Saw some beautiful stuff recently at the Goat Island Marine Reserve a bit north of Auckland. We've read about this numerous times and in fact Trey's class took a field trip there just before we arrived. Of course I'm not bitter at all about having missed that only to be chosen as the chaperon for their morning at Pak 'n Save. We all love snorkeling but have only done it in warm places before. Just checked and they say that the "water temperature has jumped to 16˚!" wooo hooo! That is 61˚ F. Needless to say, we needed wetsuits. Never wore one before -- kinda yuck, very tight and claustrophobic. But they worked.
Neat area with a small island just off the beach and lots of fish and other creatures to see and caves to explore. (Great little place on the way there, too, with one woman that runs the whole place and makes amazing salads and cookies!) Dennis and Laurel (the more adventurous of our group) actually swam over to the island and explored there. Trey and I wanted out of those wetsuits asap and walked along the beach after we'd seen a few stingrays and cool fish.
After Goat Island's sunny fun, we headed north a bit more for an hour or two on unpaved roads through the mountains to Waipu Cove. There we found a beautiful very sparsely populated area (I could say this about most of the country) with gorgeous beaches and tasty pizza. The area was settled by a bunch of Scottish people in the mid-1800s who had been kicked off their land, had nothing else to do except either give up or head to Nova Scotia, where they all built a couple of big wooden ships and then gathered everyone up and sailed across the Atlantic, around Africa and then that short little jaunt over to New Zealand.
This doll made the journey, too. She was the first mate, I think. They settled in this area north of Auckland because it was suitable for farming and had timber for shipbuilding. Can you imagine? Their ship started leaking on the way from Scotland to Nova Scotia somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic so they stuffed some clothing and blankets in the leaks and kept on going. What choice was there? This is fascinating to me, the idea of people leaving the only home they've ever known with a few possessions, most of the family or just some, and heading off in hideous conditions to another part of the world. And the difference between those people and the ones that didn't go. Very interesting.
Having the luxury of pre-booked accommodations and a car, our trip to Waipu Cove was a bit less harrowing than that of our Scottish friends. This was our first of many Homestays/Farmstays and it was so lovely. We stayed in part of the home of a Swiss couple who operate a small dairy farm and orchid greenhouse, right on the water.
A lot of the little towns here don't have a Hyatt or even a Motel 6 and honestly we rather hate hotels anyway. We usually rent a house when we travel (homeaway.com or vrbo.com), but again that's not always possible here. We have a ton of travel coming up and all of our accommodations are at Home- and Farmstays. There's typically a portion of the house that is separate from the hosts' living quarters and you come and go as you please and eat breakfast (sometimes dinner, too) at the family dining table. What a cool way to really experience a culture! On farms, there is often a renovated barn or a cottage that is separate from the house. So far our South Island trip in December includes 4 different Farmstays. Should be very unique!
Yeah, that last breakfast item is smoked Kahawai, caught the night before. It was delicious, if a bit strange. :o) The big bowl of goop is something I'd never heard of till our trip over on the plane. Bircher Muesli. It's Muesli (rolled oats, various grains, dried fruits and nuts) soaked in yogurt, cream, and fruit juice. We love it!!
Saw some great scenery there -- especially at sunrise and sunset. Just gorgeous from a kayak.
These last two were in Whangarei (pronounced Fon-ga-ray') where everything we wanted to do was closed but we did have some good ice cream and visited the National Clock Museum. No I'm not kidding.
Lots of xoxoxo, K.