Bay of Islands

(Aug. 21) Along with the 2-night starter pack that we got from ACB was included a trip up to the Bay of Islands, a few hours north of Auckland. This trip was via Kiwi Experience, an alternative to our later choice of the Magic Bus. We later found out that Kiwi Experience is more oriented towards the college kids on vacation, looking to go out partying every night, an impression confirmed by watching everybody else drag onto the bus at 7:20AM with comments like "I only got two hours of sleep last night!" Not that this is relevant, but it was amusing.

It was a quiet ride up to the Bay of Islands, with only a couple stops for food and bathrooms. Sonia and I reviewed the activities available in the Bay and decided to do the Excitor boat trip to get out on the water and see the Bay from the water. The Bay is, well, a bay, with something like 200 islands in it. The name is pretty descriptive. But it's quite pretty. And getting out among the islands on the boat was a lot of fun. The main attraction of the boat ride is getting out to the Hole in the Rock, pictured to the right, which the boat passed through, and then circled the island and popped into a cave on the left. And plus it was just fun to get out, feel the wind in our air and fly around on the water after being cooped up on the bus for a while.

Sonia and I took a quick 30-minute walk up to a scenic overlook behind our hostel at sunset, through the semi-temperate rainforest of the area. Lots and lots of ferns. Very damp. About what you'd expect. But the view was worth it when we got to the top.
The whole Bay was very pretty. Heck, even the view from the room in our hostel was good.

The next day (Aug. 22), Sonia and I went on a half-day guided sea-kayaking trip that we had booked from the ACB. I had never done a kayaking trip, so I was a bit apprehensive, but it wasn't so bad. It was a bit scary to head out across big expanses of water on this tiny little boat, but my sister was doing it, so I couldn't back out :). It was a lot of fun.

First, we paddled over to Waitangi, where the peace treaty between the Maori and the British was originally signed. To commemorate the treaty, the Maori built a ceremonial waka (war canoe) out of an enormous kauri tree (native to New Zealand). The waka still stands there, and is actually brought out to sea once a year on New Zealand day to commemorate the occasion.
After that, we just paddled around the bay some more.
Eventually, we parked the canoes on one island, and hiked up to another scenic overlook.

After four hours of paddling around, we were done for the day. Sonia and I packed up, hopped back on the bus, and were back in Auckland for dinner and an early night before getting on the Magic Bus at 8am the next morning.

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