We made it only as far as Urquhart Bay at the mouth of the entrance to Whangarei and seemed to have settled here. The scenery is lovely (as long as you don't look across the river to the refinery) and we have enjoyed some treks. One day we walked a trail that took us past some World War II gun emplacements and lookouts, around the big hill to Smugglers' Cove on the other side and back. A very pleasant two hour walk through some varied areas with great views. The following day we walked to Taurinika – a small town nearby in search of bread. It was along a winding road past several pretty bays. There we found a "dairy" (that's 7-11 or convenience store in NZ english) with bread. It was probably a 7 kilometer walk.
We have also restarted the varnishing – tackling some very worn areas. We sand / clean / varnish and clean-up and re-start the process the next morning. The activity in the bay is also fun to watch. Many of the locals launch their smaller boats with tractors from the beach. We watch the fishermen, the divers (it seems we are in a hot spot for scallops) and the boaters enjoying the water. Today we had to wake up some local boaters as they anchored their boat and went below...and after a few hours, their boat was dragging into ours. Many folks here don't seem to back down on their anchor.
There are lots of interesting birds in the area as well. On our walk, we saw the "pukeko" (Porphyrio porphyrio). His is quite a large bird with shiny black feathers touched with bright blues and greens, a large red beak and long red legs. It runs really fast, but it also is a strong flyer. We enjoy the fantails which are a pretty bird and very curious – almost landing on your head. At night we believe we hear some kiwis and the "Morepork," the indigenous owl. There are supposed to be some bats – but we haven't spotted them yet.
The weather hasn't been cooperating with getting us to Great Barrier Island. We want to sail the 45 miles and not motor into the wind and seas. But unfortunately we've had steady 15 knot southeasterlies – and that's the direction we want to go towards. So we'll enjoy this little hideaway and continue getting the varnishing and other projects done. It's pleasant. Sorry no internet here though – so no skype or photos!