Published: July 19th 2009July 18th 2009
When we arrived in New Zealand we were picked up by the Duffy family, family friends of Jake's who'd moved to New Zealand 12 years ago. They really looked after us & we are totally grateful to them for giving us a house for a few days. We spent our 1st day in Auckland buying some warmer clothes for the cold weather out here. The second day we spent deciding what the best method of travelling the country & decided that a camper would be best. We got a deal for $26 a day (10 pounds) which works out sooo cheap we couldn't really turn it down! The van we got was a crazy little thing with funky paintings all over it. It’s cool but very basic & cosy inside.
We drove to the north of Auckland through picturesque but un-dramatic countryside. It was raining, & we could have almost been driving through the Lake District with the gently undulating hills & patchwork fields. we stopped at sheepworld (only in New Zealand... or maybe Wales) where they had painted their sheep pink?! Amazing, I finally know where pink wool comes from now!
We drove to a place called Tutukaka,
which is a small marina where a few dozen boats and yachts are moored. It was pretty quiet; obviously the boats mostly belonged to Aucklanders who don't use them much during the winter. We'd chosen this quiet backwater because the dive boats run from there to the world famous (in diving terms) Poor Knights Islands. The islands are a marine & wildlife reserve as well as being sacred Maori ground because of a massacre of the native population by another Maori tribe (shock horror not by the English!). No-one is allowed to step foot on the islands under risk of hefty fine - three guys got fined $30,000 for catching some fish there - and this adds to the allure. You are allowed to dive there, though, & Jacques Cousteau himself rated the poor knights islands number 7 in top diving destinations in the world.
We took in the rugged beauty of the islands as we approached them. They didn't look an appealing place to live, with sheer cliffs, high winds and little in the way of trees or vegetation. The place gave us thick wet suits but as soon as you jumped in the cold water seeped through.
The fist dive was an underwater archway. I asked the boat skipper & he said the visibility in the winter can quite often go over 40m which is unreal! Unfortunately for us there had been a storm & the viz was reduced to about 15m which is still pretty good. As we swam through the arch the sheer numbers of fish were incredible! Because of the marine reserve status the fish life here really flourish, showing the impact of over-fishing on marine life. There was literally thousands of fish swimming slowly through the arch. This was an incredible dive. The second dive was pretty standard. Very nice with plenty of fish but nothing spectacular. About 40 mins in I was desperate for the loo & seriously cold, ready to pack up & go when we spotted two seals swimming around the surface. They must have spotted us too & they were soon swimming down & playing with us! This WAS spectacular. I soon forgot my discomfort & for 20 minutes the two seals were swimming around us & coming to within touching distance before darting off. They were so much fun. Unfortunately I was running out of air so I
had to go but I was so buzzing afterward!
That night we drove further north to the bay of islands where we camped by the sea. It is the beauty of being in a camper that you can wake up & be in beautiful places. We sat on the beach & ate breakfast taking in the view. The sense of freedom was immense.
There are more photos below