Well, we’re near the end, folks. Eight more days till I catch my flight. To quote one Ms. Buffy Summers: “These endless days are finally ending in a blaze.” I realize I need to play catch up on here, and I’d really like to before I take off. I’m hoping there will be a slew of updates; WiFi pending, as always.
This blog entry focuses on the two weeks I spent in the Bay of Islands area over a month ago. I’ve been meaning to write it for ages, but found it was almost impossible whenever I’d sit down to type it out.
How can you even begin to put into words possibly the two best weeks you had out of an entire year-long trip?
Paihia is a place I’ve been meaning to return to since the start of my trip. You may recall that it was the second place Kathleen and I went to at the beginning of our adventure. Seeing as it was late July/early August, it rained a good portion of the time we were there. It was well into winter, so we never expected to get good weather. Yet, even though it rained the entire time, that did not take away from the fact that we could tell we were in an utterly beautiful part of New Zealand.
Lucky for me, when I finally returned at the beginning of May, I received a heap of good weather.
Just as a reminder, Paihia is a town up in the Bay of Islands waaaaaaay up north. Almost the farthest north you can get in New Zealand, really. It’s a small beach town, filled with charm and quaintness. It’s one of those towns that sees a lot of people come through during the summer, and fortunately for me I got there right after tourist season was over. The beach is a five minute walking distance from wherever you are, the townspeople all tend to know each other, and there’s only a handful of shops/cafes/bars to frequent, but that ends up being really okay.
Also, did I mention it’s gorgeous? Cause it is. It really, really is.
And, okay, so it was rainy a couple of days out of the two weeks I was there. On those days I’d either stay inside with people and watch films, or go to a cafe and drink coffee while reading a good book.
I managed to revisit a few things Kathleen and I did during our visit, namely an awesome hike that we took through native bush. Naturally, revisiting the trail made me miss my travel bud, but it was still a fabulous walk nonetheless.
Also, one of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn’t hunt down the owner of this van and marry him/her.
Or stealing the van. Yeah. I regret not stealing this van with all of my heart.
So yes, we’ve established Paihia is a great place with a gorgeous beach and beautiful hikes and is just goddamn pretty.
But that’s not what made this the best two weeks of my trip.
Oh sure, it helped. It always helps to be in a beautiful location. But do you know why it’s taken me so long to write this entry? Why I look back so fondly on my time there? Why it hurt so much to leave?
The people, man. It was the people there that made Paihia what it was.
Coming to New Zealand I always had this image in my mind of what it was like to stay in hostels. I imagined meeting new people constantly, hitting up the bars, and just getting to know strangers from all around the world. Up until going north, that had never been the case. Oh sure, I had made a couple friends in hostel – Meg, Cheryl, and Jade come immediately to mind – but all the times I had stayed in hostels I hadn’t bonded with a whole group of people, like I had envisioned. That quickly changed once I got to Bay of Islands.
It’s an understatement to say how fortunate I am. I met a lot of really great people during my two weeks. Some only stayed for a day or two; some were there the entire time I was. In my time there, I made friends with people from Germany, Astonia, America, Holland, Mexico, Belguim, France, Slovakia, Chile, Scotalnd, Britain, and Brazil.
The two friends that stand out the most – probably because they were there the same amount of time as me – were Macarena and Niki. I met Macarena on my first night and Niki on my second. Most days were spent with Macarena on the beach, and both of them at night drinking. I couldn’t have asked for better companions.
The perk of making friends with new people everyday was that, on occasions, you’d get invited to go do awesome things. There was one day that Jegor, Guilherme (check out his Facebook!), Mirko, Macarena, Louisa, and myself went to Rainbow Falls up in Kerikeri, which was beautiful. It’s probably the largest waterfall I’ve ever seen in person.
We then drove to a much smaller waterfall – only four or five meters – in which the boys all proceeded to jump off it into the lake below. The fact that I was the first girl to follow suit, to toss off my shoes and jump in without a second thought, fills me with some insane pride. I didn’t let the panic of falling from so high settle in; I just jumped. It was wonderful.
