Bay of Islands

On Wednesday we woke to a rainy, misty morning—and the bay view from our cabin deck showed not the gorgeous bay but instead, a total white-out. 

So it was the right day for a lazy morning at home, with blogging and reading and schoolwork.  At lunchtime we decided to head into Russell’s tiny downtown for a bit to eat at the historic inn and restaurant, the Duke of Marlborough.  Lovely to eat outside even in the showers! 

In earlier days Russell was known as “the hell-hole of the Pacific,” a lawless town of whalers and other piratical types.  Today it seems visited almost exclusively by retirees.  A quiet, settled kind of place.

After lunch we were planning to head out for a drive around the area when suddenly our rental car lost power on a hill.  After a few minutes of unadulterated fear (and accompanying hand-wringing from yours truly), and turning the car off and on again, we regained power and were able to get back to our Top10’s parking lot.  And from there we called Apex Rentals, then AA (aka AAA in the States), and then waited for an hour for the local mechanic to arrive.

While the mechanic and Jeremy zoomed off into the hills to diagnose the problem, Penelope and I retreated to the deck outside the Top10 kitchen.  I worked on my blog while she played at the playground below.  While there, I noted this lovely herb garden, on a vertical planter at the edge of the deck.  What a thoughtful addition to the communal kitchen area!

Jeremy returned from his exhilarating hill drive, with news that the mechanic couldn’t replicate the problem and we should just continue driving the car.  I have reserved judgment.  And planned our future route without hills (note: this is not actually possible).

In the meantime, the showers had abated and the day was now merely overcast, so we decided to head to the beach for the rest of the afternoon.  The weather wasn’t ideal for a beach visit, but that didn’t deter Penelope. 

And she was delighted to discover two kids from our Top10 campground there as well.  They spent a happy hour or two swimming, jumping in the waves, collecting seaweed, and building sand castles.  We waded and chatted with the girls’ mum; their family is newly emigrated from England, and they are staying the Top10 until their rental house is available at the beginning of next month. 

Dinner at home—and a movie—rounded out the day.  Our campground has an impressive array of DVDs to borrow, and Penelope was excited to check out Sherlock Gnomes.  Adult rating: only very mildly amusing, though I appreciated all of the references to the actual Sherlock stories. Penelope rating: two thumbs way up. 

Thursday morning was a bit drizzly, so we spent our time indoors.  Laundry, schoolwork, reading—just a bit of NZ planning left!  Hard to believe we leave a week from today.  After lunch we walked down to the Russell wharf and checked in for our afternoon cruise around the Bay of Islands.

The cruise began with points inside the Bay, including a view of the spot near Motouarohia Island where Captain Cook anchored the Endeavor in 1769. 

We then continued through the Bay out to the open sea.  At this point, Penelope declared her love for the rollercoaster swells, and I began to feel a bit green about the gills. 

Nevertheless, we stayed in our seats above deck as the boat headed for the Hole in the Rock.  We arrived without incident, and paused nearby to admire the island being slowly weathered away by the sea.  And to notice the huge number of fish right near the surface, due, the captain said, to the rainy weather.

On the way back, the boat stopped at Otehei Bay for an hour, where Penelope explored a new beach and we enjoyed an afternoon snack at the café. 

We cruised back to Paihia, across the bay from Russell, where we enjoyed a delicious Indian dinner at local favorite Greens restaurant. 

Don’t worry, we do actually talk at meals. But this was a perfect shot of reading time before dinner was served. 🙂

Friday was our final day in the Bay of Islands, and with rain once again in the forecast, we opted not to do the day hike we’d originally planned and took an administrative day instead.  After breakfast we Skyped with my folks, read for a bit, then headed out to Kerikeri, the nearest town with sizeable grocery stores.  We needed to procure provisions for the next few days, as we were heading way out in back country for our last few days before Auckland.  No stores there!

Interesting side note: yesterday on the Bay of Islands cruise we learned that there are no plurals in Maori, so to indicate more than two, they simply say the word twice.  So Kerikeri means “digdig” or place of much digging.  🙂

Alas, on our drive we made the mistake of taking the long way around, thinking that way we’d see some new and interesting scenery.  Instead we had to drive on gravel roads in thick bush for about an hour.  Not tremendously fun.  At least it was only light showers. On the way back, we opted for the car ferry between Opua and Okiato, despite the repetition of scenery.  Much wiser!

We did, however, stop briefly in Kawakawa to see the Hundertwasser toilets.  Our guidebook had informed us that it was completed in 1999 by architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser, and is one of the few public toilets seen as a work of art;.  And with that description, how could we not stop??

The toilet facility was indeed pretty cool, but I really liked the bench outside across the street.  Wonderful mosaics of NZ birds!

Then it was back at home for dinner and an evening in our cabin.  Since the forecast prevented time at the Top10 playground, Penelope had the luxury of another DVD rental from the reception collection.  This time she picked Nut Job, which is evidently a heist film about squirrels.  Jeremy and I opted not to watch this one, and I began packing us up for our last Top10 of the trip, on the Kauri Coast. 

Although Russell would likely have been a better stop had we not had several days of rain, it was still lovely to see the Bay of Islands.  I’m glad we came.

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