Bay of Islands: dolphins, Hole in the Rock, Russell and Waitangi

WEDNESDAY, 21st Sept.

Another day packed with attractions. This time I had to be at the ferry terminal before 9 a.m. The sky was clear and it was very busy on the jetty. I could imagine how busy it can get in summer there!

All the seats on the top deck were taken, so I found a seat on one of the lower decks and I didn’t have the best view. Nevertheless, I started taking photos soon after we left the quay. A crew member saw me and other photographers and said he would show us a better place for taking photos. He took us to the bow, the very front of the boat! It was windy and with a high speed getting quite cold, but I missed being on water, so I didn’t care how cold it would get.

Water, space and islands.

And it was a great spot to take photos of dolphins! They were our first attraction in one of the bays. First I noticed them under another tourist boat, but then they started swimming under and near ours!

We passed Motukiekie, a privately owned by some businessman from Auckland Island. In 1976, the Queen stayed in that little chalet during the Olimpics in New Zealand. There are more buildings by the beach, guest houses, a golf course etc. Wouldn’t you want an island like that for yourself?

Oh, and we had a company!

Finally, we reached Cape Brett

And drove through the Hole in the Rock

Some people got off the boat at one of the islands on the way back to walk around and return to Paihia with the next tour, but I was pressed for time, because I wanted to visit Waitangi, so I didn’t join them.

But we all had to got off at Russell and we got a complimentary ferry ticket to Paihia. That’s a clever move to help local business, because almost everyone stayed for an hour or two to have lunch and look around. And so did I.

Russell (Maori name Kororareka meaning “How sweet is the penguin”) was the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand. The town was also know under the name “Hell Hole of the Pacific”. You can imagine why it had a bad reputation and it forced British government to regulate some laws between the first settlers and Maori. Plus there were some French buying lands on the South Island, so all that led to the meeting of about 40 tribal chiefs and Capt. William Hobson (the first Governor of New Zealand) and other British representatives in Waitangi and signing the Treaty on 6th February, 1840. If not that, New Zealanders would probably speak French now.

Russell had the population of 5,000 in colonial times, now it’s only 800 and it’s a very peaceful nice little town with a museum at York Street. The admission costs $7, but I decided to skip that, eat something and catch the next ferry to Paihia. Smoke fish and kumara pie at York Street Café was delicious.

I was very surprised to see that flower on pohutukawa tree by the beach, because it usually blooms in December and that’s why it’s called Christmas Tree. But my friend said, it might have been rata, which is very similar to pohutukawa, although he wasn’t sure.

I took the ferry at 1 p.m. and went straight to Waitangi. It was about 2 km walk along the beach north of Paihia. The admission to The Waitangi Treaty Grounds was $25 (it was free for New Zealand citizens) and first I watched a 20 min documentary film about signing the Treaty of Waitangi. It was good to do that at the very beginning of my visit there, so I could get a better understanding of where I was.

Then I went to see waka,

From there I could see Russell on the other side of the bay

Treaty Grounds – the place where the Treaty was signed

Treaty House, where James Busby with his family used to live. His story is pretty sad, actually, considering how much he did for the Crown. But isn’t it so typical?

In front of the Treaty House I saw a fantail flying up and down on the grass! It was difficult to take a picture, because it’s a very quick bird, but very cute.

Next to the Busby’s house, there was Te Whare Runanga built 100 years after the signing of the Treaty

I really enjoyed being there in that historic place and the weather was nice so I was just sitting there looking around.

When it was near 5 p.m. I left the Grounds and remembered that very close there should be the Haruru Falls (meaning ‘noisy’ falls). I went further up the road and I saw the sign saying they were 5 km one way, which would take about one hour. It was getting dark, so I decided not to go. Maybe next time. I was already tired after such a busy day and from the strong wind on the boat.

Going back to the hostel along the beach, I admired beautiful and weird shapes of shells. I felt guilty taking every step and hearing the cracks under my feet.

90 Mile Beach, Cape Reinga, Puketi Kauri Forest

Before I tell you how I met two All Blacks today, there are still many days to fill you up with, so be patient. Besides, this day is not over yet, and I’m expecting more celebrity sightings. 😉

Using free WiFi at the Wellington Library, without further ado:

TUESDAY, 20th Sept.

