MARCH 1 & 2 & 3 – AT SEA
After leaving the Whitsundays we headed southeast to New Zealand. It looks close on the map… but the distance to Auckland is over 1,100 miles. We would turn our “clocks ahead” for the last two times during these three days at sea.
MARCH 4 – AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND
By the end of the day today, we had fallen madly in love with New Zealand. It is even more spectacular then we had heard, and, the people are awesome. Genuine, warmhearted, just downright wonderful. We will definitely be coming back here in the future. Seems like the perfect place to spend a Maine Winter.
The country of New Zealand is made up of two islands, North and South. Our first port was Auckland on the Northern Island. It is known as the “City of Sails”. There are more yachts here per capita then any other city in the world. It is estimated that one in four families own a boat.
We docked in the heart of downtown and rented a car for the day to drive along the coast to Coramandel. Steve took to driving on the “wrong side of the road” very quickly (this was not his first time), although shifting a manual transmission with his left hand took some getting used to. And, he never did quite get the blinkers mastered, flicking on the windshield wipers instead… which resulted in a squeaky clean view throughout the day. It was 70F and brilliantly sunny. Unusually cool (we lucked out) for this time of year. It should be in the upper 80’s for another few weeks. Neither of us had been in a car since January 2nd… and it was completely liberating. The only thing that nags at you is the “deadline” for being back on the ship. You don’t want to miss it.
The drive was absolutely gorgeous. Rolling hills that were denuded for sheep and cow grazing coupled with large stands of pine trees made for a stunning mosaic of texture and color (see pic). The coastal road was narrow and “missing” in some places making it an exhilarating ride. I reminded Steve to “stay left” occasionally when his brain wanted to drive on the other side. We got more excitement then we needed on the way back to Auckland. The traffic was at a crawl about 10 miles out of the city – heading back in. We had two hours before the car was due back. No worries, right? Wrong. There are only 1.2 million people living here – but every single one of them was on the highway with us. There is such a huge “sprawl” of housing and businesses that public transportation is inefficient for commuters. We made it back to AVIS with 3 minutes to spare before they shut down. Part of me was upset that we made it. Our next port of call was only 3 hours up the coast – and we could have kept the car, spent the night somewhere, and met up with the ship the next day. Se la vie.
MARCH 5TH – PAIHIA, BAY OF ISLANDS, NEW ZEALAND (Maiden Call)
Right up the east coast from Auckland is a grouping of 140 islands which make up the area called the “Bay of Islands”. In 1769, Captain Cook sailed the HMS Endeavor into the bay for the first time. Prior to that, Abel Tasman had charted the islands as “Nieuw Zealand” (named for Zealand province in his native Holland) more then a century earlier. He lost some of his crewmen to a Maori ritual feast, which effectively delayed further exploration (gee, I wonder why?). Cook got a hostile greeting, but left without incident. A French expedition followed a few years later, but the Maori tribe captured and ate the party. Eventually, a new British colony was established here in 1839 and was ruled from New South Wales (Australia). The new territory had gained a fearsome reputation for it’s blood thirsty headhunters and battles with the Maoris continued. Eventually, treaties were signed between the British authorities and the Maori Chiefs in 1840. After years of cross breeding with the Brits, “full blooded” Maoris only make up about 15% of the population today.
We spent the day ogling the scenery, strolling the beaches, perusing the various craft fairs (set up for us), and talking with the locals. It was a delightful day of about 75F and low humidity.