Thursday, December 11, 2008

Mimi Whangata to Auckland

After leaving Opua we visited several beautiful secluded anchorages and enjoyed many beautiful hikes and even some scuba diving.

Our third anchorage was Mimi Whangata where we met up with O'vive. It was in this very beautiful spot that we enjoyed a really cool hike through rolling pastures with a fabulous view from the top. Fortunately, the farmers released the cows into an adjacent pasture or our hike may have been abbreviated.

On the way back to the boats, the kids in O'vive's dinghy and the adults in ours, the kids stopped to watch dolphins swimming nearby and the adults went to shore to investigate a glider that had landed on a beach after finding itself with no more uplift to make it home.

Our next stop was Tutukaka where we spent a couple of nights at the marina. The day we arrived, the local bar "Schnappa Fish" hosted a summer kick off party with live music all day long. We hiked up to the Tutukaka light house for another panoramic view of the water and headlands.

From Tutukaka, we took a scuba diving trip out to Poor Knights Islands, rumoured to be one of the top five dive sites in the world - we couldn't miss out on that one! Jay, Jocelyn, Dave, Emilie and I planned to dive while Jenny and Alec snorkelled. Unfortunately, during my first descent, my ear drum ruptured so I was unable to dive but I snorkelled at the second site and it was very cold and very colourful and beautiful. On the first dive, the others saw an octopus which was a hilight. The second dive site was a very interesting dive through a cave filled with blue fish that crowd all around and part to let you pass through. Jocelyn, in particular, loved this part. I'll be posting a video on youtube sometime soon.

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Great Barrier Island was the next stop. Not much commerce on this island, but it abounds with beautiful tramping trails and gorgeous scenery. We set out to hike up Mount Hobson, no small feat, and reached the summit approximately four hours later. On the way, we stopped for lunch at an ancient Kauri dam which was used to transport Kauri logs to the bottom of the mountain. The logs would be felled into the gully above the dam then the dam would be closed to allow enough water to float the logs. This sometimes took up to two years! When the water was high enough, people would gather to watch as the dam was released and all of the logs and water were set free. This was said to be a terrifying event.

Kids at the Kauri Dam

Some of the over 800 stairs we climbed

One of the creek crossings on our hike

Lunch at the summit

View from the summit - Malachi is in the middle

Jocelyn and Alec in the Geothermal pools on Great Barrier

The Pateke/Brown Teal duck is an endangered species that primarily exists on Great Barrier Island. As you can see they go to great lengths to protect these rare birds that swam beside our boat.

The following day, we rented a van to tour the island. We visited two tiny communities and even got to see the local santa parade in Claris! This was a very Big event for a very small community and it seems that everyone was there!

Face painting at the parade

Our last stop before Auckland was at Mansion House Bay on Kawau Island. This was a very pretty stop and we explored ashore and visited the Mansion House gardens - the Mansion itself was closed when we were there. It was in the garden that we spotted an albino peacock! None of us even knew such a creature existed! We saw another coloured peacock and a wallaby too on our tramp out towards an old copper mine.

Albino peacock, a direct descent of the peacocks imported by George Grey, the first governor of New Zealand, in the 1860's.

The most beautiful Hydrangea - Elsie, this pic's just for you!

We're now in Auckland and we've been very busy buying a car, Christmas shopping and, of course, boat chores. We bought a Toyota Windom (Duane you'd be proud) and are adjusting to the right hand drive and to driving on the left side of the road. NZ has some funky driving rules. Jocelyn has been studying for her learners permit so that she too can drive, this should be interesting for her once we return home.

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