Our ship had only to sail 150 miles north to arrive in the Bay of Islands this morning. This area on the North Island of New Zealand was initially settled by the Maoris around 1000 AD. The first European settlers came from Australia in the 1820’s to establish a few whaling settlements. The ship is anchoring near Paihia, a small town where everyone starts their tours to further explore this area of NZ.
Since yesterday was our New Zealand “wilderness adventure,” today we are going to explore Russell, ‘one of the oldest towns in New Zealand and the capital from 1840 – 1844.’ Unfortunately, the Maori didn’t like the rowdy town of whalers, a war started with the Maori in July 1844 and the town was burnt to the ground. The town was restored in 1846 after the Maori Wars were over.
The Bay of Islands is, as you might suspect, island after island, very noticeable as the ship pulls into the harbor area. There are over 144 islands in the Bay of Islands, some the size of a tennis court. Because the ship is anchoring, we must tender to the wharf in Paihia.
So off we go by ferry boat, crossing to Kororareka Bay where Russell is located. Cloudy, misty and basically a gloomy start of the day. Average temperature is 75 degrees but this morning it is only 66. Again, with New Zealand having been in a drought, the locals are appreciative for this weather. We are quite blessed to witness a pod of female dolphins with babies swimming and jumping out of the water.
Once docked at Russell, we explore by foot with our guide telling us the local history and pointing out the various buildings, all with vivid stories of the old days. Today, Russell is a summer resort town for the rich and famous from ‘all over the world.’ It is very quaint, arty, small and similar to a small town on Mt. Dessert Island in Maine. Sailboats are docked in the bay and several islands are visible from the shoreline – along with our ship docked out in the bay. The only way to Russell is by ferry or a very bumpy gravel road we are told.
There is a few older hotels (and some newer ones), some beautiful homes on the cliffs, a few shops, a craft and art fair, several restaurants and two museums.
One of the museums is the Pompallier Mission Printery & Tannery. Our guide provides a very informative tour through the mission building explaining the tanning and printing process that was used in the mid-1800’s. The French missionaries translated religious texts into Maori language, printed and leather bound them into books. A funny side comment from our tour guide is that the Maori’s called the French missionaries WeeWee (guess why LOL).
We are delighted to enjoy a coffee and freshly baked croissant at the cafe that is attached to a small gift shop at the mission museum. A nice view of the bay is enjoyed during our break.
Afterwards, walking along the shore we just enjoy the beautiful weather. Next, lunch at the oldest restaurant building on the waterfront – The Gables – built in 1847. What would you eat in a place like this? Fish and Chips of course (for me) and a big juicy burger and fries for Steve. Quite a change from our cruise ship food!
Then a ferry back to Paihia and a 45 minutes walk to our tender boat returning us to the ship. During the ferry ride, we get to observe the spectacular sailing skills of the Kiwi’s; we are told that most inhabitants – Maoris, Europeans and others alike – arrived by ship before the 1970’s brought the airplane, so there is a natural love affair with the sea and sailing and navigation skills are embedded in their DNA.
Finally, the sky is blue and the wind has picked up – great for the wind surfers.
At 6 PM our ship sails out to sea for two days to our next port Sydney. Farewell New Zealand (and to the Maoris and Hobbits). And, ugh, two more hours of time-zone change before Sydney, the first being tonight. One shouldn’t really complain about the opportunity to sleep for an extra hour; the problem is that Steve and I never learned how to sleep in.
And let’s just say the Tasman Sea is not known for calm waters – 15 foot seas expected tonight.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over mighty waters. Psalms 29:3