Saturday 27th February 2016– Bay of Islands

Had a chat with a man yesterday, who swore blind he was getting off on Monday in Sydney. I wish him all the best with that, because we don’t dock there until Tuesday, so he’ll have a hell of a swim ahead of him. He was stridently adamant, to the point of almost being rude, rather sarcastically pointing out that February has 28 days. Apparently he has not twigged that this is a leap year. How can you not know when your holiday ends?! Has he not booked onward travel?! A taxi or a train or anything? Good grief.

Tender port. Oh goody. This means a little extra thinking around corners, because once you go out the door, you’re looking at an hour round trip to come back for anything, so you have to plan very carefully indeed.

Weather: Warm, overcast, humid as hell. Moisture coalescing on the skin like you’re a coke straight out of the fridge. Sea colour: khaki. No wind to speak of.

Getting off was surprisingly straightforward, as it turned out, although the tender took about 15 minutes to get to the dock at Waitangi. The nearest town is Paihia (which, as the very friendly local greeter explained, should be pronounced Pie –here, which, frankly, I had already figured out for myself!). We took the shuttle bus from Waitangi into Paihia and wandered the craft fair and a few shops.

Then we had an early lunch/brunch on the water. And I mean ON the water. ‘Alongside 35’ is built out on a jetty over the bay and the view is spectacular (the restaurant next door is called 35 South, in case you were wondering about the name). The food was surprising in some ways – the guacamole had sweetcorn in it, for starters – but very tasty nonetheless, and I got my chicken in gluten-free bread, which was a nice touch. The chips were SUPERB. Heaven only knows how they were cooked, or what in, but they were phenomenally good.

While we ate, we watched boats going in and out of the marina moorings, including some parasailing trips and jetski tours (?!), as well as the helicopter that landed next to the restaurant to take people on air tours over the Bay. It literally landed on a patch of grass next to the car park. It can’t have been more than ten feet square, with trees on one side and buildings on the other. Quite impressive.

Then we took the shuttle back to Waitangi pier to pick up the boat we were taking to tour the Bay of Islands for three hours.  The mist came down, along with a light rain, so the view was mostly rubbish, with clouds obscuring the tops of the hills and islands we passed, and it was also quite rough (some were unwell, but we were fine), but we went all the way out to the Hole in the Rock (which really is a rock that the sea has carved a hole in), although our boat could not pass through, as it normally would, because it was too bumpy to do safely. Frankly, I was surprised the trip went out at all. There didn’t seem a lot of point given the conditions. On the way back, we met a school of dolphins, which will be most people’s highlight memory of the trip. Then back on the tender and back to the ship for a rest/ shower before dinner.

Next to the bridge between Waitangi and Paihia, there is a ship moored. The story goes that the ship went up river to make deliveries some years ago, and by the time it came back down, the bridge had been built, and so it has been trapped inside ever since. It’s a lovely tale. I hope it is true!

All in all a very pleasant day, although if I had known how rough it would be, and how poor the visibility, I would have sacrificed the boat trip (and the dolphins) and explored Paihia a bit more. It looks like a very pleasant little town.

Before you ask, there is literally nothing at Waitangi except a yacht club, a hotel and the historical site (where the Maoris signed their treaty with the English). And the jetty. We just moored there because Paihia is too shallow for our tenders.

Estapona is on The BBC Travel Show this weekend! Cool! They are talking about Bossaball, which is a new sport that seems to be a mixture of trampolining and volleyball. It looks fun but exhausting.

Tonight the clocks go back. AGAIN. But the sea days will be very, VERY welcome. We are all absolutely shattered. Three ports in three days is hard at the best of times, never mind in this humidity.

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