Day 11 – Boating and Exploring

This morning was my last full day in Northland, so I decided to see if I could take a boat trip out to the hole in the rock and check out the Bay of Islands from the water. It was a gorgeous day for a boat ride – and in the winter you might get the chance to swim with dolphins, so I thought why not – even if it would be quite nippy – it might be worth it. The boat ride was great, and it only rained on us during our lunch stop. The scenery was remarkable!

The dolphins were hiding though – and the seas were a bit rough – so the chances for swimming were looking grim – but that was ok. I did get to see little blue penguins in the water – SO cool!

Hole in the Rock was really scenic – but the seas were rough – I was impressed when our captain was able to take us through the hole (you can see the video later in the post)!

Check out the cool Wahine (woman) formation in the rock:

There is a legend dealing with safe passage on the seas and this formation.

We then cruised through the bay to our lunch stop – Otehei Bay.

 

Lunch was a standard kiwi barbecue, then we got to explore the island. We did have a pop up rain shower – but then it all cleared.

On the way back we did see dolphins – but the water was too choppy to attempt swimming with them – but it was great watching them flip and play with the boats.

Check out this video overview:

I got off the boat in Russell, planning to explore a bit before taking the ferry back to Pahia.

I caught the last ferry back to Pahia, then explored a little there.

On my way back to Kohukohu to pack and get ready to head south the next morning, I made a little stop at Haruru Falls.

This was a great way to end my Bay of Islands Adventure – and get ready to head south – hopefully the impending winter weather will hold off for my last few days in NZ, or at least not block the roads I need to access.

Day 7 – Exploring the Coromandel

Today I had an exciting day planned – bit I was a bit concerned that the weather would not be on my side. I started my morning by going just down the road to Captain Cook’s Landing site.

Then I headed to Hot Water Beach – this fascinating area where you dig a hot pool – on the beach – but only within about an hour of low tide. I got to the area early – went to the cafe to rent my shovel, then I headed out to the beach.

It was some seriously fantastic (airport and people of  Walmart caliber) people watching, as well as just a cool experience – although – I could have done without the folks who just decided they should strip down on the beach – I don’t get it!

It was a great way to start my day – but it looked as though the weather was not going to be on my side to get to Cathedral Cove – I was worried about walking down and getting caught in the storm, and most of the boat tours were cancelling left and right, and seeing as it was the off season – options were limited.

Realizing that Cathedral Cove might not happen, I moved on and went to check out Shakespeare’s Cliff (because Captain Cook did name everything he saw after something in England you know). This gave me great views of Cooke’s Beach and the scenery around me.

I still had tons of day to kill, so I decided to take the (very short) ferry across to Whitianga.

I walked around a bit, and decided I should probably grab a late lunch, as it was past 2:00. I settled into a little cafe, and ordered a grilled chicken pasta dish – then as I was at the table waiting, my phone rang – it was a tour guide operator, that heard I wanted to get on a tour (this is such a kiwi thing) – and he had a boat that had just left, but if I was interested would come back and get me to join the tour, if I could get there fast – I mean – guys – who does that?

So, I quickly found the server, and was just going to tell her I was leaving because something came up – and y’all – she tried to give me a refund – also – who does that? I refused to let her pay me – but she wasn’t going to let me leave without my order, so they packaged it really quick, and I ran across to the wharf to catch the boat – with my to go pasta in hand. It stayed sealed and amazingly enough dry on the seat during the amazing boat tour, and I enjoyed it even more after – as a lunch/dinner.

The boat tour was windy, cold and wet – but spectacular!

We toured the coastal features of Cook’s Bay, Mercury Bay and the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve – which is chock full of amazing coastal formations thanks to the constant movement of the Mighty South Pacific Ocean. We even had a pod of dolphins swim right beside our boat – truly an amazing experience. The captain was entertaining and shared history, amazing stories and humor with us, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip – frequently forgetting about the cold rain and wind. We even got to go inside a blowhole cavern and a cave!

I took a ton of pictures, and even some video. I compiled the videos into a YouTube video, which you can see here – it includes the blowhole, the dolphins and the cave.

The cave was slightly terrifying getting out, because the sea swell came in pretty rapidly – a good reminder that the ocean, while beautiful, is not to be taken for granted.

The pictures from the boat tour show Cathedral Cove, Champagne Rock, the fish, and the rugged beautiful coastline – and as has been a regular occurrence for me here – a rainbow or two.

I went back home to my Air BnB, where I warmed up by the fire, and enjoyed a movie, laughs and great conversations with my Air BnB hosts!

It was not the day I had planned initially, but it was spectacular!

