28th April ’12 On to Paihia, The Bay of Islands
I was kind of sad to be leaving Rotoroa as I had really enjoyed my time there. Today was just spent travelling and it took us about 6 hours to get up to Pihai in the Northland. Once we got near the Bay of Islands and into Pihai we were in lovely coastal scenery with lots of little islands and sheltered coves.
After checking into our motel – The Dolphin which we chose as it was within a few minutes walk of the shops and harbour (it could not be described as a town) and was also offering a 3 nights for the price of 2 deal which was a bargin! We had a look around the handful of souvenir shops, a few eating places, the harbour – which was a jetty really and walked along the coast. We also booked 2 tours for the 2 days we have here and were also on special offer!
We ate at a scrumptious Indian that night and were the only customers.
29th April ’12 Paihai, Bay of Islands
This morning we set off for our Bay of Islands
and dolphin watching half day cruise. We walked down to the jetty and found our boat (catamaran). As we are now out of the high season there were not many people on the trip and so there was plenty of room for us all on the top deck.
The boat crossed the bay over to the ‘town’ of Russell to pick up the last few passengers. Russell was formerly known as the Hellhole of the Pacific as in the 1800’s it was the place all the whalers, sealers, sailors and reprobates headed to for a bit of time off. Apparently the seafront used to be lined with bars and brothels, then the missionaries arrived and things started to change. Now it is a very respectable looking little place with nothing to indicate its former glory days!
We hadn’t been out at sea for long before the crew spotted a lot of birds feeding on the water and soon a pod of dolphins arrived. It was great to see them swimming and diving so close to the boat and we spent quite some time there watching them.
This was the point at which we could have gone in
Hellhole of the Pacific
swimming with them, we even had our costumes on in case we wanted to but I chickened out, they were so large! The thought of actually being in the water so close to them kind of freaked me out. Also it was bloody cold. The people who did go in, did not have wet suits on – which we were told we would have and kind of stood shivering on the back of the boat until they were told to go in.
Right from the start it was made clear that you could only swim with the dolphins if the conditions were right and if any were feeding or had young with them you would not be allowed to. Luckily this was not the case. What I hadn’t realised was how strenuous it would all be, the poster said you had to be able to swim but boy did they have to swim! They had to swim fast out to where the dolphins were then keep on swimming, diving under and making a noise to try and get the dolphins interest. The crew lent over the side shouting instructions like where to swim to, to swim faster etc, it
all looked a bit frantic and must have been exhausting swimming against the waves all the time. After a few minutes they were called back in again. From the deck it looked like they hadn’t actually seen much of the dolphins at all. The boat moved further on and the dolphins were spotted again and they were allowed back in but only 4 of the original 8 went back in. This time the dolphins looked much closer to them but again didn’t stay near them for very long. We talked to a couple of the girls who had gone in and they said the second time they went in was much better and the dolphins were swimming next to them and underneath them and they could see the scars on their sides. They also said it was really hard work to try and keep up with them and to try and make noises to attract them while trying to swim and breathe! I kind of wish I had gone in but also was kind of relieved I hadn’t!!
We then headed out to see and to the famous Hole in the Rock formation which the boat actually sailed right
through, the captain said it was the first time in a week that they had been able to do this as the conditions had been too bad before, so that was good.
We cruised around the little islands and bays before stopping at one island where we got off and climbed to the top of the hill and got fantastic views of the different bays.
Once back in Pihai we had the best fish and chips ever for lunch and then that afternoon drove out to the Waitangi Treaty grounds. This was where the infamous Waitangi treaty was signed between the Maori people and the representatives of the British Government and the Crown. It came about in response to a request for help by both the local Maoris and the missionaries to help deal with all the trouble caused by the drunken and violent behaviour of the seamen, so Captain William Hobson was despatched. This led to William Hobson and the local priest drafting the treaty. The priest translated it into Maori and subsequent misinterpretations occurred and basically the Maori people were conned out of their lands and rights, it has remained a bone of contention.
Waitangi is the site where the Maori chiefs gathered to discuss the treaty and to eventually sign it. The Treaty House where the representative lived is preserved as a museum and was quite interesting. There is also a Maori Meeting House with fantastic wooden carvings inside and a giant war canoe. We also watched a short information film which was interesting. Note to self – look up the proper facts! And don’t wait until you are in another country and have ditched your guide book before writing up the blog!!!!!
