Saturday, April 29, 2006

And I'm off.... Day 1. It's the start of my North and South Island extravaganza....

It's the first day of my Short Moe (aka Kev) Stray Pass! There are tons of different trips you can do with Stray. Mine means I get to visit both the North and South Island for a minimum of 13 days, but I can hop on and off whenever the whim takes me! Got picked up around 8:30am, and you could tell right away it was going to be a good bus! Ihaka was our driver/guide- he is half Maori, half Scottish, and his name means "love and laughter". Isn't that gorgeous?

So the Stray team was quite diverse - we had Lindsey, Hayley, Hannah, Suzanne, Eorenn and Shane - all English, Jason and Josh - American, Nicholas - German, Fiona -Scottish, Julia - Finnish, Yvonne and Rutger - Dutch, Adrian - Canadian and Ricardo from Brazil.

First stop was Mount Eden (that extinct volcano again!) for one last look at the sights of the city that I'd seen yesterday in sunshine. Today, yup, it was raining again! Quick look there then we were off! Well, we actually stopped a few times - the Pink Pig for breakfast, supermarket stop for supplies for dinner, a cute town called Thames for a coffee, (get the idea, its all about food and drinking on this trip!). Then it was on to the Coromandel Peninsula and Hahei Beach. Hahei is a beautiful, white sand beach with a ton of islands scattered out in front of it over the bay. The islands are all part of a newly protected Marine Reserve called Te Whanganuia Hei....of course, we couldn't resist so Lindsey, Josh, Shane, Rutger, Hayley and I decided to go sea kayaking - even tho' we needed some thermal gear 'cos it was a tad chilly! And yes, Lindsey and I look particularly fetching after the first part of the trip, as we got some water leaking into our kayaks - I promise!!!The fabulous Ross was our guide and he was great and so informative, not just about the marine reserve where we were kayaking, but about the history of the country... it was a beautiful trip. Really good fun especially when we went white water rafting through this cave where the waves were pretty high - fantastic!

Then it was out of the kayaks and on to Cathedral Cove for a look around the beach itself, and its incredible limestone archway and rocks....really pretty area!

While we did that, Ross made everyone a hot drink - and no, not just tea or coffee, it was moccachino's, cappachino's, you name it - he could make it! Not quite sure how he managed this from a wee bag he kept in his kayak but very impressive. Had to take a pic of Shane's excitement getting his half caf, decaf with a sprinkling of chocolate on top, cappachino (ok i exaggerate slightly!), but I was so impressed. After that, it was back in the water, and we kayaked some more,then headed back to the beach! Gorgeous watching the sun set on the water!

In true Stray style, we all made dinner together (with Josh as our head chef!! Cordon Bleu trained this boy is!) and then sat around, chatting, drinking and singing Oasis is a big team fave it seems! to Nicolas's fantastic guitar playing.... a great evening i have to say. It constantly amazes me how quickly people gel and get on with each other when traveling - a wonderful thing!


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