Auckland - Bay of Islands

Hoorah! We have a car! A white Nissan Sunny- classy! We drove off, relishing our freedom when we got toa motorway and I got a bit scared so did my usual thing on motorways, drove really slow in the slow lane (they call it that here) and annoyed everyone else. Kiwis had better get used to some traffic jams with me around!

We stopped off at Goat Island Beach, a black sand and rocky beach, looking over islands dotted around in the bay. No members of the public are allowed on the beaches as they are Nature Reserves. However one island was devoted to Goats. Why??

We drove on, meeting our first sign of Kiwi lunacy; unsealed roads! They are gravel roads and on this trip they seemed to play Russian Roulette on which piece of road they were going to seal or not. We drove up this 80kmor so road, every couple of km would be sealed, then a stretch of unsealed, then back to tarmac, gravel, tarmac, gravel. It took a rather long time. We did come across the wizard made out of wood though on the side of the road.

Russell "the hell hole of the Pacific" was suprisingly beautiful, a tiny little village with a harbour, cafes on the pavements and amazing views of the other islands. We had a little explore, found "long beach" which Andy ran into the water and then confessed later it was so cold his feet had gone numb!

We parked up at a Top 10 holiday park- we had been recommended these by a honeymooning couple in Fiji, they are camping/caravan parks with little apartments and motel rooms. We enjoyed a bit of luxurious camping for the evening, looking forward to our first big trip out tomorrow- Swimming with dolphins!

 The boat departed at a rather early 8am, so you all probably realise I struggled to wake up and do much for at least an hour- which was a problem as we had to leave the campsite by 7.50 and I woke at 7.30-Gah! Fear not, we made the boat- Tim was our dolphin watcher- he would casually stand ON TOP of the boat with hands holding super strength binoculars looking for tiny changes in the waves that would pinpoint the dolphins. We did this for about an hour and a half before be found our first pair of dolphins- a mother and her baby! They hung around the boat for ages, riding along the front of the boat, ducking and reappearing next tothe sides of the boat. Unfortunately New Zealand rules that if there is a 'juvenile' in the group we were not allowed to swim with them. So after taking loads of photos and enjoying their company we set off in search for other 'common dolphins' which live further out to sea than 'bottlenose dolphins' which we had just seen.

We searched and searched for another hour and a half, and eventually we headed over to some boats that we crowded around a pod of dolphins. They were amazing, Andy even saw one jump out of the water in the classic dolphin way. Awesome! We had to go back to Russell because our time had run out and although we didn't get to swim with them it was still one of the best things I have done since travelling. Wow!

Look at the photos of Tim and dolphins here: