Paihia, in the rain

Paihia, in the rain
Paihia, New Zealand

Paihia, New Zealand

After four nights in Auckland, and given that I am returning for parkrun #2 next weekend, it was time to go somewhere else. My plan was to explore the northern tip-Northland, it turns out to be called-so I picked the northern-most bus stop and used my pass to book a journey up to Paihia. I asked about booking a Cape Reinga tour in Auckland, but apparently it was easier for me to book it in Paihia.

A bench, ahead of slim beach, small islands out to sea
Windswept beach.

For her, I suspect, but never mind. Four hours or so later, after finally stopping at the fabled tearooms that the driver seemed to suggest were a highlight in the itinerary he gave us after each stop, and we were there. It was grey, and wet, but the Bay of Islands still looked pretty impressive.

Sheer luck on my destination choice meant that the Cape Reinga tours leave from Paihia, so I booked onto one for the next day and wandered to the hostel. Seabeds, or “seabids” as the lovely kiwi lady who booked my tour had it. The place was fabulous. It’s only 800m or so from the bus stop, but out of sight of the main town because it’s round a bluff that makes it appear as if you’re walking away from civilisation before more houses appear round the corner. Each room looks out onto the seafront, which is about 100m away – though in the ground floor ones you have to stand up to see over the fence. It’s also quiet, with people of all ages rather than youngsters. That said, the room which is currently a girls’ dorm has an average age in the 20s, to compare with my dorm, average about 40. Bulky older men in either sub room – there’s a main room with two beds, two rooms off that each with two more. And a sofa – luxury!

It was the perfect day to stay in, though. I walked to the supermarket at just the right time to get caught in a deluge that my umbrella could barely handle and afterwards retreated to the TV room. There just ahead of me was Nicki, a bright and chatty English girl from Bournemouth, with varied cinematic tastes: she was tossing up between Conan, Hobbit, Made in Dagenham and Eat, Pray, Love. We settled on MiD and then talked over it happily for 20 minutes before settling in, joined by an ex-pat British couple. I later learnt they had lived in Canada for years, in a large cottage they’d built themselves, he had worked for Ford for 30 years so was particularly intrigued by the film (about the struggle for equal pay for women at Ford), he’d sailed the Atlantic as a novice member of the British team in the race there and back, and both of them wondered whether they would have settled in New Zealand had they seen it before they went to Canada.

A car parked by a rainswept beach
Bay of Islands.

I learned all of that after being in their way in the kitchen and answering the question ‘where are you from?’ but no matter – one way conversations are at least good if the talker has had an interesting life. After the film Nicki and I had had an actual conversation for a couple of hours before I finally got out of the way and she was able to leave to go to the supermarket, poor girl.

Paihia has piles of budget accommodation but less nightlife than you might imagine that would support. That evening I walked the length of the town before realising that I really was chancing my arm the further I went, with a downpour likely at any moment. Sure enough, I got wet on the way back, but I had at least surveiled the available bars for future reference. The pavement carries a little self-test, as national flags are painted at intervals all the way along, so before I realised what I was doing I had stopped looking out to sea and was listening to the waves crashing in to the beach whilst looking ahead for the next flag and having a debate with myself over which country it represented.

View of lawn then sea, from the hostel
View from Seabeds hostel.

The hostel was quiet and dark at 10.30, with the lovely communal kitchen and viewing area upstairs having shut at 9.30, and I hit the sack, ready for an early start and tour the next day.

Dickens on:

Mr. Bucket
“A servant came to the door to announce Mr. Bucket, which was quite unnecessary, for Mr. Bucket was already looking in over the servant’s shoulder.”

The legal system
“He said this at the stair-head, gently moving his right hand as if it were a silver trowel, with which to spread the cement of his words on the structure of the system, and consolidate it for a thousand ages.”

“To surround herself with great heaps of it-baskets full and tables full-and do a little, and spend a great deal of time in staring with her round eyes at what there was to do, and persuade herself that she was going to do it, were Charley’s great dignities and delights.”

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