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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Whangarei » Tutukaka
October 11th 2010
Published: October 11th 2010
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Yeppoon to Tutukaka

My trip: Leaving Yeppoon, flying out of Rockhampton, stopping in Sydney. Flying out to Auckland, stopping in Whangarei, then finally to Tutukaka.


9th
This morning I got up at 230, did my last bit of packing then went out to the bus stop. Last night on our way back, Greg and I checked the bus schedule and he showed me which bus to hop and when in order to get myself to the airport in time. If all goes right, then I will be able to take the bus to Randwick, then from there to the airport. However, if the bus to the airport isn’t working for some reason I figured I would hop a taxi at that point. Well, when the bus got there, I got lucky. Sitting across from me were three tipsy Kiwi woman, They were extremely nice and we got talking and they freaked out when they heard where I was going. From then on we were apparently new best friends, and they took me into the heart of the city, and after much finagling and running across the street, they got me into a taxi and headed the right way. The taxi cost me $44 which is a TOTAL rip off, but it was only 3 in the morning, so what could I expect. The women on the other hand were ridiculously nice and even though I was stressed to kill it was nice to meet them. At the airport I got in line for check in even though it wasn’t even open at 345. However, good thing I was second in line. Luckily for me I booked my flight through expedia.com a reputable flight booking agency because something was wrong with my ticket and I had to wait over an hour. It turns out that stupid expedia forgot to book me a ticket, so the woman at the help desk and I both sat on hold with different agencies trying to get me through to someone who could fix my problem. After a while, I was free to go and I passed on to customs. There, I hit another snag. Apparently when I came into the country my visa only said Samantha Hale, not Samantha Jo Hale like my passport says. There was a huge discussion about that, and I had to go to the help desk there as well for them to figure out whether or not the two people were the same, and figure out how to solve the issue. It almost seemed like I was never getting to the departure gate. After a while I got through, but was pretty annoyed at this point. I mean, I had been in the country for how many months now, and it was an issued just because I had to leave? Really? Anyways, I got to my gate and almost fell asleep in the waiting area but kept my eyes open long enough to board my flight. On board we got a quick breakfast and I soon fell asleep.

The flight wasn’t bad but my neck is killing me from lugging my gear around. As I didn’t finish my banana from breakfast I threw it in my bag when we got off the plane and I headed through customs again. When you fly internationally you have to declare the different things you take in or out; food, animal products etc. Unfortunately for me, some jet lag and a major lack of sleep allowed me to forget about said banana. When they found it, they treated me as if I were a terrorist or drug smuggler, and I was taken to an area, asked tons of questions and read the riot act. After a while, a nice younger guy took over and he explained that even though I may not have meant to, I committed a major crime. I couldn’t help it at this point and put my head on the counter and leaked a tear or two. It seemed such a huge deal just because I forgot a banana. He then told me my case would be taken lightly, and after paying a $400 fine I was free to go. Wait….what…$400…fine. WHAT?!? At this point I really freaked out. How could they fine someone FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A FRESKING BANANA? I had nothing to help me out, so he explained I could pay now, later, wait in jail and go to court or I could ignore the situation. I looked up at him with fresh tears in my eyes and said what do you mean with the last one. The first three options are a death sentence and then you say I can just stroll away. Yup he replied, we will have all of this paperwork shipped to your house (I explained I wouldn’t be home for a few months but he didn’t seem to care). I guess that most people just ignore the situation, the paperwork sits in court and it just seems to fade away. I took that option as it was the easiest at the time, though I have to do some serious paperwork when I get into Whangarei.

At this point I had had enough. It was the worst day I had had in a LONG ASS TIME. So I left the terminal, grabbed my stuff and looked for the domestic terminal. I found it simply enough. After walking 20 minutes to get there. You would think being the largest city in New Zealand, that they would have some sort of transport system to get you in between the terminals, but guess not. The walk was 20 minutes and lucky for me it had just rained so the ground was soaked. Ugh, nothing can help me out at this point it seems. Finally I got to the terminal, found my gate and approached the desk attendant. She told me that the gates actually consisted of doors to the tarmac where the planes waited, so I just had to sit and wait in the waiting area. The domestic airport isn’t bad, just tiny. There were maybe 100 chairs, with a small coffee stand, a dunkin donuts (random) and a small shop for food. I sat and waited for about an hour before my flight was called. The weather outside is nice and cool and I like the weather much better than Rocky. At this point I am missing Sydney because the payoff for this shitty say has yet to come, so hopefully I will be there real soon and all of this will be over.

