The Sub-par Restaurant
The drive from Auckland to Paihia was three hours through mostly highway and then farmland. Paihia is a little beachside town that attracts tourists coming for the Bay of Islands. We arrived a little too early to check in to our hotel and decided to find somewhere to eat lunch. Google does not have good coverage of Paihia, so it was difficult to search for well-rated restaurantts in the area. We just wandered around until we found a place called Alfresco’s.
There was a bachelorette luncheon in progress at Alfresco’s. Everyone was wearing pink sashes that said something about someone getting married sometime. The bachelorette luncheon wasn’t important at all, except that the big party in the mostly empty restaurant apparently distracted the waitress from the other two customers (us). We sat around being forgotten for a long time, until I just started hangrily staring at all staff members until the manager reminded the waitress about us. The food, when it finally arrived, was expensive and sub-par seafood, and we decided not to eat out whenever possible.
In the midst of the mediocre lunch sitting, Hayden received notice that our kayaking tour for the next day had been cancelled “due to weather.” The weather wasn’t great, with skies mostly overcast, but Hayden still called the company to make super sure that it was cancelled. We’d been scheduled for the Bay of Islands half day tour, but apparently the forecast showed high winds that would keep the group from completing the tour. Luckily, there was still room on the shorter Haruru Falls kayak journey, so we signed up for that. This foreshadowed the Bay of Islands FOMO that I would experience throughout the rest of our time in Paihia.
Sea Spray Suites
I’d booked us an apartment at the Sea Spray Suites, a beachfront property in Pahia. This was our first hotel, and the facilities were really nice and clean and beautiful. The room itself was towards the back of the hotel, so no ocean view, but we had a great view of the poorly parked vehicles in the car park. I immediately curled up in a blanket on the couch and tried to fall asleep.
Hayden was not nearly so enamored with the apartment, and forcefully dragged us to the beach. It was pretty chilly but we were bundled up in our hiking clothes. We fell asleep there until it got too cold for our jackets to handle.
After the beach, we stopped at the market to get some more perishable groceries for our next couple days in Paihia. I thought it would be nice of me to offer to make an Indian dish together, since Hayden loves Indian food and I really don’t. Unfortunately, my idea of good Indian food is extremely boring, bland Indian food, or not really Indian food at all. In my defense, we used store bought tikka masala sauce, so the blandness wasn’t really my fault. Sorry Hayden.
Over dinner, we started watching the first third of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on Netflix. Though the hotel had only allocated 3 GB for our stay, we drained it away anyway.
Hayden Makes Breakfast
Hayden made eggs and bacon.
Hayden: I want you to mention all of the breakfasts I make with love. 🙂
I hate waterfalls. People go up to them and stand there doing the Jesus pose like OMG I’m standing in front of a waterfall. It’s just a waterfall.
Today our kayak journey started at Haruru Falls, a breathtaking waterfall just around the corner of Paihia. I was really there for the kayaking, so I didn’t mind the waterfall part much. And since we’d be on the water, I wouldn’t have to watch anyone stand in front of the falls.
My only real kayak experience was in Milford Sound last cycle, and it had been raining in tumultuous, black waters. Nothing could have inspired my great and terrible fear of the ocean more than that, and I’d assumed that all kayaking would do the same. However, the Waitangi River was calm and clear and the kayak ride was very fun as a result. The sky was still very overcast but it wasn’t so bad.
At the shore, the water looked like fizzy Coca-Cola. Apparently it was just because the water is brackish there. It’s all confused. Is it salt, is it fresh? IDK.
Our kayak group included 4 two-person kayaks and our guide. While our Milford group had been a pretty good bunch of kayakers, it became clear that Hayden and I were the best kayakers of the group by a long shot. That’s not to say that we were that great.
As is the custom for most humans, we stopped by the waterfall to take pictures. Another kayak tour group descended upon us in a flurry of 8 kayaks all trying to get pictures in front of the waterfall. Here they are:
They used to throw lumber down this waterfall. Kayaking around it was pretty fun because you’d get sprayed with water.
This kayak company was trying to be the Hip, Fun Kayak Company, and had water pistols available for our use. I sprayed Hayden a few times because I’m not nice. Hayden didn’t spray me, but he threatened to once. Our guide also had a bag of colorful balls that he let into the river. He told us that the kayak that collects the most balls is the winner. I was a little shocked that he was allowed to just litter the river like that, but I guess the goal was for us to pick them all up anyway. I wanted to be the winner.
There were 100 total balls, and Hayden and I collected 67.
