Today will go down in history as my biggest travel blunder ever. To put it simply, NEVER organise your next work/accommodation over a phone browser or head off without double checking everything. I got 2 hostels mixed up, and only discovered after a 4-hour bus trip up to the Bay of Islands that I had gone in the completely wrong direction. And since this is Easter, the BoI is fully booked. Thankfully, I had 2 days before this became an issue, and fixing the problem was only going to cost $45. Could have been a lot worse, and at least I got to use the Kiwi Experience pass that I won earlier this month. Come Sunday, I’ll head out on a 5am bus for Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty, where the hostel I actually paid for is situated.
The Kiwi Experience picks us up from Auckland around 7am, stopping at both Base and Nomad hostels before heading out of the city. Along the way our driver notes a handful of interesting things along the way, while also handing out several dozen clipboards. These hold hostel sign ups, and the optional tours we can do. The bus guarantee’s you 2 nights at whatever hostel you pick (so long as they have an agreement with them – usually Base) and you can attempt to ask for more. I’d already pre-booked 3 nights, but still had to write it down at the bottom of the board.
As for the tours, I had the nasty surprise of discovering my pass didn’t actually cover the Cape Reinga tour most Bay passes cover, which meant I’d have to cover the cost myself. Rather irritating since Stray’s bus pass includes it, making my ‘bargain’ pass a lot less of a bargain. I at least manage to cover some of the cost by adding it to a bundle with the ‘Cream Trip’ cruise, saving about $50.
Anyway, Paihia is a pretty adorable looking seaside town in the North of New Zealand. Most of the hostels appear to be grouped together in a street near the entrance to the town, with the city centre a ten-minute walk away. I’m staying at Base, which is an old comfort of mine, and has great Wi-Fi in addition to an optional barbeque in the evening. Which is good considering that in New Zealand, they take Easter surprisingly seriously and all the shops are shut most of the time. We’ve only got a few hours today before they shut down – an even bigger problem for most backpackers as even bars close as it’s illegal to sell alcohol over this weekend. So most backpackers are hitting the shops and coming back with crates of booze to tide them over.
I manage to grab a handful of food items to keep me going throughout the next 2 days, before heading off with some of my roommates to check out a nearby lookout point. I’m the only one with a map (which is never a good sign) and we’re not entirely sure where the road actually is, or if there’s any sign posts. Thankfully, some other tourists point us in the right direction, and we manage to navigate down the road and up the boardwalk into bush.
The hike to the top takes about 40 minutes, and acts as a painful reminder of how out of shape I’ve gotten since January. I really need to do more exercise and improve my stamina again. The muggy heat isn’t helping, but I would like to think I could handle this walk with more ability than I’m doing.
Thankfully, the view from the top, although obscured by trees, is worth the walk. You get a great view of the bay, and the town beneath it.
We end up hanging around there for nearly an hour, mostly chatting about travelling and the woes of age (seriously, they’re all in their late teens or early 20’s, I feel so freaking old right now) before heading back down so we can be back in time for the barbeque. Course, it takes a lot less time getting down than up, so I end up in the social area, where in the corner of my eye, I spot a jigsaw puzzle…
And what a doozy this one was! It was a 1000 piece with a Titanic theme, and had no actually image for me to work with. I literally had to go in from scratch. Got so wrapped up in it I almost missed the actual barbeque – though after ten minutes of frantic eating I ended up spending the next 3 hours trying to at least put the edges together.
Sadly, this jigsaw has clearly lost pieces along the way, so even if I finish it, it’ll be incomplete. Don’t doubt for a second I’ll still give it my all to finish it over the next 2 days though.