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  • Day40

    Choppy seas but no hot water

    August 18, 2015 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    The reception here called through to see if the Glass Bottomed boat tour would be running and it was, so we booked up and arranged to be picked up by the boat at Ferry Landing - needed to be there about 10.20. We decided to head off just after 9 to grab a coffee before thr trip. We drove to Ferry Landing but found the cafe shut, so went across the harbour on the ferry, arriving just as Mark the boat owner was launching the boat, so I told him we would now be boarding on this side of the harbour and we went off to grab a coffee at the nearby (open!) cafe.

    We were first to board the boat about 15 minutes latyer followed by a family of 5 from California and a German Couple. At the moment the floor was metal, which lefted up to the roof later to reveal the glass bottom.

    We set off and it was a little choppy as we left the harbour at maximum speed 5 knots, but once beyond the speed limit the engines were opened up and it became a bit like a jet boat ride for now. We were told a bit about the logging histroy of the area and how tourism now dominated, with the population of Whitianga growing from 4,000 to 40,000 in summer - its proximity to uckalnd making it a very popular getaway.

    First landmark was Shakespeare's Cliffs, named by Captain Cook as it reminded him of Shakespears Bluff on the cliffs at Dover. The rock was pumice - volcanic and very light - a sample was passed around which felt light enough to float. This softness meant it has been sculpted into very unusual shapes on the cliffs. The end of the cliffs from the side looked like the profile of person - a posh person said Ed and I could see what he meant.

    We then rounded the corner to enter a sea cave, or actually a blow hole since it had no top - you could see the trees growing in the upper parts. It was a popular spot in the summer for people to swim and jump off the rocks - Mark said he ahd once seen a rabbit fall from the top and swim around the corner to the beach!

    The nearby beach was called Cooks Beach and was one of the places Captain Cook landed when he discovered New Zealand. He watched an eclipse of Mercury there enabling him to plot the longitude and latitude of NZ - hence the name of the area, Mercury Bay. Opposite was Buffalo Bay, not because there are buffalos there but because a British ship HMS Buffalo had sunk there years ago.

    We were now in the Marine Reserve, where nothing can be taken out - the local fishermen set up lobster pots right on the boundary hoping to catch some of the protected creatures!

    We headed to Cathedral Cove now, so called because the roof looks like a cathedral. It is a big arch cut through a rock headland by the sea and used in lots of marketing for NZ and beyond and also in many films, notably the second Narnia film. Certainly a spectacular setting. By now, everyone time the boat stopped there was a big swell making it bob around a lot and Ed was feeling sick (the rest of us were a little too). We managed to pose for a family photo with the cave behind and were all smiles despite the swell - you'd never know! Next we passed Hahei beach and Mark raised the floor to reveal the see through keel of the boat below. We immediately saw a shoal of snappers under the boat - they were big, some of them 60cm or so.

    We watched them for a bit and the captain gave Ed a peppermint to suck to ease the sea sickness. We moved across to some offshore islands where the sea was calmer and this wirth the peppermint certainly helped. We saw several seals including a baby one basking on the rocks then saw various fish including Leather Jackets (remarketed as cream fish to make them sound more edible!), Yellow Striped Wrasse and others. The water was clear enough to see the bottom 5 or 6 metres below. There were also Gannets nesting in trees on the island - the trees looked bedraggled because the gannet poo is very acidic and will eventually kill the trees they nest in.

    We then left the shelter of the islands which didn't help Ed and headed for a peculiar rock formation called Champagne Rock, as it looked like a pair of Champagne bottles. Then we went further along through the roughest seas to visit a sea cave, about 15 m high. The boat went right inside and the swell could be seen on the cave walls, probably 3 or 4 metres.

    Ed was moaning byt his stage, but this was then end of the tour and we sped back to the harbour, taking about 30 minutes, but getting calmer as we went so by the time we landed all was well! We got dropped back on Whitianga side so we could have lunch in the coffee shop from earlier. The kids played in the waterfront playground a bit and we looked around the Whitianga Museum. This had won awads and we could see why. It was small but packed with stuff and had some good interactive stuff on New Zealand birds, an old schoolroom, a bach (holiday hut), Captain Cook and other stories about the area.

    We caught teh ferry back across and drove back tot eh campsite and hired a shovel from reception to go to the beach and dig for our hot water spa. We got to the beach about 5 minutes after low tide - perfect timing we thought. However the tide was not far out and some people were returning from around the rocks where the fissures that produce the hot water are and having to wade through the waves. They said their pools were just being washed away by the sea coming in and that the tide just wasn't low enough today. This was bad luck for us, but you can't control nature.

    We went back tot eh campsite and the kids went on the go kart bikes they had there and in the playground which had the obligatory jumping pillow. I went back down to the beach and took a few photos 0 the tide was still as before.

    About 6we went to the Purangi Winery, which did wood fired pizza as well as wine tasting. we were met by the host, a larger than life character in his mid 30's I'd say who's family had had the winery for 60 years - he had been born i Hong Kong. He gave us a free glass oif their cider "to get the party started", then explained the pizza menu - plain margarita or supreme with loads on (including an egg very NZ thing), or pretty much anything we wnated in between. We went for a supreme, half with cheese, half not and a ham and olive with no cheese for Ed. Tash had chicken nuggets an chips. He left the door tot he tasting room open for us (shame we had to drive home, they he did offer for us to freedom camp in the yard!)

    We went through to the restaurant room where there were various communal tables, a table tennis table in the centre, table football, darts and cards. We sat near the fire and I nearly sat on a black cat resting in a chair - we left him there and sat around him. We had a bottle of the winery Chardonnay which was very nice, then the owner came and chatted to us about Fejoia, a fruit NZ folks eat, with the Kiwi Fruit largely for export. Fejoia doesn't keep or travel well, but he had some frozen ones he brought out for us to try along with a Fejoia liqueur, a spritzer, some plum liquer, a port and limoncello as a tasting platter. Again if only we weren't driving!

    The kids played table tennis while the food came - when it did the pizzas were great - seasoned with fresh herbs from the garden. We ate the lot, then kids played more table tennis and darts, then we played a few gmes of cards, then more darts and table tennis before sadly leaving. Food, atmosphere, host all combined to make this the best meal out we had had in NZ - great place, shame it's not closer to home.

    We went hoem and watched Elle dvd (again) then bed.
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