It took us seven days of travel to get from Tonga to New Zealand split about equally between motoring and sailing. There were times when the sea was glass calm and times when the swells were three meters high and the winds 38 knots. All in all it was a good passage but as always, land is a welcomed sight. We spotted land at 6:20am November 10th and arrived at the quarantine dock at 11:00am. Customs and quarantine formalities were very quick and efficient and we were snugly secured in a slip at the Opua Marina before 12:30pm.
Our first week has been filled with activities celebrating the “All Points to Opua” rally of the Island Cruising Association. Monday’s event was a free pizza dinner and was particularly appreciated following our passage at sea and since we were celebrating Dave’s birthday, we were treated to cake on board O’vive following the dinner.
The best show we’ve been to so far has been the Bay of Islands, Culture North Night show at the Waitangi treaty grounds where the country of New Zealand was born back in the 1800’s. The show started with our group being challenged by a group of Maori warriors and was so realistic and frightening that we really felt that we were among the first visitors to this land. Once the ‘chiefs’ of our group assured the warriors that we meant no harm, we were invited into the long house to enjoy an evening of song, dance and drama which told of New Zealand’s history. This was an absolutely amazing show and one we’d highly recommend to anyone visiting this area.
We’ve done quite a lot of driving this past week as Nathalie is flying to France to visit her parents and needed to see as much as possible during her week here. We have had a lot of fun exploring to the Northernmost tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, and back. The vegetation here is amazing, while some of the flowers and greenery are similar to what we see at home, some are very different, such as the Ponga tree which is a national symbol. This tree looks like a palm tree but is more like a huge fern growing on top of a tall skinny trunk.
There are some huge sand dunes in the North Island and the kids really loved this part. We rented a couple of boogie boards and they hiked to the top of the hills and surfed down the dunes. Now, you may ask “didn’t they get sand in their eyes?” the answer is “absolutely! as well as everywhere else you can imagine!” but what a fun time they had. Be sure to see the video on youtube!
Another place we visited was the Stone House and Mission House, these were the first buildings constructed in New Zealand in the early 1800's and are now wonderfully preserved as historical monuments. The area surrounding these buildings is absolutely gorgeous, with a lake like inlet and high rolling hills with beautiful homes and gardens.
Yesterday, we took a little ferry across the bay to the town of Russell the site of the first European settlement here. We particularly enjoyed the art galleries, beaches and historical hike to a viewpoint. This is what we thought New Zealand would be like.