Around the World 1997 Travel Diaries. Part 17, Auckland and the tropical north

16 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

We slept in until noon. It was raining quite heavily, and we spent the rest of the day relaxing until the Kiwi Experience bus took us to Auckland. We stayed at City Backpackers; it was a nice place. And we had dinner at Burger King before heading back to the hotel.


17 December 1997, City Backpackers Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand:
Got to Auckland last night after a 3-hour bus ride from Waitomo. It was raining all day yesterday, so we slept in and were just relaxing until we were picked up at 3 p.m. Checked in here together with Jody and Richard from Canada and went for a meal at Burger King. Didn’t sleep much at all due to the telly being on high volume somewhere, a lot of loud talking from the room next door, Jody’s talking in her sleep and someone getting into the room at 4 a.m. Still not very tired this morning. Visited YHA Travel, Kilroy’s partner agency, then we went to find Tonga Royal Airlines which had moved out of the centre. Had some breakfast and took the Link-bus to Kiwi Experience’s office where we reserved place on a bus and booked a room at Pipi Patch in Pahia, also got some free t-shirts. Did some shopping, went back to the hostel, then to the cinema where we watched Peacemaker, back to the hostel again, had pasta together with another couple, then watched telly. Glad to leave again tomorrow, don’t enjoy big cities much. Can’t get any peace and quiet, lots of people, heavy traffic, it smells bad – much better to stay in smaller places, normally the hostels are nicer too!


Booked onwards bus journey to Bay of Islands and booked a room at Pipi Patch. Walked around Auckland and saw some sights. Made pasta for dinner together with Richard and Jodi. I got a fax sent to Kilroy in Oslo.

The stunning beaches of the tropical north
18 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

After having said goodbye to Jodi and Richard we got on the Kiwi bus at 08:00. Our driver was Richard, and he was a knowledgeable guy. At the breakfast stop the bus broke down and we had a bit of a delay to our first stop at Pakiri. Here we rented 4X4 quads and went driving in the sand dunes and on the beach. Saw the remains of a dead whale on the beach. Onward to Waipu cave where some of the bus had a very muddy trek into the cave, we stayed out in the sun since we saw the most amazing caves just a few days ago.

Next stop was Whangarei where we shopped for some food and two bottles of red wine. We stopped at Whangarei Falls; a huge waterfall 20 metres high. Three idiots on the bus had to jump this, a girl and two boys from Denmark. The first guy jumped, not even knowing how deep it was, he landed ok. The next guy missed his jump and landed with a sickening smack on his back. He surfaced white as a sheet and barely made it to the bank of the river. After seeing this, the girl in her infinite wisdom decided to jump as well, same thing happened, and she missed her take off and landed flat on her back. It looked like she was ok. When she got back to the bus, we could see that her whole backside and the back of her legs were dark blue and there was blood seeping from the skin. She looked like she was in shock. When we reached Pahia a few hours later the boy passed out and the girl was whiter than a ghost. A doctor arrived and we do not know a lot more. Let’s us hope they are alive tomorrow, stupid people! Pipi Patch gave us a nice room complimentary the first night, great! We are sharing kitchen and bathroom with 4 others. I sent a fax to the Kilroy office to ask if they could contact Beachcomber Island in Fiji to get a good price there, hoping to get a reply before we travel on.

19 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

A beautiful day with an early start, we are both getting a bit tired of travelling without stopping much but I guess this is how it is to be on a tight schedule. After some driving, we came to the Kauri Forest containing some of the last patches of Kauri Trees left in New Zealand. It used to cover the island, but they were great for masts on sailboats, and well, that was it for the mighty Kauri Tree. The few remaining are huge! We also visited a place that made different things from old Kauri trees found in lakes and swamps. They get a beautiful golden colour when polished. They had a table that cost 50 000 kroners! Onward to Cape Reinga, we stopped to swim and bodysurf on a beach, but it was chilly.

Cape Reinga is the northernmost point of New Zealand, and spectacular. Below the cape the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific to form currents and water colours that are just phenomenal. It has a great significance for the Maori as well. They believe that the souls of the deceased come here and enter the sea to travel on to the islands where their ancestors came from. On the way down to 90-mile beach we got to try bodyboarding on the huge sand dunes in that area. It was incredibly fun, but you ended up with sand where the sun doesn’t shine and beyond for the rest of the day.

90-mile beach is just 65 miles but still awesome. It is an actual road. We saw some wild horses on the way. We stopped at a pub to rinse the bus for salt water from the beach and our driver Wazza took us to a fish and chips shop by the sea. It was probably the best fish and chips (in New Zealand lingo fush and chups) meal we ever had! We arrived at Pahia 20:30 and proceeded to shower away all the sand that had been lingering in our orifices since Cape Reinga. Rest of the evening spent with fellow travellers and beer. Got to bed at 01:00.


