People quickly crossing in front of you, shouting across to each other and quite clearly in a hurry. I was well aware that as a city, Auckland was a busy place but I hadn’t quite expecting it to be this bad!
After waking up and checking out of the alright but-not-the-best hostel by 10am, we proceeded to spend the next few hours doing our washing and using the internet in the travel shop next door. It was really, really annoying and I found myself getting quite on edge about not being able to go and explore the city. We didn’t really have too long there and so to me every minute counted and we needed to really make the most of it all. Grrrrrrr. Still, these things have to be done. If we didn’t get it sorted, I’d be pretty stuck clothes wise and nobody wants to be that stinky person on the bus do they? We’ve been on enough of them to know that it only takes one questionable waft to knock out several passengers and I had absolutely no intention of being the one responsible!
A few hours later our clothes were all clean and dry and we were finally ready to explore. It had taken a lot longer than I would have liked but that just meant we needed to enjoy the rest of the time we had; a style of thinking I’ve been trying to adopt throughout our entire trip. There’s no point travelling to the other side of the world to spend your time worrying and not doing much is there? There will be days when you are just lazing around hostels or the beach and there will be days when you’ll be really busy. You just have to make the most of it all whatever you do. Some of the best days I’ve had have been when we’ve just been sat back, enjoying the atmosphere and relaxing so there’s no point feeling like you have to be doing things all the time. You’ll only burn yourself out and the enjoyment will feel forced. That’s my opinion anyway! Anyway, we made sure everything was safe in the luggage storage, or as safe as it could be, and set off. Being in such a busy place, I was a bit intimated at first as it was so different to the Bay of Islands but soon my Brisbane survival instincts kicked in and we joined the throng of people walking about.
The first place we visited was the docks as for some reason, I always seem to be attracted to the sea. I’m not entirely sure why but I do love the ocean and it’s wildlife so I’m always quite happy to go along with it. There wasn’t really much to see other than a huge cruise ship so we promptly turned around and headed back towards the busier pavements. We’d already been in this area before after having caught the bus from there so decided to have a proper look about in the many gift shops lining the road. Since Codie had left his towel in Base Embassy, it also seemed like the perfect opportunity to go out and find him a new one. After all, we have an Australia one so a New Zealand one would be a good addition to our towel collection (who doesn’t have a towel collection?) Unfortunately, however, every gift shop we visited was strangely upmarket and contained none of the usual souvenir tat that you’d expect. Hmmm. Instead of the cuddly koalas, wallets, kangaroo bollock purses and tacky t-shirts, there were rows of china, various expensive medicines and llama wool clothes and rugs. It was quite disappointing and I’m missed the cheap shops of Cairns. There was a place where you could wander down the street and just know you’d end up with something you didn’t really need but ended up with it anyway. It happened to me on a number of occasions and I’m now the proud owner of a cuddly wombat called Raisin, a koala and a crocodile keyring amongst other things. Oh dear.
After abandoning the souvenir shops and indulging in another tasty pie at Mcdonalds (they are yum!) , we decided to walk back on ourselves and venture further into the centre to have a look around the ‘real’ shops. I couldn’t believe just how packed it all was and a few times I found myself having to avoid being trampled on. It was quite scary until I succeeded in falling into step with the people hurrying along. Everybody seemed to be on a mission to get somewhere and it was all so fast paced though admittedly, it was ridiculously similar to Cardiff. I think after spending so much time in the smaller towns, I just wasn’t used to it all but once I was, I realised that I really did like Auckland. It may be busy, like most cities, but it’s clean, the people are friendly, it’s not huge so fairly easy to navigate and there’s a lot to do. Whether you just want to go for a little shop, a walk around the docks, have a nice meal out, take a trip up the sky tower to admire the view or even catch the ferry to Waiheke Island, there really is something for everyone. Sadly with us only having a little bit of time, we weren’t able to do too much but I loved just getting to walk about and get a feel for the city instead.
By 3pm, we were back at the bus stop and excited to move on to the next place on our itinerary; Matamata. The rest of our morning had been taken up with a quick trip to New Worlds to stock up on some food for the trip and a quick sit down in the travel shop to book some activities for the rest of our time in New Zealand. We were just going to wait until it got closer to the time of doing them but it’s always better to have things sorted in advance so you can just sit back and relax more. Besides, I think had we waited, we would have missed out on some pretty good discounts! It’s also better to get things cheaper! So, we were at the bus stop and I was quite disappointed that we hadn’t had longer to just enjoy the sights and sounds of Auckland. It was such a nice place but not being a huge city fan, the prospect of a nice little town was also very appealing. It was also the gateway to Hobbiton, the magical home of Bilbo Baggins and that was also pretty cool. To be honest, by the time the bus came I couldn’t wait to set off.
Our journey from Auckland to Matamata didn’t exactly fly by but it was pleasant nevertheless. Despite it not being the comfiest of buses we’d ever been on, the scenery flying past the windows certainly made up for that. The further away we got from the built up areas, the more mountains appeared, climbing up out of the ground and I found myself transfixed on them. The grass seemed to get greener and greener and the number of birds swooping around increased to. I was back in a place where I felt the most comfortable and it was great. As the bus pulled up into Matamata at 7:10pm, I was excited and ready to see the little town. Like I’ve said, I like cities but much prefer smaller places and this was perfect. It was even better when we discovered that our hotel, The Horse and Jockey Inn, was literally around the corner. Within about 5 minutes we’d arrived, checked in and found ourselves wandering upstairs to find our room.
Walking down the corridor and opening our door, we were faced with the most incredible sight; a ginormous queen sized bed with an ensuite bathroom! It was amazing. We’d had quite a few problems trying to find accommodation for Matamata since there are no hostels whatsoever and though it seemed a little expensive at the time, staying there was definitely worth it. We wandered inside, making the most of the thought that we’d be escaping the pain of hostel sleeping for the next couple of nights, and dropped our bags on the floor. This was more like it. Beautiful views, if you could ignore the supermarket across the road, a comfy bed and things planned for tomorrow. It was all looking really good. After a little sit down, we decided to pop across to the shop to get some easy tea supplies and some snacks. As nice as the place was, it only had a microwave and a fridge and so we needed to buy some food that didn’t need much preparing and so, as you can probably guess, we ended up with pot noodles and crispy things. Perhaps not the most nutritious but very yummy!
One vitamin deficient but tasty ‘meal’ later, we settled down on the bed to watch the Top Gear New Zealand episode to see where we’d already been at Cape Reinga and then decided to watch the second Hobbit film; the Desolation of Smaug. Tomorrow is our trip to Hobbiton so we thought it’d be quite a good idea to familiarise ourselves with the world of Bilbo Baggins before we went. It certainly worked because I’m now really, really looking forward to it all even more! Auckland and the Bay of Islands were really nice and both were great places to visit but the further down we get, the more interesting everything seems to be and I just can’t wait to explore some more. Matamata today, Rotorua tom…in a few more days and then the South Island later on; just lots of never-ending things to do and after hearing so many positive things about the country, I’m grateful for the opportunity to see it all for myself.