Thursday, 29 December 2016

It's silly season

Christmas has been and gone and as usual I'm late in writing blog posts....but silly season is upon us so here's my December catch up!

My friend Dan runs this awesome website called  It's similar to Meet Up, but more specialised for certain activities so I've been getting involved in an attempt to meet new people and have cool adventures.  Dan, Sam and I joined a night orienteering trip posted on the site a couple of weeks back which was a lot of fun - a guy called Paul is massively into orienteering and decided to run a free trip for anyone who wanted to learn how to do it.  So we set off after work to Duder Regional Park just before the sun set, and he taught us how to read topo maps and use compasses.  We navigated to lots of points on the map even after darkness fell, some more prepared than others with head torches until it got late and we needed to head back to Auckland.  I enjoyed it so much that I went out and bought a compass the next day :)

I had my last day of work before my enforced 3 week break - as I am a temp and the bank essentially shuts down over christmas, they don't let temps work and it's unpaid leave which sucks a tiny bit.  It was a good last day though - we had a long leisurely lunch at a nice Italian restaurant in Britomart, and swapped secret santa presents. I got the best thing ever - a tub of Quality Street!!!! They're unheard of over here so whoever got me must have ordered it especially, which was so nice of them! I've been munching my way through them for the last few weeks...not a fan of the new one though.

That evening we had a small party BBQ at ours to celebrate the fact my visa got approved, Amy is moving out, Ash is moving in, and Shannyn is going away for a month  - all change at Paice Ave!

The following day Ben and I headed off to Muriwai where we spent hours photographing the gannets - the chicks have hatched now so they're all cute and fluffy.  As we were walking back to the car, a group stopped us and asked for us to take a photo of them which we happily obliged.  They they asked if we wanted some of their BBQ so of course we said yes and stuffed ourselves - our tummies had been grumbling so it was perfect timing and really nice of them to let us join in :)  This is one of many things I love about New Zealand, strangers are just so friendly to each other.   After our feed we changed into wetsuits and spent 2 hours body boarding - it's SO MUCH FUN!!! Muriwai is a bit of a sketchy place to do it though, I've never felt such strong undercurrents before.  You can be standing in 2 inches of water that's going back into the sea and the pull is so strong on your ankles its crazy.  I got wiped out by a big wave and thought I was going to die but luckily I didn't.  On the way home we stopped for a 'real fruit icecream' which is the most delicious thing ever.  Vanilla ice cream that's put through a machine with frozen fruit and all squashed and mixed together and it's huge and really cheap.

Gannetts mate for life and preen each other to keep their love going. Cute!

And so began my first of 3 weeks off.  On Monday I was super productive and went to the shops, bought new hiking boots and some other stuff, did some life admin, DIY and other stuff and in the evening went to the Waywiser social evening where Dan and his team showed an audience how the site works, answered questions and let people meet each other.  I met some really nice people, some of whom I have planned adventures with already :)

On Tuesday I headed up to Russell, a tiny town in the Bay of Islands which was one of the first settlements in New Zealand and therefore has a lot of history.  I got a flat tyre on the way up there in the middle of nowhere, but luckily a guy in a truck stopped and changed my tyre for me which was nice of him.  It sounded like my exhaust had fallen off so I was grateful it was just a flatty!

I spent the afternoon wandering round Russell (which didn't take too long) but the weather was gorgeous so I mostly just sat by the sea and read a book before heading to my campsite for the evening, where I met another girl called Naomi who was also on the working holiday visa so we had a wee chat.

NZ's oldest church, built in 1836

The following day I hired a bike and did a 20k bike ride with Lana, one of the girls I met at the Waywiser night. She lives in Northland not far from Russell so we met up.  The bike trail was a bit disappointing - the lady at the campsite told me this section was the most scenic, but I think that's because she didn't want me putting the bike in the car and doing further away section! However it was mostly flat, which was good because the ride to the start of the trail hadn't been at all flat and I nearly vomited from over exertion on the way there!

After our cycle I headed back down to Auckland making a few stops on the way - I followed a 'tourist drive' which are often really pretty drives but this one was an exception (unless you're into refinery plants and industrial areas!), and stopped off at Uretiti beach which is a huge long gorgeous sandy beach with a DOC campsite on it.

