356 Days on the Road
We’ve woken up in some pretty awesome locations in New Zealand over the last 357 days of our 365-long trip, but perhaps none of them have been quite as unique as gently rocking on The Rock boat hostel somewhere in the middle of the Bay of Islands. We creep down to the lower deck early morning to get started with writing yesterday’s adventure (Day 1 of The Rock Adventure Cruise), with the sound of water lightly lopping up against the side of the boat.
Breakfast and a brand new day on the Rock
Just after the sun has risen behind the headlands casting beautiful yellow and pink hues underneath the clouds, the bell rings for breakfast. Most of our “crew”, consisting of Topdeck bus tour passengers, are already up rubbing their eyes and drinking tea/coffee profusely to get rid of any sneaky hangovers.
We get to dig into a breakfast spread of porridge, muesli, cereal, yogurt, milk, hot drinks and fruit, to which we are encouraged to go up for seconds (Laura even takes the liberty of going up for thirds). While catching up on last night’s antics, the boat is already moving to its next Bay of Islands destination.
A mid-winter snorkel in the Bay of islands
Our fun boat hosts that we got to know yesterday, brief us on this morning’s activity: snorkelling! Anyone who wants to do it should get ready in their togs (that’s Kiwi for swimwear) and meet Adam who will hook us up with snorkel, mask, fins (and a wetsuit to hire for $5). Considering it’s getting well into the middle of winter, as you can imagine, some people are a little apprehensive. The water is around some 16 degrees Celcius so it’s not deadly cold, but it isn’t exactly the Fiji.
Nevertheless, Laura has been lucky enough to see the awesome underwater wildlife of the Bay of Islands just two days ago and teamed with a wetsuit, getting in the water is definitely worth it! She jumps at the chance to get kitted up in the snorkel gear plus wetsuit, while her fellow snorkellers are going to brave the water without a wetsuit. Hardcore!
Diving for sea urchins
So here we are in New Zealand in the middle of winter and we are about to go for a snorkel! The best way to get in is one large stride: 3…2…1…
Eek! It’s an initial shock to the system but the cool water motivates us to start swimming immediately. We follow Rich toward the rocky coast where the water is super clear and full of life. Schools of fish hangout together in the kelp forests. All sorts of shells and barnacles cling to the rocks, as well as spiny sea urchins locally known as kina. These little guys are what we are looking out for, because they are not only considered as a pest in New Zealand, chewing away at all the kelp forest, but they are considered a delicacy. Rich encourages us to start diving and collecting, which Laura finds a bit tricky to start with (there’s something unappealing about sticking your hands around a spiky sea urchin) but once you literally get a feel for it, it gets easier to start plucking them off the rocky ocean floor.
Snorkelling with a stingray
As people start to get cold, they have the option to get out of the water as soon as they like. This leaves the water a little quieter to check out something pretty awesome. Rich points out a cave where an enormous sting ray is hanging out! Laura creeps up slowly to it to watch it watching her. That’s so cool!
20 minutes in the water is plenty enough to have a look around without freezing your tits off. Saying that, Laura changes straight into a couple of merino wool layers, alpaca wool beanie and nice thick scarf. Robin is green with envy as he loves checking out underwater wildlife but he unfortunately cannot get in the water with a broken arm in a cast.
ONWARD to our next Bay of Islands adventure!
Exploring Motuarohia (Roberton) Island
Another great way to warm up is at our next destination and activity! Rock the Boat anchors up off the shore of Motuarohia Island, a.k.a. Roberton Island, where people have the option to either kayak to the beach or take the motor boat with Rich. As Laura literally just got dry, the both of us decide to take the latter.
We arrive on this beautiful island with a long beach stretched thin so that you can cross the island and see two lagoons on either side. At each end of the island are large hills covered in forest. We’re about to head up one of those hills right now!
A trek to some epic island views
The trek up is only about 10-minutes through kanuka and manuka forest up to an exposed hilltop and platform revealing an epic view of the island. These are the views that you come to New Zealand to see. We look like we are on an island paradise right now!
Of course, photos are mandatory! We spend about 20 minutes soaking up the sun and the scenery, while listening to Rich tell us some interesting yet pretty scandalous stories about the island before heading down to the beach to play some beach games.
Games on the beach
There are volleyballs and rugby balls to much around with, but our choice is the frisbie which, man, we suck at. Poor Rich has to fish the frisbie out of the water every couple of throws, even taking a kayak out to grab a few. (We say “poor” to be politically correct, but it’s actually hilarious). The game goes on strong for a while before people peel away to do their own thing, whether it’s to walk along the beach, sunbathe or kayak.
Lunch and tasting the Kina
Adam on the motorboat comes back to shore to pick us up and take us back to The Rock, which is about to make it’s final journey of the trip back to Paihia. Meanwhile, we have a lunch platter to tuck into where we can make our own “mean as” sandwiches with a side of fruit and cereal bar.
For “desert” we finally get to try the kina that we collected on the ocean floor while Adam explains more about these amazing creatures, the environment they live in, and why we are eating them. He peel out a tiny line of flesh from inside the spiny shell for us to try, which has an unusual taste which we can only describe as like the ocean.
The end of one adventure, the beginning of our Far North Adventure
After a fun-filled 22 hours out on the waters of the Bay of Islands, our Rock Adventure Cruise comes to an end. We’ve got to know some great people and have heaps of fun along the way. It has definitely been a unique experience for us during our 365 Days: 365 Activities.
For us, we now now travelling to the Far North of New Zealand, to a small town called Ahipara. We check in at the Ahipara Holiday Park as our base for the next couple of days. We’ll talk more about it tomorrow, but for now, we are pretty beat. See you tomorrow!
Rich tells us about the island legends atop Roberton Island
Have you read yesterday’s post about our first awesome night on The Rock cruise? How about these articles?
- 11 Stunning Backpacker Cruises in New Zealand
- Bay of Islands – Guide for Backpackers
- 10 Free or Cheap Things to do in Paihia
Until tomorrow’s blog post, be sure to check us out on the HerePin app, we also post travel tips on Facebook, as well as pretty NZ pics on Instagram. Join the Facebook Group to ask us questions, buy/sell, and find travel buddies.
See you tomorrow!