Ending the Year on a High

Our next stop in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, was a trip into the Kerikeri inlet as far as our draft allowed.  From the anchorage we could take the dinghy about 3km up the winding inlet to the final navigable point at “The Stone Store”, a grand building which dates back to 1830 and is now a museum and gift shop.

The river dries out at low tide in many places, but there is a buoyed channel to follow where the water is deep enough.  From the landing place at The Stone Store there are a few hiking trails and many waterfalls to see on the way, and it was also just a couple of km walk to the lovely town of Kerikeri, the largest town in Northland. This is a productive area with numerous farm shops selling their produce. Local oranges, potatoes, strawberries and lettuces are in plentiful supply. Our favourite was The Old Packhouse with great produce and a nice cafe.


An impressive cloud builds over the riverbank



Not everyone keeps to the channel and pays the price, this is the second boat in as many days stranded on the mud banks


The Mission House was built in 1822 and is New Zealand’s oldest standing building. Primarily built from Kauri wood, it stayed in the Kemp family for 142 years before being gifted to Heritage New Zealand. I loved the beautiful cottage garden and veggie patch.



Coq au Vin!



The impressive Stone Store, built in 1832.



Wharepuke Falls


Rainbow Falls



Charlies Rock

We spent nearly a week in this area, our daily commutes along the river at different states of the tide gave us regular sightings of Harriers circling above and Royal Spoonbills either rummaging in the muddy flats or settling in their tree at high tide.


Spoonbills and Shags share the same roosting tree


The Royal Spoonbill is one of six species worldwide and the only Spoonbill that actually breeds in New Zealand. Their numbers rose to around 2300 by 2012 after plummeting to just 57 birds in 1977 as they are apparently sensitive to disturbance.


Early morning visitors, at one point I counted a dozen!


As I was watching the Swallows I caught sight of a Pied Shag surfacing with a large fish!


He struggled for some time and had several attempts before swallowing it whole



Just outside the inlet is another wonderful stopover at Oihi Bay where there is an interesting walk through Rangihoua heritage park. It’s the site of the first mission settlement and the first Christian service in New Zealand held by Samuel Marsden on Christmas Day 1814.


The Marsden Cross



Smoke from the Australian fires a 1,000 miles away makes our setting sun glow red

After a few days of waterfalls it was time for a change of pace and scenery, with a car rental to visit the oldest living Kauri trees in New Zealand at the Waipuoa Kauri Forest on the West Coast.


The entrance to Hokianga Harbour on the west coast has impressive sand dunes on its northern shore



Tane Mahuta or ‘Lord of the Forest’ is around 2000 years old! It’s difficult to appreciate the scale of him in the photos, he stands at 51.2m tall with a trunk girth of 13.77m!




Another large Kauri in the forest


This is Te Matua Ngahere, or Father of the Forest, the second largest living Kauri in New Zealand. At 29.9m tall he is smaller than Tane Mahuta but with an incredible girth of 16.41m he looked huge.

With the wind swinging to the southern quadrant for a week or two we took the opportunity for a cracking beam reach sail out of the Bay of Islands and headed north to Whangaroa.  On the way we stopped at a beautiful narrow cove called Whanaihe Bay so that we could walk the nearby Mahinepua Peninsula hike.

It was lucky that we came across a farmer on our way along a winding track from the cove, as we discovered we were on private land and it wasn’t a hiking trail!  After a chat about farming he very kindly gave us permission to carry on and even gave us directions.



The Manihepua trail is one of the most beautiful we have hiked



Back on private land



Returning back to Joy


Approaching the narrow entrance to Whangaroa Harbour


Plenty of beautiful Gannets


For Christmas dinner this year we thought we would have a nice plump bird on the BBQ


Word got out we had roast pork left overs

To work off our Christmas dinner we decided to hike to the top of The Dukes Nose rock which stands proud over the anchorage.



A steep climb

By the time we had almost reached the rock face I had just about talked myself out of getting to the top, I’m not really good with heights and knew I would be way out of my comfort zone.  But by the time we got to the difficult bit there were three young ladies waiting at the bottom, they had decided it was too tough for them.  That immediately spurred me on, so I followed Jez up the rock face clinging on to the pole for dear life. It wasn’t long before one of the girls decided it couldn’t be that bad, after all we were probably twice her age, and followed us up.


Pole position. The tree puts the height of the first section into perspective


Views from the top, looking over the narrow entrance to Whangaroa Harbour


Our Christmas anchorage, Joy is far right

Going down was a little scarier as it wasn’t easy to see the footholds and of course it meant looking down. But with Jez guiding my feet as well as his own we got to the bottom safely and I was reminded of several leg muscles I had long forgotten about. To loosen things up we continued on the Stream track for another 2 hour walk until the tide was high enough for us to relaunch the dinghy without dragging it across the mud bank. What a tiring day!


Most of the trails through woodland have boot cleaning and disinfecting stations to help prevent the spread of Kauri dieback disease.


We saw plenty of California Quail with their tiny hatchlings



The trail crosses the stream a few times


We spotted this wasp attacking a bright green stick insect.

Apparently several species of wasp were accidentally introduced between the 1940’s and 1970’s and they are having a devastating impact on their native birds, bats, lizards and insects. Here they have no natural predators and NZ now has the highest density of wasps in the world.  They consume half of the honeydew found in beech forests, an important source of food for many birds including Tui and Bellbirds, as well as lizards and insects. But their threat doesn’t end there, when the wasps are done with the honeydew they turn their attention to insects for a source of protein and have even been known to kill and eat fledgling birds and bats.

The dramatic rock formations around Whangaroa harbour are remnants of ancient volcanoes that erupted 20 million years ago. So for our final ‘high’ of the year we anchored off Whangaroa marina to hike to the top of St Paul’s Rock, named in the 19th Century as it resembled the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral.


St Paul’s Rock seen from the north side of the harbour


The tiny village hall was originally built as a chapel


It’s so sheltered in the harbour that there are bananas growing


The trail to St. Paul’s rock was steep and a bit of a scramble in places, with the last short leg of rock work aided by chains. What an amazing view of the bay and another wonderful lunch stop.


Getting closer to St Paul’s Rock



Feeling on top of the world!


As we look back over another year of long periods at sea and exploring far away places, we feel so lucky to have had such wonderful opportunities and Joy to take great care of us. Wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year!

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