The horrible sound reverbertrated through my head over and over again. As I sat in the hostel gathering room waiting for my tour bus, the sound of my roommate's snoring from the night before still haunted me. It was without a doubt, the worst sound these ears had ever had the mispleasure of hearing. Minutes later, however, my thoughts shifted from the previous sleepless night to the day that lay ahead of me as the tour bus rumbled to a stop outside the hostel. After I boarded and found a seat, the driver navigated the bus through the mostly empty downtown streets of Auckland, stopping at various hostels to pick up the rest of the tour group that was heading North to the town of Paihia for the next few days. The early morning ride up was mostly nondescript, as most of the travelers were in groups of two to four and seemed content to keep their conversations between only companions that were familiar to them. All of them were girls, as well, which didn't strike me as too bad of a tour group to be a part of. After arriving in Paihia, I spent the rest of the day getting to know many of the other backpackers that shared the bus ride North with me and walking around the town, taking in the sights.
The next day most of us went on a guided bus ride around the area. After a few hours on the road, we went onto 90 Mile Beach, bus and all, and drove the distance of it while Spike the bus driver shared facts about the history of the early Maori and English inhabitants of the North Island. Spike then took us to a few sand dunes that were near the beach so that we could partake in some sandboarding. After hiking up the biggest dune around (which was probably about 60 feet tall) we were given instructions on how to take the quickest route to the bottom. This was done by laying face-down on a boogie board, holding onto the front with your arms balanced somewhat securely on the front third of the board, and leaping off of the top of the dune so that you could hurl yourself down the face of the dune as fast as possible. Hiking up the dune was such a chore that many of the riders only went one time. I managed to hike up four times, but was easily outdone by the Spike, the insanely fit bus driver, who went six times. The tried and true method for stopping or slowing yourself down when sandboarding is to dig your toes into the sand behind you while you are sailing down the dune. But I, being the ever experimenting fellow that I am, decided to try a different way of stopping. That being, I managed to dig my face into the sand, with my mouth open by the way, until my board and I were brought to a grinding halt. Who needs toes? My method was not adopted by very many people in the group, but there were a few fellows that accidentally tried it, much like I did. After sand boarding we continued on to Cape Reinga. This is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet and seemingly melt into each other. There were some amazing views from the point above the ocean at this stop. After a couple more stops we returned to the hostel for a couple hours of relaxation. My Canadian friend, Madison, and I went to the pub to take part in a quiz game that was going on that evening. We teamed up with two more travelers and felt pretty good about our chances to win the $50 bar tab grand prize. Apparently a quiz that has Lord of the Rings, Kiwi Trivia, Geography, and Name That Tune categories, along with random acts such as who can bring the MC a pint glass with a condom stretched over the top first, is not our strong suit. We came in 6th out of 7 teams. The worst part is even the team made up of the four Welsh girls that were on our tour bus beat us. What an epic fail.
The next day I had a choice of taking a tour boat across the bay to see whatever sites their might be, or to kayak the bay with a personal guide. Kayaking is definitely something more my style, so it was an easy decision to make. Madison and I went on a paddle around the Bay of Islands with our tour guide, Merva. Even though the weather was threatening to poor down showers halfway through the tour, the weather ended up being absolutely gorgeous. It was a nice three hour activity that even allowed us to stop and spend some time on one of the many beaches so we could 'take tea'. I had such a great time that I was very confident in the wisdom of my decison to go kayaking instead of taking the boat tour. That is, until one of the Swedish girls told me how they were able to actually get in the water and swim with dolphins before seeing a hammerhead shark later on the tour. Hmmmm....maybe I should have taken the cruise instead. To make matters worse, later on one of the Welsh girls told me about the dolphin swimming adventure, and then promptly added that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity...but the kayaking sounded nice. Yep, definitely should've done the tour. Oh well, hopefully they'll be plenty of opportunites to swim with dolphins later on the Tour Of The World, World Tour. Not too much happened the next two days. Just a lot of laying around and conversing with all of the different people from a wide variety of countries. Growing up in Montana and not traveling internationaly before, I haven't met too many people from countries other than the U.S. It's been great to already meet people from Australia, Sweden, Holland, England, Ireland, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Denmark, and Brazil. Even though I do take a little flak for being from America. I've only met one other person from the U.S. on my trip so far. He's a Vikings fan and understands my pain for our 1-2 start. Although I'm pretty sure a Super Bowl title is a very real possibility for the Vikes this year since I'll be unable to be in attendance for the game if they make it there.
Heading to Auckland tomorrow, then Mercury Bay on Saturday. Not sure how long I'll be there or what happens after that.