Paihia NYE Extravaganza
Just a short entry today, oh faithful reader.
After leaving Kerikeri, it was a lazy 21km stroll through the Waitangi Treaty Forest to our next destination, Paihia. Our arrival there would strike another blow for serendipity, an accidental case of perfect timing. We’d heard about the town during our stay in Kaitaia whilst discussing plans with fellow travelers. The buzz developed exponentially the further we proceeded along the trail. Locals would receive the knowledge of our intent to be in Paihia on New Year’s Eve with knowing grins and the occasional display of envy. We began to build an expectation of the events to come and these were not found wanting. In a continuation of our almost unbelievable run of good fortune, it seemed that we’d arrived in perhaps the only town in the region worthy of a New Year’s Eve celebration at precisely the right time.
This is my fourth time visiting New Zealand, before which I had never been to the Bay of Islands. This is in part because I am not a hydrophile and beaches hold little appeal to me. As such, my focus has always been on the mountainous areas of the country, of which New Zealand has many. Having said that, I’d heard a great deal about the region from friends who had both lived and visited there. Our preliminary view from the grassy knoll on the outskirts of Kerikeri had given me a sense of excitement. This continued to build with additional glimpses of the idyllic coastline and then exploded as we rounded a small bluff to see the town of Paihia laid out before our eyes.
It’s not hard to see why Paihia has developed a reputation as a traveller’s hub and party town. The place is a postcard. Bay of Islands is a simple, apt handle which effectively describes the geography of the location. The calm, sheltered waters teem with yachts, fishing vessels, swimmers, parasailers and even the odd tall ship making a stately entrance into the harbour. A smattering of coastal villages are nestled amongst the lush coves and hillsides that surround the Bay. Tastefully composed, they seem to add to rather than detract from the abundant natural beauty. The foreshore, wharves and esplanades of Paihia were hives of activity with pilgrims from far and wide gearing up for the night to come. No vacancy signs abounded. After securing accomodation in the cheapest campsite we’d found in the entire trip, we began the festivities at a sublime pizza and craft beer restaurant. I strongly recommend the Good George IPA, a bloody stellar drop.
The night and the good vibes continued in earnest. As Tolkien wrote, “it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to.” Therefore, I’m not going to elaborate a great deal on the drunken revelry that ensued, suffice to say that it involved beer, fireworks, a dance-off and the subsequent sprain of a gluteus maximus.
The following day was marked by an incredible shift in the weather. It seemed that the sun had finally appeared to greet the new year with relentless vigour, much to the chagrin of erstwhile party-folk now firmly in the grips of raging hangovers. Vince and I had an agreeably slothful morning, drinking coffee in comfy chairs at a dockside restaurant. The sparkling waters were all the more picturesque in the sunshine. It was a dramatic change from the grey, overcast conditions that had dominated the climate since we began the trek and we were eventually able to appreciate it with the assistance of caffeine and rest. After some hair of the dog and time spent catching up with some friends we’d met along the way, we were ready to hit the trail once more. The coastal walk that immediately followed and the stunning vistas that it afforded were all the more enjoyable for the rest and relaxation we’d allowed ourselves. Thru-hiking is truly about the journey, not the destination, and times such as these add to the richness of the experience.
Paihia was a holiday within a holiday, and like all holidays, over much too soon. The warm memories from this particular chapter would prove to be one of the highlights of the trip. But the road marches ever on.
Ryan Siacci, Esq.