Tall ship sailing in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Daily my finger traces the map. I’m following Northlands Twin Coast Discovery route behind the wheel of my low-cost rental car from New Zealand Rental Cars and now in the Bay of Islands  I sail in a tall ship ( R Tucker Thompson)  but first I visit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It’s not only historic and beautiful but also set in lush native bush and has guided tours and cultural performances night and day – I took advantage of the entry ticket being valid for two days to make sure I saw it all.

Next day, I challenged my fear of heights by soaring skywards with the Flying Kiwi’s parasail: New Zealand’s’ highest. Adrenaline was flowing before we left Paihia dock! Their website said the take-off and landing was smooth and gentle and that’s true!

 

Yes, that’s me up there!

I just hadn’t factored in the height in the middle and I was flying single, not tandem or triple. It was not long before I was at the height of Auckland’s Sky Tower above the water. Although fearful, during the ten minutes I did take some photos of the fantastic scenery and the boat pulling me. It seemed like a little dot, sometimes going in a different direction to me and the colourful parachute that floated above.  This is a must-do for fabulous views of the bay and some of its 144 islands.  Adventurers, and wimps like me, love to say “I did New Zealand’s highest parasail”.

Still in the bay, I went dolphin watching. As we searched in and around the islands and bays I realised why the first European to visit the area, Captain James Cook, named it The Bay of Islands.  Unusually there were no dolphins on my trip (another trip is offered when this happens) but we did see a pod of Orca, killer whales, feeding – no wonder the dolphins where hiding. However, it seems their genetic warning system about this top-of-the-food-chain mammal, has not caught up with the fact that, in New Zealand, orcas prefer sting-rays.

This was the first area settled by Europeans. Whalers had arrived at the end of the 18th century, while missionaries arrived in 1814, and Russell is the centre of this history.   Going there by one of the little ferries that leave Paihia wharf regularly and soon I’m enjoying a delicious lunch at ‘The Duke’. As I eat, I’m planning on sleeping in one of the rooms in this elegantly restored hotel next time I visit: they say they’ve been ‘refreshing rascals and reprobates’ for years and I’m sure I’d fit in!  Granted the first liquor licence in New Zealand, it’s certainly grown from ‘Johnny Johnson’s Grog Shop’ and the drunken sailors that Darwin hated, to this stylish Duke of Marlborough Hotel.

Here in the bay, I took another step back in time on board the R Tucker Thompson, a replica tall ship and took an afternoon sail on her from Russell back to her berth at Opua wharf.

R Tucker Thompson comes into the wharf at Russell

‘TheTuckeris a gaff rigged schooner that operates as a not-for profit charitable trust: their mission is “Learning for Life through the Sea”. It is also used for tourism in the Bay of Islands from October through April and, for the sail training activities between May and September.

Designed by a naval architect it was originally a fishing boat with a large engine and a small sailing rig. Another man, Tucker Thompson, changed her design to build her in steel – making the hull longer and deeper to accommodate the tall rigging and is a replica of vessels that plied their trade on the Pacific West Coast of the USA in the early 19th century. (See more about the background to the ship on the R.Tucker Thompson’s website).

A day or two before my trip on the ship, I met Russell Harris (who was in partnership to complete the ship) when the model of the ship “Tiny Tuck” was on show in Paihia. Dressed in traditional clothing and with a cat-of-nine-tails in hand,  I was pleased he was not on board when I sailed just in case I did something wrong!

I have done some ‘blue water’ sailing, and it was great to be back under sail again: despite enjoying sailing, I have never been up in the rigging either climbing or in the boson’s chair and this trip was no different – I’m sure many travellers love doing it when they go out for a day sail in ‘the bay.’  So, look at these photos and picture yourself up among the ropes and canvas when you get to New Zealand and go sailing with the crew.

I’m scared of heights – so why parasail?

I’m not an adrenaline junkie – in fact I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about some things – like heights .

However, somehow the words on the brochure – ‘gentle lift-off and landing” – lulled me into ignoring the next sentence.  It included these words – New Zealand’s highest’!

The Flying Kiwi Parasail delivered on their promises:

  • Breath-taking views – check!
  • Gentle lift-off – check!
  • No need to get wet – check!
  • Gentle landing – check!
  • Single, double or triple flights – check!

