Dangling in dark caves with only glow worms illuminating the way, kayaking through waterfalls under the stars and water acrobatics with wild bottle nose dolphins. That is what New Zealand’s North Island had in store for me in my first few days on Kiwi soil.
We’ve all heard the rumours about the Kiwis and their love of extreme sports and adventure. I can confirm that they are all born with the nutter gene. They take the natural beauty of their country and enjoy it upside down, flying through the air, pretty much anyway but the normal way and I absolutely love it.
Even arriving at Auckland airport was more exciting then any of the many airports I’d landed at before. A full rucksack search, whilst being filmed for Border Patrol got the adrenaline flowing. Clearly I looked as guilty as hell as we hunted for the incriminating objects in my bag, under the camera’s scrutiny. False alarm, the offending bars of soap were found and after a quick sniff from the dogs I shuffled away.
My stay in Auckland was brief due to The Boss, aka Bruce Springsteen’s weekend performance. The city was filled with fans, so I grabbed my bag, jumped on a bus and headed to Pahia in The Bay of Islands up North. A beauty of a seaside town at first glance could be described as sleepy. You could probably be sleepy here if you really wanted to but I reckon most people get tempted to indulge in at least one activity.
Up at the crack of dawn I jumped on a small boat to explore the day and hoped to see some dolphins en route. As stunning as the islands are, after 2 hours in the biting wind and rain I started to wonder what had made me get out of bed so early and then we spotted a pod of common dolphins, dancing around the boat. Not long after two bottle nose dolphins put on a performance for us, so clothes were abandoned and into the sea I went. Swimming with dolphins wasn’t really on ‘the list’. As an activity it’s always seemed a little contrived and probably not very dolphin friendly, but we had local conservationists with us and the dolphins were out in the wild and not fed by humans. I was as convinced as I could be that this was okay. It was so much fun, the dolphins were so interactive and so much bigger than I thought (around 3 metres). Everyone knows they have sex for pleasure but did you know that they’re bisexual too? Oh and they’ve recently been spotted getting high on puffer fish! Dudes.
In the evening I went on a little night kayak adventure, through the mangroves which fully tested my steering. I’m not sure how but I found it easier manourvering a few metres of plastic through the mangroves than walking through them back in Cape Tribulation. Kayaking under a waterfall as the sun set was pretty special, whilst checking out the black and white cormorants that look suspiciously like flying penguins.
The West Coast’s Waitomo is home of the famous caves and glow worms! Of course you could walk round the caves, or you could abseil into them and then indulge in some backwater rafting with only a rubber ring between you and the icy cave rivers. The choice is obvious! There were points when I wondered why I find throwing myself backwards in the pitch black into underground waterfalls so much fun, but perhaps it’s best not to question these things. Dodging the stalactites as you float through the narrow passages whilst being distracted by a mass of glow worms coating the cave’s ceiling is a great way to while away a few hours.
Last stop Rotorua, the home of lots of thermal activity. Hell’s Gate lured me in, a Maori run series of natural mud baths and sulphur pools. I spent the evening caked in mud, sat under the moon’s intense glow chatting to a Maori guy about his life, his ancestors and New Zealand’s gangs. He was such a character with a wicked sense of humour, that I can’t help but think I got a better deal than the couples who were busy stroking each other and taking mud selfies.