About this time of my journeys, I wasn’t expecting much, so I went to the gate and walked through the door to the tarmac. At this point I realize that there was no security, or maybe I missed it? Anyways, on the tarmac sits this little puddle jumper, maybe a foot or so wider than the mini. The 15 or so other passengers and I hop in. From my seat in the fourth row I can see right into the cockpit where the two pilots are sitting. My bags barely fit under the seat in front of me and I fly with my backpack on my lap, but no one really seems to mind. The plane is a little twin prop something, and the engines start up and get the propellors going. A minute or so later and we are taxing down the runway, the little plane bobbing up and down at every tiny crack in the ground. When I was yonger my dad took Alex and I to different places that enabled the two of us to fly. We went to Rhineback Aerodrome, The Flying Farmer, a guy on the cape that flew his on biplanes and to different fly ins around the South Shore area. Taking off in this plane feels the same, and I can feel the plan roll from side to side as the pilots try and level it out. We get ourselves just above the cloud cover and I have a perfect view of the New Zealand landscape. Already I am in love. There isn’t a flat spot below me. It is all hills and mountains, covered in deep green pastures filled with cows and sheep. If there are no pastures, then thick green forests take hold, with different sizes and colored trees. There isn’t a lack of water either, and at first we are flying over water for a few minutes. Then, as land comes back into sight I see that there is very little of this island that doesn’t have shore line. Although it is a bit stormy, I can still see the deep blue clear water below me lead to clearer turqoise water closer to shore. 25 minutes later we are touching down, and the plane bucks and jumps as it first hits the rinway. I honestly could have sat on that plane all day, staring out the window, but we get off the plan and flood the ‘airport’. I put airport in quotes because the building itself is maybe the size of my room back home. There is one front and one back door, maybe 20 seats with a tiny little café in the corner. One the right side is the check in area that consists of one conveyor for the luggage and a small desk for a man who does something that I can’t quite seem to figure out. I wait with the restof the passengers for the luggage to be dropped off in the ‘baggage pick up area’ which is really just a shed with two doors that they load everything into. Ingrid told me that I might have to wait a bit for her to get me, just in case they get a call for Orca, so I settle onto one of the benches outside with my book. I only wait a half hour before I see this little red car, maybe a tad smaller than the mini fly towards me, hit a speed bump and almost land on the curb. I can tell already I am going to like her when she hops out of the car, laughing her ass off and says ‘Hi mate, throw your bags in! Sorry we’re late’. She explains that the boat is broken and although there are orca in the area, there isn’t much you can do with a burst pontoon. We talk for the entire ride to Tutukaka, a small town north of Whagarei. The ride is gorgeous, and we dive up and down hills at a breakneck speeds. She apologizes and then says, ‘I hope you don’t get car sick, I am kind of a crazy driver’. No, I replied smiling, I will be just fine!

In Australia Daniele’s car was the worse for wear, and you couldn’t go fast in that thing. I explain to Ingrid that my dad races cars and I seem to have inherited his led for. Without looking at me she replies “yeah, my dad used to race formula one, he taught me as well’. Yup, I am realy going to like this lady. Ingrid started and runs the Orca Project and the Orca Research center here in Tutukaka out of her home/research HQ. The driveway to her house is long and windy and when we get closer to the house I notice a huge herd of cows hanging out by the driveway. The are also hers, which is awesome. I go into the house and they show me my room, a small little place with a queen sized bed (what luxary!). The best part? My room is glass on the opposite side of the house. Why is that so good you ask? Well, the view is breathtaking. My first peek at the view was during a sunny day, so I just see dark green gras that disappears within a few feet, rolling down towards a planted garden, then more steeply to hilly paddocks stretching down to the see. Off it the distance I can see a few islands and to the right of me is another house with another similiarly gorgeous view to the right of that. There is a small bay beneath Ingrids house and the other, which I am told has great snorkeling.

Leoni is the other volunteer, a German who is 22 and is having her first dose of marine biology. She tells me she was some sort of cubicle worker who got fed up with her life and decided she needed a change. She headed to New Zealand soon after and will be travelling all throughout the area. After showing me the house, Ingrid and Leoni head off to do some yard work and leave me to unpack. I made some food as my stomach was about to jump out of my mouth and let itself to the fridge. Then I wandered the house and the yard. I just can’t get over the view and already decide I am in heavan. Ingrid and Leoni come back in and Ingrid says she has to head to do some errands and invites me along. Once again we are tearing down the drive way and she tells me that a film crew that have been working with her for the past few months are leaving and she has to stop by their house. She brings me to the local beach, a gorgeous spot with tall hills on either side and white sand. She says the Orca often come here to hunt ray. Oh My God, I can’t wait to see them!!! We stop by the film crew’s place for a bit and I learn Ingrid has a hilariously funny side as she throws on an awful black wig and parades around in a few different voices. We talk business for a bit then head out and home. Back at the house its almost nine so we talk plans for tomorrow and head to bed. Already I like this place and I can’t see what tomorrow holds.

