Travel without a plan

I had a little plan…that covered me for a month in the USA, after that I was going to wing it. 
I’ve now come to decision time and it’s kind of a case of throwing a dart at a map/where can I go that’s super cheap and I can recoup my loses from the ever expensive States…
In my mind I know where I would like to go (my bucket list is endless, it really could be anywhere) but I’d like to give something back at this juncture of my travel life.
I’ve volunteered abroad before, 10 years ago in fact, my first solo travel experience!
Happy travel anniversary to me! 
That was Ecuador, I spent 3 months in the Amazon rainforest thinking I was doing my bit to help save the trees and animals. 
Oh man was I wrong! 
Not only did I have to pay a rather large amount of money for the privilege of working for free, but it turned out that money went to some wealthy American guy who had bought a portion of the rainforest, ‘hired’ the local tribes and paid them pennies to act as tour guides for other wealthy Americans to have the ‘jungle experience’. He rented the land to the charity organisation I had volunteered for, and not cheaply apparently. 
Needless to say, this disillusioned my belief in volunteering, charity work and any hope in saving the rainforest! 
I have, since then, learned that there is a way to genuinely give your time in return for accommodation and sometimes food for a couple of hours work with up-and-coming hostels, small holdings or sometimes just families who want to learn English and teach you their culture. 
So right now I am in the process of sending out applications to dozens of potential hosts in a few different countries, and I will go where the wind takes me! 
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Whangarei

Only a short walk to see Whangarei falls, then a stroll around the town basin.




The local school kids had painted all the teams that will be taking part during the British Lion Tour.



I’d read about Mermaid pools in Matapouri bay. Bit of a climb to get there, especially in flip flops!


So worth it.


Crystal clear, lagoon-like pools were our reward for our trek.





The beach itself was alright too…






Had some fun playing with the slow-mo video.





This was mine and Laura’s last weekend together before I move onto my next travels, so naturally we had to have a drink to celebrate.


Didn’t take too many beers before we were subjected to unwanted male attention..






Naturally, not much sight seeing or even moving was done the day after.

Eastside

 
As we made our way south from Doubtless bay we discovered a chocolate factory and gelateria in Kerikeri. After sampling some chocolate and ice cream, we realized it was the sister factory of the one we visited in Marlborough in the South Island.


We camped in Paihia and woke up to views over the water.



Paihia is the place where it all began…with Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
This place was amazing, experienced another cultural show, had a free guided tour around the grounds and the museum was really well laid out which made it easy to understand.







The museum offers a free guided tour around the treaty grounds, made the most of that.


Giant ceremonial canoe which we were told Lady Diana had a ride in even though women are not supposed to go in the war boats.


The stump of one of the three Kauri trees. Photo doesn’t really show how huge this tree was. Two of me could have laid across it, I wanted to try, but this is sacred ground and tomfoolery of that sort is disrespectful.


The flagstaff with the three flags associated with New Zealand, the Union Jack, the Maori flag and the flag we know and love today.
Onward south with a stop off to the Hunderwasser toilets. 



Northlands

Can’t believe we have nearly seen the whole of New Zealand! 
We finished off the Coromandel by hugging some Kauri trees. Some of these trees have been here for thousands of years so they are doing their best to conserve them.


Hugging them was my contribution to conservation.
Currently exploring the northlands, where there are a few sparsely populated villages.
Our first stop was Omamari, on the West coast. We stayed at a campsite overlooking the Kaiiwi lake.






After a pretty rough nights sleep in the back of the car (the temperature is starting to drop!) we head to another Kauri forest. We weren’t allowed to hug these trees.

These pictures can never show the sheer size of these giants.





From the Kauri forest we head up the coast to Maunganui Bluff. I took a walk on the beach and Laura explored the mountain. We both got soaked to the skin, I was wind and sand beaten, Laura covered in mud. The signs of a good walk! 



We dried off best we could in the car and continued north. 



We stopped in Opononi and found the only campsite available. This is where we learned there are very few towns. Luckily we had enough food to last until we found a store! 


At least there’s plenty of drinking water for us! 

Gisborne

 
Another amazing vista on our drive to Gisborne at Tūtira Lake.

One of the upsides to staying in a Top 10 campsite is they usually have a jumping pillow…



After exerting most of our energy bouncing around like kids we took on the challenge of walking the length of Poverty Bay.






It’s the equivalent to November weather here, but that didn’t stop us having a sea swim.





We ended walking over 10 miles and we still didn’t make it to the end of the beach!

Wanaka

Camping life, I don’t even know how long we’ve been sleeping rough for! 


Wanaka has ice cream and lakes to offer.



Took an easy tramp around the lake (made it harder on ourselves by walking on the pebbles and shingle!)



Me attempting The Little Mermaid pose on a rock!



All the autumnal colors are bright as!



Around Dunedin

 
Really childish, but I decided I wanted my navel re-pierced. The only place to get this done in Dunedin is Black Sheep.

Drove around Harrington Point to take in the scenery.







Dragged ourselves away from our sunkissed surroundings to make our budget lunch/dinner.

Then it was time for my first rugby game.
The Americans we met in the hostel were joining us too.









Was another awesome day/night! 
http://blacksheepstudios.gettimely.com/