Monday, February 7, 2011

Up to Speed: Taupo Bay and Bay of Islands!

Monday, 7th February, 2011
Near Bay of Islands, New Zealand

I want to apologize to everyone for the radio silence over the last 5 or so days- we are still alive and well, having the time of our lives! We’ve been out in the woods (literally and figuratively) for the last several days, and our life of late has tended to lead to us losing track of time (it is Monday, right?). I have a bit of catching up to do. I am writing this from Laura and Lloyd’s beautiful farm, where Matt and I arrived yesterday afternoon, and have been happily installed as residents of their lovely guest cottage for the next several days. More on the farm later, though, I want to bring you all up to speed on our wanderings since Wednesday morning.

As I looked at my diary (planner) last week, I realized that we were scheduled to arrive in the Bay of Islands on Waitangi Day, New Zealand’s national holiday. Waitangi Day commemorates the Treaty of Waitangi, which was signed by British and Maori representatives on February 6, 1840, at Waitangi, just south of Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands. The treaty laid out protections for the Maori populations, providing them equal status to British citizens of New Zealand (theoretically) and essentially bringing an end to the Maori land wars (though not completely). The signing of the treaty is widely regarded as the birth of modern New Zealand, and every Waitangi Day there are massive traditional ceremonies and all kinds of things going on, especially at the Treaty Grounds at Waitangi. So I looked online to find out what was going on, and we saw that the festivities started on Thursday, including what was advertised as a chance to sail a bit for free at the Bay of Islands Sailing Club in Waitangi. With a chance to sail for free in the Bay of Islands (a world famous cruising ground), we decided to head for the bay to be there Thursday morning and have a go on the water.

We drove south from Kaitaia along Doubtless Bay and stopped for a few hours at Taupo Bay, a fantastically beautiful bay that is off the main road and not particularly touristy. It is an absolute gem of a place, and also a prime surf spot! We pulled up on a gorgeously sunny afternoon to see perfect, gentle little waves rolling into the bay, so we immediately got in and had a great little surf in the warm water. It was a bit of a breakthrough for me- after surfing loads of tiny waves and getting plenty of long rides on whitewash, I finally dropped into a perfect three-footer and got an amazing ride. (I’ve dropped into plenty that size before, but never stayed upright long enough to get a good ride!). Unfortunately, the waves petered out after that and I didn’t get another chance that day. We got out after Matt spotted an 18-inch stingray in the water underneath my board, and I freaked out a little. They are actually pretty friendly and stay very close to the bottom, but I really didn’t feel like stepping on one or wiping out on top of one! Anyway, here's what Taupo Bay looks like:

(Click on Photos to Enlarge)

This is how many Kiwis transport and launch their boats.

We intended to camp at a DOC site in the Puketi Forest that night, but despite our best efforts, could not find it and spent a bit of time griping at the map for leading us astray. We ended up finding a nice wide spot on the side of a gravel road at the edge of the forest, and made camp there. We finally got the mosquito net situation sorted out, but it involved sitting in the van after dark with all the windows closed so as not to let the bugs in, cutting, super-gluing, and finally fastening our new netting onto the ceiling via Velcro. It took a lot longer than we anticipated, as the adhesive on the Velcro wouldn’t stick to either the ceiling or the screen (thus, the superglue), and it was so hot in the van, even at 10 PM, that we ended up sitting in there naked, trying not to superglue ourselves to anything. While the process was a bit frustrating (and slightly ludicrous), the result is very satisfying and effective, and we have been sleeping in a bug free bed cave ever since! I’ll get some pictures of our modifications sometime soon.

On Thursday morning we hit the library in Kerikeri (which is a very sweet little town, not very touristy) for a little while, then made our way to the sailing club at Waitangi, where we discovered that the sailing that was advertised did not in fact exist. We thought we’d salvage the day by visiting the treaty grounds, only to discover that it cost $25 for non-NZ residents to get in. There was no way we were going to pay for that, and as it turns out we got to see it for free on Waitangi Day, but at the time it was pretty annoying. We did, however, make friends with a local we met at the side of the road:

A view of the Bay of Islands from above

We explored a little bit, down the bay to Paihia, which is the tourist capital of the Bay of Islands. The sheer numbers of campervans and tourists were a little overwhelming, but it is a cute place.

The library building in Paihia

 We did find a great farmers market, and for $10 purchased this:
 Which was, that evening, turned into this:

We then decided we’d had enough of the crowds and everything, and since the swell was supposed to be the same as the day before, headed back up to Taupo Bay. It is such a nice spot, very few tourists and only a tiny group of houses around the bay, that it made the ultimate relaxing end to our day. Unfortunately the surf had disappeared, but the day was beautiful, and we enjoyed a good swim, some tanning, and walking the whole length of the beach and checking out the tidepools at the far end. In the evening we cooked dinner just above the beach, and I’m pretty sure you couldn’t find a nicer place to cook and eat your evening meal!

We decided to again camp at the pull-out from the night before, and had a great night’s sleep, enjoying the view of the stars through our new netting, and the sounds of crickets (deafening until it gets dark) and the calls of a Morepork, the tiny NZ owl that we hear everywhere we go (so named because it’s call sounds exactly like “more pork! More pork!”)

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