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Our Holiday in Paihia, April 2007
Nigel and Wendy on the Russell/Paihia ferry | The R Tucker Thompson | Haruru Falls
We needed a holiday, so Nigel took a week off work, we arranged for neighbours to watch our place and the animals, and off we went ...
On the two-hour drive north, we could see scars in the landscape from the storm a few weeks earlier (28-30 March 2007). We'd had about nine inches of rain at our place, driven by high winds into places it wouldn't normally reach (like into gaps in the roof of the local library), but amazingly no damage - our driveway has been partly washed out by heavy rain before, so it was a relief to us that the drainage coped with the steady rainfall that we received. Others in the north, including some friends in Kaiwaka, were not so lucky. The Bay of Islands, the area Paihia is in, was particularly hard hit. We could see land slips in the hillsides, areas where slips in the road had been cordoned off or repaired, and railway embankment repairs. The road to Russell was still closed, with signs at the turnoff telling motorists to drive to Opua and using the vehicle ferry to get across to Russell.
We arrived in Paihia in time for a late lunch, which we had at a waterfront cafe, 35 Degrees South ($42 including coffees). Nigel ordered the crumbed calamari, I ordered the fish-of-the-day (Dory in a Montheith's beer batter), and we shared it between us. Yum! Great to sit by the water and watch the world go past - ferries coming and going... tour groups leaving on fast boats to speed about the bay... wondering what it must be like to work in an office that's in a houseboat moored to the pier! I figure you must get used to the movement pretty quickly - but when you go to bed at night, on solid ground, does the bed seem to swim around? LOL!!
We wandered the streets for a bit, checking out some of the shops and considering our options for the next few days. Looked at the Fullers displays, the information centre, etc, to get ideas for tours, but the only one that took our fancy was a day cruise on the R Tucker Thompson, a replica sailing ship ("an authentically designed 19th C gaff rigged tops'l schooner"). We took a brochure, and said we'd call if we wanted to make a booking, which I did the next day.
I was first aware of the Tucker not long after it was built, because it was used for the tv program "Adventurer", which my flatmates of the time (Daryl Hosking and Peter Ginley) were working on (Daryl was in props, Pete was a gaffer). It was shot around Tutukaka (near Whangarei) in 1986. The ship was built in Mangawhai, which is not far from our home in Kaiwaka.
Being Anzac Day, we weren't expecting much to be open in the morning (though being a tourist area it was likely that many businesses would be; most shops in the country open at 1pm on Anzac Day). I left Nigel at the hotel to relax, while I drove to Kerikeri to visit some family friends. My mother became friends with Michael and Barbara Mecredy when I was a small child, as they lived near us in Glenfield (Auckland), and I've kept in touch with them since Mum died, though I hadn't actually seen them in person for ten years. It was lovely to catch up with them and see their new home that they'd had built since I saw them last (love the half-circle design!).
Meanwhile, Nigel had headed out on foot, intending to walk down to the waterfront to sit in the sun and read his book - only he kept on walking, all the way to Waitangi! He wandered around having a look at the place, and I picked him up just out of Waitangi on my way back from Kerikeri.
In the afternoon we went to the local supermarket and got some supplies, then spent the rest of the afternoon in our room, relaxing and reading. For dinner we went to La Scarla Pizzeria ($37), randomly chosen as we wandered around looking for something that looked interesting. Neither of us was particularly hungry, having had a late lunch, but our food was brought to us quickly and it was delicious.
Thursday morning I walked down to the waterfront, back to the R Tucker Thompson kiosk, to pay for the tickets I'd booked for us, for the next day's voyage.
In the afternoon we hopped in the car and drove north, intending to visit friends at Whangaroa. They weren't home, but we stopped in Kaeo and caught up with a speedway friend of Nigel's instead. On our way out of Paihia, we stopped to look at the Haruru Falls, just outside of town. They had been one of the focal points of the news when the big rainfall came several weeks earlier, with the motor camp below the falls suffering major damage. We could see how the floods had scoured the hillside by the falls, and you can see this in the photos I took.
Dinner that night was a seafood basket from Vinnie's ($10), just across from the RTT kiosk, which had been recommended to me earlier in the day. Well worth it, and probably one of the best value-for-money meals we had in Paihia.
Haruru Falls - note the scouring between the water and the trees, a result of the flooding in March 2007
Friday morning we packed up and checked out of the hotel, then headed for the waterfront. We caught a ferry over to Russell, had a quick coffee/tea at a cafe, then boarded the boat. After an introduction from our skipper, we were off. The boat was motor-driven until the sails were up, then the motor was shut down and we were sailing.
It's been many years since I sailed (one summer about 10 years or so ago we went out several times on the Hauraki Gulf with Nigel's boss on his 40-foot racing catamaran, Ultraviolet), and I'd forgotten how relaxing it can be. There were about 20 people on board, plus the crew - a good number to chat with and get to know. Some of the passengers were locals, several Americans and Canadians, and three young Brazilians were from the Weber Bros Circus that was in town, amongst others.
