Yesterday, we drove up to the river boardering the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and climbed into a traditonal Maorie canoe for a trip up the river to Waruru Falls. Our guide, a Maorie with a big bone in his pierced ear taught us Maorie chants for paddling (very helpful after he broke the outboard motor on a rock), gave us lots of NZ history, and cultural stories from the Maorie people. We only had eight people paddling the big heavy wooden canoe and four passengers: the guide (big tatooed man), his daughter (large woman), grandson (small boy) and a disabled Kiwi who had broken some ribs two weeks previously doing handsprings over rocks. Well, it got him a free ride. We stopped for a rest half way back from the falls at the guide's "sacred meeting place" where we waded through knee-deep black, not sacred at all, mud to the shore. That was an experience in itself - pretty scary. We were presented with a traditional welcoming ceremony and ancester -remembrance sort-of experience inside the hut where there was a carving representing the guide's grandfather similar to a totem pole. The bone came out of his ear and became a flute which he played between chants. It was mostly conducted in the Maorie language which is quite lyrical. It was not an experience one has every day! We paddled successfully back to our launch site in rhythm to the paddle chant. Quite a haul.
That afternoon, we went out on the Bay of Islands cruise on King Cruise lines. It was a comfortable catamaran with lots of deck space (not at all crowded this time of year) for viewing the 144 lovely islands, rocks, clear lagoons, dolphins, and the Hole in the Rock which our captain succesfully negotiated without our having to paddle. The water is a beautiful green and full of game fish. Lots of people come here for the snapper, marlin, yellow fin tuna, and something called hoki. This is the season, we are told, for good fishing, and there is snapper on every menu. We bought some fillets this afternoon in a fresh fish market, and I'll cook it up for supper in our kitchen.
The first night we were here, we ate at "Only Seafood," which has a website, if you want to check it out. I had yellow fin tuna seared in soy sauce with bamboo shoots and cashews. Excellent. Last night we ate at Cafe 6 Bistro. It's German so I couldn't pass us the sauer braten, and it was delicious. Bill had pan fried whiting. We haven't had a bad meal in NZ, especially when we order seafood. It's all fresh and plentiful.
Kerikeri is another area of orchards, vegetable gardens, and vineyards. They say, you stick something in the ground and it grows. The soil is volcanic. The Maorie word "keri" means "dig," and the area was named because all the new "European tribes" did when they arrived was to dig holes and plant stuff.
We were picked up promptly this morning at 7:45 and taken to the airport to fly in our 6 seater small plane up the west coast of the north island to the very top. After a scenic 45 minute flight, we landed on a grass strip where a comfortable van picked us up to drive to Cape Reinga where a light house marks the northernmost tip. It was amazing to see where the two great oceans, the Pacific on the east and the Tasman on the west, meet in swirling currents. The fishing there is supposed to be great, too. Next time . . . .
Our van took us next to a morning "picnic" of fresh muffins and coffee on a deserted white sand beach where dolphins sometimes visit. Then, on to the famous huge sand dunes where we took boogie boards almost to the top and slid down. It was tough going in the soft sand, but I made it up and down twice. Bill insisted on going higher up the third time, came flying down, hit a small mogul and became airborne rolling three times to a final stop in the sand. It's good sand is softer than snow, but he is complaining of a sore shoulder this afternoon. Thank goodness for Celebrex.
The flight down the west coast back to the airport was even more scenic as we flew over white sliica beaches, green clear rocky lagoons (you could even see the little sharks on the bottom), and the many islands, most of which are desserted. It was quite a day and a wonderful trip.
I'll upload some photos tomorrow morning, as we have until afternoon before our tour of the Waitangi treaty grounds. This is the second time I've written this as I lost it last time on our hotel website. I'm now at the internet cafe next door and the connection is much better.