From the moment my wife and I stepped onboard The Rock, I knew it was going to be a special adventure. The Rock is a converted car ferry that reminds me of what Noah's Ark must have looked like, only on a smaller scale. Among the 36 folks who were on board, there were people from many European countries, Taiwan, Samoa, Australia and a few of us from the United States. The Rock has a very large common area on the main deck with bathrooms, bar, cooking area, a great “living room” with couches, pool table and piano.” Upstairs consisted of bedrooms that slept between 2 and 6. Our room for two had a nice bed and a great view. All the bedrooms seemed to be fairly small, but that was OK as all we did was sleep in the room. The rest of the time we were on the main deck or hanging out on the upper deck enjoying the views.
The crew of 6 knew our names almost immediately and actually spent time talking to us on a regular basis. It was obvious that they enjoyed their jobs, helping us explore the wonders of the Bay of Islands. Once we were on board, we headed out to our first anchorage. Along the way, we had a chance to try an shoot a wayward duck decoy with a paintball gun. Winners won a free drink. Once we arrived at our destination for the night, we were given the opportunity to catch some fish for dinner. Very soon, 10 or so rods were baited and we tried our best to catch some snapper. Alas, all the big snapper apparently heard the news and headed elsewhere and more than a few smaller snapper sampled our bait and were hauled onto the boat. Since they were smaller than allowed, after a kiss from the lucky fisherman/woman, they were thrown back into the water.
Since we didn't catch any fish, dinner consisted of a salad buffet, grilled steak and sausages. We guests dined at a table for all 36 of us and had time to share stories, backgrounds, etc. with our fellow adventurers.
After dinner, we experienced one of the high points of the trip. We were in the first group that got to go out for a night time kayak foray. Once we got away from the lights of the Rock, we noticed flashes of a greenish light in water each time our paddle dipped into the water. Turns out there is luminescent algae in the water. When our guide stopped and explained this phenomenon to us, I had a chance to dip my hand in the water. As I moved the hand closer to my kayak, I felt like Tinkerbell in the movie Peter Pan as the swish of my hand created an incredible flash of color, much like when Tinkerbell threw pixie dust into the air. While our trip was pretty short, we also had time to enjoy the sparkling stars of the southern sky and the warmth of a wood stove on the back deck upon our return.
After all of the excitement of the day, we soon retired to the comfort of our room. As the night progressed, we were captivated by some classic piano playing by, as it turns out our captain. He was a a very skilled pianist and we drifted off to sleep, enjoying his lovely classical touches on the keyboard.
The following morning I got up to see the sunrise and had time to feed (not catch) more snapper. Dawn did not disappoint and soon the warmth of the sun filled my body. I headed back up to our room with some coffee for my sweetie and we enjoyed watching the golden light illuminate the nearby shore.
After a nice buffet breakfast, we headed off to Mussel Rock for some snorkeling. We were charged with harvesting some mussels and kina for an afternoon snack. Our adventure was helped out by the use of some wetsuits as the water was still a bit cool. That is one of the drawbacks of traveling on the fringe of spring. In no time we had filled a large bag twice with the beautiful mussels and kina.
After our successful mission, we pulled up anchor and ended up in a wondrous cove with a marvelous beach. After we ferried ashore, most of us hiked up to a viewpoint where our guides pointed out the various islands off in the distance and some history of the area. After the breathtaking views, we headed back down to the beach to either lounge on the beach, explore the shoreline by kayak or join in an impromptu game of touch rugby. After a leisurely afternoon on the beach, be headed back to our port.
On the trip back, be enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Bay of Islands and had a chance to sample Kina eggs, which are a delicacy known as Uni. I think it is an acquired taste. When we dropped anchor back in Pahia, we had our final feast, our freshly harvested mussels that were almost as sweet as sugar. After settling up our expenses, we were ferried back to port. I can say without a doubt, this was the best 22 hours of our month long trip to Australia and New Zealand. The staff of 6 were amazing. It is obvious that they enjoy their jobs, sharing the wonders of the Bay of Islands from the perfect vessel, The Rock.