It is January 23, 2006 and I am back in Auckland. I left Auckland to skip the "Big Day Out" concert because hostel prices jumped about $10 NZD and I just didn't want to pay. I got up to Paihia (Pie-he-ah) on the Kiwi Experience bus on a free trip included with my registration for SWAP NZ so I thought it would be worth savings.
We left at about 7:30 am on the 19th and got on the bus. We passed a handful of small towns on Motorway #1 as we headed north. It was about a 4 hour trip and it wasn't too exciting, except for some of the scenery. It is summer and yet there are almost no flowering plants, but the palms are huge and there are also some large pine stands that would have been cool to check out (but I can't because I am on a damn bus). We arrived in Paihia at about 12:30 and checked into the "Bay Adventurer" hostel. There were 7 people in this dorm so it was a little crowded, but it was about $21 a night so cheaper than Auckland. I went further north later to Niha to see some raw geothermal activity. This area has natural hotsprings that the locals have claimed have healing qualities. It wasn't overly exciting and it rained during the trip up there, but it was something to do. Apparently, I was one of the few who actually prepared for this trip by bringing my raincoat, wouldn't leave camp without it.
On the 20th I had a chilled out morning. My Canadian friends had activities that I didn't want to pay for in the afternoon so I went with them to the beach. We played cribbage in the wind, which was an interesting activity. After that, when everyone was on their bay cruises (the average bay trip costs about $120 NZD and I didn't want to pay that until I got some money) so I decided to hike on the local walking trails. What a crazy experience. The brochure I picked up said that walk trail was about 6 hours so I thought I would hike for the afternoon and get back about 7:30 for dinner. I went to the first lookout point and was impressed with the view, but I was not prepared for the winding trails and the topography. The second leg of the trip was more of the same, no interesting vegetation or animals except for lichen that looks like Reindeer lichen in the boreal forests and some chirping, buzzing insects in the trees that I think are Cicadas or crickets, but I couldn't see them. This trail was pretty tough but I made it to the road, where my trip went stupid. There was no signage when I reached the road, only a post with some grafitti on it so I looked at my brochure and then started walking. This road was gravel and there was no signage or anything on the road. A car passed me and asked if I wanted a lift, I said no because I thought the walk would be short. I walked, and I walked, and I walked (maybe an hour). Where is the next part of the trail? Not knowing if I took a wrong turn or missed the trail I turned back to see if I missed anything. I get back to where I started and what does the grafitti post say? "4 km to road crossing". This is where I snapped. I got a little "closer to god" at this point and then took the same trail back to Paihia. Here is the problem... The brochure had no km distances on it so I figured 2.5 hours is like a trail back home (father, mother, and kids) but it isn't. In addition there was no distance scale on the map, nor was there a north point or any signage along the way. I wasn't lost because I knew where I came from, but I was dead tired and out of water when I got back. I went down the street to get a pizza, and then slept like a dead man.
The 21st was the most boring day that I may have in NZ. My back muscles didn't appreciate the walk and seized on me so I didn't sleep well. I managed to take a short walk to the beach but it was hot so I didn't stick around. I spent the rest of the day reading Shogun and chilling out. Here is something funny though... Two of my dorm mates were from Bristol in the UK (The UK home of John Cabot, 3rd grade Social Studies anyone?). They were in Melbourne (I think) for Hallowe'en and I guess a couple of guys dressed up as Bob an Doug McKenzie from SCTV. So they were asking me whether we called each other "Hoser" often and told each other to "Take Off, eh?" It was amusing, but maybe the only good part of the day.
The 22nd we headed for home at 4:30 pm after checking out and hanging around, again nothing too exciting. I got a buffet breakfast because I needed a solid meal, so how does about 4 eggs, 3 sausages, 2 small croissants, and a pile of hash sound? Man, I have been eating like crap, it is time for me to learn meal planning. On the ride home there was a problem with the road (accident or something), so motorway #1 was backed up. It is only one lane of highway each way for most of this country so it took an extra 45 minutes to get back to Auckland. I signed back in to Auckland Central Backpackers and will stay here until I either find work, or decide to continue south on the Kiwi Experience.
So Paihia in short is... A tourist trap where anything exciting costs a bundle. I will still be going back because on my next trip I can go to Cape Reinga (Ray-ing-a) the farthest north point in NZ, I may also pay to do some sailing, maybe.
If you are ever here, try L&P. L&P stands for Lemon and Paeroa (Pie-row-a). Paeroa is a town in NZ where it is made. It is a "Lemon Fizz Drink" according to the locals. I have had a number of them, too bad they are only "World Famous in New Zealand".
Add this song to the Playlist: Hard Road, by Sam Roberts from "We Were Born In A Flame".
Photos are still coming, I will let you know when they are posted.