10th
Ingrid told me to take it easy as she doesn’t want me getting overtired from my journey so I sleep in until 9. When I woke up, the sun was shining in my room and I got another view of the gorgeous yard. After breakfast we got to work right away. I learn that Ingrid’s father, her next door neighbor, is selling his house and moving. Unfortunately, people don’t want to see her house then they drive up, so the real estate agent suggested she plant trees to hide her house from view. We are working on planting trees along along the side of the drive way to do just that. It was a long ass day, but we had a good time with our good company and made it fun. Initially we only had smaller plants to plant, however we hit up the nursery at one point and found a sale of much larger trees. Ingrid bought tons and we took those home and stared planting those as well. I was able to get a better view of the property and from her drive way, we can see the Bay of Islands, one of the most gorgeous spots of the North Island (New Zealand is made up of the north and south islands). So the day continued…dig holes, plant plants, stake plants, water them, continue. We finished around 8:45, had dinner then all went to bed, it was quite exhausting. During dinner, lunch and the times we could talk I would ask Ingrid different things about the whales, her work and other things. Around here there is a huge issue with the animals stranding, so I asked about that. She told me story of one large aduly male Orca that beaches himself quite often. She said he makes very calculated risks to get the rays and sometimes he just messed up. To her knowledge he has stranded 4 times, but she figures he has straned much more than that. I asked how she knows and she told he his story. Apparently, when she gets there, she will sit back and watch if it is him. He acts just like a kid that has messed up. He will sit and sulk and glare at anyone within close proximity. Then he will have a fit of rage and thrown himself up in the air, shaking back and forth and squeeling his brains out. This often gets him turned face to the water again, and from there he will sulk, then rage and sulk then rage until he gets himself in the water. From watching him she said you can tell he does this all the time and it never seems to not piss him off. When he finally gets in the water, he shakes himself as if to shake away the rage then he gives a little kick and is gone. It was really funny how she explained it, and it made me want to meet the whales even more! After dinner we all went to bed, and planned on waking up early to bring the boat down to town to get it fixed.


11th
We woke up early as planned, and Leoni hopped in her small van while Ingrid and I hopped in the orca truck with the trailer and boat attached and we all headed down to town. Leoni had to bring her van to get it serviced, and Ingrid and I got to talk. On the way down we got a call saying the Orca were in Whangarei harbor. This was exciting for me, but Ingrid was understandable upset. Here the whales were, so close and we almost on the way, yet the boat was broken and needed time in the shop. We got a few more calls on the way from different boaters, the coastguard and the like explaining the whales direction, speed and activities. Hopefully the boat can get fixed real quick and with the whales in the water we can get out there soon. Yesterday during lunch Ingrid set me up with a full set of gear for out on the water; thermals, wet weather gear, boots, etc. so that I can be ready when we need to fo. We picked up Leoni after she dropped her van off, headed to the boat plance, dropped that off then went to do some shopping. We went to some place called the warehouse and got random supplies, hit up the grocery store then headed home.
On the way home, we dropped off the keys to Leoni’s van then headed back to Ingrid’s for some more work. By this time the weather was turning for the worst and although the plants needed water, too much would be dangerous. We set about planting the rest of the plants along the main drive way, staking them and tying them fast so they wouldn’t break or fly off in the wind. The problem with her driveway is that it is a very high point so the wind hits there first. It is a dangerous spot for young sapling trees, so we are going to have to try extra hard to make them stay. Ingrid’s parents showed up to inspect the work and the took Leoni back to town to ger her van while Ingrid and I continued to work. She complimented me on my work ethic and abilities (ya!) and said I was welcome to stay and help if I liked. I of course said yes and can’t wait to see what else lays in store for me here. When leoni got back we worked another few hours before the wind and rain forced us inside. We all curled up on the couch for a few movies before heading to bed. Tomorrow hopefully we can pick up the boat and can finish the rest of the planting and work on the never ending list of chores around here.

Although I have been doing yardwork around here, the work I will be doing will vary. Ingrid’s life revolves around the Orca. She relies on locals, the coast gaurd and other calls telling her where the Orca are. If we get a call for Orca, we drop everything and go, rushing to get to them as quickly as possible. Once there we follow them until they decide they have had enough of us. At this point we could potentially head home. However, she is also in charge of most of the stranding operations in the area. In the past few months she has dealt with two major mass pilot whale strandings, helping a few whales rid them selves of entanglement issues with fishing nets, a few Orca calls and so much more. Strandings always preceed anything else, and going on the boat for one day can result in us being out for a week at a time. There are piles of gear in the garage that we take when we go out, including sleeping bags, food, extra clothes, dive gear etc. Leoni and Ingrid were telling me stories of days that they were supposed to be out for one day turing into almost weeks out on the water. The worse thing is the cold and lack of food, so we always have to prepare for that.


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