The weather forecast the previous night had said we'd be in for showers, and it wasn't wrong. As we headed out into the bay the skies got darker, and it started to rain. Most of us went below, where Mitch was preparing scones, coffee and tea for morning tea. I stayed below for a good while, so had no idea how far we'd sailed when I went topside again.
It didn't seem to be a long time (I didn't check my watch) before we reached our destination of Roberton Island and dropped anchor in one of its bays - the sun was shining by this time, and stayed out for the rest of our journey. Most of the passengers went ashore for a while via the inflatable - Nigel did, and I stayed on board. Meanwhile, the crew set about getting lunch ready, which was barbequed chicken, French bread and salad, which we ate when the others returned from the island. Then it was time to start heading "home" again, and it was then that I discovered we hadn't actually gone far (far enough by sail in the time allowed) and were not far from Tapeka Point, which is over the hill from Russell.
In much too short a time (so it seemed, in reality we were away for about six hours) we were back on dry land at Russell. A quick ferry ride back to Paihia, and Nigel and I were in the car and heading for home by 4:30pm. We stopped at Burger King in Whangarei for dinner, and arrived home a little before 7pm.
The Tucker and her crew (Chris, Mark, Martha and Mitch) made it a fantastic day out, and I'd love to do it again. Well worth the $110 each.
The R Tucker Thompson moored at Russell | Nigel & another passenger raising the sail under Mark's guidance | The R Tucker Thompson heading home to Opua at the end of the day
Chris at the helm of the R Tucker Thompson with passengers seated behind her | Mitch in the galley of the R Tucker Thompson making morning tea - note the angle of the stove, a better indication of horizontal than the edge of the bench!
Sunseeker Holidays in Australia (who I've bought holidays from before), called a month or so ago offering a cheap deal on accommodation at Hotel Paihia. For a deposit of $70 paid to Sunseeker, plus the balance of $170 paid to the hotel upon booking, we got three nights and a $100 credit at their restaurant. That's $80 per night for a room that is usually $170 per night, not taking into account the free food.
We discovered that the restaurant was buffet-only, with a very limited range of food on offer. Another disappointment was the water supplied to our table - it was straight from the tap, complete with the taste of the added treatment chemicals. <ugh!> The cost of this exceedingly average buffet dinner was $35 per head (ie, $70 for the two of us - compare it to the costs I've included elsewhere on this page for other meals).
We had considered asking friends to join us at the restaurant for dinner one night, to help use up the credit we had (before we knew what the price was!), but as we sat down to our dinner I commented that we wouldn't be doing this, based on the food alone, and Nigel readily agreed.
The cooked breakfast ($25 per head) was a great improvement on dinner, being tasty and satisfying. But still horrendously overpriced!
Our room was pretty much what you'd expect. A double bed and a single one in the room; a tv (with only TV One, TV2, and TV3; no Sky at all, not even the limited channels usually found at motels nor any UHF channels; Freeview has not yet arrived in NZ at this time), jug, iron & ironing board, etc. No internet at all at the hotel (which meant I got a proper break from my 'normal' life). It was all quite acceptable, if average, in comparison to motels that we've stayed at in the past. No cooking facilities (not even a microwave oven), nor plates or cutlery for eating a meal in our room, just three coffee cups, three glasses and a teaspoon. Perhaps my expectations didn't match the reality because I'm used to staying in motels, not hotels?
The part I loved about our room was the shower. A decent amount of space (not a small cubicle like you often find), no bath sides to climb over, just a small lip to hold the water in, and a good flow of water!
Don't expect any servicing of your room during your stay if you take one of these packages. No-one came to check if we needed fresh towels, empty the bins or make sure there was sufficient toilet paper in the days we stayed (and we came close to running out). This is contrary to my experiences at motels I've stayed at before, but I'm not accustomed to hotels and perhaps they're different? Somehow I don't think this is standard for hotels around the country.
Our room also had a connecting door to the room next-door, which was locked as you'd expect. However, the door meant that a lot of noise from our neighbours (and they were *so* noisy!) came through which was not conducive to a peaceful stay.
We were also located next to the area where the tour buses parked for the night. They started up early in the mornings, which meant we were woken by them at times like 6:45am - which I consider early at the best of times, let alone when I'm on holiday!
The conclusions I've drawn from my stay at this place is that like almost everything in Paihia, it is aimed at tourists from overseas, who perhaps aren't familiar with costs elsewhere in the country and is very expensive for what you get. Next time we stay there (and there will be a next time as I've another voucher to use yet) I will be requesting a room away from the buses, and one that doesn't have a door leading through to the neighbouring unit. We'll eat two breakfasts each at the restaurant to use up the $100 credit, otherwise we will eat elsewhere. We'll take a few supplies so we can be sure we're comfortable. And be quite happy with what we've got.
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