Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tauranga, New Zealand, December 3

While the boat was in Opua, Amy explored Auckland for a few days and Tom and Ellen took a trip south to Whangerei to visit friends. We also took the boat out to the historic old whaling port of Russell, which was known as “the hellhole of the Pacific” in the 1830s, and visited the monument and treasures at Waitaingi, the site of the initial treaty between the British and the Maori.
Though we have been travelling for months, there really hasn’t been much in the way of tourist attractions to see, so we are gobbling up the history, culture, museums, restaurants, bars and cafes of the First World. New Zealand’s offerings are numerous but so far, underwhelming. We have to keep reminding ourselves the total population of the country is only 4,000,000. We are interested in the flora and fauna here. The native species are quite different from anything we have seen before. The birds are fearless and rule the land and sea –which is understandable given that there were no land mammals in New Zealand until humans arrived less than a thousand years ago.
On November 20, we headed south along the coast for the 200 mile trip to Tauranga, our home for the next several months. We had mostly sunny days and nonstop vistas of rocky coasts, rocky islands, green forests, blue sea and sightings of gannets, penguins, dolphins, whales. Daytripping, we anchored in beautiful harbors, some uninhabited, some with dwellings. We spent Thanksgiving at Great Barrier Island, hiking (known here as tramping), swimming (in cold water), and eating a fairly traditional dinner. There was a knock on the boat…it was the sheep farmer from across the harbor, out to introduce himself. Turns out he sheared sheep in North America as a young man and left behind a son, now 20 or so, in Vancouver, Washington. He offered us his car ----which was about 5 miles away, and you could only get to the car by boat----to tour around the parts of the island you could see by road.
One thing you can say about the Kiwis is they won’t let you be a stranger. The other is their sensitivity to temperature is different from ours. We will be shivering in our synthetic layers and they will be swimming in the sea or wearing shorts, singlets (tank tops) and jandals (flip flops).
Arriving in Tauranga, a city of about 100,000, was dramatic. There is a mountain at the entrance to the harbor. Right below the mountain is white sandy beach with one of the country’s top surfing spots. Just behind the beach is the lovely suburb of Mt. Manganui, kind of like La Jolla, CA. Around the mountain is the port – New Zealand’s largest export port, they say, shipping lumber, kiwi, avocadoes and other agricultural goods in BIG ships from all over the world. Next to the port is the marina. Just beyond the marina is the bridge to the city, with a downtown full of shops and an entertainment district.
We have spent the week orienting ourselves and making contacts with the tradespeople who will be doing work on the boat. We’ve done more sightseeing. On Dec. 5, we will all fly home to Seattle. We will head off to see grandson Quinn in Maine and visit my mother in Florida, and then be back in Seattle Christmas through February 5. Looking forward to seeing family and friends!

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