After spending an hour or so here we carried on up the road to have a look at a local waterfall.
30th April ’12 Paihai
We woke up to a horrible grey wet day and this was our full day trip to Cape Riange and the northernmost part of New Zealand.
We still had a good day out but if the weather had been good it would have been fantastic. This was the really dramatic coastal scenery but it was pretty much obscured. We travelled up to 90 mile beach where our bus drove along the beach. We stopped off to clamber up some sand dunes
to try and spot wild ponies – which we did in the distance, we then carried on to the really big sand dune area where we were going sand boarding. I have to say Howard made it right up to the top of this enormous sand dune and came down in a very controlled and professional manner! I got half way up and the height really scared me so just did a little sand boarding stretch and that was fine by me. You had boogie boards and had to lie down with your arms gripping the top of the board and your belly in the sand and had to use your feet as the breaks. One poor young lass lost control of her board and her arms were wheeling up in the air and she really tumbled over and down, from the bottom it looked well scary, but eventually she got up and came down the smaller slope. One English lad who thought he was the bees knees came hurtling down from the top of the highest slope shot of the bottom edge and only just stopped himself in time before he went under the bus! He then kept on
running up the dune (which Howard said nearly killed him getting up), waiting until he had an audience and then trying to shot out across the front of the bus and into the river – he nearly made it but just ended up getting soaking wet and being referred to by other passengers as a prat ha ha.
We then headed back to the road up a stream bed and once on the road carried on to a beautiful cove where we stopped for our packed lunches. This would have been gorgeous and the view still was in a bleak rain soaked windswept way but lunch was eaten on the bus due to the adverse weather conditions!
When we got up to Cape Riange the bus driver told us it was a 20 minute down and 30 minute back up walk to the lighthouse and despite the lashing rain quite a few of us opted to still do it. Once again the views would have been really really impressive on a good day and once again they still were but in a different way. We made it down and back again in record time and were soaked through
and were gutted we hadn’t been able to stop and take it all in properly. This piece of land is very sacred to the Maoris and no food was allowed to be eaten on the way down as a mark of respect. This is the point where the Maoris believe that once someone dies the spirit makes its way into the underworld. There is a tree clinging to the side of the rock where the spirit uses the trees roots to go down to the water and from there it travels to the Hawaiki – the spiritual home.
From here we started making the journey back to Pihai with two more stops. The first was at the Gum Diggers forest where there was one of the ancient trees from which gum (or amber as we know it) was found. The tree was in the bottom of a large pit and this illustrated how the gum diggers had to dig down to discover this valuable commodity. There was a small gathering of huts which used to be lived in by the workers and showed what a harsh, tough way of life it was. The term gum boots comes from the
Where the treaty was signed
thigh high rubber boots that the workers wore and are what we call wellingtons.
Our last stop was at the famous fish and chip shop for tea, it had been really played up and we were expecting something seriously good……… however the fish was nice but the chips were rubbish – like oven chips, they clearly need a few lessons from the English!
So we arrived back in Pihai 11 hours later, wet and soggy but we had had a good day.
1st May ’12 Pihai to Auckland
Sometimes it’s just not fair, today was a lovely sunny, blue sky day! Oh well we can’t really complain as we have only had a couple of wet days in all our time here and as we were expecting nearly all of them to be wet I reckon we have done alright overall.
We decided to drive back to Auckland down the west coast rather than zoom back the way we came. This meant we got to stop and see some terrific coastal scenery (which slightly off set yesterday) and could pay a visit to Tane Mahuta – the Lord of the Forest, the largest living tree
in New Zealand and one of the most ancient trees – it is estimated to be about 2000 years old. It was an incredible tree, one of the Kauri trees, the giant trees of New Zealand, you could picture a whole village of elves living up in it’s branches. It is roughly 14 metres round! It was really hard to get a picture that showed its true size as it was so vast. The forest felt like a really special place.
When we got down to Auckland, which seemed very vast and busy after the past few weeks, we decided to do a quick bit of sightseeing before the hire car had to go back. This meant we had the opportunity to drive up Mount Eden and see the extinct volcanic crater and the panoramic views of Auckland city which is actually built on several dormant volcanoes, which were easily spottable.
Then it was onto the airport to find our hotel for the night and a 15 minute walk for Howard after dropping the car off, tea was at McDonalds – the nearest thing we could find!
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