So, to the Bay of Islands... We had a wonderful, sunny day exploring the islands on a 65-foot yacht. More breathtaking views and a couple of crystal clear lagoons that were almost warm enough to swim in. It was an interactive trip, so if you wanted to have a go at sailing you could (I was happy sunbathing, funnily enough.) Roland got volunteered into helping with some of the rope pulling, not the natural choice perhaps, but maybe he's growing some sea legs as he didn't get sea-sick for once (either that or those ginger tablets Sharon gave us are miraculous).
We had an unusual night out in Paihia at the ex-servicemen's club which our skipper had recommended to us as a local favourite. It had a great Saturday night atmosphere and we certainly felt we were off the tourist trail there - a fun night, and delicious steak that was better than many we had in Argentina!
After a morning soaking up the rays, we headed off on another long drive (we were determined to fit everything in before leaving New Zealand!) to The Coromandel, another gorgeous area along the coast. We stayed in one of our favourite hostels here - Black Jack lodge. A really relaxed place, set in pretty gardens, just across from the beach with a nice deck for sitting out and reading, while enjoying a glass of that lovely dry Riesling we'd bought from Marlborough.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here and reluctantly left, via a visit to New Chums beach. According to The Observer, this is one of the world's most beautiful remote beaches. It's not accessible by road so you have to scramble over rocks and clamber over tree roots and forest paths to reach it, but it's worth the effort and certainly is a very special place. The locals are currently up in arms about a proposed development which would also include a track to the beach. Ironically, that's how we found out about the place as there was a news piece about it a few weeks ago. I hope they're successful in opposing the development as it would be such a shame for the beach to lose its isolation, with only a handful of people there at any one time and where you currently can't see a single car or building from the shore.
From there it was back to Tauranga for a night at Jason and Sarah's - more warm Kiwi hospitality - and this time we were early enough to meet little Ruby, who is adorable. Dentist Sarah left Roland's teeth alone this time - although we did manage to leave behind our toothbrushes, appropriately enough.
Next day, we enjoyed some beach time at Mount Maunganui. Then it was finally time to say goodbye to Rob's car, which we'd grown very attached to... Back to reality with a bus ride back to Auckland and then a fun last proper night out in New Zealand at the 'Taste of Auckland' event. If any of you have ever been to the 'Taste of London' thing, it's the same idea - the city's top restaurants have a stand and serve taster portions of their signature dishes. There are also lots of the rest of the country's wine, beer and food producers. A very tasty evening! I even got to contribute to art history (kinda). They were promoting an exhibition of the European Masters currently on at Te Papa museum, and had an enlarged paint-by-numbers reproduction for members of the public to complete - well, I did do A-level art!
And then, on 20th November, the time had come to leave New Zealand. We were really rather sad to leave - it's a brilliant place and we had a great couple of months there. But, the promise of a new country to discover was a bit of a silver lining. I'll keep our first Oz entry for our next batch of blogs.
Until then, have a cup of mulled wine and sing a festive carol for us. Hope the snow isn't causing too many problems, we'll be well jealous if you get a white Christmas this year!
lots of love
Helene and Roland xxx