I was the winner.
The prize was that you have to paddle the entire rest of the journey with 67 balls in your kayak.
The group continued down the river and entered one of the mangrove forests. Mangroves are one of the only plants that can live fully submerged in water.
We made our way back to the home base on Paihia Beach. The river was really shallow in some parts, barely deep enough for kayaks. It was cool. As we entered the ocean, the water got more tumultuous, but our time there was short-lived.
Hayden and I grounded our kayak and got out. I grabbed the kayak and single-handedly dragged it ashore, which was seriously not that hard, and the employees watching were like OMG at my display of small person strength. One of them was like, “You see something new every day.” It was pretty funny. I guess all my various heavy object lifting has paid off.
In all, I really loved that kayak journey and was very enthusiastic about doing another. Hayden was pleasantly surprised. I said I only wanted to go in rivers, because those aren’t scary. He said he wanted to go in the ocean. It seemed we had reached an impasse.
Hayden: I like rivers too!! ….And rivers CAN be dangerous. 😡 There could be water snakes or rapids.
Just Like Pirates of the Caribbean
We had leftover “Indian” food for lunch and changed clothes to go hiking in Russell. I’d been a little bummed that we hadn’t done the Bay of Islands kayak journey (FOMO), since that was the main focal point of this area, but boat trips around the Bay of Islands are very expensive. We’d compromised and decided to just take the $12 ferry to Russell, so that we could see the water.
The Bay of Islands is known for its clear turquoise waters glinting under the sun. We saw none of this, as the weather was poor for the entirety of our time there. I used my imagination to make the cloudly turquoise waters seem like the aerial photos I had seen advertised.
Russell used to be a rough and tumble town full of hooligans and pirates, just like Pirates of the Caribbean. There was one building that looked like the restaurant that you see when you go on the ride at Disneyland. Hayden and I are going to Disneyland in December.
We went on the Flagstaff Hill Loop Walk, which was a random conglomeration of short trails connected by road in the vague shape of a loop.
There was also a short trail diverting us to Wahihi Bay, which was a very peaceful and secluded little beach. Hayden decided to take a lot of pictures of me there.
Back in the Russell town area, there wasn’t really anything to do. We got smoothies and failed to find a bathroom. All the trash cans were full. We took the ferry back to Paihia and I found a bathroom.
RAB goes off the grid
The entire day, I’d been trying to play Pokemon Go, but my data seemed to not be working even though it showed I had service. That evening, back at our hotel, where my data had previously worked, I had no data. AAAAHHHHH. I freaked out and Hayden called Vodafone for me. An automated message told us that many prepaid customers were having this issue, so that made me feel better. I felt sure that they would fix it.
We made Pesto Chicken Pasta for dinner and watched the second third of Spider-Man, which killed the rest of our limited hotel data. This marked my official Departure From The Grid, as none of my devices had internet access for the next day.
Hayden Makes Breakfast
Hayden made eggs, bacon, blackberry jam on toast, and juice. I woke up 30 minutes later and ate the food.
RAB back on the grid
The next morning, it was raining in Paihia and my data was still not working. I drove the first shift and Hayden called Vodafone again. We reached customer service and they said we’d receive a text about the status of the data fix at noon.
Plot spoiler, we received no such text. Hayden called again at my request, and a different customer service rep revealed that Vodafone really had no idea when the data would be fixed. Also no refunds.
I was furious (how do I leave them a bad review??). At least we hadn’t yet reached Auckland, where I could get a new sim from a different company. We stopped outside the city and got a 2degrees sim from a mall. Stupid Vodafone.
Anyway, I was back on the grid.
Hayden drove the second shift to Coromandel, our destination for the next few days.
Hotel Ratings with RAB
Sea Spray Suites Paihia
The kitchen was a bit small, but it was generally pretty nice.
— the Hall Report
It’s a hotel. The upside of being in a hotel is that everything is all matching and folded and placed just so. The place felt pristine and perfect.
There were ants there, that’s not “pristine.” I feel like that’s too nice of a word.
— the Hall Report
Editor’s note: There were only a few ants. I also found a tiny spider with a fat butt.
The Big Comfy Couch: I love napping on couches. I haven’t had a couch to nap on in awhile, and this place had a pretty comfy couch. No one understands. At my parents’ house, when I want to nap, I always nap on the couch. They tell me to go to the bedroom because it’s quiet there, but I’d rather be on the couch listening to our three dogs barking than be in the bed. Couches are great. Sea Spray Suites had a great couch. Couch.
Final Rating: Nice