...Baby G woke up with the sun to try and get some good pictures of a Bay of Islands sunrise...
There were about 5 people who woke up to share the quiet morning, have some coffee and enjoy the view. However, within 45 minutes or so, we spotted dolphins, and our Skipper rang the ship's bell to gather any and all who wanted to get an up close look. -Our cups of steaming coffee came with...
It was wonderful that this was included with the cruise, as a lot of other tours in the Bay of Islands charge upwards of $100 or so, to watch the dolphins from 100 feet or so away. We lucked out.
When we got back aboard The Rock, we had some breakfast, and then geared up for some swimming, snorkeling, and mussel diving. -Yes, we ate, THEN swam, and did not get sick, despite what our mothers told us all these years.
Baby G had some difficulty with the snorkeling, and drank too much saltwater. This worked out well though, since she could capture it all on film.
Diz managed to snag Baby G a shell from the sea floor, and caught a mussel for her too. Awww...
At that point, everyone was ready to hit the beach, so The Rock sped over to a fairly deserted beach for lunch, more kayaking, swimming, snorkeling, cove exploring, and beach combing. We spent a great few hours enjoying the scenery and feeling as though we were on the set from a "Lost" episode.
All too soon it was time to pack up and head back to our boat, and begin the journey back to our port. Diz was able to play some more guitar, and we sat back and enjoyed the sun and new friends we made. We also ate the mussels that were caught. They were...yummy?
We made it back to land safely, and said goodbye to what had been our home. We hope to try and go back to do this overnight cruise again, as we clearly loved our time spent on it.
So, we were back on land and had our next destination in mind: Cape Reinga. We jumped in our sputtering Toyota, and headed North on State Highway 1. We had found online, a campground run by the DOC (New Zealand's Department of Conservation), where we could set up our tent inexpensively, and was 500 meters from Rarawa Beach. Not too far from our destination, it was the perfect, quiet location we needed. We walked down to the beach at sunset and to wade in the Pacific Ocean. The sand felt like finely sifted flour under our feet, and the sand dunes reminded us both of Michigan.
...to be continued...
Day 4 -- Introduction to The Rock
...We woke up early to try to get the hell out of the campsite with the little demons from Auckland next to us. We packed our gear and were out by 9:00. Our boat didn't board until 5:00pm, so we essentially had all day to regroup and organize. We spent the day walking along the bay, gathering seashells, wading, and generally avoiding the rain as much as possible. We found another grocery store, and reloaded our supplies, this time adding oranges and breakfast bars to our repertoire.
As the day continued, we decided it would be smart to leave some stuff in the car and only take one bag with us on the boat -- after all, it was only for one night that we'd be there. So we pulled off the road to repack and organize everything we'd want to take with us for the couple days we'd be gone. Also, because it rains when you're sleeping in New Zealand, every day we had to drape the tent, tent cover and tarp over the backseat to dry out. We pulled over at this morbid little spot:
It was on a little creek and we were left mostly alone while we had cheese sandwiches and split an orange.
After lunch, we sat at a picnic table on the beach and did some reading/writing...and then we grabbed a coffee for the home stretch.
We are providing these banal little details because once we started our cruise experience, it went at a high speed, and we're still not really about to wrap our heads around that 24-hour period.
They'd informed us that if we were at the pier at 4:30, a boat called The Climax would come to fetch us and take us to The Rock. While we waited, we met this lovely young woman from the UK who was travelling with some people SHE'D just met as well. By the time 5:00 rolled around, we were wondering if it would just be the 7 of us, as we seemed to be the only people waiting. This gave us an indication of what we were in for, though, as most of them were our age or slightly younger.
As time passed, however, more and more people started showing up. There ended up being 16 in our lot. The Climax was brought over by a guy named Peter, who was very nice and asked us how we'd heard about Overnight Cruises. Then he took us several hundred yards out to the big red boat that we'd seen in the brochures:
The whole day it had been raining, and Baby G had been thinking, "Dude, this is gonna suck," but Pete heard her, and assured us that we'd be out of the rain. Once we got on board, he gathered us all around the bar, and told us some bullet points about the trip we'd be taking. Some of the rules are listed here:
~Coffee and tea are free. Just wash your cup.
