but once I was in the water I chickened out.
'Hole in the rock'
The cove I walked to
I got back on the boat where we headed back to Paihia. I got off at Russell to spend the afternoon on the beach again (I was pretty tired and fell asleep here) before taking the ferry back; I was the only person on the ferry on the way home.
By the time I got back to the hostel, Brooke and Hayden had already left back for Auckland, they were staying there 2 nights so I would meet up with them and a load of others to start the main part of the trip.
That evening I made some food (noodles) and watched the film, ‘kick ass’ in the common room before going in the hot tub again (which was now only luke warm) and then bed to get an early night.
Day 46 (Fri 09/12/2011)
Today was skydive day. The bus was leaving at 8am to take me to the air field. Before I left I had to check out and put my bags in the luggage storage. On the way to the airfield, shock horror, we stopped to pick up a group of 6 German girls. I’d say 50% of all the tourists in Aus and NZ are German; it’s actually pretty good because they are all really nice people.
The aeroplane I was going to jump out of
When we got to the airfield we had quick instruction of what to do as we left the aircraft. The total instruction went something like this: ‘As you get to the edge, cross your arms and wrap your legs under the plane, as we jump out, bend your legs back as much as you can and put your head back, then when we tap you on the shoulder, put your arms out and hold the position’. Training complete. I was probably expecting a bit more instruction for jumping out of a plane at over 3 miles above the earth but I guess I was strapped to the instructor so he pretty much controlled everything anyway.
Ready to jump
So today I was jumping from 16000ft, which is almost 5km above the ground. When you jump above 13000ft you have to use an oxygen mask to breath in the plane on the way up. I was going up with 2 other Dutch girls who were doing a 12000ft jump; it was pretty cool getting to sit in this tiny plane (1 seat in the front and just enough floor space in the back to tightly squash in 6 people) and watch the 2 girls disappear out the side. I then had to climb higher for a few more minutes before we were good to go; you could feel this tiny plane chugging away trying to gain height at this altitude.
The view on the way up was amazing, being able to see the area around the bay of islands. We broke through the clouds, flying above a huge white wonderland. When it was time to jump, we rolled up the plastic side shutter and awkwardly shuffled towards the edge; this was the weirdest part of the experience because you’re dangling out the side of a plane hurtling along with the air rushing past your body, not quite knowing when the instructor is going to push us out of the plane. At that height above the clouds you have no perception of actually how high you are or how long it’ll take to reach them; I soon found out, pretty dam quick.
The first 5 seconds is the most amazing part of the jump; you’ve just launched out of the plane and you’re flipping over until you get steady. You’re accelerating for about the first 10 seconds to about 200km/hr, however with the combined weight of me and my instructor at around 200kg we were apparently going a bit faster. During the acceleration and freefall at terminal velocity you don’t really feel like you’re falling because the perception of how high you are doesn’t really change, all you can feel is wind rushing past you’re face as you struggle to breath. Because we’d been flipping over and my mind is so used to always seeing the clouds above, I actually thought we we’re falling backwards.
Coming down in the parachute
Once we were steady, the instructor moved my arm position which made us spin sideways in the air and change direction. Falling straight into the clouds was so cool; it looked like a big cushion. We deployed the parachute about 5 seconds into the thick cloud, I got to take hold of the controls and was able to make us spiral round. Floating down in the parachute is so gentle; it doesn’t even feel like you’re moving. The freefall was about 65 seconds and the parachute ride was probably a couple of minutes but the whole experience felt like no time at all.
My tandem instructor
I’d watched one of the German girls land pretty hard but our landing was really smooth as we glided in. The only downside to the whole experience was how quickly the descent went. I’d definitely do it again but I want to go higher.
We got dropped back at the supermarket to get some supplies including the standard 2L carton of chocolate milk for the day. I had just enough time back at the hostel for some food and a dip in the pool before getting back on the kiwi experience bus for the 4 hour drive back to Auckland.
In Auckland I took the easy option of staying in the Base hostel which I got for $18 (this is about as cheap as you’ll get in NZ). The reason it was cheap was because it was actually the shittest hostel I’ve stayed in so far. The location is great, right in the centre of the city but everything else is shocking. The only access to the different floors is via 3 lifts which don’t really work. At one point it took me 10 minutes to go up 1 floor after 6 journeys up and down the building without the door opening at the right floor. The rooms are small and have no windows, my room was about 50m away from the nearest toilet or sink. The mattress was awful, I woke up in the morning laying on the metal bunk bed support with the mattress folded up around me.
That night I went for food in one of Auckland’s quality food courts. These are standalone food courts with loads of different stores offering good food from all over the world for about $10 a meal. I followed this up with a shake from McDs so I could use their free wifi.
Bench pressing a random girl in the hostel
6 of us met up that night for a quick drink at the local bar. The bar was hosting a jelly wrestling competition; not quite as good as it sounds because the competition had been entered by a load of fat blonde Viking girls, the kind you laugh at whilst people watching at the students union.
Being a bit of a loser I went to bed before midnight so I could get up the following morning at 6am to sit in McDs on the internet until the bus left at 08:20.