20 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
Nice with a laid back day! Feel we’ve done nothing else but get up early, get on a bus, go for a walk about in a city or have some other activity, a bit tired of just being on the road all the time, so it’s been nice doing nothing. Slept until noon, had some breakfast and went into the village. This is a tiny place, so not many shops. Tried to find a place to develop some photos, but more expensive than in Norway. Found a hairdresser and got a haircut, much needed. Did some shopping, booked a dolphin swim tour for tomorrow and headed back to our double room. Got a night for free here, so even though the room costs NZD 20 per person per night, we only paid 15. Nice to have a room to ourselves! The driver was a student having his first day on the job for the season and didn’t have the best start as something was wrong with the bus, and we were an hour delayed from our first stop. Then he forgot our tickets on the next stop, and at the last stop he almost lost two of his guests. We started quite early from Auckland at 8 a.m. and went north. Had a stop in a small town to have breakfast. Got to know Lucy from Dorchester, Dorset, England – nice girl! Had to wait for a while in the town while the bus was fixed. Drove on to the countryside and a farm, Pakiri, where someone went horse riding, three people who were on an advanced level, so I didn’t dare book a ride even though I’d really like to – lots of beautiful, amazing horses there. We went to the beach instead together with Lucy and a few of the others, had forgotten to bring bikini and towel in my backpack, so no swimming for me even though it was nice and warm. Ørjan was riding a trike – looked like great fun! We continued to Waipu caves where most went on a walk with the guide with only rubber shoes and candles. We decided not to go since we’ve been on our great caving experience in Waitomo. Just as well, it was quite cold in the caves and without a wetsuit I think I’d been cold. We made our own fun throwing a ball to one another instead. Stopped at a supermarket before heading to Whangarei falls. Three idiots jumped off the steep cliff above the falls – about 15-20 metres from the water, where no one knew how deep it was, and they were jumping from slippery sharp rocks. A Dane jumped first – he knew how to do it, then his friend who’d been standing hesitating for a long time, probably didn’t want to jump I think, but was too embarrassed to pull out once his friend had jumped. He almost did a flip in the air and landed on his back. Gasped for air as he got his head above water and had difficulty swimming to shore. Then a very young girl wanted to jump, don’t know if she understood what happened to the Dane, but we tried to persuade her not to jump. She probably wanted to prove she was just as brave as the guys, so jumped of course. But as soon as she jumped her body sort of flattened in the air, and she landed with a splash straight on her back – not a pretty sight, actually surprised she wasn’t knocked unconscious. She swam slowly towards the shore, and the first Dane who jumped swam out to fetch her. As they got into the bus, we could see how awful they looked, especially the girl, the whole of her back and her legs looked as if they’d been burnt, blue and red circular marks on their skin – looked painful, and both of them were quite pale. Travelled on to Pahia, and the inexperienced driver insisted on taking us to Fullers, an activity centre where they wanted us to book other tours. Inside the Danish guy fainted and the girl was in so much pain she couldn’t leave the bus, but instead of getting the two of them to a doctor, we stayed there for more than half an hour. In addition, the driver took us for a tour of the place. It was now 9.30 p.m. and we were delayed more than two hours, we were hungry, tired and just wanted to go to the hostel, we were also worried for the two who were injured and not very interested in listening to the guide. Think the ones who jumped were idiots risking their lives like that, but also think the driver should have told them this was not a place to jump. It could have ended much worse, both got medical assistance once we got to the hostel, and the girl had to stay in hospital overnight for observation, might have injured some internal organs. Saw them both again yesterday, so hopefully they’re ok. Finally had our longed-for BBQ and went to bed. Didn’t feel like getting up when the alarm rang at 7 a.m., didn’t want another day on a bus after the previous day, but had a really nice day after all. Went to Cape Reinga – the northernmost point in New Zealand. Nice and knowledgeable guide too. Went for a short walk to see some Kauri trees, giant trees and very tall – popular as building material. Went by a place where they sold furniture made from Kauri and saw an amazing table at just NOK 50,000 – about GBP 5,000… Had a couple of shorter stops before heading for a beautifully desolate beach. Ørjan was surfing on a boogie board, I brought one too, but was already cold while on land due to the cold wind, so didn’t want to get into the water, but it was nice to just relax on the beach too.

Cape Reinga!