The coach came to pick me up after 7 a.m. and then circled around the streets to collect the rest of the tourists. When the bus was full, the bus driver welcomed us with a Maori song and as it usually happens, he talked about the Northland and what we pass along the way. In Kerikeri I saw kiwifruit plantations (kiwifruit grows on trees which look like a vineyard) and near Waipapa there was a company, Olivado which produces world famous oil used by world famous Jamie Oliver. The bus driver also paid our attention to a fence decorated with bikes. ‘The farmer must have had a big family’, he said. It reminded me of two famous fences in New Zealand, one decorated with bras and the other with toothbrushes.

We passed Taipa, where Polynesian voyager Kupe is said to have made the first landfall at its beach. He discovered the North Island around 950 A.D.

We had our first stop at Ancient Kauri Kingdom. It was also a chance to buy a sandwich for later for those who didn’t buy lunch from the company. By the way, I was travelling with Sights. The combo trips (Cape Reinga on one day and the boat trip on another) cost me $159.

The note in the last photo is for those who were coming back from the beach, but you must admit, that taken out of the context, the information looks funny.

The driver decided to drive along 90 Mile Beach on the west coast first before the high tide. The beach is actually 64 miles long, but it was named by early settlers who travelled 30 miles a day and it used to take them 3 days to travel the beach, hence 90 Mile Beach. The driver explained, ‘64 Mile Beach doesn’t sound right; 90 Kilometer Beach neither, so they stuck with the 90 Mile Beach name.’

At the end of the ride we saw a big rock sticking out of the sea. The driver said that according to Maori legends, that was the rock where Maui moored his boat when he was fishing. He was a good fisherman and pulled out of the water a big fish which is now the North Island and we were driving on its tail. The South Island is Maui’s boat.

When we stopped to put our feet in the Tasman Sea, the sea and the rock looked like a painting.

In Te Paki we stopped for sandboarding. I went down twice, because the dunes were huge and you already know that I don’t really like climbing. It was a great fun, though.

And that’s our driver:

At about 11 a.m. we arrived in Cape Reinga. I was wondering if I could really tell where the Tasman Sea ends and the Pacific Ocean starts. I could! Looking from the top of the hill, I saw the turquoise waters of the sea on the left

and calm dark blue ocean on the right.

We spent about 50 minutes getting to the lighthouse and back to the bus. So far the weather had been sunny with one exception when we were at the cape. But the rain wasn’t strong, so there was nothing to complain about.

We were returning along the east coast, stopped for one hour lunch near Ancient Kauri Kingdom, then again at the Kingdom for the bus washing from the sand and salt and finally in Puketi Kauri Forest for a 15 min walk. You couldn’t get off the built track because 1) the ground was pretty damp and 2) you could have brought a disease on your shoes, so better keep away from the trees.

One Kiwi with an Australian flag on his cap said that he hadn’t seen more beautiful trees in his life and he had spent his last 40 years in Australia and even in Tasmania they didn’t see anything like that. 🙂

The forest was very close to Paihia, so it was the end of our trip. Even though I was pretty tired, I went for an evening walk along the beach. The weather was nice and I was thankful for that.


MONDAY, 19th Sept.

My chase after rugby games was over for now, until 21st October when I watch Bronze Final in Auckland again. Now I had to do something with my time between the games and trying to avoid the crowds in towns and cities hosting the RWC matches.

I wanted to go to Cape Reinga and first I had thought of staying in Whangarei, but YHA was all booked. Later I found out that there was a RWC game during that time, so that’s why the hostel was full. But it all went for good, because then I put my finger on Paihia and discovered there was Waitangi very close to it, which is a pretty significant place in New Zealand history. It also had more tour options and they were cheaper.

On the way to Paihia, we passed Kawakawa, which I would like to visit some day, if I ever came back and travel around New Zealand by car. What’s so interesting about that place? A toilet. But not like any other toilet, but a piece of art designed by Hundertwasser. I had already seen his railway station in Uelzen.

I got off the bus at 12:40 p.m. (about 4 hrs from Auckland) and the YHA was very close to the town centre, which actually isn’t that big. Paihia is a pretty little town by the sea, the gate to Bay of Islands. I’d compare it to many small sea towns in Poland along the Baltic Sea coast except for the weather is much nicer for most of the year and the souvenirs are different. I love the shops with jade or paua shell jewelry, manuka cosmetics and kauri sculptures and kitchenware.

After I checked in and had some rest, I went to book a trip to Cape Reinga the next day and a boat trip on Wednesday. I was doing it having a great faith, because as soon as I finished paying for it, it started to pour. By the evening it was all over and I could see the blue sky again. I went to bed hoping the weather forecast for the next two days was correct.