Waka, waka, get those ribs in ya

Monday, April 14, 2014
Bay of Islands, Northland, New Zealand
Sunday April 13

We love lazy sea days . Today we had a wonderful lunch with Nancy and Ron at Tides. I hope they do manage to buy an apartment. They would slip so easily into this easy going community. I think Tides has ended up being our favourite restaurant although maybe we needed to eat at East a couple more times to confirm that. We just ran out of time. The food is great (as it is everywhere) but the outlook from the terrace of Tides over the wake of the ship is the clincher for me.

We finished the day with dinner at the Pool Bar again. I'm going to miss having dinner with Dion, Pamela, Daniel and Christopher looking after us.

Monday April 14

Breakfast on the verandah again this morning. I reckon it’s the best way to start the day on any cruise. I’d booked a couple of tours here through exploreNZ who we’d done the dinner cruise in Auckland with.

The original plan had been Swimming with Dolphins combined with sailing on Lion New Zealand (http://www .exploregroup.co.nz/en/unique-experiences/bay-of-islands-dolphin-sail-combo/) but Lion had finished it’s Bay of islands season. So we changed it to just swimming (http://www.exploregroup.co.nz/en/unique-experiences/swim-with-dolphins/) Monday afternoon and added the Discover the Bay cruise (http://www.exploregroup.co.nz/en/unique-experiences/discover-the-bay/) that went out to Hole in the Rock Tuesday morning.

Tuesday’s plans went out the window when we were invited to go fishing very early in the morning by an Aussie couple that we’d met on board. I’d need to see if we could change that to the afternoon at some stage during the day.

Before that though it was Treaty Grounds time http://www.waitangi.org.nz/treaty-grounds/.

Al had not been at all keen to go and I found that really strange that someone wouldn’t be keen to visit somewhere that played such a big part in their homeland’s history . I’d been years before and found it really interesting and actually quite moving. We’d pissed around on the ship for far too long so when the 'info lady’ on the jetty said it was a 20 minute walk there, we added another 10 and set off.

I think it took us closer to 25. We bought the guided tour and cultural show combo and raced through the building to join up with the tour. Sadly we had so little time to take anything in inside the building, which was sad, as it looked really interesting. We then walked down to the waka house and our guide told us about the iwi Ngāpuhi’s ceremonial war canoe Ngātokimatawhaorua, the world’s largest. The 35-metre-long canoe needs a minimum of 76 paddlers to handle it safely on the water. It weighs 6 tonnes when dry and 12 tonnes when saturated!! It was huge. I’m sure she said it takes 150 people, or maybe more, to carry it down to the water for use on Waitangi Day, each February 6.

Next stop on the tour was the flagstaff on the top of the hill that marks the spot where the first treaty was signed . There was a great view of the bay with The World, Celebrity Solstice and Russell all in frame.

A greeting and haka was performed outside the carved meeting house and then we went inside for the cultural show. It was great. One of the girls was an amazing soprano. Al reckoned her voice was a bit too cultured and perfect.

Sadly we had nearly no time to look at the treaty house. We raced through each room and then we bolted back to Paihia to get on the boat for our dolphin swim.

On the walk back to town Al explained why he hadn’t been keen. He’d looked across to the treaty grounds from the ship and saw a grassy hill with a flag pole. He knew nothing about what else was there and was very disappointed that we couldn’t spend longer there. We will definitely come back to the Bay of Islands and to the treaty grounds and spend they time there that they deserve.

They are very clear when you get on the boat that you might not get in the water . If the dolphins have any babies or juveniles with them, if they’re feeding or if they’re sleeping you are not allowed in the water with them. They are also very clear about the fact that you must swim with the dolphins, not just float around. You are in the water to entertain the dolphins, not the other way around.

Someone asked straight up if the morning tour got in the water and the answer was yes so we all had our fingers crossed that it would be the same for us.