The following day the group of us, along wtih Niki and Murray, went to the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen. It was a day of relaxation and serenity.
We also made friends with a few of the locals. There was one in particular named T. I don’t think it’s possible to stay in Paihia for long and not meet T. He’s a boisterous guy – a character, as Macarena would always say – never unafraid to speak what was on his mind. He lived in a house close to the hostel I was working in, and we’d all often go to his place for food or drinks. It was just an awesome place to hang out with a lot of really wonderful people.
I realize that me retelling a few tales of the things I did with people in Paihia doesn’t seem like much, which is why I put this entry off for so long. It’s so hard to get my point across….
I’ve come to realize that it’s people that make the trip. You can be in the crummiest location on the face of the planet, but so long as you have the right people around you then it’s one hundred percent possible to have the time of your life. This is why I cried myself silly when Kathleen left. It’s why I stayed longer than intended in Wellington, and why I always WWOOF in places longer than I mean to. Goodbyes suck, and leaving places where I’ve met such amazing people is always tricky. And I’ve met so many amazing people on this trip.
I thought travleing by myself would mean alone time; being pensive and contemplating the universe on my own. Journaling. Enjoying the solitude. That’s what traveling by yourself is supposed to be like, yeah?
It’s getting drunk with people you only just met an hour before you started drinking. It’s dancing and laughing and watching Youtube videos while engulfed in cigarette smoke and heart-to-hearts on benches by beaches. It’s loudly singing ‘Sk8r Boi’ with Niki the first night I met her. It’s looking for shells on the beach with Macarena. It’s taking pride in being the first girl to jump off that waterfall and the first of the entire group to run into the ocean. It’s talking about films with Gonzo. It’s hearing another American tourist state: “If we had brains, we’d be dangerous,” and knowing nothing truer has ever been stated before in the history of the world. It’s watching Adventure Time with Aaron and finding the Finn to my Lumpy Space Princess. It’s listening to Jack and Peter bicker like a British married couple. It’s sitting in a kayak far off from shore and waving back at a friend. It’s walking forty-five minutes to get to a bar, only to spend nearly the entire time playing the bangos. It’s sitting in a lukewarm jacuzzi that smells of fish with Christophe and Macarena. It’s finishing work early, throwing on a bikini, and striding to the beach side-by-side with a friend. It’s drinking gallons of tea and sharing food. It’s sitting in the passenger seat of a van and listening to a group of newly acquainted friends ponder the universe. It’s trying to fit two people into a goddamn onesie. It’s dancing on a table with Hamish in a bar where no one else is dancing and not caring and knowing I will never be happier than in that moment.
It’s finding, for a fleeting moment, that happiness is found within the people you surround yourself with.
As my departure date drew nearer, it felt like summer camp was coming to a close. There were promises galore to keep in touch and to come visit other countries, even though you know deep down almost all will fall by the wayside. The day I left Paihia was one of the saddest I’ve had in New Zealand. I remember vividly standing on the street corner, waiting to see if a car would let me hitch with them, secretly hoping no one would pick me up so I could go back. But in retrospect, I realize that my sadness stemmed from knowing I was leaving something good, and the fact that I had gotten to experience something that amazing was something I should be truly grateful for, and I am. It brings to mind my favorite quote from the show South Park:
“Well yeah, and I’m sad, but at the same time I’m really happy that something could make me feel that sad. It’s like, it makes me feel alive, you know? It makes me feel human. And the only way I could feel this sad now is if I felt somethin’ really good before. So I have to take the bad with the good, so I guess what I’m feelin’ is like a, beautiful sadness.”
So I moved on. I had to. Everyone else had begun to leave Paihia, and I only had 1.5 months left to go at that point. So I had to keep moving, whether I liked it or not.
Although it was difficult to leave, I know the memories of Paihia are gonna be with me for the rest of my life. All I have to do is hear the song “Oh Happy Days” and I’ll have a smile on my face instantly.
It’s just… Christ.
What a time to be alive.