Is there a hole in that rock?

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Our cruise booking for today had been changed from 2:00 pm to 8:30 am so we had an earlier start than planned but not so early as yesterday. We were out the door just before 8:00 am and waiting on the wharf soon after. The sun was shining and there was blue sky with scattered clouds.

We were among the first few passengers waiting on the wharf. By the time we boarded around 8:20 the crowd had grown, though not to anything like the full house it might have been pre-COVID. 

Before we left, the captain gave us the first of several briefings about the weather, mostly about the 2 metre swells on the ocean beyond the bay and the consequent uncertainty about reaching the far point of our itinerary at the Hole in the Rock. Passengers were advised that the information was being provided so that they could decide whether or not to travel. We surmised that was intended to cut off any later requests for refunds if weather cut short the cruise.

As we left the dock there was an announcement about access to the very front of the vessel being open. We moved from our seats near the front on the top deck so that Harry could have the experience of standing at the front of the boat with the wind blowing hard at him. We stayed there until after we had picked up passengers at Russell, across the bay, but later retreated to a less windy location.

There was commentary with some local local history and other interesting details as we made our way past Motuarohia and Moturua Islands. We docked briefly at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island. Some passengers got off there to go walking with the option to be picked up on our return trip or on some future visit of the cruise if they were staying.

The boat backtracked a little and then went around the north side of the island through Waewaetorea Passage which separates Urupukapuka and Waewaetorea islands. At that point access to the front and upper decks was closed off and we were advised to take a seat where we would be happy to stay for 15 minutes or so.

Our voyage across that section of ocean toward the end of the Cape Brett Peninsula was bumpy. The advertised swells were rolling through and the boat sometimes produce large volumes of spray as it went up and down across them. Eventually we passed the lighthouse keepers house and lighthouse on the cape and came around into the lee of Motukokako Island which features the Hole in the Rock.

At that point we were sheltered from the force of the oceanic wind and swell and were allowed back out on deck for photographs. The boat paused there for a while and spun slowly so that everybody had a clear view of the hole. Although a show of hands from passengers had a strong majority in favour of going through the hole, the captain announced that it was not possible under their safety protocols because of the wind and swell.

Our route back to Otehei Bay stayed closer to the coastline and went around the east side of the island rather than the west as on the way out. We docked there and were told we had close to 90 minutes for a walk and/or to take advantage of the cafe on the island. The captain was not prepared to give a guarantee about weather but suggested there might be rain so walking first might be advisable.

Majella, Harry, and I opted for a walk. The track was muddy in places and occasionally slippery from the recent rain. We went up the hill and down the other side into Urupokapoka Bay. Harry had worn his togs and thought of going for a swim but ankle deep was enough to persuade him that it was colder than he preferred. We walked back over the hill and down to the cafe. As we approached the cafe it began to rain but that lasted just a few minutes mostly while we were inside.

We ate lunch there and had time after to sit outside and enjoy watching the waves and birds on the little beach. Majella and I shared a wrap and a savoury muffin. Harry had a veggie roll with 7-Up. I had a long black but Majella declined coffee because it was in (compostable) takeaway cups and had a cider instead.

We arrived back at Paihia via Russell a bit after 1:00 pm. We were aiming to get back to the Waitangi grounds for the 3:00 pm cultural performance so took the opportunity to go shopping for souvenirs in the town area. That done we headed to Waitangi and arrived a few minutes before 2:00 pm, just in time for the guided tour that led to the marae where the cultural performance would be held.

Earphones were issued so that we could more easily hear the guide who spoke into a mike and broadcast system. The tour began with a short talk about the history of the Waitangi Treaty. We then followed our guide through the bush land area behind the visitor centre and down to the area where we looked at the waka (war canoe) on Saturday. We could appreciate it much more with the commentary. From there we proceeded up the hill to the treaty ground with more commentary about the history and the significance of some of the trees in the area. He made much of the connections to various members of the royal family.

The tour ended at the marae where he explained the significance of the structure and the carvings that adorned it. We were greeted in Maori and invited in by a young woman in traditional costume. Shoes off, we entered and were greeted in Maori by a young man, also in traditional costume. When he had finished he explained what it was about. Another young man explained some of the significance of the carvings around the interior of the building which represent tribes up and down the two islands. After the short performance we had time to look around while the young woman demonstrated her skills with the poi – swinging weights.

We walked back to the exit and drove back to our accommodation. There we relaxed until dinner time. We did a little tidying and reading and then played anagrams until it was time to look for dinner in town.

Dinner was at Jimmy Jack’s Rib Shack. Majella had raised the question of where we might have dinner when we were driving home from town this afternoon and Harry mentioned that there was a place that did ribs. That seemed worth trying and we were able to get a table relatively quickly after we arrived about 6:30 pm. Majella had the Kiwi burger, I had the ribs taster with IPA, and Harry had the fried chicken and ribs with L&P. The food was delicious and filling so we all returned home satisfied and ready to prepare for a quick getaway tomorrow morning.