A Travellerspoint blog

This blog is published chronologically. Go straight to the most recent post.


sunny 78 °F

The Bay of Islands is a region north of Auckland made up of coastline and 150 little islands. Every morning we wake up to this beautiful sunrise.

This morning after a little schooling, we hit the road for a day trip. Henry is becoming a great navigator. Sue benefits from his reminders to "keep left" or "swing wide when you turn right." We drove a couple of hours west, often on dirt roads, without much competition for the frequent single-lane bridges.

Our first destination: Wairere Boulders--a beautifully designed hike through basalt boulders that have unique fluting caused by acid dripping from the kauri trees for the past thousand years. It was on a piece of private property owned by an eccentric elderly couple--a Swiss/Kiwi woman and her husband who played guitar and had a long beard. We dubbed him "Jazz Santa".

There was a seek-and-find hunt prepared for little kids. Six animals throughout the hike that were hidden in rock formations and crazy trees. Pearl was the perfect target audience, and that, along with walking on top of boulders, through caves, and shimmying through crevices, kept her from any complaints.



Entrance to a cave

After our adventure, we drove to Hokianga Harbour which leads out to the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand. We were in search of the little village of Rawene, recommended to us by our Kiwi friend Donna Rowsell. Wow, this place is remote! (I was glad we had a full tank of gas.) But when we finally arrived we were amazed by its beauty. A very unspoiled huge harbor with only a sprinkling of buildings and a couple of fishing boats dotting the waters. This is where you go to get away from it all.

The one restaurant in the village had a surprisingly highbrow menu. Luckily they always serve breakfast, so both kids and mom found something to make them happy.


Some of you might be wondering where Dave is while the three of us explore NZ. He is in Europe on tour with the CSO. Here is a video showing what a CSO musician does on tour:

Check out Henry's bird blog. He's having a blast learning new species!

Posted by skwclar 21:41 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)


sunny 82 °F

Today we eschewed classic 3R's and tried a new version of schooling: learning science and history while sailing the Bay of Islands on a full-day cruise.

We boarded our seaworthy vessel at 9:30am

and spent the next 7 hours touring around the beautiful coast, islands, and open sea.

Among the things we saw were:

  • A huge school of tuna that were violently rippling the surface of the water, and birds that were feasting on the unsuspecting chickens of the sea
  • A beautiful lighthouse overlooking the furthest island in the bay--according to the captain, the master of the lighthouse brewed his own beer which was "a fine drop"
  • Fairy penguins, sharks, and eagle rays
  • The mansion of the owner of Sky TV complete with private bay and helipad
  • "Hole in the Rock" through which our adept skipper navigated


  • Gannets on their own private island


Only in New Zealand could we have a picnic lunch on a tropical beach with palm trees and snorkeling conditions, yet watch sheep grazing on the hill behind us.

To round out our picture perfect day, our skipper found a huge pod of Bottlenose Dolphins. The captain was full of interesting and useless information, such as the dolphins' promiscuous habits and difficulty telling gender due to their need to "tuck the bits up" in order to be streamlined. Those dolphins were incredibly friendly--jumping out of the water, looking at our boat, and even rubbing on the side of our boat (we also didn't have any "bits" showing)

Upon our return to our motel, I suggested to Henry that it might be a good time to practice trumpet. He did. But spent the next 30 minutes playing improvisatory dirge variations on the "Volga Boatman." An appropriate ending of our seafaring day.

For you bird-lovers, check out Henry's blog. He had a great day!

Posted by skwclar 00:57 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Waitangi Treaty Grounds

sunny 74 °F

This afternoon we visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds--a pivotal place in New Zealand's history where a treaty between the British Crown and the Maori people was signed.

Maori Meeting House

First we were treated to a traditional song and dance ceremony. The Maori performers had buckets of charisma--think Disneyworld's Tiki Room does Maori history lesson.

Afterwards, the kindly performers posed for the tourists to snap photos.

Who's that skinny guy???

Inside the Meeting House

The treaty grounds have sweeping views of the bay just north of our town of Paihia. The flags of New Zealand, England, and the Maori fly together on the flagpole.

After the show, we were led on a tour of the grounds by a descendant of a legendary Maori leader. She spoke eloquently about the politics between the Maori and the British--gave us LOTS of information. Thank goodness for endless snacks and madlibs. (thank you Cate Maidlow)

All jokes aside, it was a fascinating day learning about the South Pacific cultural origins of New Zealand, a country that one doesn't necessarily equate with the rest of Polynesia.

Posted by skwclar 19:04 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Kia Ora

sunny 78 °F

Today we traveled by bus to the far north of New Zealand. It was a long day full of beautiful scenery, fun activities, and some wiggles and whining. Among many snacks, Pearl consumed an entire bag of Cheetos-style puffs, family size. Where does she put it?

We really won the jackpot with our tour guide. Our bus driver Barry could spin a great yarn. He had a story for every moment and filled the 11 hours with history and nature facts, as well as off-topic subjects such as "dead vs. passing away." Barry was a true character. He seemed to have "cousins" sprinkled throughout our tour route and spoke fluent Maori with them. A lovable, kooky guy who reminded me of a Maori/Kiwi version of my crazy Uncle Norman. Barry taught all of us that "Kia Ora" means "be well" in Maori.

Our first stop was to take a look at giant Kauri trees. They can live up to 4000 years old. Legend has it that if you hug a Kauri, its spirit will enter your soul.

Next up was a visit to the most northerly accessible point in New Zealand: Cape Reinga. This is a sacred site for the Maori. A place to pray and give thanks for your blessings, give thanks for ancestors you have never met and remember the dead for how they lived, rather than how they died.

As we drove north, we wound through carsick-inducing roads, gaining altitude. Just as we approached the cape, our driver Barry began singing a beautiful Maori prayer. From the bus windows, we watched the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean gradually meet to become one at the top of New Zealand. It was an incredibly moving moment.

Notice the turbulence where the two waters meet

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga

After visiting this spiritual place, it was time to lighten up and have some fun!

First stop of the afternoon: sand-boarding down the sand dunes of Te Paki. Everyone started with a little warm-up run down the baby hill before tackling the big dune. The biggest lesson we learned: keep your mouth shut for the ride! At one point Pearl did a hot-dog-roll-wipe-out, but stood up sandy and smiling!

After getting dusted off, Barry drove the bus down 90 Mile Beach, which is officially a national highway (at least during low tide) with 100 km speed limit.

Check out Pearl's blog for video of sand boarding.

Dave is currently in Luxembourg finishing up the CSO tour. He joins us in New Zealand in three days. Last night the CSO horn section enjoyed a post-concert dinner together. Many thanks to Todd Rosenberg for the photo.

Posted by skwclar 22:37 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

Kayaking the Bay of Islands

sunny 77 °F

Apparently there is quite a storm system coming in overnight, so we took advantage of our final beautiful day in the Bay of Islands with a kayak trip to a small island.

My first mate

The skipper of his own vessel

Henry was thrilled to spot an endangered species on the island. More about that on his blog. http://worldbirding.travellerspoint.com/

We discovered our own private cove and beach. And luckily through it all, I didn't drop my camera into the water.

Tonight I had my first encounter with grilling jargon. "Are you having trouble lighting the barbie?" Such a better word than grill.

Right before bedtime Henry went out birding for kiwis in a protected area. Unfortunately, no kiwis spotted, but he heard their calls. We have four more weeks to find one.

Dave has started his grueling 36-hour trip to the other side of the planet: from Luxembourg to New Zealand. Looking forward to seeing my husband and parenting partner on Tuesday. Hats off to all you single parents.

Posted by skwclar 00:26 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

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