So this will be the last page of our New Zealand blog. Seems to be strange to be thinking about going home after three months on the road, but all good things must come to an end, so here we go, for the last time !
January 14 - Hamilton to Bay of Islands
Before heading north to the Bay of Islands , we made a stop to see Kristine's grandson, Daniel, who has been working in New Zealand for a farming contractor cutting hay, sileage and will soon be working on the maize crop. It's only for six months, but for someone of his age (eighteen) to be working so far from home doing something he enjoys must be really exciting. We almost didn't get to see him as he had been away from Hamilton and only got back the night before. Kris was afraid we didn't have time to make the detour to see him but we consulted the GPS and she (the GPS) convinced us we had time. Daniel was looking very well and when he's working, he drives what must be the biggest or one of the biggest tractors in the world. More like an aircraft than any tractor I ever saw.
Daniel and Kristine with Daniel showing us the BIG tractor that he gets to drive
He showed us round where he works and introduced us to a couple of his workmates before we thought we had better get moving as we had a long drive ahead of us and he had work to do !
And so, with a brief stop in Auckland to get a refund for my earlier aborted sailing experience, we drove all day until we arrived in Paihia, the main tourist town in the Bay of Islands. We checked into out hotel, the Scenic, which was about two blocks from the beach.
The Scenic Hotel, Paihia
We then took a quick walk around the small downtown and wharf areas before heading back to the hotel for snacks and wine as we didn't really want a big meal.
Downtown Paihia and the Ferry and Wharf areas
January 15 - Paihia and Waitingi
As we were staying five nights in Paihia, our plan was to take it easy and not do too much for our last few days, but this day started badly. We had decided to mail the axe we had bought in Christchurch back to the US, so we wouldn't need to carry it around on the long flight back. It was raining quite hard and when we got to the Post Office, we were rushing to stay dry. Once we had mailed our parcel, Kris and I split up for thirty minutes to do our own thing. When I got back to the car - I had left the lights on again ! I crossed my fingers that perhaps this time there would be enough juice still in the battery to start the car, but no such luck ! Just the "tick tick tick" of the relay ! The good news was that we were in a busy town and everything, including the local Shell station was open, so instead of paying $85 to the AA as I had before, I only had to pay $40 and they even gave us a ride back to our car. The nice lady who helped us also told us most of her life story (she was originally from Germany) in the time it took to get to our car and get it started. So Paul was in the dog house AGAIN !
Anway, once the car was going, we had to take it for a run to recharge it so we went up the coast and back and on the way back, stopped at Waitingi. Waitingi is famous because it was there in 1840 that the British signed a treaty with many of the Maori chiefs which essentially gave the British control over New Zealand. It's pretty clear that at the time, it was little more than a legalized land grab and for many years, the British simply ignored the treaty and did whatever they wanted and of course, the Maori had been beaten militarily and couldn't do anything about it.
In recent years, the signing of the Treaty has come to be seen as the moment when the British actually took responsibility for the country and it's now treated by New Zealanders as "Independence Day" but that's something of a stretch. The good news is that there have been efforts made in the last twenty years or so to actually enforce the Treaty and slowly but surely the Maori tribes are regaining some of their rights which were promised under the Treaty but which were subsequently taken away.
The Treaty grounds have a great view of the bay and the house where the Treaty was written and translated (badly most would say) has been restored and a traditional Maori Meeting House was built in 1940 to celebrate 100 years of "independence".
The view from the Treaty House (with Russell in the distance)
The Treaty House and the Te Whare Runanga (Maori Meeting House)
We were also impressed by a huge war canoe stored at the site, which apparently is launched out to sea every year on Independence Day.
Maori Waka (Canoe)
By the time we had finished our tour, we had had enough excitement for one day and headed back to the hotel for an early night.
January 16 - Paihia
The one thing we had wanted to do while were in the Bay of Islands was to go sailing for at least one day, so from the many day cruises offered, we chose the Gungha II, a 65ft sailboat which promised lots of sailing as well as the usual swimming, kayaking and snorkelling. The captain, Mick, who seems to have been a sailor all his life, gave the mandatory safety talk ("always use the toilet sitting down") and we quickly set sail, although the wind was still fairly light.
Mick giving his safety talk and setting sail with the help of his crew, Jean Luc.
Although he had mentioned seeing Dolphins, it was clear Mick didn't really think we would, so we were all surprised when a group of large bottlenose dolphins appeared in the distance. We slowly motored over and were quickly joined by a small armada of ships, all jostling to see the frisky creatures.
They would swim and jump right next to the boat and then move away to another boat. In some cases, they would jump out of the water and do backflips, just like they do at SeaWorld. It was all very exciting but eventually they moved away and we moved on.
Our next stop was a pretty bay where we had the option of swimming, snorkelling or kayaking. Kris and I chose to kayak and we made our way to the beach where others took over the kayaks and took them back to the boat. Kris took the dinghy back and I swam back. It was cold, but not as cold as I had expected.
The Gungha II at anchor and the beach we kayaked too
We ate lunch on the boat and then sailed back to Paihia. The sky seemed to be quite threatening but it didn't rain and Kris and I actually were sunburned for the first time on the whole trip.
Heading home with dark skies looming up ahead
Having eaten quite well on the boat, we settled for soup and a glass of wine for dinner and that was another day over.
January 17 - Paihia
We had a lazy start to the day but by about noon, we were getting itchy, so we headed north up the coast to see what we might find. We found a scenic loop road which took us past a couple of beaches, at Matauri Bay and Tauranga Bay. We stopped at both to admire the view and take pictures.
Matauri Bay and Tauranga Bay
We then took the ferry to Russell, the small town across the bay from Paihia. We were looking for a place for dinner that night and Kris wanted to do some shopping.
The Duke of Marlborough Inn and the street along the front of Russell
Although it was a pretty little place, it was Sunday and a lot of places were closed. Kris managed to find what she was looking for, but we never did find a restaurant, so after about an hour, we took the ferry back to Paihia and headed back to the hotel. That evening, we dined at the "Just Seafood" which served - just seafood.
January 18 - Paihia
Our last day and we really didn't do much. We both finished reading our books and then went into town to browse, but in the end didn't buy anything. We drove to Opua to see the Russell car ferry, but there wasn't much to see in Opua and we soon returned to our hotel.
The Russell car ferry and part of the Marina at Opua
That evening, we dined at the Sugarboat Bistro - a converted sugar carrier which had been used for many things during it's lifetime and is now a restaurant.
The Sugar Boat Bistro
Of course, for our last night in New Zealand, we had to enjoy the local delicacy, so we both had - lamb !
January 21, 2010
Next morning, we drove to Auckland airport, dropped off our car and flew home via LAX with no excitement and no delays, to arrive home safely in Orlando the same day - the wonders of time travel.
Thanks to everyone who has been following our adventures and we hope you wil contine to read this blog during our next trip to Europe in the summer of 2010.