Upon arriving in Auckland and finding our B&B we went out exploring. First to Mount Eden, a extinct volcanic cone. Mt Eden is the highest point in Auckland where there is a 360 degree view of the region. From there we went to One Tree Hill, a dormant volcanic cone and once the site of the largest prehistoric Maori settlement in the region. It was named after the solitary tree which was planted on the summit in 1640. Since then protestors will cut down the tree to gain interest in their cause. Our last stop the Sky Tower, the southern hemisphere tallest structure. It is very similar to the Space Needle in Seattle.
While waiting for our car we met a young man from Canada named Matthew. He had many tid bits about NZ and helped the time go. His mom was coming in from Vancouver for 12 days. We met them again that night at dinner and shared more stories. A short drive back to the B&B where we spent some time talking with our hosts.
In the morning Queen Mary 2 came into port and we watched her go by from the deck of the house. She is very impressive. It has been two years since she came to Auckland and our host was very excited to see her.
After a wonderful breakfast we where on the road again with the destination of Russell in the Bay of Islands. The weather has been beautiful, we are so blessed. Trish, our host in Auckland stated that people can always tell when an American is driving a car because the wipers are going when they turn. Poor Allen had those wipers go many times. Today though he only turned them on one time. The turn signal is on the opposite side of the steering wheel. He is becoming more comfortable driving but there are times from my perspective on the drop off is just a little too close.
There really is not any freeway as we know it. The main road is mostly two lanes, one in each direction with passings lanes every so often. There was one spot today where I saw a sign with one red arrow pointing down and one black arrow pointing up. Just as I was wondering what that met the road became a single lane bridge for a short distance and explained the sign.
The weather has been great, low of about 62 high about 72 and sun with clouds.
Our stops today where Orewa beach. The sand was so very fine and easy to walk on. It was nice to see Seagulls again, they are one missing feature of living in the Northwest that we don't experience in
Atlanta. We stopped in Puhoi, NZ earliest Bohemian settlement. We stopped at a cheese factory, tasted different varities, and purchased some to have with wine and crackers later, but forgot the crackers.
At Kawiti Caves we had our first, and probably last, experience with the glow worms living in the caves around NZ. Not because it wasn't interesting or beautiful, but because the rest of the country above ground is so engaging.
These are family owned caves and we ended up arriving for the last tour of the day. The guide provided a wonderful history of the cave and it's occupants. Not just the glow worms but large eels in the stream within the cave. Several of the eels were greater than 5 feet long and about 6-8 inches in diameter, much bigger than I would have expected. When the guide turned off her light is was like having hundreds of tiny stars shining just above you. They are worms that live for nine months and grow to be 2-4 cm long. Toward the end of their life they spin a caccoon and when they come out they only live three days. Their death is from stravation because even though they have a mouth it does not function. The glow is the final result of disgestion based on chemical changes that take place.
Our final stop before reaching Russell is Kawakawa where the most photographed toilets exist. This area is known for arts and crafts and enviromental pursuits but the most famous artist was from Austria and was an architect and painter. Hundertwasser lived from the 1973 until he died in 2000 without electricity. He designed a grassroofed toilet block. He used various tiles, colored bottles, and clay to make this structure. They are functional as tested today, truly unique design for a public toilet in the middle of a small town.
To get to Russell we took a ferry from Opua. Now this ferry is nothing like we are used to when going to Whidby Island. There was only a level where the cars go and the ride takes about 10 minutes.
The town of Russell was previouly named Kororareka after a Maroi chief, wounded in battle drank some penguin broth. After drinking it he stated, 'Ka reka te korora' how sweet the penguin. In 1844 the name was changed. Russell was for a short time the capital on NZ.
Russell is a small town with two-three blocks of shops and restaurants. Tonight we had fish and chips with one fillet of blue nose and the other snapper. The blue nose was by far better. We also learned that whenever we want fish and chips, we will need to takeaway, (to go) as it is about 75 % or less of the served price. We watched the sun setting while sitting on the beach. Back in the room it was time for cheese, crackers (we did get some later) and wine.
Up bright and early to catch the town with everyone asleep. I wanted to see if I could get some pictures without people in them of the town. Marcia wanted to walk as well, so we went to flagstaff hill. I wanted the views, Marcia, was not ready for walking up a steep hill before breakfast.
The views from the top were beautiful, we could see water in virtually all directions. This is a beautiful place and not over populated, we cannot imagine what people do for jobs, but easy to see the attraction of the area, it's beauty and the simple life that could be had.
We stayed at the Commodore Lodge, which is right on the water in the heart of town. EZ access to the ferry it Paihia.
Today, we are off to Paihia, KeriKeri and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It was at the treaty grounds where the English and the Maori resolved to live in peace.