Day 402, Year 1: The Quaint Town of Russell

Day 402, Year 1: The Quaint Town of Russell
Date: Friday, November 24, 2006
Weather: Another Glorious Day
Location: Opua, New Zealand

We had another one of those beautiful, sunny New Zealand days, but some of the joy is taken away when you see the UV index. Letting yourself be exposed to the sun down here is certainly not good for your health. Because of the hole in the ozone layer near the South Pole, the UV rays here are stronger than further north. Everyone here wears hats and long sleeves, even when it is hot, to try and escape skin cancer. So it is beautiful, but the partaker must beware.

We took the shuttle into Paihia again today and then hopped on a ferry to cross the channel and visit the town of Russell. This town is also known as Kororareka and was once the capitol of New Zealand. At one point, it became a stop for whaling boats and was a bit of a rough and tumble town. Today it is a quiet seaside village that is as quaint as any we have ever visited. It reminded us of some seaside towns in Maine. We walked the waterfront, walked by Pompallier, New Zealand’s first Catholic mission established by the French, and then visited Christ Church with an interesting old graveyard and the most fascinating needlepoint cushions in the pews of the church. Each cushion is unique and the overall effect was charming. We stopped in at the Department of Conservation Visitor Centre and enjoyed a huge selection of books about the flora and fauna of New Zealand and watched a video presentation relating the history of the area beginning about a thousand years ago when the Maori first came here from Polynesia. We didn’t have time to visit everything in town as we had to catch the ferry back in time to meet our shuttle, but this is definitely a town we will revisit either when we do our land tour of New Zealand or when we return here by boat in April.

When we returned to the Opua Marina, we saw Doug and Sylvie from Windcastle. They returned from a land trip from here to Auckland last night, and unfortunately Sylvie and spent a great deal of their two day trip in doctors’ offices. She was diagnosed as having shingles, so she’s not a happy camper right now. We said tentative goodbyes until sometime late next week as we think we will be leaving here tomorrow to start our trek to Whangarei. Windcastle will be following, but probably not until later next week. Thinking about leaving here has made us realize that there are many friends that we have met that we might not ever see again. Those that are staying here might have moved on by the time we return in April or May. We are scrambling tonight to make sure we have contact information for those that are staying here as we hope to be able to keep in touch.

There are a few things from the past few days that I have neglected to note in my logs that have totally captured my attention. One is the sneakers with rollers in the heel that many of the young cruiser kids wear. I’ll see one of them walking across the parking lot next to the marina, and then all of a sudden, the same kid will be sliding as if riding on a skate board. But there is no board. They are “sliding” using the rollers in the soles of their sneakers. It is pretty neat. Another point of interest is the Pohutukawa tree. These trees grow naturally here on the North Island and are cultivated further south. They are New Zealand’s best-known tree and are known as the New Zealand Christmas tree because of the bright red blossoms that turn the entire crown of the tree red in December. The bright red stamens emerge from tiny white pods and look like bright red bottle brushes hanging all over the tree. They are much more beautiful than the picture I am painting, so I’m hoping some of my pictures do justice to their beauty. The last thing of interest is the Paihia Circus. A young couple moved here a couple of years ago and set up a circus where the tourist is the performer. You pay to become a circus performer. With lots of air cushions below, many of our younger cruiser friends have tried tight-rope walking and gliding through the air on a flying trapeze, and actually flying from trapeze to trapeze. Any daring act you have ever seen performed in a circus can be reproduced here. A couple of days ago, Lisa and Bruce from Ohana Kai were successful in completing every act at the circus. That made Lisa the first women to be able to do this since the opening of the circus. But then she is the mother of two young boys and was a gymnast prior to cruising. We certainly won’t be trying out for the circus, but it has been a great attraction for many.

So tomorrow, once we do a final weather check, we will probably be leaving the Bay of Islands and heading out around Cape Brett to an anchorage called Whangamumu on the northeast coast of the North Island. We will stay there until Monday and then make our way down to the mouth of the Whangarei River. If things go as planned, we will then travel the twenty miles up the river to the town of Whangarei, our New Zealand summer home, on Tuesday. Of course, the words “if things go as planned” are most important here. We’ll just have to see how things go.

