November and early December were very changeable months weather-wise, it is still Spring in New Zealand and although we have had some wonderful sunny days at 25 degrees C it can get quite chilly at night when it drops below 20 (that’s a teeth-chattering temp for us tropical softies). A few blustery storms have come and gone and we have ducked and dived, tucking ourselves into some protected anchorages. The Kiwi’s however are much hardier folk, swimming in the sea regardless of the weather with just swimwear and no wetsuits. We didn’t even do that in Tonga!
With Prince Charles and Camilla visiting Northland, we took the opportunity to join the crowd at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and welcome them to New Zealand. Afterall it was free entry and although we have been before we rather fancied wandering around the beautiful grounds a second time.
With so many trails to hike, we have been out walking most days and quite often all day. Our longest trail so far was the 21km coastal loop from Russell to Paihia which involved two ferry rides. We left the boat anchored off Paihia and caught the ferry to Russell, then joined the trail which goes through ancient forests and across boardwalks in the mangrove swamps ending up at the Okiato car ferry. Here the ferry took us the short distance across the bay to Opua, where we joined the 12km coastal trail back to Paihia.
We have also been back out to the islands in the Bay, exploring new anchorages and islands and revisiting the wonderful island of Urupukapuka to walk more of its trails. The looped hikes on this island take you through farmland, woods, across cliffs and along beaches. They even have a bird-watching hide to view an inner lagoon where we spotted some brown teal, also known as Pateke, which are apparently recovering from threat having been reintroduced into predator-free islands such as this one. As we watched the teal a swamp harrier landed on the far side of the lagoon and stomped around in the water before hopping into the long grass. We think he may have been eating a fish that he’d caught.
We also made use of the protection in a small anchorage called Awaawaroa Bay on Moturua Island when a north-westerly set in for a couple of days. From here we could dinghy to the next bay to get onto the island trail and stretch our legs.
And last but certainly not least, we have spotted this bird on both islands and even watched a parent feed its fledgling on a branch. But they have been rather shy, and are quick movers, so we haven’t managed to get a photo until now.
We haven’t managed to catch sight of a Kiwi yet (the feathered variety), although they are on many of these islands and in controlled areas on the mainland. They are a nocturnal bird so I guess we need to stay out a little later next time.