Pahia, New Zealand
There seemed to be quite a few of us in the group heading for the Bay of Islands, on a peninsula North of Auckland. We caught the bus first to Auckland, stopping off to stretch our legs at Mt Maunganui, in the Bay of Plenty. This beach resort is supposedly a bit of a party town. Quite a pretty place, a town located on a sandbar with a harbour one side and wide sandy beaches the other. All this in the shadow of an extinct volcano! A pleasant place to walk around and have breakfast but not convinced about it being a party place as it seemed to be full of OAPs stopping over from their cruise ships.
We chilled out in Auckland that evening before an early start to travel up to Pahia, the main town in the beautiful bay of Islands. I joined Rich, who I had met in the sulphur pool at Hell’s Gate, for a boat trip out into the bay to attempt to swim with dolphins. We were lucky to have sunny skies and the scenery here in the bay was pretty spectacular. About half an hour into the trip we spot our first pod of bottle nose dolphins, at least 30 of them!!! Our guide is in her element, she is NUTS about these dudes, seemingly having a pet name for every single one of them. She could recognise individual dolphins by markings on their dorsal fins and was talking about them as if describing a soap opera, ‘Half moon is the love child of full moon’ that kind of thing.
We were really hoping to be able to swim with the dolphins but, as this pod contained some juveniles, it was not permitted. Instead, we lay down on the hull of the boat and watched in amazement as these beautiful, graceful, entertaining creatures swam by only inches away from us. There were so many of them, absolutely everywhere. We watched their quirky behaviour, much fin slapping, playful darting around, a mother rounding up her young by some very aggressive fin slapping! Our guide really brought the dolphins story to life too! We were a little disappointed we couldn’t do the swim but it was still just brilliant to see so many dolphins in such a stunning setting.
Back to Pahia for BBQ and party time in one of the hostels. It was one of those evenings that I was just going to ‘stay for one’ but ended up being so fascinated by the ‘manliest man’ competition that i couldn’t tear myself away! Bruce, our driver, was entered into the competition against his will! The competitions ranged from real silly things such as coming up with the best chat up line and undoing a ladies bra with one hand to arm wrestling and speed drinking! I know, this sounds pretty hideous but I was amazed that Bruce, about double the age and half the size of most of the competitors, seemed to be doing quite well.. The grand finale, a dry cracker eating contest and tequila contest and he nailed it! Bruce was the champion and drinks were on his winnings! I still do not know how the bloody hell he managed this, especially when he was put against a young Rambo in the arm wrestling heat. I felt so proud of him, even more so when i was plied with free drinks for the rest of the night!
A real struggle getting up the next morning as you can imagine, but it was a great drive back to Auckland stopping at some interesting places on the way. We had breakfast in a little cafe overlooking Hokianga harbour and some huge sand dunes then went to check out Waipoua forest, home to a HUGE Kauri tree thought to be around 2000 years old! The twisty road back to Auckland rocked us all off to sleep after the previous evening’s festivities. Final stop in NZ, Auckland before i continue my round the world trip across the Pacific.