Wakey wakey eggs and bakey! (Oh if only I was this awake and lively in the mornings) It’s the return of the early starts as we’re back on the Stray bus; 7.30 in the AM and waving goodbye the Auckland skyline for the foreseeable future.  
Thanks to a sneaky peak at the Stray information guide yesterday I know that our first pit stop for breakfast is in a place called Hamilton. So naturally, I made sure I was listening to the Hamilton soundtrack as we pulled into town.
Not that I need an excuse to listen to Hamilton. And sing it. Or at least mouth along to the lyrics and pretend that I’m Eliza in the movie version that I’ve created in my head…
Why am I surprised that people on this bus are looking at me weirdly?
Any who, after finding a musical toilet and wolfing down some breakfast (NOT in that order. And certainly not at the same time!) we head to Wairēinga, or Bridal Veil Falls, for a quick scenic walk. 
Where the one in Paihia was pretty cool, this one is a whole other level of spectacular - 55m in height, it almost literally looks like the magnificent veil of a giant bride, jutting out from the cliff face in style to land in the pool below. Think the ‘Gollum at the Forbidden Pool’ scene from Lord of the Rings, but surrounded by trees, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about. Here:image

Once dragged away from the beautiful of nature (read: the bus nearly drove off without me and I have to leg it up several flights of stairs to catch it) we get to Raglan around midday, stopping in the midst of the town centre which happens to include several proper New Zealand bakeries. One in particular is perfectly placed next to this beautiful lake, giving several of us from the bus the perfect opportunity to eat our pies, surrounded by peace and serenity…
Lesson 22 - No matter how cute and sweet the tiny birds seem, NEVER try to lure them closer to you with sandwich crumbs and pie crusts. Your childhood dream of a Snow White moment with nature will very quickly turn into that creepy ass scene from The Birds, ending with everyone running for the hills! 
After our successful escape, we head up to Whale Bay to find our home for the evening; Karioi Lodge, a gorgeously rustic venue set off the beaten track, wooden dorms and walkways hidden in the nature reserve so you feel like you’re in the middle of the forest. You can’t even complain about the lack of WIFI when you’re swinging in a hammock watching the best views Raglan has to offer. Or in their sauna! It may be 2017 people, but we can handle 24 hours without the internet.
Best of all (or at least the reason I decided to come here) Karioi Lodge is home to the Raglan Surfing School. Bags swiftly dumped in our rooms and swimming cosies grabbed, we all head to the outhouse to begin Intro to Surfing 101. Where, much to the amusement of the instructors, I discovered that I’m ‘goofy footed’.
Had to make it hard for myself, didn’t I?
Still, today truly turned into a day of firsts as we piled off the bus (bumping into Yara from Day 11, what a small world!) and walked onto Ngarunui Beach, which turns out to be a black sand beach! 
So. Frigging. Excited!! It’s the first time I’ve ever experienced black sand, which is beautiful in an almost prehistoric way, especially with the grey skies and rain that decided to descend on us at that moment. We were going to get wet anyway, so what harm is a little rain going to do? imageFive hours of practice later, and I can now say that I can get on the board without falling off (most of the time) and can get up on one knee and half standing (some of the time) which is a darn sight better then what I was doing at the beginning of the lesson. I may be exhausted and going to be sore tomorrow, but to be honest I was smiling and laughing the entire time, and I so wish that I’d booked to stay longer than one day so I could really nail the awesome ‘proposal’ stance I had going on! Or, you know, stand up on the board once.
Hey, can’t complain - there’s still a million things I haven’t done…
But just you wait. Just you wait.
(I’m sorry. I couldn’t resist!)


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