Land ho! You could sense the excitement when after four more sea days (making 13 sea days out of the seventeen days of this segment) passengers spotted the green hills of New Zealand. The ship anchored in Waitangi Bay near Paihia on the North Island, the place where our last New Zealand adventure had begun. How fitting.
This area is known as the Bay of Islands and is a beautiful area to explore by water or land. Enough of the water for us. On to the land. Just after lunch, our arrival time, we boarded a tender and set off to the landing area near the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where a treaty was formed between the Maori Chiefs and the British Crown back in 1840. From there we took a shuttle bus with a delightful Kiwi driver. Australians are known as Aussies. New Zealanders as Kiwis. The bus stop was right next to the ferry dock and we set off for another NZ adventure.
Since we’d stayed three days in Paihia on our last trip here, we decided to go across the bay and visit the town of Russell. We boarded the little passenger ferry and headed across the bay. I found it ironic that we’d been so excited to get off the ship and here we were on another water vessel. It was a short ride to Russell and the weather was looking wonderful.
Russell turned out to be very charming. The older buildings are Victorian in style and the pace was nice and easy. No hustle and bustle. People strolled along the waterfront and down the main street dawdling to look at the many antiques and bookstores and the restaurants. Ah yes, food! We had been amply fed before leaving the ship but the chalkboard sign read, “Green Lipped Mussels in Coconut Thai Sauce”. I gulped.
“Honey, I know we just ate but they have mussels. . .in coconut Thai sauce.” Would my big brown puppy dog eyes do the trick? Ha!
“Okay, but let’s walk off lunch first,” came Bob’s reply.
Gladly I strolled the streets, took the requisite pictures, but my mind was on those mussels. On our last trip, we had found a place called the Mussel Pot on the South Island and had gone out of our way to stop there twice because the mussels were so good. I had not expected to find them anywhere else and worried this might be my only chance to have them again.
Finally we had exhausted the little town’s main streets and we made our way back to Sally’s Café where I’d seen the sign. We knew we couldn’t eat a whole order each so we ordered one to split with a side of fries. All I can say is heavenly. Just heavenly.
On our way back to Paihia, we passed a nice looking sailing ship and admired the dramatic way the clouds where shaped in the skies above, all the time savoring the left over tingle in our mouths from the Thai sauce. A quick walkabout in the craft market (set up when the cruise ship arrives) and a few minutes of free WiFi outside the library around the corner and we were back on the shuttle chuckling with the driver who seemed excited that our ship had chosen to stop this day.
As we headed for our room, Bob steered me toward the display where the evening’s menu was displayed. We were eating in a specialty restaurant and he wanted to see what we were missing.
There, listed under appetizers, was green lipped mussels! Who knew? I was glad we’d had them on shore though. We had more than an appetizer and I think the coconut sauce was probably better. How many more times, I wondered, would I run into the mussels again?