Took our time driving north up to the Bay of Islands as the holiday traffic makes the going slow. Spent nights in Hamilton and Whangarei, though did not do any touristy stuff. Also only passed thru Auckland on the Route 1 highway without stopping. We'll be back to Auckland to finish our time in New Zealand.
Arrived in Pahia on the western side of the Bay of Islands. It is getting pretty quiet now as everyone has gotten to their Christmas celebration site. Businesses are also starting to close for the holidays. Gone are the days of cold. This is beach weather, and what do you know, we're at the beach ! An interesting tree in the area is called the Christmas tree; it is the Pohutukawa, an evergreen in the myrtle family. It does have a mass of red blossoms that from a distance very much resemble red balls hanging on a Christmas Tree.
The Bay of Islands was one of the first sites for European explorers and settlers. Capt. Cook named it so as there are about 150 islands in the bay. The town of Russell, a 15 minute water taxi ride across the inner bay from Pahia, was the first permanent European port & settlement in New Zealand. It was also the first capital of New Zealand for two years. Russell was also known in its early days as "The Hell Hole of the Pacific" due to the various and sundry activities practiced by the many visiting sailors, and the suppliers of 'goods' to them. Also firsts for New Zealand located there are a church and a 'licensed' hotel; I guess for confessions and to 'sleep it off' ! Today it is a booming megatropolis of about 800 residents ! Oh, I meant to say sleepy little village.
A short walk, of about a mile, from Pahia is the historic site of the Treaty of Waitangi - the first formal treaty between the Maori and the Europeans; it is still referenced in current day legal disputes. Mostly we spent relaxing days enjoying the beach across the street and the wonderful breezes across the water. Christmas Day was spent calling family and friends in Mexico & The States as they celebrated Christmas Eve.
After Christmas we moved inland a few miles to a B&B in Pakaraka. Our hosts Debbie & Mesa were great, as was the fresh produce from their garden; avocados, tomatoes, plums, lemons, lettuce, beans, peas, etc. The avocados were some of the best I've ever tasted - I'd describe them as 'green butter' ! Visited an Ecological Reserve on Aroha Island and were very fortunate to see the rare and elusive Banded Buff Rail. In fact we saw 6 adults and 2 chicks. The trick is to be at the right area at high tide. Then the Rails are forced by the high water from the mangroves where they are usually so well camouflaged they are impossible to see. For Lidia the sightings were a special Christmas present from Mother Nature !
Next is a day trip to the furthest point north in New Zealand, Cape Reinga.
Ciao for now