Northland, New Zealand

Temperature: high of about 70ºF, low of about 30ºF

We struck out on our own from our comfortable suburb of Auckland.  Our rented car is a bit of a junker with a manual transmission, but we're undaunted by new traffic rules and the challenge of learning to shift with the left hand.

Time for a tourist checklist for the Northland.

Drove along the coast of the Bay of Islands
Took a ferry across the bay to a touristy town
Took a half-day cruise around the Bay of Islands
Saw dolphins
Swam with dolphins
Saw Japanese tourists swim with dolphins
Toured Russell, the first capital of New Zealand
Saw the Russell spring festival parade

Here is the proof that we both broke the American rules of driving.  It seems to take about two days of driving before it starts to feel natural to be on the left.
We drove up to a farm on the east coast where we planned to stay in a shearer's shed, but it turned out to be occupied that night, so we stayed in a big guest house instead.  We dodged frisky horses and dogs to get to the house, but we were rewarded with this view.
Looking the other way from our guest house that night.
Next day, we drove west came into Russell and booked a cruise through the islands in the Bay of Islands.  We didn't read the brochure very carefully, and so were surprised that a big part of the cruise was the two species of dolphins that we got to observe.  They were great fun to watch.  And the cruise is so relaxing and lovely.  I could have stayed on it all day.
After the cruise, we toured a museum dedicated to the signing of the main treaty between the Maori natives and the British colonialists.  Here Julie admires the carvings inside a Maori meeting house on the site of the treaty signing.
Next we drove all the way from the eastern coast to the western coast to be able to see the ancient Kauri forests.  We arrived at the coast just in time to see the sunset and stop in for some fish and garlic chips at a nice roadside takeaway.  We stay in a cabin that night near the shore where I write this page.

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