Annabelle keeping watch for the coming of the Imperial Japanese Navy, assured to invade New Zealand at any minute. She had about as much luck spotting the Japanese as the poor NZ Army soldiers stationed here during WW II, peeking our from their concrete bunker portholes. There never was an invasion but it is reported that a Japanese submarine did use a large sea cave in the Poor Knights island group as a refuge from NZ spotter planes.
Wednesday, March 25, 2015: On our leisure day with only homeschool, Skype session with the homeschool instructor in Carlsbad, and short hike to Haruru Falls (bit anticlimactic after the Milton Sound waterfalls) to take up the day, we also took a 15 minute ferry from Paihia to Russell, NZ. Although today Russell is a quiet, quaint village on the water at the end of a lovely peninsula, it was once known as the “Hellhole of the Pacific”. Apparently this designation was based not so much on the temperamental weather but rather the behavior of the residents or transient sailor/whalers that frequented here in the 1800’s for the sole purpose of drinking, prostitution, and general shameful behavior. A record 30 grog shops (alias bars or pubs) were operating in this small village at one time. In an attempt to stem the degenerate behavior of the men, the community constructed a Christ Church in 1835 and is currently NZ’s oldest surviving church (see photo below). In contrary to the dark origins of the village, there is also a celebrity retreat here in Russell, the Hawk’s Nest, that has frequent guests of significant notoriety and wealth needed to meet the nightly rate of $2500 - $20,000, complete with an in-house chef! No, we didn’t stay at the Hawk’s Nest - our VRBO apartment in nearby Haruru Falls had a much more palatable room rate and yet, still a great view (photo below). In addition to the scuba trip to the Poor Knights islands that Annabelle described, we also did a one day sailboat excursion into the Bay of Islands, complete with rain, lack of wind, and chills but there was enough break in the weather for us to explore an old World War II gun bunker used to lookout for the potentially invading Japanese Navy, snorkel in a wonderful protected cove filled with fish and shell fish, and enjoy a picnic lunch with the other passengers.Incredible scenery of volcanic rock islands covered with typical NZ lush vegetation and surrounded by either sandy beaches or surf beaten rocky cliffs.
The Christ Church in Russell, NZ that was built to stem the disgraceful behavior of the sailors and whalers that called to port here in the 1800's. The cemetery had both colonist (mainly British) and Maori names on the tombstones ranging from months of age to 91, many of which were born in the 1800's. This is the oldest surviving church in NZ.
Annabelle exploring the Russell beach for more seashells for her necklace creations. A few of the numerous yachts in the harbor and the lovely homes set in the mountainside are in the foreground. Many yachts find refuge here during the typhoon season, escaping from places like Tonga, Tahiti, Sandwich Islands or Fiji. Unfortunately, we didn't have our boat with us to test the waters - Cindy assured me that our boat would not be making this trip!
A view of "She's a Lady" anchored off the island we explored after sailing out from Paihia. Beautiful setting after a wet and cold sail through the Bay of Islands. This island is protected from introduction of mammalian pests (opossums, rats, and stoats), but needs to be continuously monitored for reintroduction of these pests that could be devastating to the local bird and reptile population. Traps baited with rabbit carcasses are not uncommon as an invitation for the local stoat (similar to a weasel) renegades.