Boating with Ben in the Bay of Islands

After our last night in Auckland, we packed up and started to head north towards the Bay of Islands and the boat. We had a couple of stops to make along the way, though, to capture the full New Zealand experience. The first was a meat pie, for late breakfast, which turned out to be a slightly harder project than expected when the first two bakeries we went to were closed. We walked the cat around Newmarket and ducked into several cafes, and were tempted by delicious-looking food on their tables, but we held strong to our mission and made it back to the car. Eventually we found Daily Bread in Ponsonby, which both sold pies and was open, and we were glad we had waited.

Our second stop was a tree. Our tour guide had told us about the Tane Mahuta, which had shocked the arriving polynesian explorers with its size, to the point where it immediately entered into legend as a deity. Tane Mahuta, the God Tree, holds up the sky to make space for our world. It would add a couple of hours to our drive back to the marina, but there aren’t many places in this world where you can visit a living god. So we drove north and west out of Auckland. It turned out to be a very pretty drive, and we stopped at a couple of viewpoints to stretch our legs and enjoy.

As we got nearer, we looked up the park and realized that the God Tree has office hours. We were in danger of missing them, so we fairly raced down the winding forest roads, snacking in the car instead of stopping for food. Fortunately, Jazz was driving, so we felt reasonably safe from tickets. We arrived just minutes before the posted closing time, parked Captain in the well-shaded car, and ran in to find that the online times were wrong, and we had a full extra half hour! They close at 5, not 4:30.

We’ve written before about Kauri dieback; they are understandably very protective of the God Tree, so we washed our shoes coming and going, and only set foot on the boardwalk that keeps visitors above the forest floor.

As advertised, Tane Mahuta is huge. It’s hard to get a sense of the scale from the photos; the park service maybe understandably doesn’t let you approach very close. But you can see some people in the third photo.

With the sense of urgency lifted, Jazz handed the keys off to Ben, after six and a half hours of driving. We had a little ways to go to get home, but plenty of daylight with sunset after 9, so we stopped and walked around the next viewpoint. A rooster tried to pick a fight with Captain, who was tentatively interested in playing but definitely would have lost. Also note the picnic table: there are lots of rest stops along the road with views and picnic areas. It’s nice.

We stopped for dinner at Bad Habits in Pahia, where we got steaks and Captain got all kinds of attention. Then we made a last stop for groceries, taking turns keeping the Cat company in the car. Adding several days of provisions created an interesting packing problem with all our luggage in the trunk, but we got it done, mostly by stacking it on various laps.

We made it back onto the boat, got everything tucked away, and called it an early night, because we had to be off the dock at nine.

We got up in the morning, and motored out into the Bay of Islands.

The plan had been to set up in Russel to watch the fireworks, but it looked like we were about to get some strong weather that would make getting east unpleasant. So instead, we went all the way east to Otaio bay on Urupukapuka island, where we squandered a brief stint of good weather on being tired from our Auckland journey. We did see the fireworks, but only as a red glow at the top of the next island over.

And then the rain started, and we broke out the games, and Captain settled in for some light reading.

We tried to go to shore for a walk, in a break in the rain. And then the break broke, and we got doused. Here’s Andrew running just to get ya-yas out, and a sign that explicitly mentions not to bring your adventure cats to shore. We felt so seen! And also the island is a bird sanctuary.

The next break in the rain, we moved the boat one island west, just to get a different view. And that, and cooped up on the boat, was all that we got.

The following day, we moved the boat to Russel. At this point, the forecast was showing rain indefinitely, so we figured we could at least go into town and get off the boat a little. We had a brief visit from dolphins, but we suspect we weren’t moving fast enough to be interesting, because they shot off again.

And we did get a break in the rain, and dinghied into Russel, which proved to be a cute town. There’s a tiny museum, the highlights of which are a stuffed penguin and some model ships.

Our plan of hiding from the rain didn’t work out well, because every other tourist on the island had had the same idea. But we managed to at least get a table with an umbrella. Andrew tried to make friends with the locals.

Once we were back on the boat, we were treated to a solid two days of rain. Not the weather we were hoping for, but this is why they say about visiting sailors, you can pick either the place of the time! We picked a time, so the place ended up being inside the boat. At least we had a great collection of games.

And then it was time to drive Ben to the airport. We moved the boat closer to the dock, in light drizzle, and drove him to the airport. Where, mirroring the start of his trip, his flight to Auckland was canceled: fog. They substituted a bus, but that meant he’d miss his next flight, and we spent some time in the airport juggling phones to find him a hotel. On the way home, a worn out Andrew and Jazz picked up pizza.

And thus ended the Time of Ben.

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