061124 Day 402 New Zealand–Bay of Islands to Whangamumu

Day 401, Year 1: Giving Thanks

Day 401, Year 1: Giving Thanks
Date: Thursday, November 23, 2006
Weather: Glorious Day
Location: Opua, New Zealand

What a glorious day! The sun shone brightly, there was almost no wind, and the temperature was warm. The “almost no wind” is only good if you are in port, so it was great today. It was bathing suit weather and I took advantage of it. First thing this morning, we took the boat into the dock to fill up with fuel and water, and to empty the holding tank. I used the water on the dock to do a little cleaning on deck and to fill buckets of water to do more cleaning when we returned to the mooring. Once we returned to the mooring, Mark change the oil and the oil and fuel filters and I spent the day at various cleaning projects and it was the perfect day for that.

We have wireless internet here in the anchorage and I made a couple of calls via Skype today. I called my sister Patsy who is in Ohio for Thankgiving. Her daughter Janet lives near Columbus and just last week moved into a new home that she had built. Congratulations, Janet! We know she is thankful to be in her new home for the holidays. We then called our daughter Heather who is in Washington, DC, for the holiday weekend visiting with Jed’s parents, Marti and Donald. We talked with Donald and with Heather. I love the fact that Skype on the computer allows to you to talk with people, basically free of charge. It is one of those little things that cruisers are really thankful for.

Tonight’s Thanksgiving Dinner at the Cruising Club was wonderful. As always with a Thanksgiving dinner, there was way too much food, but it was greatly appreciated that we even had a Thanksgiving dinner here in New Zealand. I baked a pumpkin pie for dessert, so even though I didn’t cook an entire dinner, I did at least contribute.

We are so very grateful for so many things and to so many people that I would hesitate to start listing those things here. But I do want to thank those of you have who been tracking our adventure for the past year. We love having your company. Thank you for staying with us.

061123 Day 401 New Zealand–Russell

Day 400, Year 1: To Kerikeri on the Paihia Shuttle

Day 400, Year 1: To Kerikeri on the Paihia Shuttle
Date: Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Weather: Flip Flop—Sunny Day with Blue Skies; Cloudy Evening
Location: Opua, New Zealand

We have been having cloudy days with skies clearing in the late evening. Today was the opposite. We had a beautiful day for our tour of the town of Kerikeri, but by the time we got back to Windbird, the skies had clouded over. But no complaints. At least it hasn’t been raining for a few days. So at 1030 this morning, with the sun shining brightly, Paddy from Zafarse, Sharon from Mustang Sally, Judy and Ray from Nereid, Nick and Gert from Tartufo, Anna and Clyff from Koncerto, and Mark and I hopped into the Paihia shuttle van. Naomi and Geoff run the shuttles. Normally Geoff takes a group of cruisers into Paihia each day. Today he did that, while Naomi took us to Kerikeri. As you drive through the countryside here, you see the wonderful things that all of the rain brings to this area. There are lush green fields everywhere. Cows are grazing in some fields, sheep are grazing in others, and still other fields are filled with grape arbors. This is New Zealand wine country and there are three major vineyards between here and Kerikeri. In addition, there are tree ferns growing everywhere and signs all along the way for buying fresh fruits and vegetables. This area is known as the citrus capital of New Zealand, and there are olive, avocado, and macadamia orchards. Kerikeri is one of the fastest growing areas in New Zealand, and I can certainly see why.

The town of Kerikeri is perfectly “manicured”. There are hanging pots of purple, red, and pink flowers hanging in front of all of the stores on the main street. There are lots of sidewalk cafes, each offering at least fifteen different kinds of coffee and an assortment of local wines. When we reached downtown Kerikeri, everyone but us got off the shuttle. Naomi was driving on through town so she agreed to drop us off in the area where we could tour the historic buildings. So off we went. We visited the oldest home, the oldest gardens, the oldest stone structure, and the oldest church in New Zealand. In the early 1800’s this area of New Zealand was the coastal stronghold of the Maori called the Kororipo Pa. By 1820, European missionaries moved into the area, first living in thatched fales, and then building and living in the Kereikeri Mission House. This is the house we toured today. It is amazing that it survived the years of struggle between the Maori and the missionaries, but it did survive. We loved walking through the gardens which have been actively cultivated since 1820. Next door to the mission house is the Stone Store. This was built and opened by the missionaries in 1834. The missionaries hoped to win over the Maori through trade. That was not so successful and eventually the structure was used as a general store. Today it houses examples of tools used in New Zealand in the early 1800’s. I was especially impressed with the display of cut nails that were imported from Massachusetts. After the Stone Store visit, we walked up the hill to the St. James Church, the oldest in New Zealand. When we were finished touring, we walked a backwoods trail to get us back into downtown Kerikeri.