Auckland Adventures

So this week I am finishing my term 1 school visits in the Auckland area, so that means time for some travel adventures outside of Wellington, and this is my first venture back to Auckland since my brief stop here upon arriving in New Zealand to transfer planes. The Auckland Airport is not my favorite, after some bad experiences there, so I am hopeful that the city of Auckland redeems their airport for me. I won’t delve into my issues – but some better signage and some customer service might be helpful. . . I have been in a lot of airports in lots of countries, and for a major city, the Auckland Airport has just been disappointing.

Nevertheless, I arrived in Auckland, caught the Sky Bus to Britomart (the train station by the waterfront area), and as I had several hours until I could check into my AWESOME AirBnB, I stored my luggage at the ferry terminal and headed to take a bus tour with Auckland Explorer. The weather was dreary and rainy, so it was a good day to just take the bus tour and attempt to get a feel for the sprawling metropolis that is Auckland (Auckland is the “big city” in New Zealand, with a population of just under 1.5 million. About 33% of New Zealanders live in this city. Actually, Auckland, because it is spread out and very “suburban” reminds me a lot of metropolitan Atlanta (with much better public transit, BTW) While the tour was a hop-on-hop-off tour, I knew I only really had time to ride both loops straight through, so that was what I did. The pictures are not the best – taken from the bus through rainy windows, but I was able to see some cool buildings and landmarks and get an overview of some cool aspects of Auckland’s history.

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After the bus tour, it was still pouring, so I decided that instead of trekking to the house via bus and walking in the rain I would just take an Uber from the ferry terminal  to the house – best $5.00 Uber decision ever – I would have been drenched, because the sky opened up and poured buckets as we were pulling away from the Ferry.

I checked in and met Coco, my lovely Air BnB host. Her house is in an excellent location, and my room is just perfect (and unlike much of Auckland – Coco has free, unlimited Wifi, which is why I am able to update my blog so easily here!). I got settled in, and sent some emails to verify my visits with schools this week, then decided to venture out for dinner. The Asian influence in New Zealand is rich, so I find myself always trying the different types of Asian food and varieties here, so I set out to a restaurant I found online that had “Shabu-Shabu” which is the Japanese equivalent of a Hot Pot. I had never had it before and it was yummy!! (In short, you have a grill at your table, and a pot of hot broth, and you put your meats, veggies, dumplings and more into the pot and cook it at the table. I enjoyed the food and the wait staff was a ton of fun – I think they liked my accent! LOL!

Thursday I had a  school visit, so I was out early that morning, then wandered back to the city after, and decided to check out the Sky Tower. Admission is 30.00, or you can have lunch and go up as a part of your dining experience, so I opted for the late lunch route and enjoyed dining in the revolving restaurant (just like the SunDial my ATL friends), and enjoyed the views while the restaurant rotated. I spent just a little over 30.00, so I felt it was a good deal to get a meal and get to go to the observation deck as well (I was lucky to get a reservation, I think because it was an overcast kinda day). (Check out the bungy-jumpers – from the tower).

After my late lunch/dinner, I did take a quick little detour into the Sky City casino – played just enough to earn back the money I spent (plus some – I think it is the Dave Stenner influence- I tend to break even or better in casinos) and went back to the house by way of the grocery store where I picked up some food for breakfast and lunches.

Friday was another fun school visit, and I even got to help students with programming, which was SO MUCH FUN!

After my school visit, I came home a bit (It was just a few blocks from where I am staying) then I decided to just wander to Britomart and decide what to do from there. As I wandered to the city I thought – hey! Why not take a ferry somewhere and grab dinner, then head back – I googled the many ferry options and decided that I would catch the Ferry to Half Moon Bay, because on Friday nights it had 2 later ferries, so I would have time to eat with out rushing. The ferry ride was great, and it was cool to see Auckland all lit up from the water. My dining options were limited in Half Moon Bay, but I went to a Thai restaurant and had a dish of Sizzling Garlic Lamb before catching the Ferry back to he CBD and the bus home.

Saturday was my day for adventure, but I did sleep in a bit and got a lazy start to the day. I decided to check out some remnants of volcanic activity in the Auckland area so I ventured to Takapuna Beach on Auckland’s North Shore, where I started with the Takapuna Heritage Walk. This walk did not disappoint, however it was not an easy stroll (as I was doing it at High Tide) and involved balancing on a sea wall as waves crashed against you, and climbing over, around and navigating through Lava rocks. It was gorgeous though, and totally worth it. I packed a picnic “LunchDinner” and enjoyed it on lava rocks about 1/2 way through the beach walk.

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I walked and enjoyed sunset on the beach before heading home. I received word that my snorkeling tour for Sunday was cancelled due to rough seas to the north, so I checked out BookMe (A NZ site sort of like Groupon) and booked a sailing tour of Auckland Harbor.

