So out at 7am for the start of the kiwi experience bus picking up from Auckland on Queen Street, it starts off fine and the bus driver is a pretty cool guy, very knowledgable too giving us info as we leave Auckland like telling us there are 4.1m people in NZ with a third of them being in Auckland and that 1 in 4 people in the city own a boat as there are the most boats ever in the marina as we pass it over the bridge.
So the way the kiwi bus works is the driver acts as a tour guide and gets us to book trips on the bus as well as giving info. I’m first off as the rest of the bus is staying in Paiha, but I’m jumping off at the Whangerei Falls and staying at the YHA there. The bus seems cool, although I can’t really see most people as I an right at the front. It takes about 3.5hours to get to my stop and it goes pretty quickly.
Arriving in Whangerei, I can’t check in as too early at 10.30am, but the hostel guys is helpful and gives me a map so I can go off and explore the falls which are just 2minutes around the corner. They are pretty cool and quite high for some local falls and to get to them you have to go through cute little park and bridge area, where there are some picnic tables. The walk continues around through the forest and some more open land that is really nice as the sun in shining. Walking alongside the river a lot and having to cross over some cool canopy type bridge it’s a really relaxing walk. The forest starts to thicken and come to the Kauri Trees where there is a boardwalk that is about 15m above the river and 70m long so that you can see them as they are national heritage AH Reed Memorial Park. It’s an interesting walk though ferns and reminds me of the rainforest walks back in Cairns. At the end of the walk there is another smaller, but cool waterfall just coming from a little stream at the top.
Heading out of the falls, I aim to get to the Abbey Caves to see the glow worms, but take the wrong road and end up heading to the ton basin and where the PARAHAKA mount. A big sacred mountain that looks over the whole of Whangerei. From the falls it is about an hour or so to get to it, maybe a bit more as the sign positing is terrible and get confused a few times as to what direction to go even with my map! Reaching Muir Park, that is where the walk starts and heading along a cute lake with loads of ducks being terrorised by some kids there is a choice of 2 ways to get to the top each more or less the same 40 or 50 minutes to walk. I take the Drummond Walk and it is pretty steep up, but a really nice walk up through lots of ferns that look like umbrellas with winding paths cutting through the thick forest. It is tiring going up and very quiet only passing abut 5 people on the way.
Once up at the top the view is super pretty and makes the walk really worthwhile. With the weather being so lovely and sunny with blue skies it is picture perfect. You can see the Whangerei Heads, the whole of the city and the marina even with the bridge being opened to let a boat through and all the other mountains surrounding the town all very breathtaking. There is a local guy up there taking the view in who is chatty and interested to hear about my travelling and then a group of older ladies come up as a tour after about 15minutes of being up there, so take a cue to head back down. The walk down is obviously much easier, but still takes a good hour as I go a different route which passes the other side of the mount giving different views and taking me closer to the town basin than the muir park.
The town basis in really sweet place, with a marina full of boats and then a few cafes, a pub, fudge, ice cream and souvenir shops. A bit along there is a clock museum and a park for kids so lots of families about. The marina I’m told is where a lot of people come to fix boats and there is a boat that has just sailed in all the way from California the guy saying took 3months. I get an ice cream the traditional Hokey Pokey with maple walnut on top that is so nice and my treat to myself as I watch the sunset as much as I can before it hides behind a mountain and try and work out how to get back to the hostel and find a bus. On the way I pass a place that sells ready made roasts and duck in to get some roast potatoes as definitely missing those and had 25p each you can’t complain. The bus is only 15min wait and cheap at $3 (1.50GBP) not taking too long and passing the other side of the mountain where the sunset is and tonight it is a furious red colour that looks like the sky is on fire.
Back at the hostel, the guy was a little worried about where I was as have been out so long bless and now I can check into the room, as he was looking after my bags. The hostel is really quiet and I am sharing just with one guy called Omair in the room who is nice and invites me to share his pasta dinner with him as been cooking. It’s a shame I can’t be more flexible with my days of leaving due to the dive being booked, as he also offers me a lift to Cape Reinga as is driving there and with it being 3hours away or more, think would have been keen on the company and it would have meant I got to see it as its one of the trips going to miss as at $100 (50GBP) the money would be better spt on the other tours I am going to need to buy as only on day 1 of the kiwi experience bus and have a month to go! But overall impressions of Whangerei is that it is really pretty and can imagine when it is summer the hostel would be much better, as it is old with outside toilets and showers, although it did have a hot tub and pool, but too cold really to go in as at night the temperature drops so much!
15th April 2016