November 13

I was making breakfast when Ben (my former coworker from Alfresco’s) ran into the hostel and invited me on his kayaking tour. He said to meet them down by the water in an hour. I ran around trying to find someone to cover my cleaning shift and packing up my belongings. I sprinted the 3 kms down to the stone wharf, where his boat was taking off from. Nearly everyone on the tour was American! I couldn’t believe it. There was one Aussie, but the other six of us were Americans. Ben motored us down the river toward Haruru Falls. The other participants were really interesting. I particularly hit it off with a couple, the Coffeys from Atlanta. They were on the cruise ship that was in town. Taz is a pilot for Delta so he has traveled all over the world. He has some entertaining stories. He and Diane have two college aged children. We were loaded into our kayaks and Ben led us toward the Falls. He took us into two small inlets (one was difficult to get into and we had to lean way down in our kayaks), where he talked a lot about local plant and animal life as well as some of the Maori legends. I had no idea that Ben was so knowledgeable about local history! It was great fun! Afterwards we headed to the Falls. I was the only person in my group that was willing to go right under the water. I paddled in, parallel to the rocks, and the current just flung me out again. I took on a lot of water, but surprisingly I didn’t capsize! Then we made our way back to the boat. Once we got back to shore I gave the Coffeys a mini tour of town and brought them to a restaurant for lunch. I ran back to the hostel to meet Pavla, Dan, Pretty Dan, and Conor for our hike out to Russell and back.

We had planned to do this hike for weeks and I was very excited to finally have the opportunity to do the Full Circle Day Walk. The walk begins in Paihia goes to Opua, then you take the ferry across to Okiato and walk to Russell, then take the ferry back to Paihia. One of our neighbors, Hot Dan, was playing a gig at a restaurant in Russell, so we decided to make it our final stop and have a couple beers while watching him play. The hike was quite demanding, especially considering I had already been kayaking and walked nearly 4 miles before beginning the hike. It is about a 14 km hike that generally takes 6 hours. There are some amazing views of the sea and a boardwalk through some mangroves on the way.

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(They let you walk onto the car ferry from Opua to Okiato for $1 per person!)

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Along the way, Pavla, Conor and Pretty Dan decided to stop at a winery where a friend works. Dan and I decided to continue on our way. We had hiked about 12 kms when we were just discussing how much further it was when a young man pulled up and asked if we wanted a ride. We got in and Tyler, originally from Christchurch, gave us a ride to Russell. We were so grateful. We were going to offer to buy him a beer, but he looked very young. (I have learned that many Kiwis never legally get their driver’s license. Also, it isn’t unusual for underage kids to drive to pick up their parents from the bar.) We arrived just in time to hear Hot Dan play If You Could Read My Mind, which is one of my favorite songs!

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(It is hard to tell in this picture, but we also got one of the biggest pitchers of beer ever!) The views of the sea from the patio we were on were spectacular. Later our friends showed up and we had a snack and some drinks while we watched Dan play.

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The sunset from the ferry home was lovely!

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