Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Good and bad experiences

This morning, we returned from sailing the islands to our Opua anchorage with Lainey and Tim (my daughter and her fiancé), passing by a huge cruise ship with Tim busily snapping pictures, and we packed for a 2-day exploration of northern New Zealand.

Tim had expressed a real interest in parasailing. So our first stop was in the small town of Paihia 5 km from Opua where they boarded a tour boat, headed out into the bay, and floated high up into the sky reeled off from the back deck of the tour boat.

Unfortunately, float was NOT a term to be used as the driver jerked the ropes quite hard, lifting them high and then dropping them suddenly before lifting again, which really terrified my daughter. She totally hated the whole adrenaline-pumping experience, but Tim had been quite thrilled. They reached a stunning height of 1,200 metres, New Zealand's highest parasail. Through her tears, Lainey didn't even see the amazing view of the Bay of Islands from up high. But we all give her a lot of credit for trying it even though she has a fear of heights.

Flying high...

Coming in for a landing

We decided Coopers Beach, an hour from Pahia, was a nice stop for a breather and a walk on the quiet sandy beach. Then under cloudy skies, our next stop was at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom. Before the last Ice Age, an unexplained act of nature had knocked down huge prehistoric trees which then became entombed in mud and peat swamps. Deprived of oxygen, the trees have been preserved in perfect condition. With Radio Carbon Dating, it has been proven that the Kauri forests grew during the period 30,000 to 50,000 years ago and beyond!

At the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, some of the prehistoric Kauri wood is brought from the swamps and made into many of the cherished beautiful items - from furniture to decorative utensils to tourist tat - that are offered for sale. The wood, with its hues, textures, and sheens that change under differing shades of light, is considered a collectible investment that will one day no longer be available.

Lainey and Tim atop a huge Kauri wood stump

The cafe and information centre was closed for the day but Jordan and I hope to return to this spot in the future when it is open to see the massive Kauri log that has a spiral staircase carved into it leading to the upper level.

We next headed to the upper NW coast of New Zealand to Ninety Mile Beach, which in actuality is only 68 miles long but still impressive! The sand was hard packed so we drove the car onto the beach and along the crashing surf of the shoreline for quite a distance. We also strolled the beach but did not find very many nice shells.

Sand as far as the eye can see...

It was starting to get late so we tried to find accommodation near Ninety Mile Beach at the town of Kaitaia. It was a forest of No Vacancy signs but we finally found 1 available motel. Exhausted and starving, we went directly to the dining room before taking luggage to our rooms. The service in their non-busy dining room was atrocious and we would have left but were afraid of not being able to find anything else open. We waited forever to be served and had to call over the waitress numerous times. Thankfully there was a plus side...the food was absolutely delicious!

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