I was on a single flight and I’m not sure it that made it easier or scarier, I just knew when I did the ‘gentle and dry landing’ part I was really happy to be down and happy to have parasailed on NZ’s highest. I also knew I would never do it again! Maybe! (I’ve learn’t to never say never)

I was SOOOOOOOO high.  Higher than Auckland’s Sky tower – not the level where adventurous people jump from – but the very top of lt. And, when you are up there, alone, and scared of heights it’s very, very high. My daughter would love it and no doubt most travellers, and other kiwi, would love to be able to say “I did New Zealand’s highest parasail

So how high was I? About 365 metres, or 1200 feet!  And, how high is the Sky Tower, a mere 328 metres – 1076.1 ft.  No wonder I stopped taking photos – I needed to hang on, grasp the reins and worry.

Worry that the ropes were safe; worry that my canvas seat would take the weight of my body; worry so much I needed to talk to myself.

“Look around Heather. You will never see this view again. Look at the cruise ship and NZ Navy ship. Enjoy the view” my head was saying, “There’s Russell over there’  ‘That’s Paihia that way’; ‘I can see the Treaty Grounds.’

While this chatter was happening in my head,  out of my non-religious mouth flowed words in a chant or prayer I’ve never said before.

“Holy, holy, holy.” “ Holy, holy, sh*t”  “Holy, holy, f*ck”

 

Once I landed back on the boat I was elated: I’d done it.

However, back on land I was still shaking 30 mins later when I rang my daughter (who was having an adventure-filled weekend in Rotorua) and, just when I needed to talk it went straight to her answer phone.

My voice was still gone (missing in action for 3-days) and when she laughingly replayed the message back to me in the comfort of a Wellington café I too had to laugh at my shaking, croaking, drama queenwords:

Ohmigod I’ve done it!  As you can hear, my voice is still gone but by god, my body is full of adrenaline. It was so f’ing scary! But I did it! Single! By myself! All alone, way up there, above the sky tower height. Ok, talk to you later, bye.”

A drama queen indeed – she easily worked it out I was not twin or treble parasailing! Would I recommend the Flying Kiwi Parasail? – of course. (And, you don’t have to go as high as I did!)

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As you see,  I didn’t find my voice up among the  clouds: I return to my rental car ready to continue my Northland trip –  maybe it’s on The Rock where I’m sleeping tonight. ( I wonder, is this the only float Hostelling International hostel in the world? Let me know.

Northland, day three: I challenge my fears

Whoops!  I didn’t post this on day 3 . . . shows the fear that was racing around my body 🙂

Many thanks to Destination Northland for helping with my itinerary and Rental Cars New Zealand for the vehicle

for this road trip: I can recommend both!

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What a day! I’m off dolphin watching, maybe even get  to swim with them – but not a dolphin in sight in the this Bay of Islands (140 or so islands).The reason, the Orca’s were out! And when the top of the food chain is around it pays to lie low … even if the New Zealand pods do prefer stingrays not dolphins. What a  great sight for us. More of that trip in a later blog,

Next up – I face my fear of heights and go parasailing in NZ’s highest one! I cannot believe I agreed to do it . . . the things travel writers do for a story sometimes Smile (and I will write a story or two about it so bookmark this page and come back soon) so those are my feet, dangling at about the Auckland sky tower level above the ocean . . .  the little dot at the other end of the string is the boat that’s pulling me.

And, the last picture is of me failing at target shooting on board The Rock  – and what must be the best YHA in the world –a cruise, a sleep, lots of activities, BBQ meal and now its time to emerge from my cabin for breakfast.

So, lots more stories to be written when I return home and have time to digest them all – and still about 13 days to go – think I’ll need a cup of tea and a lie down before I start!

here are the links to the days activities:

Swim with Dolphinswww.dolphincruises.co.nz

Flying Kiwi Parasail www.parasail-nz.co.nz

The Rock Overnight Cruise. www.rocktheboat.co.nz

Happy Holidays & Christmas to all my readers

PC244573.pohutukawaSending a bunch of pohutukawa flowers to you, my loyal readers who have signed up for emails when I write a new piece

( you can join them – use the button top right hand side of this page)
This is our kiwi Christmas tree, and when it flowers, it’s a signal that summer has arrived!

Next year you can expect many blogs on, not only Christchurch and Wellington, but also Northland (where I will be spending a  couple of weeks in February – think sun, fun, dolphins, parasailing, cruising, snorkelling, night adventures, stars, waka, food, history, NZ’s national day, gum-diggers – the list going on and on: I know you will love getting my stories, just as I will love researching them.  (The lengths I go to is amazing huh!) The rental car company I’m using is Rental Cars New Zealand.

Later in the year more stories from India,  then Borneo for my first time and hopefully Turkey if the tour I’m taking in May goes ahead (see here).

I hope your year will be great too.  All the very best for a wonderful 2012,

from,

Heather Hapeta