After the longest flight I have ever taken – 13 hours 15 minutes, some terrible plane food and some excellent movies (Finding Dory is amazing). I finally touched down in New Zealand. I had no idea of the day or the time or anything. I had lost a whole day. November 29 just never happened. Weird.
I was worried about customs. I had spent a long time trying to book a flight so I met the requirements of having a return ticket, but at no point in the whole process was that ever checked. Of course, it probably would have been a different story had I not booked one. I just sailed through without ever having to speak to a real person. If seems that if you ever need to get into NZ without having a return flight, you can fly with American Airlines because they have absolutely no clue. They are clueless.
I had to declare my tent in the bio security bit. They take it away to inspect it and sanitise it. You go through the X-ray and into arrivals and then to a little hatch to collect it. It was so beautifully rolled that I never want to unroll it again!!
I got some money – NZ has such beautiful money, it was nice to see the queen again and have money that is different colours! A very easy trip on the skybus took me right to the road to my hostel. As I was sat on the bus I realise that the driver was on the correct side of the of the vehicle. They drive on the correct (left) side of the road. Loving it here so far, I feel so at home even though I am so far away. Everything is so much more familiar.
I find the hostel, check in and I’m finally reunited with Growler, who until she finds a new trail name shall be referred to as Julia. It felt so surreal. All this planning and anticipation and over a year since we had seen each other here we were. It was awesome. And I met her friend Kristen who is starting the trail with us. We had a lot to catch up on so we chatted for ages until food was required. We explored the little town we were in and went for a burger. It was delicious. And the chips were perfect. A good start. And they didn’t bring the bill until we asked for it. Perfect!
We then took a little walk into Auckland, we are about 3km out of the city centre. Kristen checked into a different hostel as there was no room at ours and we wandered about some gear shops. I was warned that the gear here isn’t the best and that it is all quite expensive. And that was completely true. Of course everything seems expensive to me because of my terrible Brexit/Sterling situation. I bought a dual USB charger plug which was a staggering £23! But I had to have one so what are you going to do?
We wondered down to the ferry and saw the sea. The sun seems extra bright here. We popped into a supermarket on the way back to the hostel. I wanted to prepare myself for the agony of resupply. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a mix of England and America. Of course the Cliff bar is still a prominent feature, but the choice of chocolate and sweets made me very happy. And the cake. And cheese. I think I’m going to be ok. We bought stuff to make pasta for dinner at the hostel and wondered back. It’s pretty cloudy but it is also hot. I’m too hot with my long legs on.
We cook and eat dinner and by 8 pm I’m struggling to keep my eyes open. I make it to 10 before falling into a deep dreamless sleep
We had some errands to run today. Get a YHA membership and a backcountry hut pass. We achieved neither of these things! The YHA provide an extra discount at select hostels for people travelling by non motorised means. It saves you 32.5% which is a pretty good saving. But to get this you have to apply in writing, so I fired off an email. Then the DOC office in Auckland where we planned to get our hut passes we found that it had closed down / we may have not been looking in the right place.
So we toured all of Aucklands gear shops today. There are some pretty good ones. Kathmandu and Macpac are probably the biggest but there are a couple of others which were much better – Gordon’s outdoor gear and another one I can’t remember the name of. I tried on a lot of shorts but I just couldn’t make a decision so I ended up with nothing. It’s not like I really need anything but I would like to try some different stuff. I I fancy hiking in a shirt and some looser shorts. Something more airy. I found a gas canister for only NZ$4.95 / £2.90 which I thought was a bargain! And I got some new sunglasses, the ones I had were a crappy pair from Topshop which were all scratched, and the sun seems extra bright here. I spent most of my time in the USA without sunglasses and never found it a problem but here I am permanently squinting.
Anyway, we went to a large supermarket called Countdown and I was pleasantly surprised. I was so pleased to see things like Ribena, crumpets, Cadbury, malteasers and many other familiar things. But there were also some thing that were just wrong.
I also found out that in NZ pineapple is a big flavour with most thing coming in pineapple flavour, even chocolate.
I pulled together a resupply which was still a fairly agonising experience, but with all the new things to look at it wasn’t as bad as it had been getting in the USA. I had been warned that NZ is very expensive and with my poor pound I was worried about the price of everything. But I found the food was actually quite reasonable. (Some of the gear was a little overpriced but there you go.) We were pretty tired as we had walked everywhere and had ended up covering about 10 miles. We made our way back to the hostel, cooked a pizza and settled down to watch Planet Earth II with popcorn and soda.
There were a bunch of English guys at the hostel and it was really nice to speak to them. I love hostels for that reason, you meet so many people from all over the world and all different walk of life. And of course they are cheap and mostly pretty decent. But you never know who you are going to get in your room and one of the guys tonight was making all sorts of horrible noises with his mouth, like he was eating something in his sleep. Gross.
We leave the hostel early to get the bus to town and find our pre-booked Mana Bus for our 4 hour journey to Paihia. The bus ride was a perfect opportunity for me to complete my PCT blog entries so I was mostly buried in my phone rather than looking at the scenery. The few bits I did see were beautiful. It’s like England on steroids. Englands beautiful rolling hills with added palm trees and tropical weather.
I planned badly for the ride and had nowhere near enough food to get me through. We were all starving by the time we got to Paihia, but luckily Marvin and Sue were already there to meet us and we went for fish and chips on the beach. It’s a really beautiful place and we are looking forward to coming back here, as the trail passes right through, in a few days.
Now unfortunately Marvin and Sue had only flown in from Australia the day before so they had a bunch of stuff to sort out which wasn’t going smoothly. There were problems with their car which meant a bit of hanging around until it was fixed, but we didn’t mind at all as everything was new to us. There are some super friendly people about too so we were able to chat to lots of them.
When everything was sorted we made our way back to their house and I think it was safe to say they we were all blown away by its location. Nestled right in this beautiful bay, literally a stones throw away from the beach and the sea, more space than I could ever dream of having! We went straight over the road to paddle in the sea. At first I thought it was a bit cold but I could soon imagine myself having a little swim. But we had been invited to the neighbours house and Shannon and Albert showed us some more wonderful Kiwi hospitality.
They live further up the hill and we were impressed again at the view. We sat outside and chatted and ate and when I realised it was 8pm and it was still light, that made me very happy. No more 4:40pm sunsets!
I can’t quite believe the trail starts tomorrow. I can’t quite believe I am here! We have been told so much about the start. It’s really hard, there are chest high water crossings and knee deep mud. It’s likely we will lose the trail and run out of water. The sand flies are terrible and the rip tides are strong. Sometimes it feels like people are warning us off. I am nervous about it. It won’t be like the PCT and it’s going to be really challenging. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough food and I’m worried about the intensity of the sun. But, it’s all part of the adventure and I’m so pleased I have Julia and Kristen to share it with.