March 24, 2008

The Bay Of Islands

Have I mentioned that Jerry isn't too keen on leaving the house? At least not without some pressure. Last Thursday, the day we packed for our weekend in the Bay of Islands, I was dying to get out of the house but Jerry didn't want to leave, so I let him stay home while I took my camera down to St. Stephen's Chapel and cemetery to take some photos. The chapel was built in 1857
and the cemetery is home to some of Auckland's earliest settlers. The oldest headstone is from 1844. I found the grave of Vicemius Lush, the man who lived in one of the historic cottages I visited a couple weeks ago when Warren took Jerry to work. This is just a random crooked headstone, but I liked the picture.Thursday evening we set out for the town of Whangerei, where we stayed in a motel clearly bent on winning the title of "Most Disgusting Motel." It was only $75 a night, which maybe should have tipped me off but, as Warren commented once we were tucked into bed with sheets carefully turned over the bedspread so we wouldn't inadvertently touch it, "There are decent motel rooms for $75 a night" to which Jerry replied, "Sadly, this isn't one of them."

We made a quick exit the following morning, driving the scenic highway through the Waipoua Kauri Forest. Kauri are the second largest tree in the world, after California's Giant Sequoias. We learned later that most of the houses built in San Francisco during the late 1800s were built of kauri from New Zealand, which may explain why there are very few kauri trees left. We took a short trail to the second-largest kauri tree in New Zealand, Te Matua Ngahere ("Father of the Forest"). Then we continued on toward the coast and Hokianga Harbor
where we boarded a water taxi that would take us across the water to the headlands. Wherever there was a dock there were local kids jumping into the water.Here's the view looking back across the water.And here's the reason we went across the water in the first place. Each of us grabbed a boogie board and started climbing the dunes. Jerry was the first to give it a go. He kept his hands and feet in the sand to slow him down on the first couple runs. Eventually, though, he was speeding down the hill at an alarming speed, straight for the water. Jerry and Warren liked to stop themselves before they got wet but for me the funnest part was skimming out onto the water at the end of the ride.
Jerry met two fourteen-year-old girls on the dunes and ended up hanging out with them most of the afternoon. Finally we left the dunes and headed for our next, much better motel in Paihia on the Bay of Islands. Here's Jerry on the little patio outside our room. Bright and early the next morning we boarded a catamaran for a full day of sailing. Jerry's feeling pretty comfortable on the water these days.Soon after setting sail we came upon a pod of six dolphin. We couldn't swim with them because there was a baby (swimming with babies about is against the rules) so we were happy to watch them jump and play. After watching the dolphins show off for us we sailed to one of the 144 islands in the bay for some snorkeling, hiking, and relaxing on the beach.Here's Warren at the top of the island.
And here's another view from the top.The next day we set out for Cape Reinga, which is almost as far north as you can go in New Zealand (but not quite). On the way we stopped for fish and chips in Moganui, ice cream in Cable Bay, and we walked to the Rainbow Warrior Memorial at the top of a hill near the water.
This one is for our "conscientious objector" file. (Mothers of boys be sure to follow that link!)After a long day of driving and what felt like a never-ending dirt road (which the guide book failied to mention!) we made it to Cape Reinga, where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean (the Pacific--and home-- is to the right, Tasman--and Australia-- to the left).
Cape Reinga was nice but the best part about our time there was the two hours we spent on the beach just below the cape. It was a 45-minute hike down to the sandbut we had the entire beach to ourselves. It was magical.

As the sun was setting we hiked back up the hill where a million hitchhiking mosquitoes managed to make their way into our car. Okay, there were about thirty, but I'm happy to say I killed them all--I'm scratching those darn bites as I type this!
The following day we went to Russell, formerly known as "the hell hole of the South Pacific," where we learned all about tanning leather (which involves lots of urine) and printing and binding books in the 1860s. I'll explain and provide photos later. For now I'll leave you with this one of Jerry--just because I like it.

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