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December 22nd 2006
Published: December 22nd 2006
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Monday 18th December

No early morning start, much to our relief. We left the campsite on foot, heading just around the corner to the Hururu falls. They weren't spectacular compared to what we've seen in the past and so we didn't loiter in the vacinity long. We set off along the track towards the area called Waitangi, passing through a mangrove forrest on the way - spying some crabs in the mud as well. Waitangi is the birth place of modern New Zealand as it was in these grounds that the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by 45 or so Maori chiefs in 1840, which gave Britain sovereignty over the whole country. The grounds had changed hands many times since but were presented to New Zealand so the history could be preserved. We soon found a picnic bench for lunch as the walk had taken over an hour and we relaxed with great views over the harbour area around to Paihia and over to Russell. We explored the remaining attractions in the area including a huge Waka (kayak), meeting hut and the house of James Busby who held the title of British resident in New Zealand and whose land the treaty was signed in. After soaking up all the history we made our way back along the track to the campsite.


It was the last day in the camp site so we had to go through the motions of packing the bags again and checking out. Seeing as we had all day, and the fact that we didn't want to pay another $16 for a taxi, we set ourselves up at the side of the road for some hitch hiking. We weren't going to get in with anyone strange and were very glad when a little old lady offered us a lift back to Paihia. Alex was even more pleased when she got to have the lady's dog on her lap for the entire journey. We got back to our hostel and had the afternoon to pass before our cruise started at five o'clock. We managed to do this quite nicely by watching DVDs all afternoon before making our way down to the wharf.

We were picked up by Pete, the owner of The Rock, and were ferried across to the boat which would be our home for the night. There were about thirty tourists in total and it was a good mix of ages and countries, as well as the five other staff members. Once everyone had been shown their rooms, we were sharing a room with an American couple, the cruise got underway and we headed towards Russell and out of the harbour. The first bit of entertainment layed on by the crew was a spot of air rifle shooting for a prize of a free beer. Alex and I both had a go trying to hit the bottle tied by string to the back of the boat but the combination of the boat moving and the bottle bouncing on the waves meant we couldn't hit it - both of us got close though. I don't think we ever got an official winner of the tournament, although a couple of people hit the bottle, this was because it was interrupted by dolphins! We were hoping to see some dolphins on the cruise but we weren't prepared for the show that we got. There were about 15 dolphins that had decided to get a tow from the boat and spent 15-20 minutes swimming alongside, in front and behind the boat. You could hear the shouts

They do exist Becka!
of joy from different viewing locations as the dolphins showed off from time to time. There was also a baby dolphin swimming alongside its mum. Basically this was as good as you could get without getting wet and everyone on board was buzzing for a long time afterwards with the excitement. A stretch of open water calmed the mood down as things got a bit choppy, but after about 45 minutes we were sheltered among some of the islands and the anchor was dropped.

Next on the agenda was fishing for anyone who wanted. Alex and I gave it a go, standing on the congested read section of the boat as we all tried our luck despite the rain pelting down. A couple of people caught a snapper which was added to the food pile for the bbq but Alex and I didn't have any luck. The rest of the evening passed really nicely as we sat down for a great buffet dinner. Entertainment for the night included playing pool, which wasn't ruined too much by the boat rocking slightly, relaxing around the fire while people entertained using the guitars or piano on board and for the people who wanted to get really wet there was night kayaking which we passed up seeing as we didn't have many clothes with us. We stuck to the warmth on the boat and a cold beer.


Alex couldn't get back to sleep very easily and I soon followed her downstairs at a rather early hour. We weren't the first people up though. We decided to start the day off with a bang, well a splash really, as we launched ourselves off the back of the boat for an early morning dip. The cold water was refreshing but meant we didn't stay in for long although we did have a second dip as Alex tried to push me in and I kept hold of her for the company. The weather was meant to be rubbish but the sun kept trying to poke its head out of the clouds and we all went ashore after breakfast on Roberton Island. The island is known for its three lagoons which we had a great view of after we'd climbed to the top of the hill in the middle of the island where we had the group photo taken. We also got to explore around the lagoons before making our way back to the boat. We cruised a bit more on the boat and seeing some seabirds feeding in the water it was decided to get some of the fishing lines out. After some expert fishing on my part, well being patient enough to stand there for a long time, I managed to catch myself a fish. I pulled it ashore to be told that it was a Kawhai which is a sea trout. I was also given the privilege of having to kill the fish as we were going to eat it and I was handed what was basically a rounders bat to do the job. The whole boat was crowded round to see me belt it on the head and I think there were several people who had wished that they hadn't watched. Anyway, five minutes after having caught the fish, it had been killed, filleted and put on a plate to be eaten raw. Seeing as I had caught it I was given the first piece which was quite nice with a bit of soy sauce. While back on fishing duties we also managed to spot a blue penguin, the smallest type in the world, having a swim in the sea - it was a bit too far off for a photo but still really good to see.

The next stop of the morning was for a spot of snorkling at Motukiekie Island where we were tipped off the boat in one place and had to make our way round the coast a bit to be picked up at the other end. There were a few interesting fish that we saw, including a mystery fish which a few of us failed to identify back on the boat. Lunch was taken next and was accompanied by mussles and sea urchins that had been salvaged while snorkeling. We tried the mussles both raw and steamed and much prefered the steamed variety. The sea urchin roe was also tried raw and was ok, but has a price tag of US$700 a kilo!

The return cruise came too quickly but we relaxed for the journey with another beer, returning to Paihia around 5pm. We headed into town for some food, pizza and nachos, and an ice cream for dessert seeing as we were by the seaside in summer, before returning to the hostel to watch the Constant Gardener which we both thought was a poor film compared to the book.


Not much happened on Thursday. We checked out of the hostel and made our way to the bus stop for the return journey to Auckland where we checked back into the Kiwi International.


Our last full day in New Zealand, the time has gone by really quickly. We had plenty of jobs to keep us going though including posting some excess baggage home and closing our bank accounts. We also headed over to Devenport of the ferry to get our last fix of fish and chips the New Zealand way including the kumara fries.


25th December 2006

Merry Christmas
Here's to Australia, m'dears!

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