Looking out at the South Pacific from the beaches in New Zealand, it's jarring to me how isolated I feel. It is a far way from anything, and you're reminded in the airport where the whole extended family gathers when someone takes a flight!
We realized after a few days in Auckland that without a car we weren't going to get far, so we rented one for a few days from Omega, which seems to have the lowest prices. First we went to Piha, a beach on the west coast, where they claim to have black sand. While the beach was lovely and volcanic activity was obvious, the sand was definitely gray. It was a hike to get to, and since we were alone there on a beautiful day, we passed the afternoon playing giant sudoku in the sand :)
Did you notice what's wrong with the picture of Diego driving? We're on the wrong side!!
For reference, San Francisco is only 10,489 km to the northeast of Auckland, so we're still rather close to home. Unfortunately we've utterly failed at the pub quizzes in New Zealand, finishing last both nights we went. But, we did find a bar called Thirsty Dog in Auckland managed by a yogi which serves lots of interesting things, including vegan/organic/local cider and food!
Next we went north to Paihia, in the Bay of Islands. And the place is just that, a bay with islands, a bunch of them-- they claim 144, although most of those are tiny rocks sticking out of the water. Paihia is a typical beach town, a few restaurants and everything related to the beach. We made the tough decision to do a tourist activity, a sailing trip. It was fun to see all the islands up close from the water, and we also got a chance to help with sailing. We stopped at a beach in one of the islands where we did a little barefoot hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. When we were sailing back we saw a group of dolphins (which Diego is pointing at in the picture); they started following the boat for a little while which was pretty cool. In our hostel in Paihia we did some beach-y activities, cooking curry inside when it rained and taking advantage of the extensive VHS tape selection available.
On the way back to Auckland, we visitied the 'world famous' Haruru falls, which were a total scam, just a small drop of water. And we also stopped at another beach on the way where there were a lot of people kitesurfing-- really beautiful.
CURRENTLY: New Zealand
UP NEXT: Melbourne, Australia