Bay Of Islands

Paihia Travel Blog

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Just Me

Sitting on the coach heading from Auckland to Parahan in the bay of Islands. It strikes me that for the first time on my entire trip (since October 2) I am finally travelling alone. And it feels good.

In Rajasthan I was with the Idex project; in Goa I was with Debbie; at home in the UK I was, well at home so it doesn’t count; in LA I was with Rebecca & Milo; In The Cooks I was with Andrew; In New Zealand (1st leg) I was with Anna’s crew; & in Great Barrier I was with Fireman Paul.

At any given time my movements always involved somebody else. Right here, on this bus, I’m on my own, only I know where I’ve booked in to stay & my agenda is entirely mine for three days.

I settle into my seat & gaze contentedly out of the window and listen to my I-pod, without worrying that maybe someone will think I’m being rude by ignoring them.


A boat leaves from Parahan for Russell every 10 minutes. Russell is gorgeous little ball of contradiction, It’s angelic face hides a wicked past.

It has a small smiley harbour fronted by balconied bars & coffee shops. The body of the town huddles backward onto the hills, where freshly built houses with big wide windows glisten in the sun as they preside over the modest magnificence below, seemingly unaware of their much coveted beauty.

And yet! This is the place that was once described as ‘the hell hole of the pacific’, or ‘the devils armpit’, or some such slur.

Basically, back in the day foreign whalers (I think they might have been early onset British scum buckets) would come here after months of blubber hunting, and they would lustily crave all sorts of drink & debauchery.

Apparently quite an industry sprang up to meet their demands. The naughtiness got rather out of hand and an urgent SOS was sent to the Missionaries back home requesting that they simply must come and sort the ruffians out. It seems the Holy Rollers took their work very seriously, because now Russell looks like the perfect setting for a Merchant Ivory summer production, or maybe a Miss Marple Mystery... Delightful!

Australasian Coincidence number 3

On a boat in the bay of islands I sat net to a lady who had a house in a lane where I stabled my pony in Cheltenham. Not the world’s most jaw dropping fluke of fate I know, but it was weird enough to be here in this exotic locale chatting about ‘whether Farmer Organ’s still driving that big red Toyota pick-up?’

Cape Rianga (coach tour to the top)

This is the most northerly point of New Zealand, and it’s very fabulous because as you stand there feeling the excitement of being right on the tip of a country, you see two different oceans joining together! Right there in front of you! It’s as if the world is made of fabric & you’re looking at a seam: On your left the sea’s this shade of blue and sort of ripples that way; on your right the sea’s that shade of blue, and sort of ripples this way.

On the long haul back down through the Northland (A timeless chunck of NZ) we drove at speed along 90 mile beach, which is actually only about 78 miles long I think. The beach is a public highway on low tide and understandably people come here in their 4 x 4’s to make the extra $10K expense worthwhile.

From water to sand; after the ocean drive we parked up by some towering sand dunes and ran up to the top, eagerly holding body boards (ok, in truth most of us clambered up sweating & wailing, clutching our behinds as our gluts contracted in shock), Once at the top, we lay flat on the boards and hurtled head first down the slope, using feet for brakes.


One evening a kindly man who was working in the backpacker hostel where I was staying asked if I’d like to come & sail on his boat, along with some other travellers? Definatley, Love to!.

The adventure got off to a slightly wobbley start when, en route to the harbour, Nice Man said to me, whilst pointing;

There’s the liquor store, you can grab some wine in there.

Oh, I don’t drink wine

Well, you know beer, whatever you like

Um, I don’t drink beer

OH! You don’t drink, drink!

No, I’m okay though, I waved my 1 litre bottle of ‘water

You must’ve had a bad experience! Don’t you ever drink it?

Um, no, well I used to, I mean I gave up... for a year

Wooph! A year! Must’ve been a REALLY bad experience.

Once onboard his beautiful, ancient boat I offered to help with the sails, Nice Man described a ‘tacking’ manouver, and my job was to pull in a sail whilst another guy let it out on the other side.

The local graveyard held many tombstones to those lost to the sea - this was the sweetest & saddest.
On Nice Man’s command I started hauling.

PULL PULL PULL he yelled. I was pulling!!

Nice Man became Nasty Man, and bellowed in an agro tone:


I smiled & carried on at my own pace, which really was my best effort. Whilst women who scowl can reduce me to a heap of nerves, men who yell just make me feel sorry for them.

As soon as the sail was in & the ropes bound Nice Man returned & he shared some cookies with his guests. It was a great experience, but when he offered another trip a day later, I politely declined.

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The local graveyard held many tomb…
The local graveyard held many tom…
photo by: Ils1976