March 2 - 4th
Monday morning, the temps dropped, wind picked up and the snow blew. A fine day to start an adventure.
Somewhere between LAX and Auckland we lost an entire day but that's ok apparently we'll get it back on the way home.
Our arrival in NZ was quite uneventful. I had a brief encounter with a security beagle who was interested in my camera bag. Turned out he was picking up the scent of some elk jerky Rob had put in to our bag of trail mix. The meat was gone but the aroma lingered. Pretty impressive canine.
We picked up our rental and had our first unnerving experience with driving on the "wrong side" of the road.
Our first resting stop was a lovely little B&B called Bush Haven in the City, the thinking being after a 26 hour travel day we would need a couple of days to get acclimatized to NZ. A good thing we did because I had a plan to switch my phone to a NZ plan but Telus had other ideas and it took an online chat and a mall visit but we got connected. The other thing we wanted was a cooler bag which we learned is locally called a chilly bag. It's been very useful!
March 5th - Hobbiton - The Movie Set
As soon as we decided we were going to New Zealand I knew I would make the trek to Hobbiton. Rob was a good sport about making sure I got my trip checked off our "to do" list right away.
Our visit there was magical. I would not have been surprised to meet Bilbo or Frodo Baggins walk out the door of "Bags End" and enjoying a refreshing mug of gingerbeer at The Green Dragon Inn was a special final treat.
March 6 - 12th - Paihia
Off to the Bay of Islands and our first RCI resort Club Paihia.
I picked up a cold along the way (probably on the airplane) and by the time we arrived in Paihia it had settled in on me. I tried not to let it stop our outings so Saturday morning we headed out to The Old Packhouse Market in Kerikeri where we got a wonderful first taste of NZ and I got a much needed sun hat. Returning to Paihia I opened my car window to get some fresh air, unfortunately, when I tried to close it, nothing happened. So began our next adventure - getting a rental car fixed on a weekend. After two days of aggravation Rob took the car to a mechanic who fixed the issue in quick order and we were able to get on with our holiday.
The Cream Trip, a cruise out to the bay where we toured around historical points of interest, watched a pod of dophins (babies included) frolic in the waters of the bay, spotted some blue penguins, stopped for a picnic lunch at Otehei Bay, watched on as a group of hardy souls swam with, or rather, tried to swim with a small pod of dolphins, visited a colony of gannets and finished the trip off with a passing through "the hole in the rock" a maneuver that is only possible occasionally and when conditions are just right.
Club Paihia Mixer, it's always fun getting together at resort mixers, it's an opportunity to meet other travellers, compare notes and learn things about the area we are travelling through.
Cape Reinga via Ninety Mile Beach, we had planned to drive up to Cape Reinga, which we thought was the most northerly point on the north island, close but no cigar. When we heard that the bus tour drove up Ninety Mile Beach and included sandboarding at Te Paki we opted to go with the tour. Good choice! Ninety Mile Beach is not actually 90 miles (more like 50) but still it's amazing. Tide was coming in which would push the bus higher up the beach and may cause us to become stuck in the sand (it happened to another bus). At one point the water was splashing as high as the windows. There was an international fishing derby underway so there was a great stretch of fishermen along the beach all hoping for the $34,000 top prize. Then it was time to dune surf. Visions of goldrushers on the Chilicoot Pass! Before you can boogie down the dune you must climb it! Quite a few people crashed in the same spot so it began to get pretty roughed up, when Rob came through he got bucked off. Lots of good fun, but a shorter trial run would have been a good idea.
Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the Bay of Islands is a historically significant area for the Maori people. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds honour that history. During our visit we took in a cultural performance by a Maori troupe who welcomed us in their traditional way - by challenging us! Then they shared many of their chants, songs, dances and games with us. Very impressive.
Paihia & Kerikeri, we used our last day in the area to check out the local town history. Paihia is very much a tourist spot but there are some historical spots to check out, Kerikeri is also a tourist centre but offers a little more of the historical perspective of the area.
Meeting folks from home! You just never know when it's going to happen but you can pretty much count on it! We were parked downtown Paihia while Rob popped into a pharmacy looking for some cold remedy for me and while I sat there feeling sorry for myself I noticed Pat & Dave McDonald across the road! I quickly honked our horn but, of course, they would not be expecting someone to be trying to get their attention. So I jumped out of the car and called out to them. Small world.
Russell, a small town across he bay from Paihia that was once nicknamed "hell hole of the Pacific"! No longer that, it is a lovely little place full of old world charm. We went over for dinner at The Duke of Marlborough Hotel. Delicious! Albeit a little pricey. Then enjoyed a beautiful sunset before ferrying back to Paihia.
Thus ends the first nine days of our Kiwi adventure!