Then we went to Cape Reinga, a beautiful place with a nice light house. We could see the place where the Pacific and the Tasman Sea meet, the waves were going in all directions and the currents looked very strong – cool! From there we went down to an area with big sand dunes where we were sand boarding/sledding down the dunes on boogie boards, lots of fun, but sand everywhere. Went onto 90-mile beach that got its name when the farmers herded cattle down the beach, they spent three days from one end to the other, they reckoned they went for about 30 miles per day, hence 90 mile beach. Actually, the beach is only 64 miles long though. We drove the whole length of the beach and came across several herds of wild horses – what magnificent animals! Stopped at a local pub on our way back, then to NZ’s best fish and chip shop. Had spring rolls, first time I’ve had those with fish, and an enormous portion of chips, so I was stuffed. Ørjan had calamari, really tasty too. Got back around 8.30 p.m., jumped into the shower and rested for a bit before drinking red wine and chatting to Lucy, in bed at 1 a.m.


Slept like logs until 13:00. Walked to the city centre and Tanja got an overdue haircut. Relaxed back at the Pipi Patch, washed more or less all our clothes and relaxed some more while the tumble dryer did its work. Had spaghetti for dinner again, cheap, and good. Booked a dolphin swimming boat trip tomorrow, looking forward to that since we were recommended to do this in Bay of Islands and not in Kaikoura.


21 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
It’s about 7 p.m., and I’m feeling tired. After a night with very little sleep due to people talking loudly outside and going to bed at 4 a.m., and we had to get up at 7. Had to sleep a little in the afternoon, but that makes me drowsy the rest of the night. The dolphin swim tour was quite the disappointment. We did see four or five very cute dolphins, but we were never anywhere close to getting to swim with them. Don’t know why – maybe the sea was too rough? One can’t swim with them if they have babies, or if they are eating or resting, but don’t think that was why. Felt a bit ripped off, it seemed they knew before we started that we wouldn’t go swimming with them – they never informed us what we should do if we got the chance, no mention of wetsuits, fins or anything. Still, they sell this tour as “Swim with the dolphins”. Wouldn’t have paid NOK 350 (GBP 35) if we’d known. Then we’d rather go on a sailing trip which Lucy had booked and which cost NZD 60, which is less than NOK 300 (GBP 30). Didn’t even get anything to eat, very low service compared to our trip to the Great Barrier reef for instance which cost AUD 72! Interesting to get to know a bit about Maori customs and culture, though, we were welcomed by a “warrior” who was dancing, a woman who sang and a kind of prayer before leaving shore. They also told a couple of stories along the way, took us to a hole in the rock and some lagoons amongst the 144 islands where we stopped for 15 minutes to swim. But it still wasn’t what we’d paid for. Regret not having booked a swim with dolphins tour in Kaikoura instead, the people who did said they’d been swimming with more than 300 dolphins – which I’m sure would have been a great experience. Well, maybe we’ll get a chance to do this some other time? Only four days left before we leave NZ and that feels ok, and although it looks a lot like Norway I’m very glad to have had the chance to visit. Only three days left until Christmas as well, almost impossible to get a grasp on that, have no Christmas spirit at all. Strange to be 28 as well, replied that I was 27 a couple of days ago, haven’t realized yet that I’ve grown a year older… Had Lucy over for dinner last night – very nice. We made spaghetti and shared a bottle of red wine of ours, and she brought a bottle as well and some watermelon for dessert – delicious!


We were met by a Māori ritual at the dock, we were challenged by a Māori warrior, and he put a small fern leaf on the ground before us, the warrior looked fierce and threatening poking his tongue out and waving his spear at us. One of us had to pick up the fern to show that we came in peace, if we did not pick it up, there would be trouble. After the fern was picked up the Māori women sang a welcome song (Hare Mai I think) and we did the traditional greeting of pressing noses and sharing a breath, very cool and moving way of welcoming us aboard the boat.

Fierce Maori warrior with fern leaf on the ground

The boat was a nice catamaran type boat. We spent quite a while finding dolphins and we found only a few, we were not allowed to go into the water and swim with them, and that was very disappointing. This was supposed to be a dolphin swimming excursion! It did not seem that this was something they did, so we felt almost cheated even though the scenery and islands around us were lovely. We rode the boat to Hole in The Rock, a huge hole in a rock in the middle of the sea. It was so large that on high tide the boats could drive through the hole. We could swim in the ocean if we wanted by the rock, we chose not to. I got pretty seasick after a while on the huge swells that were rolling around the rock. The trip was OK but should have been called Dolphin Watching and not Dolphin Swimming. Had we known this we would have chosen a sail trip instead at 60 dollars, we would see dolphins and get a better experience on a sailboat. We should have done the dolphin swimming in Kaikoura…

Luckily, we visited New Zealand again in 2005 and visited both Kaikoura and Pahia on that trip, and we did as we promised we would do, we swam with hundreds of dolphins in Kaikoura.