Sunday I strolled around Auckland checking out some parks and other fun locations before I headed to the Viaduct Harbor for my Sailing experience. Sailing is definitely a thing in Auckland, which is know as the “City of Sails”. Sailing in Auckland Harbor was a great experience, and I am so glad I did it, even if it was completely unnerving when they laid the boat down almost completely on it’s side, but it was a thrilling kind of fun. (In customary NZ fashion, you can also see Bungy Jumpers (not me!) getting ready to “dip” in the harbor from the bridge).

More school visits for me Monday and Tuesday (plus a fun dinner with Nikkie and Crew), then home to Wellington on Wednesday. Term Break (2 weeks off) starts on Good Friday for schools, and I head to Australia on Saturday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old Ships, Old Buses and Old Churches

Today was my final day in Picton, and my bus was scheduled to leave at around 1:30, so I had plenty of time before I needed to be at the bus stop – and Picton is tiny, so it made sense just to leave my bag at the hostel and grab it before the bus instead of schlepping it around town with me and wherever my adventure today might lead me. I checked out, checked in my bag and set off. Sadly, the bakery is not open on Sundays, so I headed to the waterfront to a little café for breakfast and coffee. After I was finished I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do. Picton is small, and I had pretty much toured the town – I didn’t want to go for another hike and get all sweaty before boarding a bus (common courtesy, my friends), and the other wildlife tours and such would not allow me the time  to make it back for my bus.

I turned to Google to decide which museum, or other event on the waterfront had the most appeal, and the universal verdict was the Edwin Fox Maritime Museum. I walked across the harbor park and started my journey back in time with this ship, the 9th oldest surviving ship in the world, and the oldest surviving merchant ship in the world. It was also the last surviving convict ship that transported the convicts to Australia – The Edwin Fox was a renaissance ship – serving many roles in its majestic and historical lifetime.

The Edwin Fox was built in Calcutta India in 1853, and was beached in Picton in 1897. The museum takes you through the process of the ship’s amazing construction out of Teak, the voyages and changes to the ship, and the abandonment and subsequent damage to the ship after being left on the shores of Picton. The historical society eventually purchased the ship hull from The New Zealand Refrigerating Company LTD for the whopping price of 1 Schilling, and began to work of relocated, refloating and eventually dry docking this piece of maritime history.

You start your journey by going through the museum and watching movie about the history of the boat – I could have gotten lost for hours here, looking at the pieces recovered from the hull, the construction specifics and the stories shared.

Once you step outside you start to see the ship, and get a feel for the scale and size of her, as she is still a bit shielded from view by the covering over the dry dock bay.

There are lots of “bits and bobs” (anchors, and other remnants) splayed across the yard.

At the anchor you get your first view of the ship, as well as the pumping system that keeps the ship dry docked in it’s new home.

As you enter the ship area you have two choices, board the ship, or go underneath it into the ship bay. I decided to start by checking out the outside of the ship – the layers of wood under the deteriorating copper was something like an artwork, showing the effects of time, salt, wind and water on the majestic hull of this ship.

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Once I had walked around underneath and around the hull, I went back up to the ships entrance, and got to explore the inside of this ship.

The ship had 2 decks, the hold and the top deck. The top deck had been arranged to show you what the ship would have been like for its various uses, and what living on the ship would be like. The thing that stuck with me was the steerage class bunks – that were tiny as is, but were where an entire family – most often a Man, Woman and 4 children or so lived. Talk about cramped and gross conditions – it was very easy to see how disease could spread. There were also models of the convict areas as well.

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You also get to venture down into the hold, and this was where you could see much of the hidden damage that occurred due to the ship being left on the shore, and even more insight into the layered construction of these ships.

I had a lovely time exploring the ship and museum, and finished before my alarm, so that was good. I wandered back to the hostel to repack my bag for the bus journey, and then wandered to the bus stop. While there, I went to take a picture of Mini-fig Merry with the luggage, and was reminded of another picture I took with the same set up, in Amsterdam at the train station as I got ready to board my overnight train to Switzerland in 2015 on my grand European adventure. This got me to thinking about the places this luggage has traveled, and I did some quick math, and discovered that this luggage has traveled almost 40,000 miles, and will definitely cross that threshold this trip!

The bus arrived right on schedule, sadly, it was not the lovely Intercity bus with wifi, but a sub bus, so a bit old and less comfy, but workable for the short trip to Nelson.

The trip was uneventful – and the scenery driving through New Zealand was stunning, as usual.

I arrived in Nelson, walked a few blocks and checked into my hostel. Once I was situated, I decided to go out and explore Nelson, on a very sleepy Sunday when most everything was closed. In my wanderings I discovered it was Nelson Beer Week, so I took note of a few events, then wandered around the city, ending up at the Christ Church Cathedral – and attending their Sunday Night worship service before heading back to the hostel and an early bed time before my fun school visits this week.