3rd September 2011
Luckily the snoring in my room meant that my alarm did not wake the others, as it was a fairly early start. Despite the fact that the early morning is probably my most favorite time of the day, I really do not like getting up to enjoy it. But when the reason is to start a 4 day tour to the North of New Zealand… well then, I am happy to drag myself out of bed and enjoy the morning.
The Magic Bus
I arrived before the doors were even open at the Magic Bus, but it didn’t take long before I was ushered in and invited to use the free internet. Shortly after I was introduced to my driver, Kate. Then we were off to round up the troops at all the various hostels around town. We had around 14 people varying in nationality from Japanese, to German, to Indian, to Dutch, to Scottish, to English. A great mix of people and ages. After heading out over the Auckland Harbor Bridge we headed straight North for the Bay of Islands, arriving in Paihia around noon. Kate gave us a bit of a drive by through town to give us the lay of the land and then dropped us off at our hostels. We had about an hour to kill before joining the “Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise”.
I had decided on the all inclusive package, that way I did not have to think about anything or plan anything, I could just go with the flow and that was exactly my plan.
Hole in the Rock Dolphin Cruise
Having been on quite a few dolphin cruises in my time, this would most likely have been an activity I would have skipped. But I am so glad that I didn’t. The cruise was fantastic and the views truly astounding. The boat doesn’t exactly cruise along like you might expect but actually speeds along at a decent pace, which is good considering the distance you cover.
While waiting to get onboard I met Lissy from Germany. She was also on the Magic Tour and we hit it off immediately. Our first stop was to pop over to Russell Island, once known as the Hell Hole of the Pacific due to the hellacious actions of traders and ships’ crews. Today it has a more quaint, old English port feeling.
After picking up some passengers we headed out to explore the Bay of Islands. We were very lucky and came across a pod of dolphins within the first hour, they were very frisky and were playing, jumping and rubbing themselves against the rocks and sides of the boats. As there were no babies in the pod we were given the option to suit up and swim with them. But, as the weather was on the grey side and the water very cold, no one took them up on the offer. It had to have been one of the best dolphin viewing I had ever done.
We dropped off the mail with the caretaker of a kiwi family’s private island, and explored small coves and fishing holes. We learnt about Captain Cook first meeting the local Maoris when they stormed him on mass as he stood with his crew on the beach of one of hte islands. His ingenious reaction was to quickly draw a line in the sand, the Maoris stopped and stood there, only getting aggressive when one of the crew stepped over the line to present a gift, they killed him in return.
Then it was out into the open ocean to see the Hole in the Rock, which is precisely that, a hole in a large rock. It was spectacular and legend has it that if you go through it and a drop of water lands on your head then you will have luck and youth forever. So when the captain announced we were going to attempt it we all looked up and hoped to get blessed, to no avail.
Our last stop was the Grand Cathedral Cave, which appears to be eroding into a hole as well, as divers have reported feeling a surge coming from the far side. The acoustics were incredible and the water appeared to be a glorious shade of green.
Returning towards the mainland we came across another pod of dolphins. We had the option to get off at Russel with a free ferry ticket back or to just head back to the mainland. Lissy and I decided to spend an hour or two and explore Russel. The free ferry ticket might have been a selling factor… We walked all around the tiny town and finally settled in to have a coffee and enjoy some live music at the local hotel.
An Epic Night
It was a perfect afternoon and after an hour on Russel we decided to hop on the next ferry and go relax before dinner at 7pm. I had a dip in the hostel hot tub and walked across the parking lot to the next hostel where we were having the bbq. It turned out to be a great night and new friends were formed. Freya from Scotland and I had a fairly alcoholic night and I knew the morning would be rough when she started passing jaggerbombs around. The most amusing thing, other than the flourescent paint, was the Scotsman named Scott who was all hands. He first hit on Freya and when she extricated herself from him he immediately turned to me. After dancing a bit I ducked under his puckering lips saying I needed to find Freya. But fear not he turned around and found a new fancy without a second thought. Sometimes you need a good night out.
A great day with Magic and an even epic night with great new friends!