Just awoke to a songbird symphony here in New Zealand’s subtropical “far north.” Yesterday we drove up from Auckland. To be more exact, Philip drove while I stared out the window at the passing forests and grassy hills dotted with sheep. Driving on the left-hand side of the road took a bit of an adjustment—the first traffic circle was a stress-filled challenge—but Philip soon got the hang of things, and by the end of our three-hour trip we were even passing other cars. Our favorite signs along the way? “Last Cheese for Miles” and “Shepherds’ Lifestyle Services.”
We arrived at the beautiful and touristy Bay of Islands around 1:00, ate lunch and bought over-priced sun block in the beach town of Paihia, then headed to our B&B in Kerikeri. We love this place, partly because of the great accommodations (the high-pressure shower spoiled us), but mainly because our hosts, Ken and Max, have been so helpful and friendly. When we asked for advice on where to go for a swim, Ken drew a detailed map showing every turn in the road on the way to one of his favorite beaches. Thanks to his map, we went to Te Ngaere Bay and enjoyed a New Year’s dip in the Pacific. Then it was back to the B&B, where we shared a beer with Ken, Max, and a couple of their friends before going to an excellent local restaurant, “The Pear Tree” (just in case you happen to find yourself in Kerikeri). Philip had steak, I had lamb, and we both drank what the waiter called a “boutiquey” beer. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Now I’m waiting for Philip to get out of bed so we can go to the nearby Waitangi Treaty Grounds, where, in 1840, Maori representatives signed a treaty with the British Crown that established New Zealand as a nation but, due to the fact that the language of the Maori version differs significantly from the English one, has been the subject of heated debate ever since. The historian in me can’t wait to go . . .