A rare free morning dawned on us Stray folk on our last day in Paihia. For those who could face the early wake up call they went on a ferry ride to the Hole in the Wall (I was told later that is was sadly vacant of any Anton Du Beke types) and got the chance to see some dolphins! 
Now for anyone, like me, who needed a little more time in bed and to tighten the purse strings, Paihia is filled with lovely little cafes and restaurants that serve breakfast for a decent price. 
And if you’re lucky enough to be greeted by sunshine, such as we were, you might want to try any of the eateries along the bay front!

Tricia, Denise and I decided to try out the Alongside Cafe which, despite what the name suggests, has a little jetty that sticks out into the Bay. Nothing feels quite as posh and luxurious as sitting on large, plush seats, nibbling on your brunch and green smoothies whilst being treated to the gorgeous views of the Bay of Islands.
How does that song go again? “Oh the posh, posh travelling life, the travelling life for me!”
But seriously, if you’ve had a hectic few days and are looking to chill out for an hour or two, you can’t go wrong by visiting this Cafe - beautiful food, beautiful views, doesn’t break the bank, what’s not to like?
(I’d highly recommend the poached eggs and salmon. Still haven’t found a green smoothie I can stomach yet…)
The other great thing about the Alongside Cafe is that when you’re done, the beach is literally 2 seconds walk away! Nicely full. we decided to continue chilling on the sand, watching the waves and the tour bus come back to shore. Sebastian and Ally found us along the way, and once the cold, brisk morning air suitably reached our bones we went to go get hot chocolate at El Cafe, where we bumped into the dolphin explorers Dave, Dara and Jo. Luckily for us, El Cafe was just around the corner from the hostel, so we didn’t have to leg it too far when our catch up naturally overran our bus pick up time.
So sadly, it was time to say goodbye to Paihia. The great thing about Stray is that most of the time you travel with the same people to and from most destinations (unless you, or they, decide to hop off at a certain point. Then it is Adios, Amigos!) so the new friends you make often follow for a good portion of your journey! 
l was very lucky for this first trek the majority of the lovely people I met on the bus were all stopping off in Auckland for at least one night, so we all decided to meet up for a bit of a farewell dinner at Mai Thai on Victoria Street. Thai cuisine is not one I’ve had the opportunity to try very often, so I decided to go for the Trio of Curry (traditional, jungle and coconut) so I could enjoy a little bit of everything - a decision I’d recommend to anyone else new to Thai food, as they are all equally delicious… also it’s big thumbs up if you like your spice!
But the biggest shocker of the week came in the form of Doris - a wonderful German lady in her mid-fifties who as travelling New Zealand on her tod, who we’d all met up in Paihia. She’s the type of kick ass lady you’d aspire to be when you grow up - who let slip towards the end of the meal that it was her BIRTHDAY?! Naturally we were all in various states of ‘shocked emoji face’ and ‘Doris why didn’t you tell us?!’ so to celebrate we all took her to a local Irish bar for drinks and live music.
Lesson Number 15 - If you’re after a last minutes place to celebrate something (birthday, anniversary, recovering from a tequila-inflicted hangover) Irish bars are the best place you can go to. And guaranteed there is at least one in every city you could ever find yourself in!
Hilariously enough she kept trying to buy our drinks for us, which naturally (especially with a blonde giant of an irish man in our group… Dara I’m looking at you) none of us were having. Despite her protests of it being a ‘german custom’ that the birthday person buys a round of drinks for her guests.
I’ve got to ask, to any German readers out there - is this true or was she just trying to be polite?
In any case, bless her heart she looked so happy, especially when a lovely, slightly tipsy, beaded gentleman grabbed her hand and whirled her around the dance floor. 
And that’s the whole point of travelling, isn’t it? Making wonderful memories with perfect strangers, and hope that you all cherish them for years to come.
That and laughing hysterically at the shock on your male friends faces, as a big burly Kiwi bloke yells at them to “Ask the ladies to DANCE!” before doing it himself. Nice to know chivalry isn’t quite dead yet.


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