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  • Writer's pictureTim and Lindsey

A few surprises in the Bay of Islands (Day 123

Sometimes plans don't work out, however it's about seeing the best in a situation and that certainly happened for us today with our trip to Urupukapuka. We had a few surprises in the Bay of Islands.

First on the Fast Catamaran, I asked one of the crew which were the best seats. We then discovered that we were the only passengers – our very own private boat to Urupukapuka Island. How nice is that! We passed many islands and the scenery was quite mystical with rays of sunshine peeking through the early morning clouds. We had intended to do a hop on – hop off trip to a few of the other islands however the wind was too strong for the small boats that cover that excursion. Never mind. We’re have to come back to see some of these amazing islands in the future.

Arrive on Urupukapuka, we popped into the one café on the island for a coffee and chatted to a young lady serving from Finland. One of Tim’s favourite subjects to talk about is the great Education System Finland has, so we had a good discussion with her about this. Time to get trekking.

As usually the tracks were very clearly marked and we had a good map to show us the various routes. We covered quite a lot of the island, up over hills, along cliff edges, through woodland and onto a few isolated coves, all the while hearing the familiar chirps and peeps of the Tui and Fantail birds plus other bird calls we hadn’t come across. We saw a beautiful Kingfisher with very clear yellow and bright blue markings, a Tieke (Saddleback) and quite a few Pukeko (Purple Swamphens). I think Tim and I are turning into a couple of Twitchers!

Before people came to these islands the birds thrived and were plentiful. There were so many, early explorers described the dawn chorus as deafening. Sadly the bird population has severely dwindled since man arrived due to deforestation by both Maori and European settlers and the introduction of predators such as stoats. Since 2005 there is a great project on the island to reintroduce endangered native birds here such as brown teal and the north island robin. More than 15,000 native plants have already been planted to provide food for these birds.

As well as our bird watching, the panoramic views were incredible. There’s so many small islands that make up this delightful area with their golden beaches and lush vegetation covering the craggy rocks. Stunning.

We sat and had our pack lunch on an empty beach cove and after a while moved onto another one. Tim created one of his infamous sand sculptures. Can you see what it is?

It was time to catch our ferry – we had to share the ride with other people this time. We chatted to one of the crew members, had a laugh about Jeff the wicked campervan and then suddenly over the Tannoy system we heard “Dolphins”. We rushed outside, searching on the left then right. Out of the surf I suddenly saw one gliding right by the side of the catamaran – Wow…then there were two. They disappeared, then the crew member we’d been chatting with pointed to the wake “Look, there’s two” And suddenly just beyond there, four dolphins all dived out of the water in unison. I was clicking away on my mobile and was absolutely thrilled to get a photo of them.

The catamaran dropped us off at Russell, a small town round the bay from Paihai. This morning we’d received a message from George, our eldest who had informed his colleague where we were and whose response was “Ah nice! Without a doubt the best part of the country….get a passenger ferry across to Russell for fish and chips on the beach. There is also the Duke of Marlborough pub on the waterfront in Russell which is worth a look”

What great advice. A lovely, quaint and refined small town. We had a wander and came across The Duke of Marlborough tavern, except it wasn’t on the waterfront and not really our cup of tea. Then a young lady informed us that there was a hotel of the same name facing the harbour. Ah – that’s more like it. We sat down, looked up and there was Pete Croot from our local Rugby Club in Oundle! Oh no – it must be his shorter brother. I nearly gave him a hug!

After our delicious fish and chips, we eventually got back to Paihia and then drove across to the West Coast. We are now staying in Jeff our wicked and trusted campervan at The Travellers' Hut which is in the middle of nowhere. It’s run by Christine and Neville, an absolute delightful couple who have given up the town life to live a simpler life. There’s no internet, they have no TV and are the most generous of people, offering us a beer and giving us some eggs from their chucks. Fabulous.

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