05 – 10 December: Russell & Matauwhi Bay – 35 18S 174 07W
The celebrations continued for a few days as more and more yachts arrived into Opua. This was the light at the end of the tunnel for many boats after a long long passage across the vast Pacific Ocean. We spent a week in the Bay of Islands Marina washing layers of salt off the outside, cleaning and sorting out the inside of Balvenie. Laundry was done (ah the joys of washing machines) sim cards were activated, Wi-Fi connections made to reconnect with the world. Then came the task of restocking the lockers with all our old kiwi favourites and undertaking taste tests to find new ones. We were back “in the land of stuff”, and didn't our wallets know it.
We left the marina after a week and headed off 4 miles back out the Veronica Channel to Russell, gosh I like these little short hops! This has always been a favourite spot for us to visit, although this was the first time we had arrived on our own boat. Russell was settled long before Captain Cook arrived in 1769 and thrived as a provisioning stopover, mainly for whaling ships. It expanded quickly in the early 1800’s and for a time became known as the Hellhole of the Pacific, it once had the most public houses (pubs) in NZ and was the countries first capital.
The restored historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel has prime position on the waterfront and was issued the first hotel license in New Zealand in 1840. When the whaling ships left and the capital was relocated to Auckland things quietened down considerably. Most visitors arrive now as day-trippers by ferry from nearby Paihia and discover a charming compact sleepy seaside town with handsome historic buildings lining the bay.
We enjoyed a few nights anchored outside the moored boats, the ferry wash during the day does get a little annoying but tolerable, if you want to take a mooring call Russell Radio on VHF63 and they will allocate you one if there is anything available, they take payment too.
New to the Blog …….. Worthwhile Walks
We are keen on keeping fit and jumping off the back of Balvenie for a swim and snorkel just isn’t an option until the water warms up considerably. So for now we will enjoy walking, both for exercise, spotting birdlife and seeing the countryside. Now that we are home we will share worthwhile walks we enjoy and try to give a few directions so if you want to follow in our footsteps you wont get (too) lost. Warning though, we do like hills and we walk fast. The DOC signs I refer to are the yellow and green Department of Conservation ones, they normally indicate times of walks and level of fitness required, sometimes they have a map.
From Russell Wharf to Tapeka Pa via Maiki Hill Flagstaff (3hrs – shorter options detailed, good hills)
From Russell Wharf turn left along the waterfront, past the Duke of Marlborough along road. Turn right at junction before car park then left straight away and follow the road up the steep hill. (If you just want to go to the Flagstaff take this road to end then footpath through bush). On the left there is a marked DOC bush track on the left off the road, it is detailed as alternative route to the Flagstaff, take this downhill to the T junction. (You can go left here back to Russell only at Low tide). Turn right up the hill to the road. Continue up road, another marked track on your left offers a side trip down to a small beach about 10-15mins return. Back on road another 100 metres on right is track up to Flagstaff. Lovely view, also short track across to Sundial up here, in between these two in the car park is track on right which takes you back to original steep road and Russell. To continue to Tapeka Pa retrace steps from Flagstaff down short track to road and turn right then left along main road. Take care, there is no footpath but it is not a busy road. Along here a way on the right is a marked private track open to the public, it goes down through the bush and there is a boardwalk through wetlands, it re-joins the road just before Tapeka. This is a small coastal settlement with no shops. Follow road to right then around to left then there is a DOC track sign on left at top of road, some uphilling then levels off, this takes you out to the end of the peninsula for a wonderful view of the islands. Return same way to Tapeka. From there is a low tide only walk back to Russell along rocks, we were there at low tide but the track wasn't obvious to us so we returned via the road to Russell.
Here Comes Summer!!