Note: Pictures from this post and the past week can be found in the album titled, “New Zealand: Coromandel Peninsula, Auckland, Northland.” As of this post, I haven’t captioned the pictures… but I will as soon as possible!
- Thursday, 3 Feb: Woke up, repacked, cooked breakfast, checked out; Greg, owner of the backpacker, recommended I check Davy’s Rentals for well-priced rental cars; they gave me a two-door manual Toyota for $40/day, all inclusive, no mileage limit; took off for Coromandel Town, stopping along the way whenever something looked nice; rode a privately-owned and built train to a high point with tremendous vies; ate at vegetarian cafe; stayed in backpacker.
- Friday, 4 Feb: Drove up to north end of Coromandel Peninsula; couldn’t drive all the way to Jackson Bay because of dips and flooding due to previous week’s weather; beautiful remote views; not much traffic but those I passed waved or smiled; drove back south then took 309 Road across to Whitianga, stopping to see huge Kauri tree grove and a waterfall; in Whitianga, checked in to On the Beach Backpackers; walked to town for info and groceries; booked kayak tour and windsurfing lesson for next day; watched movie with other backpackers, loaned my car to someone to go to grocery store; slept in dorm.
- Saturday, 5 Feb: Up early, checked out, packed up, drove to wharf and parked; took ferry across (five minutes) to pickup point on Hahei side; three hour kayak trip to Cathedral Cove, gorgeous water, nice guide, three other two-person kayaks; swam in crystal clear waters; coffee on the beach; back at Hahei, got a ride from kayak partner to the wharf; took ferry back, had lunch nearby, then drove north to Brophy Beach; older woman taught me to windsurf, one hour lesson; fell a lot but lots of fun!; next stop, Hot Water Beach, where I dug a hole to soak in thermally heated water and then ran to jump into the cool ocean; then drove to Purangi, a winery with many fruit liquours; met Danny the bartender who topped up all my tastings; had pizza, a G&T and more tastings of hard ciders; ended up staying overnight at the winery, not able to drive and it got late!
- Sunday, 6 Feb: Up VERY early due to loud cicadas and sunshine in my face; drove slowly back to Thames, returned the car, booked a ticket to Auckland; texted Thomas who said I could couchsurf at his place; uneventful bus ride, explored city center of Auckland a bit before taking a public bus to Pukatani, suburb where Thomas lives; no one answered door, took a nap on his lawn; finally snuck into house and found Thomas napping; watched tv series “The Cape,” relaxed, ate in.
- Monday, 7 Feb: Slept in a bit; took bus into town, walked to Auckland Museum and spent a few hours there; then walked through The Domain, hilly woodsy area; back to Thomas’ house in late afternoon; went to see “Green Hornet” in 3D with local Couchsurfing crowd (terrible movie!); met Helena and Meren, two young German girls new to CS, and re-met others from the Crossing; out for a quick drink after, then back to Thomas’ to sleep.
- Tuesday, 8 Feb: Slept in again, hightailed it to Vera’s, a Couchsurfer who had posted about going hiking west of Auckland; with her and Stephy (German Couchsurfer), went to Waitakere, which was closed, then to Karamatura; hiked 7.7 kilometers through hills and ridges, beautiful views at the top, nice waterfall stop; once back in Auckland, treated myself to a banana shake and decided to extend NZ stay by ten days ($80 cost); bussed back to Thomas’; we then went to Mike’s, another Couchsurfer’s, for get-together, met up with others from the crossing and some new folks; back to Thomas’ to sleep.
- Wednesday, 9 Feb: Woke up exhausted; spent the morning hanging out with Thomas, then went back to sleep for a few hours; when I woke up, German girls from movie night were there and we all chatted and helped them clean up their car so they could sell it; eventually I packed up and caught a ride with them to the city center; met up with Misty, Couchsurfer I met at the Crossing and again at the Auckland library, at a pub; Tyler also came (another CSer from the Crossing); we wandered around and got fish and chips for dinner; then Misty and I went to her apartment to drop off my bags, clean up and head to CS Drinks Night at the wharf; hung out there until past midnight, socializing and meeting or re-meeting people; got keys from Misty and headed back to her apartment, crashed to sleep immediately.
