My trip to New Zealand will be different compared to my usual gallivants across the countries. For one, I’m driving all over the country on the
wrong left side of the road for two weeks. Two, it’s the middle of freakin’ winter. And third, but most importantly, I’m traveling with three friends from home who are relative newbies to the whole traveling thing.
Enter Chelsey, Ryan, and Mike–three of my American friends who were brave enough to join me on one of my trips to wherever in the world. This is the furthest away and longest they have ever been from the States, so the trust they have in me to guide us on a trip of this size is truly endearing but I’m confident things will go well. I also usually don’t plan my solo trips much, but when traveling with people you know from home, planning is crucial so everyone remains on the same page. Our plan as a group is to road trip through the North Island of New Zealand. It won’t be as cold as the South Island and two weeks is too short to visit both islands, so we decided to stick to the north. I’ll have to come back to the south island another time, during the warmer months.
Since I am in Hawaii, the flight to Auckland won’t be nearly as long as the others. They’re flying from Michigan, which is way on the eastern side of the mainland U.S. They will arrive a day before me, prior to my flight arriving later in the evening.
Enter New Zealand
Some call it the adventure capital of the world and I’ll have the opportunity to judge that for myself, though I have no doubts. New Zealand is known across the world for its breathtaking beauty every which way you turn. The inspiration behind The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, New Zealand envokes a magic unlike any other country I have been to thus far. The people there have the distinction of being referred to as a ‘kiwi’ based on the flightless, long-beaked kiwi bird native to the two islands. The majority of the nations population live in the capital of Auckland in the north, our start and end point for this two-week long road fest.
The League of Eight Extraordinary Events was indeed extraordinary in every sense of the word, but I was ready to begin the next phase of my quest. My flight from Honolulu to Sydney and finally to Auckland was simple. I landed during the dark hours and darted immediately to pick up the rental car I reserved months ago. Driving on the left side of the road was something I always wanted to try but was apprehensive to do so. It’s completely opposite of everything I’ve learned from driving in the States and I would for sure hit another car or forget that I’m not supposed to be on the right side of the road whenever I make a turn. But so I drove, but made sure to get full coverage insurance on it prior, you know for the inevitable. And yes, driving on the left side is uncomfortably strange at first and will take some getting used to.
I cautiously drove to Borders Beyond, a backpackers hostel in the middle of Auckland to join my friends. When I arrived, they were already dead asleep in our six-person dorm. They have to be super jet-lagged! I didn’t want to disturb them, so I chatted a bit with the backpackers who were still awake in the lounging area before I eventually went to bed.
The four of us reacquainted the next morning with no plan as to where we would go first. Chelsey suggested we start in the north in a place called The Bay of Islands that she’s been researching and to start from there. Just the name alone, The Bay of Islands, sounded great and so we went! Specifically to a sound place called Paihia.
I’ve heard about the scenery in New Zealand being amazing but to actually experience it first hand is a whole other entity. Everywhere we drove was like driving through a dream world you only see in the movies. Some of the greenest pastures and linear hills of land I ever did see existed here. Cows and sheep galore passed by the hundreds and the sun shone majestically through the scapes of leveling earth. The roads were so smooth it felt like our car was gliding at times. Our drive to Pahia was as viewtiful as could be, but a ridiculously constricted, topsy-turvy hell to maneuever in.
Poor Mike and Chelsey were getting car sick as I would have been if I too were just a passenger. Part of it was my inexperience driving on twisty and narrow roads like these, not to mention driving on the left side of the road. But eventually, after just a few hours we made it to Paihia and the Bay of Islands.
The Bay of Islands
We settled into Saltwater Lodge, an empty backpacker joint we found for cheap. Empty because it was winter and no one was around which also meant costs were cheaper compared to the busier summer seasons. But although it was winter, the weather wasn’t the winter I’m used to. There was no snow in sight and the sky was of a summer blue. It actually felt more like a mid autumn or early spring. Perfectly doable for our road trip through the North.
Now that we were in Paihia, we had to figure out what we would do next. The lodges office had dozens upon dozens of brochures of different activities to partake in, but the one that caught our eye the most was the deep sea scuba diving adventure that took place in the bay. Not only a deep sea dive but a dive through a shipwreck…
I could not pass this up!