|After finding the Bay of Islands slightly busier than expected Becki and I managed to find ourselves a great little hostel going by the name of the Pickled Parrot. After chatting with the owners we booked ourselves on two of the local activites, a tour of the bay and a tirp up to Cape Reinga and 90 mile beach.
Woke to find that the weather had taken a turn for the worst with drizzling rain taking up most of the morning. Our boat trip around the Bay of Islands wasn't until 1pm, so we took a ferry over to Russell, a former whaling station and New Zealands first Capital City. A quaint little town with plenty of cafes and craft shops. We stopped for bite of lunch and made our way over to the peer to meet our tour boat. When the boat didn't turn up we started to get a little worried as we'd made an arrangement for the boat to come and pick us up from Russell as opposed to Phia (the area where we were staying). We started to think that something had gone wrong with the arrangement. Checking with the local tourist office we soon felt a little embarrassed to find the clocks had gone back an hour overnight and we'd not noticed. We'd basically been waiting on the peer an hour early!
When the boat did arrive I was slightly disappointed to find out that one of the trip highlights (travelling through a giant gaping stone arch) had to be cancelled down to bad weather conditions. The trip around the islands turned out to be okay, but the bad weather kept us mostly indoors and the beauty of the bay didn't really shine through without any sun.
The weather came through for us and we set off on the 4 hour bus trip up to Cape Reinga. Along the way up to the cape we stopped off to walk through some of New Zealands ancient forests, protected by law and largely unchanged from before even the Maori arrived. From there we stopped briefly at a cafe to grab a late breakfast and some sandwiches for lunch and then made our way up to New Zelands most northerly point signified by a lighthouse and a lone post box! Some staggering views and a few photos and we made our way down to one of the nearby beaches for dinner.
After dinner we made our way over to 90 mile beach, so named by early explorers, in reality the beach is more in the region of 64 miles, but still a pretty impressive beach all the same! Before taking a trip down the beach we stopped off to do a bit of sand boarding. Driving along a river bed, where to stop would result in the bus becoming entrenched, we made our way to the base of some pretty huge dunes. Way larger than the ones I had encountered in Vietnam. Out of our bus only about 5 of us dared to ride down the dune (not sure why, it wasn't that scary). We grabbed ourselves some boogie boards (as brought along by the bus) and started the long hard slug up the dune. For those that don't know walking up sand dunes is hard work, 2 steps forward, 1 step back and all that. Once at the top a brief instruction on how to slow yourselves down was given and off we shoved. It was great fun, very fast and a little hard to keep the board going straight at times, but I went up again for more. Although the second climb did finish me off, so it was my final.
After everyone had had their fill of sandboarding it was time to board the bus again and take our trip down the beach. The bus whizzed along the beach sending up sprays of salt water as it went. We stopped briefly to do some mussel hunting, which was suprisingly easy the little devils litterally hide just under the sand and can be scooped up by the handfull. It didn't take the bus long to fill a rather large tub full! Then it was back on the road, or beach should I say and we headed back to Phia.