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