Engineering classes at Santa Clara University are incredibly intense and do not give you the luxury of having a week to settle and review the syllabus. Thankfully, I finally got to experience the how laid back the first week of class is at a semester school. I also realized that the course work load is significantly lighter when most of my classes are introductory and non-STEM (i.e. Introduction to Music in New Zealand and Introduction to Wine Science). To make up for the slow paced and somewhat boring first week of school, some friends and I decided to do a weekend trip to the Bay of Islands.
The Bay of Islands was a 4 hour drive north of Auckland on the East Coast of the North Island. I, being a totally scaredy cat, did not volunteer to drive, but my friend Lindsey did. Like a total pro, she looked up basic driving tips for New Zealand, like how to navigate the one lane bridges and roundabouts, and then managed to get me and the three other girls out of the city during rush hour, and to the Bay of Islands in the pitch dark. We got to our hostel pretty late on Friday night, and were taken care of by a local coffee shop owner, who fed us and gave us tips for what we should explore. The hostel we booked, was absolutely gorgeous and had panoramic views out onto the ocean.
Saturday morning, we took advantage of the location of the hostel by going out onto the docks and watching the sunrise. We then drove to the Haruru Falls, where we were attacked in the parking lot by wild chickens. Following the falls, we drove back to Paihia, the town we were staying in, abandoned our car, and then took a ferry to Russell. In Russell, we decided that it would be the ideal place to retire. We hiked through gorgeous forests, looked over the the entire Bay of Islands, explored beaches, and hidden bays, saw the oldest church in New Zealand, ate delicious Indian food, and got a glimpse of a kiwi bird in the wild.
After a day of constant hiking and exploring, we finally took the ferry back to Paihia and collapsed in our hostel. After very long, hot showers, we got creative in the communal kitchen with the pasta we brought and some cheap white wine from the local grocery store in Paihia. We then promptly ate and fell asleep, only to wake up early again to see the sunrise once more. Once we ate a leisurely breakfast and strolled along the beach in Paihia, we checked out of the hostel and began our journey back to the city.
The journey back included many stops along the way to get the full experience of the East Coast. Our first stop was in the town of Whangarei to buy homemade jam and slippers from the local farmer's market and to see the famous Whangarei falls. Our next detour was to the Waipu caves, which according to trip advisor was for all levels and ages. We ended up only stepping into the caves a few feet before turning around due to the fact that we were incredibly ill prepared to go caving. Our final stop was a pull off on the side of the highway that over looked farmland and the ocean. Our cure for boredom ended with a 10 minute car wash with a bottle of clorox and a roll of paper towels, before returning our rental car.