Thursday, March 16, 2006

Northland and Dolphins

We've spent the days since Jenna's wedding driving around Northland seeing the sights. New Zealand is home to some extremely gorgeous scenery; the view as you drive down the mountain towards the ocean at Opononi is breathtaking. It is also home to some exceedingly tricky roads to drive; apparently one should never build a road straight if one can build it with endless amounts of curves and loops; I can't think why Canada hasn't realized this yet. In the mountains the roads are narrow and unpredictable, switchbacking the way up and down, making your ears pop every few minutes. In the lowlands the roads have curves that are usually more gentle, following rivers or coastlines.

Two days ago we visited Paihia in the Bay of Islands; an extremely touristy place but well worth visiting. The highlight of our visit to Paihia was a half-day cruise out to Cape Brett and the Hole in the Rock (there is an island at the outside edge of the Bay of Islands where the Pacific ocean pounds endlessly; at this point the ocean has worn a hole in the rock that is big enough to take a boat through. However, we were denied the thrill of making our way through the hole in the rock as the seas were too rough (and seeing the ocean heave and toss and crash against the rocks, I wasn't a bit sorry!). For me the highlight of the trip was finding a pod of dolphins which we paused to watch; they seemed to enjoy showing off for us, jumping through the waves and swimming under the boat. Very cool!

The day before that we spent on horseback, trekking through the hills of New Zealand. We stopped four times, once to climb to the top of a hill for a gorgeous view, once for lunch, once to visit a cave with glowworms, and once to swim our horses through a swimming hole. Let me just say that I was glad to be on a horse for our journey; it involved so much up and down that my back is still sore from all of the side to side heaving that is entailed when a horse walks down a really steep hill. The first stop where we climbed a bit really drove home for me how hard my poor horse was working!

I was very proud of myself for actually going in to see the glowworms in the cave (I think I have a touch of claustrophobia). I don't know what I'd been expecting, but climbing down a precarious ladder with the aid of a knotted rope, into a very tight space where we had to scramble over boulders one by one, was not it.

Swimming my horse Mekito was a lot of fun; though I didn't quite grasp the necessity of hanging on to the top of his mane on the first time through; only sheer determination kept me on when he got out of the water. The second time around he fixated on a point on the far bank where he would have had to climb up three and a half feet of a sheer boulder; fortunately I was able to dissuade him and get him to try again a few feet further down where is was actually possible to get out of the river. I'd never done anything like that before; it was fun!

Now we're staying in Kaikohe, visiting with Jenna and her husband Stephen. In theory we're going to a beach later today, but they are seizing the opportunity of having her mother out of the house to unpack the wedding gifts, so we'll have to see if we still have time.

Happy St. Patrick's day everybody!


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