- Thursday, 10 Feb: Misty came back at 6:30am with Bob, another CSer, who slept on the floor; all up at 9:30am when Misty had to leave for work; Bob and I headed for downtown to do errands, eat, wake up; got my hair relaxed and met nice Korean folks at the beauty salon; Bob and I met at library, where I also ran into Gary (from the Crossing); we all hung out and did internet stuff (free wi-fi) until Maria showed up; Maria is a CSer who responded to a post I made about heading north to explore; Bob, Maria and I decided to bus up to Kawakawa together, Gary stayed in Auckland (already saw Northland and needed work); rush around to get Maria’s stuff, buy tickets, meet at bus station; spent a little time with Gary catching sun in a park; late afternoon bus to Kawakawa; walked through main street, settled on small cafe for lamb roast; eventually a woman who worked there offered us a place to sleep when she heard we were planning on sleeping in the park; Nomai and her twins Amber and Aaliyah welcomed us to their home and their couches!
I’m on a bus to Kawakawa. Across the aisle from me are Bob and Maria. Bob is 28, from Virgina and interested in working for six months in New Zealand. I met him at 6:30am this morning, when he and my host, MIsty, returned from a crazy night out. Misty had offered him a place to sleep in her tiny flat, so while she and I slept on the bed, he crashed on the floor. At 9:30am, Misty had to go to work, so Bob and I stumbled blearily out in the Auckland city center. Maria is a 25 year old Italian girl who is traveling on a budget in New Zealand. I met her at 1:30pm this afternoon, after she sent me a message on the Couchsurfing website responding to my post about wanting to travel north with someone.
Three strangers, we decided to bus north together to Kawakawa, which is near the Bay of Islands. We’re all interested in seeing Northland and have heard great things about the area; we are hoping to find somewhere to sleep when we arrive at 7:30pm, but are all open to sleeping on a beach somewhere too.
The last week has been an interesting mix of spur-of-the-moment, plans, changes of plans and changes of heart. On Tuesday I decided that I was not at all excited about leaving New Zealand for Australia, and so I went online and paid $80 to change my departure date. I hope ten days is enough…
Thomas was a lovely host. His house looks out over a beautiful bay. Thomas himself was friendly, easy going, slow paced and informative. He was also intensely affectionate, which was good for me: hugs and Maori greetings had me laughing and feeling as though we’d known each other for years and years. We had a lot of great conversations and, as we were both exhausted from the past week, had a lot of lazy time together doing nothing but chatting, laughing and pondering our lives. I admit to being a bit smitten by this gentle giant of a guy.
Misty, by contrast, was a ball of energy and brazenness, a refreshing and slightly intimidating woman ready to go, go, go! Having neared my exhaustion collapse point, I couldn’t possibly keep up, but she forgave me and handed over the keys to her apartment. Her humor, frankness and thoughts on all subjects were fun to relate with.
Auckland itself is a fun city, although a bit of a jolt after South Island’s farmlands and small towns, and Coromandel’s remote feel. The museum was fascinating, holding thousands of Maori artifacts, but for me hard to wander about in; it didn’t seem to have a path, or recommended, sensible way of taking in each section. It was all just there. The parks and gardens, however, were restful and beautiful. There seems to be quite a lot going on in Auckland on a daily basis. Almost everyone I met, even just for a quick chat on the street, was friendly and ready to help if needed. The exception to this was the busdriver crowd, who seemed overworked, underpaid and quite unfriendly. Or perhaps I’ve just gotten used to the small-town feel and am not ready to be back in the city!
Waiting to see what happens is a good policy for me. There are times when I feel myself stressing out: when will so-and-so call to confirm plans? where am I sleeping tonight? what should I do now? When that happens, I remind myself that it will all work out and that worrying, stressing, tightening up, will accomplish nothing.
And it’s true. I’m on a bus with strangers and I’m not worried in the least about where we’re sleeping tonight. It’ll all work out. And it’s gonna be a great adventure!