A week in Northland. That’s about the best you can hope for when trying to make tracks. With a chance to make the Fiji jump coming together almost perfectly, that’s exactly the timeframe we were looking at and hit the ground running. On our downwind sail north the sun had revealed some minute tears in the main, and the gooseneck fitting had come unnervingly loose, so the morning after our arrival in Opua we had the main off the boom, the boom off the boat, repairs made to both and everything back on by lunchtime. Matt ran off to Cater Marine to order a new tiller pilot while I took apart the dodger and stitched a patch over the tear. We polished the tarnishing frame, washed the Sunbrella. Washed everything.
Our old friend Wayne, who runs a business renting cars to desperate sailors, met us in the parking lot to hand over a set of keys. Though we’d been regular renters our last stay in Opua (we had him on speed dial) he swore on his life he’d never met either of us. Unfortunately we didn’t make much of an impression. Despite Matt’s 6’ 4” stature, and the fact that we’re often toting surfboards, we unlocked the doors to a bright yellow, compact model Fit. It spoke Japanese, so that was fun.
We fixed the longboard to the roof of the car and made it into town for a sunset surf. The front that we’d raced into the Bay of Islands had finally caught up with us; it was actually pretty fair out with sunny skies and just a light breeze, but the swell came up the bay at just the right angle and formed some fun little peelers on the shore right around the corner in Paihia. Is this sounding familiar yet? It was feeling pretty good to be back.
Northland has some wonderfully unique features, so we made sure to get in a solid amount before heading off again. To the northwest of Opua lies one of the few Kauri forests and should be visited by anyone who finds themselves nearby. Kauris are native to the North Island and truly magnificent to see in person – we’re talking up to 50 meters high and 5 meters at the base. Like Kiwi Sequoias.
We spent an entire day chasing trailheads and weaving through the giant trees, trying to cover as much terra firma as possible in anticipation of at least a week at sea. Still, though, the sea is no less special here. Even further north of the Kauris the surf had picked up in Taupo Bay, so we stopped at a farmers market to pick up a bag of peak-season mandarins and managed another day trip. It’s a well-known break, definitely no secret, and a stunning drive to the secluded and intimate little settlement. But with summer over the line-up had thinned, the beach was peacefully vacant and we nearly had the place to ourselves. When the waves got crumbly we took the long way home, following the mangroves down the coast and visiting the myriad coves that serrate the east. Wanting to leave nothing out of our costal adventure-day, we scored what were possibly the largest oysters either of us had seen and washed them down with a dose of live music. Being so late to leave was turning out well, and with our departure only a few days away we were starting to feel sentimental about ol’ NZ.
In our final two days we got everything squared away. Spare alternator, passage meals, fuel and water. After a final fruit and veg shop we dropped the little yellow Fit off in the rental lot, hoping Wayne would recognize it. Anything we’d unpacked got tucked back away, devices got a full charge. New Zealand has an extensive departure packet, and Fiji’s arrival notice is even longer, so paperwork took just about a full day, but then that was it. We were ready. In the end we gave ourselves an extra day to avoid some crummy weather and left with only a handful of others, all bound for different destinations.
This was decidedly our last season in New Zealand with Cavalo. Bittersweet, but the adventure must continue. We even have something of an homage to Aotearoa brewing, but we’ll get into that later. See you in Fiji!