We had lunch at one of those picturesque street cafes and then headed to New World. This is the largest grocery store in this area and we toured it just as we had the historic sites. It has been quite a while since we have seen so much fresh produce, meat, and other goodies all under one roof. Naomi met all of us at the store at 3 pm, and we loaded up and headed back to Opua. All in all, it was a very pleasant day.

This evening we had dinner aboard Makani with Felix and Monica. They rented a car and spent the past two days touring in this area. We enjoyed hearing about their adventures and just catching up on our travels of the past few months. We saw them last in Bora Bora, so we had lots of ground to cover.

Tomorrow we will stay aboard Windbird to do a little more maintenance before heading into the Opua Cruising Club for Thanksgiving Dinner. We’re still not sure when we will be leaving here and heading for Whangarei. We are truly enjoying our time here and are going to find it hard to pull ourselves away.

061122 Day 400 New Zealand–Opua Anchorage Memories

Day 399, Year 1: Waitangi Treaty Grounds

Day 399, Year 1: Waitangi Treaty Grounds
Date: Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Weather: Same as Yesterday–Partly Sunny Day; Temperature in the 60’s
Location: Opua, New Zealand

Mark and I both felt good enough today to take the 10 am shuttle to Paihia and then walk to Waitangi. The distance is about a mile and half along the waterfront and it was a delightful walk. There were sidewalks most of the way and that made it even nicer. The Waitangi (wye-tang-ee) Treaty Grounds are known as the birthplace of the Maori in New Zealand. This area was settled by the early Polynesian settlers and was occupied for many centuries by competing Maori tribes. In 1840, Captain William Hobson came to the Bay of Islands to make a treaty on behalf of the British government. After much deliberation, the treaty was signed on the present day treaty grounds. This treaty is still relevant today as it outlines the rights of both the Maori and the non-Maori citizens of Aoterora/New Zealand. Today we visited the Maori Waka (canoe paddled by 80 people), the Treaty House and gardens, and the Te Whare Runanga or meeting house that was first opened at the centennial celebrations in 1940. This meeting house is unique in that it represents all of the Maori tribes, not just one tribe as is the case for most meeting houses. The wood carvings, tukutulu (reed panels), and kowhaiwhai (painted rafter patterns) are spectacular. We arrived at the meeting house just as a Maori guide was explaining the history of the building to a group of school children. It was interesting to listen to his description of the various carvings. He told the children that the carvings in this building are like reading a history book. You just have to know how to “read” them. The Waka or canoe was equally fascinating. There were pictures showing 80 men rowing the canoe with another 50 passengers aboard. I’m still in awe of the fact that these canoes are ocean going. This particular canoe is called Ngatokimatawhaorua and was made from three huge kauri trees. The base of one of the trees was on display and it was at least eight to ten feet in diameter. I’m anxious to see these trees in the kauri forests on the west coast. This canoe was named after the canoe sailed here by the Polynesian explorer Kupe around AD 400 and it is simply overwhelming to think about such a feat. The Treaty House was very European, as were the lovely gardens. There were lots of exotic lilies, beautiful roses, and orange trees growing in the gardens. All in all, the grounds were a wonderful place to visit with beautiful views of the bay and with every sort of plant growing that you could imagine.

After leaving the Treaty Grounds, we walked back towards town and stopped for lunch in and old barque sailing ship named the Tui. Over the years, this ship has served as an art gallery, a museum of sunken treasures, and now a restaurant. We met our shuttle at the Woolworth’s grocery store and made our way back to Opua. The day was overcast, but the temperature was warm, so we were happy.

This evening we took our dinghy back to shore to the Opua Cruising Club for a complimentary dinner for cruisers provided by the club members. This club certainly does everything it can to make visiting cruisers welcome and we all really appreciate the hospitality. We went to the Club around 6 pm and that is the time of day when the sun breaks through the clouds here. Since the sun does not set until 8 pm, we have been having two glorious hours of sunshine from 6 to 8 pm each evening.

Tomorrow we are off to Kerikeri. This is the largest town north of Whangarei and is about 25 miles north of Opua. When you look at a map of the North Island of New Zealand, you see that the island can be divided into thirds. This is by distance and not by land mass, as the island is much wider in some parts that it is in others. The southern half of the North Island is from Taupo Lake to Wellington. The middle third is from Taupo Lake to Auckland. And the northern third is from Auckland to the tip of Cape Reinga. We are currently in that northern one-third. Opua is about half-way between Auckland and the northern tip. The largest city north of Auckland is Whangarei with a population of about 50,000. I don’t know the population of Kerikeri, but it is the only other town of any size north of Auckland. Some of the oldest buildings in New Zealand are in Kerikeri, so we will visit those and check out the shopping. We’ll report in tomorrow night on our findings.

