Close to three weeks have passed since I first arrived in New Zealand, and unfortunately now is the first time I’ve decided to sit down and record my thoughts and experiences. This beautiful land of uninhabited islands, small towns and overpriced food is extremely hard to characterize. In Auckland, specifically, you have an incredibly diverse population that exemplifies the “salad bowl” philosophy. You have the native Kiwis and Maoris, you have Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean populations, you have Indian and Middle Eastern ethnic groups and a hoard of Europeans all in the same boat. Auckland does not appear to be divided culturally: there is no “Chinatown” or “Little Tokyo,” no “Little Italy” or “Koreatown” that hosts one set of cultural values and traditions as does Los Angeles or New York. On the surface there is little ethnic tension, apart from the abundance of homeless Maori men and women, faces and bodies coated with ink, that occupy downtown Auckland’s main drag of Queen Street.
I could go on for hours, but before I lose myself in the writing I need to write down the details of my trip to the Bay of Islands so I can have something to look back upon more complete than a photo album. I also need to iron out the kinks in my writing, as school has started and it has been close to a month since I’ve written anything. On Tuesday, February 26, six of us (all Americans) traveled north of Auckland to Paihia for a three-night stay. The journey up, about a four-hour bus ride on roads windier than those you would find in the South, was gorgeous. Rolling hills, breathtaking coastlines and long white clouds that went on for miles. I became well-acquainted with a local fisherman named Anrua, 32,who spoke exclusively of his love for the sea. A simple-minded man, but an incredibly gracious one who said he spent the majority of his $5,000 monthly salary on his two sons.
When we arrived in Paihia, the size of the town amazed me. It’s as if every city in New Zealand, apart from the Aucklands and Wellingtons, has no more than 5,000 inhabitants. We’re talking a zero-stoplight downtown littered with boat rental spots and takeaways, a term for fish-and-chip restaurants. We grabbed dinner at one of these spots, an oceanfront dive bar named Mako’s, where we ate beer-battered shark and fries. I’m not used to writing narratives like this. My prose is kind of bothering me.
The next morning, we rented a mini-boat from this shady guy named Darrell on the city’s dock. Rent-A-Boat No. 6 was the name of it. For four hours, we had an incredible time island hopping and hiking across some of the most beautiful terrain I have ever seen in my life. The only thing that can marginally rival it, in terms of beauty, would be Glacier National Park in Montana. Amazingly enough, no alcohol or narcotics were consumed or brought along the boat. I say this because we ate shit on the boat. There is no other way to put it. The waters were getting rough, clouds we rolling in, and we were overcrowded on an undersized vessel. The driver was underweight, we hit a wave with too much force, he got knocked into the throttle and the boat did a nose dive. The wheel jerked to the left, we all thought we were dying, then the two females aboard when flying off the back into the motor. One of the scariest moments of my life. Here’s the link: Boating Wipe-Out (somehow we had a camera rolling at the time of the incident). Fortunately, they only sustained concussions and a boater by the name of Bruce Fuller saved our lives by towing us in and letting us hang on his yacht. Shoutout to Bruce of Seapower, a Bay-of-Islands-based boating repair joint. The least I can do is give an endorsement to your company on my blog that my parents and girlfriend look at. Maybe one day future employers. We’ll cross that bridge.
We celebrated our health with a pasta supper at the hostel, followed by waking the girls up every three hours in the night to make sure they were breathing. The next day, we took a ferry to the nearby city of Russell, home to 100 70-and-older American retirees. We rented some fishing poles from Paihia and bought squid, then headed to a naturist beach to fish. It was nice out, but I didn’t catch anything. I really wanted to go fish off some rocks in the corner of the beach, Waitata Bay, but there was this old nude couple bathing there, and I just didn’t know how to handle the situation. So I kept casting hopelessly in the surf because, as an American, I was raised to be fearful of public nudity.
That’s about all there is to it. We got a few bottles of wine, because beer is $30 for a 12 pack here. Wine is $10. Class. You know, this blogging thing is actually alright.