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

22 December 1997, Pipi Patch, Pahia, New Zealand:
Last day in Pahia. Have left a note stating we want to go to Auckland a bit earlier tomorrow, Ørjan wants to develop some slides before arriving in Tonga/Fiji as he thinks they might get damaged due to the heat and moisture. If we go with Kiwi Experience we’ll spend the whole day on the road, supposed to arrive at 7.30 p.m. and leaving here at 8 a.m., while actual driving time is only three hours. Checked with another bus company and it cost NZD 29 with the ISIC card for a 4-hour drive. Decided it was a bit expensive as we pay nothing going with Kiwi. Been a relaxing day today, slept in, had breakfast and went into the “centre” of the village. Ørjan bought some jewellery and then we played mini golf which was fun! Stayed at the beach for a while before heading back here. Have done a bit of reading, watched Simpsons and Friends, made some food and then we’ve been sitting on the terrace together with Lucy who’s also leaving with Kiwi tomorrow. Ørjan is watching X-files, while I’ve been packing.

Lucy and Tanja sandboarding

More relaxing.

Classic vintage self timer picture. If you look closely, Ørjan was trying to bring his arm around Tanja in time for the photo but ended up hitting her in the head with elbow instead. This is taken about 1/2 second after impact.
23 December, entry from Ørjan, no entry from Tanja

It was Scotty who drove us back to Auckland. On the way we stopped in another Kauri Forest and I saw some of the biggest trees I have ever seen! The biggest one there is so huge that the Māori believe this tree holds the earth and the sky apart so that the sun can shine in the day. The tree is over 2000 years old. We stopped at a beautiful lake and had a swim and we arrived in Auckland at 18:30. I got my photos delivered for development just before the shops closed. The room we got was not that nice, no window and it was next to the common room, where there is always something going on. Not so much sleep during the night.


24 December 1997, City Backpackers, Auckland, New Zealand:
Hard to imagine it’s Christmas Eve, well here at least, at home it’s still only 9 in the morning, so at least they’re not having Christmas dinner now. We are having nachos and salsa today and we had lunch at Pizza Hut. Developed some photos today, a lot of nice ones from Oz and NZ. Didn’t sleep well last night, when we went to bed there was almost as something was banging at the door, probably the music from the night club or strip tease bar next door. When I finally fell asleep, I awoke from some loud voices, when our “considerate” flat mates got back from disco and continued the nachspiel in our dining room right next to our bedroom. It was five when I checked the last time, and they probably continued for another hour. Horrible double room by the way, no window, no daylight or fresh air, no furniture, only a square room with a bed, quite sad when we arrived and saw the room. Luckily, we’ve switched to a much nicer room now. Haven’t seen anyone else here either and are sitting alone watching telly. Long day yesterday, get so tired when on the bus for a long time. Left Pahia at 8 a.m. and went to a place where we could sandboard on the dunes for NZD 13 or go for a walk. Two went sandboarding, the rest of us went to a café – enough of such adventures now! Got to see the biggest Kauri tree in NZ – 1200 – 2000 years old and a giant! We also had a stop at a lake with a beautiful beach where we went swimming – really nice. Leaving for Tonga tomorrow, haven’t booked anywhere to stay yet, and tomorrow is a holy day, and Tonga is a very religious place, so hope we’ll find somewhere to stay…


After waking up I went to reception and upgraded us to a nicer room on the 6th floor. We picked up my developed films and had lunch at Pizza Hut. Walked around Auckland and looked at the Christmas decorations. Shopped some bits and bobs we thought might be good to bring to Tonga. I also called Royal Tongan Airlines to reconfirm our flight tomorrow. We brought some Christmas treats to our room and watched TV.

New Zealand was amazing! We have a special bond with the people and the country we feel. This may be since it is similar to Norway but still it is so very very different. The air is crisp, the landscape is green and changing all the time. We have mentioned before that we were so lucky to be able to visit New Zealands South and North Island one more time in 2005. And if we get the oportunity, we will visit again some time in the future. We love NZ!

Ørjan and Tanja 2022

Coming up next: Tonga!

Categories:Around The World 1997, Travel


  1. Awesome account of your travels. Your waterfall experiences are scary. Could have had a fatal outcome ! Pity about certain aspects of your accommodation but pleased the overall experience was good.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you👍and for sure, those kids could have died. Pure stupidity. Being a backpacker in the 90s the accomodation always varied hugely.


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