The weather remained calm and clear as we motored into the Bay of Islands and up the river leading to the customs dock at Opua. We were briefly joined by some passing dolphins and received a "welcome to New Zealand" from Des at Russell Radio when we called-in to update our arrival time, all adding to the growing anticipation.
Customs and quarantine were completed in a blur of officials boarding Kika, form filling, passport stamping and confiscating fresh food and Panamanian pop-corn. All very efficient, friendly and straightforward.
Though the marina looked inviting we anchored off; it seemed a shame to start paying marina fees, which we've carefully avoided since the Canaries - not difficult in the Pacific - marinas are few and far between. We completed the day in true Kiwi style thanks to Kathleen, a New Zealander we met on-board Quantum Leap, who invited us for a welcome to New Zealand "fush and chups" supper.
The following morning we found the river obscured by mist and caught sight of our breath in the cabin - a first for us since leaving the UK. We're not equiped for such weather - winter/spring clothing needs purchasing. It's certainly a change from the unrelenting sun of the tropics. Fortunately the diesel heater fixed itself (I wish that would happen more often) and as the morning sun burnt off the fog, we enjoyed the emerging view from the comfort of a cosy boat. The landscape appears to be a mix of Cornwall, Scotland and Ireland; boats swinging on moorings in estuaries bordered by soft green rolling hills. It's hard to believe we're half-way round the world - the landscape, weather and temperature are so familiar, on the other hand the birds, trees and foliage feel exotic and the accents are unmistakably antipodean.
As I write this, almost a week has passed since our arrival. We're currently heading down to Auckland to meet up with some of our New Zealand friends. We've spent the last week exploring some of the anchorages in the Bay of Islands, sampling oysters (we managed 30 each one evening), diving unsuccessfully for scallops (needed a more substantial wet-suit) and being surprised by familiar sounds and sights; sheep bleating, sea-gull calls and mobile phone ring-tones to name a few. The weather seems a little Irish, four seasons in as many hours with some horrendous gusts (50 knots briefly). Fortunately the holding has been good and our anchor has held firm.
We're slowly adapting to a more land-based existence and we now have New Zealand numbers for our mobiles. You can contact us on:
Nick: +64 211880714
Ellen: +64 212362621