061121 Day 399 New Zealand–Kerikeri

Day 398, Year 1: Change of Plans

Day 398, Year 1: Change of Plans
Date: Monday, November 20, 2006
Weather: Partly Sunny Day; Temperature in the 60’s
Location: Opua, New Zealand

It was 0945 this morning and I was stepping out of the cockpit on to the deck. Ye old back quickly told me that this was not to be, so plans were changed. My cold or flu or whatever I have is actually worse and my back is still giving me problems, so I stayed on the boat once again today. Mark went to shore to check out a few things, but he came back and spent the day aboard as well. Our trip to Waitangi will have to wait. We will try again tomorrow if we are up to it, but we won’t know about that until morning.

Late this afternoon we headed into the Cruising Club to enjoy a musical presentation by the elementary school children and complimentary snacks. The children all wore school t-shirts that say, “Opua School-Caring and Sharing”. The songs were all Maori even though most of the students were of European descent. The children’s efforts were appreciated by all. And after the entertainment, we mingled and met new people. Tomorrow night the Cruising Club is hosting a complimentary dinner for cruisers and on Thursday evening they are serving a full Thanksgiving feast. It is a very active cruising club and we are certainly enjoying their hospitality.

At tonight’s gathering, Geoff who runs the daily complimentary shuttle to Paihia offered to take a few of us to Kerikeri on Wednesday. This is the largest town in the area and we are going along just to explore. We have decided to stay here until at least Saturday or Sunday, but weather permitting, we will most likely leave here on Monday to head to Whangarei. If we do, we should arrive there on Wednesday of next week.

061120 Day 398 New Zealand–Watangi Treaty Grounds

Day 397, Year 1: You Can’t Have It All

Day 397, Year 1: You Can’t Have It All
Date: Sunday, November 19, 2006
Weather: Mostly Sunny Day; Cooler Temperatures
Location: Opua, New Zealand

Rain and warmth or sunshine and cooler weather. That seems to be our choice here for now. The bit of sunshine we got last evening stayed with us through today, but when we woke up this morning it was considerably cooler than it had been. With the sunshine came cooler temperatures and we’ll just have to be satisfied with that. It was 50 degrees F early this morning and is now 61degrees F. That’s doable. I just hope it doesn’t get any cooler.

I’m no fun at all. I had to stay on the boat again today because I am just not any better. Mark is feeling some better, so he went in to do the laundry. I think my foray on Friday to Paihia in the windy weather set me back a bit. Tomorrow we hope to take the shuttle to Paihia and then walk to Waitangi. This is the site of the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi between the British and the Maori which still is the basis for much of law and community of Aotearoa/New Zealand. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds are home to the Treaty House which is one the oldest homes in New Zealand and the Te Whare Runango which is a fully carved Maori meeting house. The word fale in Samoa, fare in Tonga, and whare in New Zealand all mean house, and the ‘wh’ in Maori is pronounced as an ‘f’. So whare is ‘fare’ and Whangarei, where we will be taking Windbird, is pronounced ‘fan-gar-A’. But back to Waitangai . . . there is also a Ngatoki Matawhaorua or 80-man Maori canoe there. It should be an interesting day.

I realize that I haven’t done much in the way of describing the area here. You come into Opua from the Bay of Islands via the Veronica Channel. On the way in, there were many islands and once you are in this bay, the area is hilly with lots of deciduous trees and a few evergreens. There are expansive areas of green, green grass that dot the hillsides. We’re not sure if they are the lawns of huge estates or fields. The area reminds us very much of the Pacific Northwest. Opua is a town of 350 people, and the only things here are the Opua Marina, the Opua Cruising Club, a little store and restaurant, and marine businesses. Opua is the northernmost customs clearance port in New Zealand and it appears that catering to the yachting population is the main business here. Paihia is a two-hour walk along the water or a 15 minute drive and as I stated in Friday’s log, it’s main business is tourism. The town of Russell is across the channel from Paihia, and it will be our destination on Tuesday. It is also known as Kororaeka, a seaside village with a very interesting history. More about that tomorrow.

061120 Day 397 New Zealand–Opua School Presentation