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Stauchy Blog » Blog Archive » Northland - Nov 27 - Dec 4, 2007 (JRS)

Northland - Nov 27 - Dec 4, 2007 (JRS)

After our day at Tongiriro, we made our way up north, past Auckland into Northland. We hadn’t gotten a chance to do that portion of the North Island on our last trip, so it was nice to see something new. We had wanted to see the Bay of Islands before, but our short time in NZ didn’t allow for it. This trip we have more time so we put it on the agenda. The plan was to spend a few days at the Bay of Islands, with a couple of days to explore the surrounding areas and Auckland.

After stopping in the corregated metal capital of New Zealand (I don’t remember the name of the town, but it had a building sized dog and sheep acting as the visitor center and sheep-related gift shop), we blew through Auckland on the way North. We stopped in at an i-site to (unsuccessfully) gather info about the tours available at the Bay of Islands. So, we drove further, and since it was getting late, stopped in Wengarei for the night at a motor-camp so that we could visit the i-site there in the morning. We treated ourselves to showers and a seafood dinner at the Gybe Restaurant (pretty good fish special, though I’m not sure it was worth the high price).

The next morning we again unsuccessfully attempted to gather info about the BoI. However, we did book a day-trip on The Perfect Day to Poor Nights Islands for a few days later. We decided to just make for BoI and find out the scoop there. We arrived in Pahia in the afternoon and took to the task of picking out a tour (or tours) for the next few days. We wanted to do an overnight trip, but the one “backpacker’s” overnight trip was booked for the week, and anything else was only available for several days at a very high price. So, we finally decided on two day-trips: one on a Tall Ship, and another on a sailing catamaran specializing in dolphin watching.

We gave a sigh of relief that we had made the decision and had the rest of the day to burn checking out the area (a rare treat to have some down-time). But, our frustrations were just beginning, as we found out when we pulled into a motor-camp (there were no free/cheap DOC campsites anywhere nearby) and they wanted $45 for a camp site. That’s just outrageous. So, we pulled back into town, and after visiting a couple of hostels, found a double room for $54 and took it. Unfortunately, this meant that I had to hide myself whenever I was going into or out of the room. It worked out well, and after Janelle found a $20 bill under the bed, it actually worked out to be cheaper than camping… go figure!

The next day we did the Tall Ship sail/cruise. We motored around in the morning since there wasn’t much wind. The waters around the area are beautiful, although probably not living up to their full potential since it was mostly overcast. We stopped at an island for an hour roam in which we visited a couple of overlooks of the bay. There are many islands (I want to say around 150), but only about 5 major islands. The views were very nice, but not quite what I had built up in my mind after all the hype I’d heard/read about the Bay of Islands. In the afternoon, we motored around a bit more and “sailed” for about 30 minutes or an hour (the wind was pretty low, so we didn’t really get much speed, but it was relaxing none-the-less). It was cool to participate in putting up the sails, and they also let us climb up the rope ladders to the top sails (although we didn’t unfurl the top sails). The view from up there looking down at the boat and the blue-green waters was spectacular.

We were dropped off across the bay from Pahia (we had ferried across that morning) in Russel, which we learned was the original capital of New Zealand, back in the early days (we assumed that since it was because it was so far north, and a good harbor). We walked around town for a little while, but there wasn’t much to see. We ate pizza (something with prawns on it that was really good) and took the ferry back before heading to the backpackers for the night.

The next morning we boarded a catamaran sailboat on our dolphin watching excursion. Once again we motored around for the morning. The wind had picked up quite a bit, but the captain wanted to hurry us out to where the dolphins typically hang out. We ended up seeing several dolphins, but we weren’t able to swim with them because some of them had babies with them so it’s not allowed. We saw a lot more dolphins than we had seen the previous day (we saw a few from the tall ship) and we were treated to a dolphin “playing” with a huge King Fish. It was almost like he was showing the fish off to us. He’d swim up to us and show us the fish, then throw it out in front of him. I was able to get a few pretty good shots of the show.

We ended up anchoring at the same place as the day before (we caught on that this was the typical lunch stop for most of the tours around the bay). In the afternoon we set sail again (we sailed for a bit in the morning after the dolphins) and were able to make good time so we didn’t have to be on motors for very long. It was a really relaxing afternoon lying around on the netting towards the front of the catamaran.

As soon as we got off the boat, we jumped in the car and headed north again for the far north. We camped in Mai Tai Bay, a decent enough stopping point, but nothing too special. Lynette and I took a nice walk on the beach at sunset. The next morning we drove up to Cape Reinga, which is more-or-less the furthest point north in New Zealand (at least the furthest point that’s readily accessible). We then headed for some giant sand dunes. There was a guy renting out boogie boards, so we took advantage and made our way up the dunes. It was a blast, despite the very difficult climb up the steepest and tallest dune that was nearby, and the ride down was surprisingly fast. Luckily none of us ate it because it was very difficult to control, especially once you get up to speed.

From there we headed back south into the Kauri forests where some of the oldest and largest trees in New Zealand reside. There were some very impressive and distinguished trees, but I would still say that the giant redwoods in northern California are more impressive, just because of sheer numbers.

After driving late into the night, we arrived back on the eastern coast (a bit below the Bay of Islands) for our Perfect Day cruise to the Poor Nights Island (which we had booked a few days back). I’m not sure that it was the perfect day, but it was very nice indeed. We did some snorkeling after arriving at the Islands. Jacque Cousteau had ranked this place as one of his top ten dive sites, although from what I saw it was a bit of a stretch. Never-the-less, the snorkeling was very good and we saw five or six species of fish, the most impressive site being a huge school of fish that formed almost a wall under the water underneath a natural rock archway. As people approached, the wall would deform to get away from the people. There were divers underneath the school, so it was cool to watch from above.

We then did a tour of the island and various caves and arches in and through which our rather large boat could fit. We made our way back to the shore and headed back south towards Auckland, stopping to camp about half way. The next day we toured around downtown Auckland, meeting up with Neal from the Pole who is joining us in Australia. This morning we got up early and after a mad rush of finishing up some laundry and packing our bags we made it to our flight with about 10 minutes to spare. We saw Neal on the plane who told us that he had seen Janelle had made her flight (she was on a different airline, but flying at the same time). From there, we were off to Sydney!

-JRS

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