Then it was Christmas!! Anyone who knows me will know I hate Christmas - I think it's fake, expensive, forced and I hate the build up, the christmas songs, tacky decorations - everything about it.  It's just another day but it's meant to be a bit special and never is and I get stressed out about buying presents that won't be good enough and trying to enjoy a day that's over commercialised.  I was also feeling a bit weird about having my first christmas away from my family so me and Amy decided we should do something super cool that would make us forget that we were so far away from our nearest and dearest.

The Whanganui River Crossing is something both of us have had on our bucket lists - a 'great walk that's not a walk', the 3 or 5 day canoe trip follows the Whanganui river down it's most scenic parts, and you camp along the way.

We opted for the 3 day version and Amin joined also as he had no christmas plans. We drove down on the 23rd and stayed in a motel that the canoe company (Owhango Adventures - I recommend them!) put us up in.  Other companies let you camp for free or charge you for accommodation but Owhango were doing a special deal for proper accommodation for free the night before so we went with them.

We had a great christmas eve eve - Sepha and Cesca had been the cutest and had created us a pass the parcel present which we had hours of fun opening - each layer had a silly joke present and a dare, so we got Amin to film us doing the dares to send to them.  My favourite presents were the panpipe CD and the puzzle which took ages to do but kept us entertained!!! The present ended with a really lovely metal feather bookmark - me and Amy were very touched at their thoughtfulness and creativity!!! Thanks guys!!!

Colin's mum is also the cutest person ever - I've never even met her but she knew me and Amy were going to be spending christmas alone so she'd put together a little hamper for us with individually wrapped presents and christmas goodies.  So nice of her - especially as I haven't met her before!!

hamper from Colin's mum - dogs not included sadly

We got up early on christmas eve, made sure our barrells were all packed with everything we needed on the trip and hopped into the van for the hour journey to the river.  After a brief safety lesson we were away, floating down the river and screaming everytime the boat rocked.  Soon got used to it though and we were pros by the time boxing day came round!  Amy and I were in a double canoe and Amin in a single one.  The first day was uneventful and we stopped for lunch on a sandy river bank, before continuing our journey to the first Doc campsite - John Coull.  We got there in good time and had our pick of camp spots, so chose a vaguely shady one and set up camp for the evening.  We went to bed early as we were pretty exhausted from the rowing and woke early the next day, cooking porridge for breakfast and heading back onto the river once more.  Day 2 had a few more rapids but nothing that was too scary.  We made a welcome stop off at the Bridge to Nowhere track, a 40 minute walk into the bush to see a bridge that was built back in the 40s when they tried to cultivate the land but then gave up as it was too hard.  It was good to stretch our legs after being sat for so long!

As we were getting back in the boats Amy noticed someone's kayak hadn't been tied up and was just floating down the river - no one seemed too concerned but one of the ladies who had just arrived said it was hers, so we took it upon ourselves to go and rescue it.  It was a bit weird - she seemed very blase about the fact her boat along with all her belongings was floating down the river....I assume she was in shock! We managed to grab hold of it but there was no way we would be able to paddle back up stream with it so we tied it to the back of our canoe and beached it at the first place we saw - HEROES!

We spent the evening at the Bridge to Nowhere campsite which was AWESOME.  There's a Doc campsite on the other side of the river but the tour company had recommended this one as it was half the price with more facilities - we had a hot shower, a gorgeous view, a quad bike take our barrells to our tent site, and Daryll, the guy who worked there, was just lovely and showed us round the Lodge and let us play with the dogs and the pet lamb.  It's such a beautiful place, if I were to get married it'd be a brilliant place to do so!  We made friends with a british couple who were fresh in New Zealand, played games with them and lit a fire - it was a brilliant very unchristmassy christmas day!!

The following day wasn't too eventful - we had to go through the biggest rapids we'd encountered so far and luckily didn't capsize!  Amy and I tried to avoid a fairly big one by going in the really shallow bit but ended up beaching ourselves on the rocks so I had to get our and pull the boat off and we had to go through the rapid anyway haha.

Our first camp spot

chilling at our camp spot on christmas day

I'm glad we did the 3 and not the 5 day - as fun as it was I can imagine it would get a bit monotonous after a while, though imagine how strong your back and shoulder muscles would be!! It's a nice way to travel too as you can go as hard or soft as you like and take breaks whenever, and you get a different perspective being down on the river.  The landscape we passed through was pretty amazing - it just seemed so untouched by humans and I could imagine dinosaurs roaming around, it seemed very prehistoric.

It was a super duper christmas and the only thing that could have made it better was if my family was there.  Maybe next year :)

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