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2024 - January - Day 18 - Russell

Today was planned to be a non-drive day and so after our usual breakfast we set off at 9am for a walk down to the wharf and bought two return foot passenger ferry tickets to Russell across the bay. The tickets cost $8 each. We boarded immediately and within a couple of minutes the small boat set off for the 15-minute journey over the water.


Russell was designated as the first capital of New Zealand after the treaties were signed with the Māori’s in the 1840’s although you would never know it from the size of it now. It also seemed to be a barely thought-out location for a capital being a small piece of land on a stuck-out peninsula This decision was soon realised to be a mistake and shortly afterwards Auckland was chosen instead. It was name after Lord Russell who eventually became the UK Prime Minister but never came to visit. The original name for the settlement was Kororāreka which was named after an ailing Maori chief was brought some penguin broth and remarked how sweet it tasted (Korara meaning penguin and reka meaning sweet). There is a movement to bring back the original name.


Once we had docked, we walked along the bay frontage where there were a few bars and cafes. It was a pretty little place in the morning sunshine. We went one street back where the local shops appeared to be and wandered along happily until we came to a coffee shop called Hell Hole which was full of locals and so we joined them in Hell. Karen enjoyed her coffee although I was bemused by my tea. It came with one of those teapots that had a built-in strainer in the top but with no tea in it. Instead, a tea bag was on the side. I ended up just pouring the hot water over the tea bag in the cup.


After this we went into a couple of other shops and very nearly bought things. Nearly but not quite. I did buy a New Zealand Lotto ticket after I found that it is open to non-residents. We had heard lots of people getting excited about the $17 rollover jackpot and it seems oversea visitors had won previously. I didn’t understand how it worked as it seemed more complicated than at home but was given a ‘Dip’ ticket with 10 lines on it for $7.


We then found a free bench overlooking the bay and sat people watching. There were all sorts of weekend activities taking place on the water. There seemed to be some sort of unofficial race each time the small ferry left the dock, with  people on kayaks racing behind it as closely and as long as possible until it left them behind. It looked dangerous and we really could not work out the point.


I went to a small bakery and bought a beef/cheese pie and muffin for our lunch that we ate on our bench. Eventually we thought we should move off the bench before we took permanent root. It was a lovely way of spending some ‘down’ time on a Saturday lunchtime.


We continued our walk and came to the old French mission called Pompallier which had another lovely café outside. Naturally we went in and found a table on the veranda and passed another 45 minutes drinking tea and admiring the view again.


We then felt we should make our back to the ferry and we timed it as one was just arriving and were soon walking back up the road to our motel room.


There was a quick turnaround as we decided to drive the short distance to the next bay to our right and have a walk along it. The tide was a long way out and so instead we walked out to the shoreline across the millions of shells that had been left in the tide’s wake.


After putting some more petrol in the car we parked again and walked around the bay to the left of where we were staying. Again, there were millions of shells. We found a ledge to sit and just look out across the bay again. It was proving to be quite the day for doing that.


Back at the motel I sat on the veranda whilst Karen rustled up some boiled eggs for our meal, overhearing a conversation between some elderly Aussies in one room and some elderly Russians in another next to ours. It was fascinating to hear the Ukraine situation being discussed from a different perspective. They didn’t agree but did so politely and did agree that neither side are probably being told the whole truth. The Russian couple then tried to introduce the Aussie couple to the game Rummikub. If only all disagreements could be resolved in that way.


After eating our simple but very acceptable meal of food that we were trying to eat up we walked again down to the wharf. Tonight, they had been advertising that the band ‘The Feelers’ would be playing live at Zane Grey’s restaurant. Before I get distracted in writing about Zane Grey whose life story is surely ripe for a movie, we had never heard of ‘The Feelers’ either. But it seems they are/were big in New Zealand and this was their second greatest hits tour. They have won New Zealand single of the year more than once and claimed to be their best-selling band. On our walk to and from the ferry we had seen the stage being put together. The tickets were $60 each but we like many other people thought that we would not only be able to see and hear them from the public area to the side of the stage.


It was still 23c when we found a nicely positioned bench. The problem was the wind was now blowing off the sea and Karen had come out without a warm top so soon started feeling the cold. We didn’t last even as long as the support act before we headed back. Karen’s review of the support act was that when the demented drummer calmed down and the singer stopped shouting, they were almost bearable. I think they should use that quote on their tour posters.


And so, we were back in our room for our last night in the beautiful New Zealand rural scenery before our drive back to the Auckland metropolis later tomorrow. Karen watched the film ‘Living ‘ which she enjoyed whilst I caught up with a few things. Then it was time for bed but not before I checked our Lotto ticket online and was disappointed that we didn’t get more than 1 number correct on any line which means we didn’t win anything.

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