~If you would like to play pool, go ahead.
~You'll be twilight fishing before dinner time, and we will cook what you catch. No exceptions.
~If you would like to play guitar/piano, go ahead.
~We're keeping a bar tab open for you, just pay cash when the trip is over.
~Night kayaking is the only extra charge: $6.00.
~Feel free to do pretty much whatever the hell you want to.
The atmosphere was really relaxed, and of the 4-5 crewmembers, 3 were travelling as well, and were only working part time to make a little extra money.
From this point, they showed us to our rooms, which consisted of three bunk beds. We were staying with 2 other couples: one from Ireland, and one from Germany.
Then they invited us to shoot an air rifle off the back of the boat while we were at full-speed, trying to hit an empty Sprite bottle. The first person to do it won a free beer or glass of wine. Neither of us hit it, but we had a blast trying (har!).
When it came time to anchor off and fish, we were having a really relaxing time. We saw some birds diving a few hundred yards away, and so Dizzle stayed on board to fish for dinner, while Baby G went back on The Climax to look at the feeding birds and snap shots of the sunset. Here are a couple pictures of these things for your viewing pleasure:
This is Pete, the guy who owns the cruise line. He was on the trip with us, and we all called him "Skipper". This was a little strange for us, as the only other "Skip" we know is not like this guy at all. :)
...Looking for a "Dizzlefish"...
Alas, Dizzle didn't catch anything, but some of the other guests did, and so those catches went on the dinner table along with bread, pasta salad, fresh veggies, steak, sausages (that looked JUST LIKE bratwurst, but when Diz asked, the BBQ cook had no idea what he was talking about), salad, mussels and potatoes. It was quite a feast!After dinner, we went night-kayaking near the shore. It was dark, and so they offer this excursion as an add-on because of the effect of the phosphorescence when one puts their oar in the water. It looked like the whole bay was lit from beneath via blacklight, and it was really very beautiful.
Dizzle had been aching to swim since the day we got here, so after our group came back, he made like a guppy:
"The theme from Jaws was going through my head the whole time..."
The day over, Baby G tucked herself in for the night so she could get up and snap pictures of the sunrise at dawn. Dizzle stayed up a little while and practiced some guitar by the fire. To take a look at what this cruise has to offer, check out their website here.
...to be continued...
...The next morning, we woke up flawlessly and started the dark, rainy drive to Auckland. We FINALLY spent money at McDonald's on the way, but it was only for a coffee. We swear. Shut up, Ricky. :)
We took a picture of "The 12th tallest tower in the world":
Sadly, we left Ricky to his own devices at around 2:30, as that's when we had to get what was to be our car for the weekend.
They ended up renting us an early-model Toyota that, though fully automatic, coughed and wheezed it's way uphill so badly we thought maybe there was something wrong with it's design. Turns out, nope, it was just a really crappy rental.
We stopped at a rest stop about 20 minutes out of the city to grab some peanut butter, bread, chips and coke...you know, road trip food. Our goal was to make it to Whangarei (which locals pronounce "FANG-ga-ray", though we have no idea why) before pitching the tent. On the way, we took a couple detours.
One such area was called Warkworth, a tiny little town that's known for it's giant kauri tree, one of the oldest in the country and comparable to the redwoods in California. Please believe us when we tell you, it really is a large tree:
A little while off the road from Warkworth (We don't know the actual distance in "A little while..." Judging by exactly how far off the road it FELT, let's just say it seemed like we exited the highway in 1957, and finally arrived tomorrow) we hunted down a little marine reserve called "Goat Island".
It seemed to be a popular little beach for families, and held spectacular views of the bay leading out into the Ocean. We saw a live crab and did a little wading, but it should be noted that Baby G got photographic proof of Dizzle setting foot for the first time in the Pacific Ocean:
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He was well known as an Atheist, however after being here a week it is understood that he changed his ways. Our people were so taken by the playwright that from that time on, they allowed the area to be known in English as Hell's Gate.