We have done well to reserve in advance for everything. It makes travel seem a little less spontaneous and free but it saves a lot of hassle. Being summer here in the southern hemisphere it is high season which means everywhere is booked solid; hotels, busses, sailing schools. Good thing for us we had it all sorted out before we had to run around with our packs from hotel to hotel looking for a vacancy like we have seen so often on this trip. Given the short duration of our stay, we want to make the most of our time here.
On Monday we started our sailing course. Our instructor was an English girl name Jenny, here in NZ on a working holiday visa. The program last 5 days. The first two days are instruction toward our Yachting NZ level 1 certificate. We went over the fundamentals of sailing as well as proper anchoring and harbor etiquette; much of which I was already exposed to growing up and working in a fishing community. It was good to get a refresher though, and for Luci it was all new. Jenny said we caught on very quickly and by the end of the second day we could handle the boat on our own. The last three days we took the boat (a Davidson 20 foot) out on our own, within the confines of the Bay of Islands and stayed aboard in various anchorages.
It really is a beautiful and unique place. The only thing I could compare it to is a sub-tropical version of coastal Maine. Much of the vegetation and bird life here are native to NZ. Our fist night, we anchored at Marsden Cross, a remote and secluded beach on the mainland. It was the sight of the first Christian service in NZ, Christmas day, 1814. There is a reserve for the native and very rare Kiwi bird there. Though we didnít see any of them, we could hear them at night. The next day we shot across the bay along the outer limit line and saw multitudes of birds including gannets which dive from high in the air into the water to catch fish and little blue penguins, a warm water cousin of the penguins we have around McMurdo in the summer. That night we anchored at Urupukapuka Island, one of several islands in the bay set aside as wildlife reserves. We went ashore and did some walking and did some swimming from the boat. On our last day we cruised down the main passage between the islands and the mainland and saw several pods of porpoise along the way. In the afternoon, went ashore briefly in the town of Russell to see the small historical museum there.
We made it back to the charter pier not a minute too late. We are back at the Mousetrap now, a beautiful little Hostel with a maritime theme and a nice view of the bay. We are here for a few days doing laundry and getting our land legs back. Tomorrow we are going to the Treaty House where the history Treaty of Waitangi between the Maori and European settlers was signed. It is a place of cultural and historical significance to all Nzlanders that we missed when we were here last year. On Monday we have the bus booked to take us back to Auckland where we fly out to Australia to begin the next part of our trip.