New Zealand, Bay of Islands

Bay of Islands, New Zealand
February 7, 2017

The approach to Bay of Islands reminds me of Puget Sound . There are many, many very green islands. As in Puget Sounds, sailboats dance all around the waterways. In fact, Bay of Islands is an area in New Zealand’s North Island which encompasses more than 140 subtropical islands. As we get closer, I can see that the greenery is made up of giant fern trees and other tropical vegetation, not pines. We have to take tenders into one of the small towns, Paihia, to explore the Waitangi Estuary by sea kayak.

Mangrove forests line most of the estuary and the sound of insect songs rise and fade. The three, young energetic guides (two Kiwis and a Canadian) act as our guides. They are full of stories as well as information. They promise to show us “North Island penguins”, which turn out to be large numbers of black and white cormorants. The cormorants inhabit “New Zealand Christmas trees”, which the guides tell us have wonderful red blooms in the summer, which of course, is during their Christmas.

One of the guides invites us to paddle below one of these trees. He has a mischievous grin and we see that the tree has a large number of cormorants perched in it. “Come enjoy some New Zealand snow”, he says. Sure enough, as if one cue, one of the birds lets loose and nearly dumps all over him. He very good naturedly says it’s good luck to get snowed upon.

If these three guides and their coworkers at the kayak office are any indication of what other Kiwis are like, this is a land of cheerful, friendly folks. Even though there are some people in our group who have never kayaked before, a lady whose bottom is so generous that she barely fits into the kayak seat and several older folks, the guides are all about “no worries” and having fun. Everybody has a good time.

At the midpoint of the paddle, we reach Haruru Falls. It was New Zealand’s first river port and aramoana (sea road or ocean path) for the Maori tribes. Though not large, it was fun to take photos nears the falls, then west romp through some serious mud to get to a shady grassy area of a resort to break for water, juice and a really funny assortment of New Zealand snacks.

One of the snacks that was a real hit with we Americans was chicken flavored crisps (potato chips). It tasted like Lipton chicken soup, only a potato chip. Also funny was that instead of a picture of a chicken on the package, it has a cartoon penguin. There were some chocolate orange snack bars that the absolutely adorable young woman guide confessed were her downfall, and juices that included unique combinations such as raisin-passion fruit.

After snacks, Barry and I were free to kayak back on our own. How glorious, the kayak gliding though the water, the insect sounds, the sun and salt and New Zealand. I am just loving it all!

We caught a shuttle bus into town for some local brews, Tui and Chomp, nice and cold. There were a couple of old guys whom I suspect had already had a beer or two before the ones they were currently enjoying. They were sitting next to two empty seats where Barry and I hoped to perch to enjoy the opened sidewalk view. One of these guys was blocking the way for us. It was a little noisy and when repeated taps on the shoulder didn’t get the guy’s attention, Barry put a hand on each of his shoulders from behind and asked if he would scoot over.

The fellow’s quick response was such a surprise, “Ah! When I feel two hands on my shoulders the next thing I expect is a finger up me bum!” Then his buddy said something about needing a bar of soap! Oh my god! Then they had a great laugh together. Fun loving and bawdy bunch, these Kiwis! They wished us cheers and had more be-arrrs.

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