Sadly though, it wasn’t. We saw plenty of dolphins but they were either sleeping or had littlies with them. It was a nice cruise around the bay but we already had another bay cruise booked for the next day so for me, and I’d imagine others on the boat, it was a huge disappointment. Maybe if the weather had been kinder and the bay had been a brilliant blue it might have lifted the sombre mood as we got off the boat, in Russell this time, but with free ferry tickets to take us back to Paihia .

What a cute little town/village. Of course anything ‘museumy’ was either closed or just about to close. Luckily Pompallier http://www.heritage.org.nz/places/places-to-visit/northland-region/pompallier  was still open for another 30 minutes so we paid our bucks and wandered around. The ladies in there were terrific. Even though they were in the process of shutting up they took the time to explain the different rooms, the printing presses and the tanning works. It was a place that deserved quite a bit more time than 30 minutes.

The weather was progressively getting worse so by the time we got back across to Paihia to get the tender the wind was whipping along the pier and it was raining quite heavily. We’d been very lucky with the weather on this holiday and we were now into the last few days of it so it was ironic that the weather system that was affecting the north of NZ (ex-tropical cyclone Ita) had come across from Australia .

After a quick shower we went back to Paihia for dinner. One of the residents of the ship had recommended a place that served craft beers and ribs. I’d seen a sign for ribs so we headed there. No sign of any craft beers but boy did they have ribs. We were both very embarrassed by the pile of meat, bone and sticky sauce that was put in front of us. People took photos of us and them! Needless to say we didn’t finish them.

We had an early start in the morning – we’d been invited out fishing - so decided not to kick on.   

Tuesday April 15

Ernie had said to meet at 7.30 for our fishing trip out on the Earl Grey http://www.earlgreyfishing.co.nz/. First tender to shore wasn’t actually until 7.30. Trevor one of the concierges, came along to make sure the Earl Grey was waiting for us. He hunted around and made some calls and eventually gave us the bad news – the skipper was not prepared to take us out in the worsening weather . Ernie was devastated. He had been looking forward to this so much but there was nothing that we could do. I walked over to the exploreNZ office to see if we could change the Hole in the Rock cruise that we had booked for the afternoon to a morning cruise – no problems.

After a coffee with Ernie, Maureen and Trevor we boarded exploreNZ’s boat for our trip out to the Hole in the Rock. We even had one of the crew from the day before’s dolphin cruise going out with us.

As we were setting off the skipper warned us that the weather that had seen our fishing trip called off could also see us not getting out to the Hole in the Rock. This Bay of Islands trip must be jinxed.

We saw plenty of dolphins on the way out across the bay and stopped to watch them play around us. The further out we went, the rougher, and more fun it got.

We did get to the Hole, but it was way too rough for our boat to go through it .

Once we turned back to Paihia and Russell the weather ahead started to clear so by the time we docked at Urupukapuka (??) island the sun was out and the water was a brilliant blue. It was gorgeous. We had about 45 minutes here. I’m pretty sure that this is the island that you can camp on but I can’t guarantee that.

We decided not to get off at Russell again. We know we’ll come back to the Bay of Islands so there was no point in squeezing in another museum or gallery just for the sake of it.

We took the tender back out to The World then decided to go back to town for a couple of hours to have a few beers, and to get some wine for tonight – we’d been invited to the apartment of one of the residents for dinner.

As we’d boarded the tender to go ashore one of the security guys jokingly said to us not to forget that last tender was at 9 .30pm, a reference to us being last back on board at Norfolk. I assured him we’d be back on board well before then because we didn’t want to miss the cultural performance at 6.30.

Wine in hand, knick knacks purchased, beer in bellies, we were back on the ship by 6.

A local school group gave the most fantastic performance in The Plaza, the World’s atrium or lobby. It was absolutely brilliant. I’ve attached a couple of videos. The quality isn’t amazing but you’ll see their enthusiasm and hear their voices.

Dinner in our friend’s apartment was wonderful. We ordered through room service and at right on 7.30 in they came with trays of food. If we thought breakfast was a performance dinner was a whole different experience. It was a wonderful end to the most amazing experience. We went to sleep with the ship moving around quite a bit, the first time it had happened in over three weeks!  
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