Friday, 22 October 2010

The Bay of Islands and our cruise on ‘The Rock’

Having written so openly about the challenge of cycling up and down mountains last week, I am now writing about the somewhat less exhausting experience of being part of an exceptional group tour around the Bay of Islands, on New Zealand’s north eastern coast.

We spent 2 nights in Russell at the ‘Top 10 Holiday resort’ before catching a ferry across the pond to Paihia. After checking into the delightful Bay Adventurers backpackers, we set about booking ourselves onto a nice cruise on board ‘The Rock’, a converted car ferry, built 41 years ago in Whangerei and now playing host to the tourists.

I have included a link to the website in the blog page, on the right hand column, if you would like to see further information on the specifics of the boat. Our own experience was fun filled and an ideal way to spend some more of our honeymoon fund – so for those amazing friends and family who have contributed – your funds have not gone to waste!

The Rock provided us with great food, brilliant hospitality, Ben, Johnny, Ali and Adam were all really knowledgeable crew and they looked after us so well. We were made to feel like family for the 24 hours we were on board. The room Mel and I shared was very clean and comfortable, with doors leading out onto the upper deck, through which we saw the most stunning stars as we went to bed last night.

On arrival, we were briefed about safety, offered as much tea and coffee we could ever have wished for and we started our journey. I got stuck into a game of pool and after that, joined in a shooting competition. The objective of which was to hit a rubber duck, named Matilda, with a paint ball gun, from the back of the boat, while Matilda bobbed around at the end of a rope in the surf. I lost. 0/4! Mel also managed the same score. However, not one to be accepting of failure, I decided to do a spot of fishing when given the opportunity, as did 12 others and between us, we caught 2 fish, amassing a total weight of around one half of a bag of sugar. So, not enough cook on the barby, but fun anyway.

After the fishing, it was time for dinner, a lovingly prepared BBQ, before which I was asked to make a speech on behalf of the crew and passengers. Apparently it is a tradition for somebody to do it before the evening meal on each trip, as you could imagine, I was extremely reluctant to stand up in front of an audience, unaccustomed as I am to public speaking!

Dinner was followed by a chance to go night Kayaking and to experience the beauty of the phosphorescence.

We settled down to a nice glass of whiskey in front of a log fire. We toasted a few Marshmallows with new acquaintances and when the generator was finally turned off at midnight, took our leave and slumbered, nestling in together on our bed, with the calm waters of the Pacific all around us and a sky full of stars shining down.

Day 2 on the rock was to be our last full day in the town of Paihia and it began with some lovely breakfast in the lounge, followed by a short kayak trip over to one of the bays’ islands and a trek around to some of the beaches. The island we visited had lots of sheep, many of them were with lambs and we even saw one ewe giving birth right in front of us!
The D.O.C have spent a great deal of time and energy in an attempt to re-create the fragile bio diversity on the islands, killing rats and possums and getting volunteers to help in the efforts to clear up all the rubbish from the beaches. They are doing well, the water is clear and there is very little in the way of plastic bottles and other detrious littering the shore line. Mel and I sat and ate a cereal bar by the water, congratulating ourselves on finding such a perfect way to enjoy a honeymoon trip together.

It was all going so well so something was bound to give, and it did. Mel had already successfully disembarked her kayak and I was trying to make my way aboard the mother vessel when the wind got up and I was forced to ask Adam, one of the crew, to pull me towards the boat using one end of my paddle. Unfortunately the forces of nature and my inability to balance led to me to capsize into the not so warm water, fully clothed and I dropped my sun glasses at the same time. As you can imagine, sympathy abounded from all concerned, personified by a collective laugh by everybody who saw the slow motion event. However, not to be deterred from my immediate priority, I quickly and deftly put on a snorkel and goggles and began to search for the glasses. The water was only 4-5mtetres deep and within 15 minutes, I had found them and rescued them from the sea-bed. I had earned a cup of hot tea!

On the way back to Paihia dock the most amazing thing happened; a pod of dolphins came straight up to our boat and began to put on the most incredible display for us. Mel was almost in tears as we observed the 12-15 strong pod play in the swell at the front of the boat. It was one of the greatest few minutes of our married life!

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