Hi. We're in a cafe in Wellington, which is the only place I can get internet, owing to conditions that are too tedious to relate. Here is my post about last week. There's another one in the pipeline, not quite finished, and of course, we're having adventures in Wellington. Tomorrow being Yom Kippur, there will be a day of rest, and then I'll try and sort it all out. In the meantime, I present: The Bay of Islands.
When last you heard from the intrepid travelers, we were in Rivendell the Wiapoua Lodge, lapped in luxury.
We've come a long way since then. All the way down to Wellington, in fact, where we are ensconced in the back bedroom of a friend's house--which is perched high on one of the hills upon which Wellington is built. The room is a lovely deep red with green taffeta curtains and deep blue chairs, and plenty big enough for us and all our luggage, which seems--at this point in the trip--to consist mostly of paper-wrapped packages and souvenirs. Yes, we're inveterate souvenir buyers. Who out there is surprised? I didn't think so.
Having explored the depths of the forest primeval, we thought we should give the sea, if not equal time, at least a day or two. After breakfasting on museli and fruit on the balcony at Tarletrons, we packed the car, backed out of their vertiginous driveway, and bought two tickets on Dolphin Cruises 4-hour boat tour of the Bay of Islands. The sun was being very coy, ducking behind clouds just when you were beginning to think it would carry on shining for a while, and the wind was playing cat and mouse with us. In the Bay itself, it was pretty calm, though, and we stood on the top deck and watched the angular, wooded, deserted islands go by.
I said I loved archipelagos, when I was in Finland. Yep. Still love them. It's amazing how many variations the world can offer on the theme. The islands in the Bay are sharp where the Finnish islands were rounded, with cliffs plunging down to a crescent of sand where the Finnish islands had tumbles of boulders right down to and scattered into the water. Both were thickly wooded with evergreen trees, but the New Zealand trees are sinuous, fleshy-leaved, twiggy or fronded where the Finnish trees are upright, needled, clean-branched. But the water between is still that cold, greeny-blue of deep salt water that foams up pale green and white in the boat's wake. And the gulls and terns on both sides of the world wheel and balance in the stipstream, hoping for tourist handouts.
We saw no dolphins or whales, sadly--this is not our trip for wildlife. We did, however, see the Hole In the Rock, a natural funnel worn by the waves in a high and craggy island at the extreme eastern edge of the archipelago, which Maori boys climbed to prove they were men and an old woman spent the end of her life in a cave, watching the sea for whatever it could tell her.
According to John, our Maori guide, old women were very important in traditional Maori culture. They formed the first ring of defense if a village (a pa) was attacked, they went out into the woods to observe what animals ate what plants and when and how things grew, they sat on hilltops, honoring the gods and watching for danger. They couldn't do much about the cannon and disease the European sailors brought with them, but they did the best they could. So did the elders and chiefs. The treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840, was a wildly imperfect document, but at least it acknowledged that everybody involved was human, and formed the basis for some kind of dialogue, which is becoming at least slightly more equitable as time advances.
We stopped in Russell for lunch. There's nothing quite as odd as a tourist town just off-season--lots of things are closed, but lots of people are busy painting and repairing in preparation for the hoards of tourists to come. We found a restaurant open--The Duke of Wellington, a 1920's watering hole replete with kauri panelling and 60's wallpaper. Lunch was excellent. We stuck our noses in a few shops, caught the 2:30 ferry, and by 4:00 were wending our way past beautiful vistas of open grey ocean and pointy rocks and reed marshes towards Puhoi.
Where my next post picks up. I just have to finish it.