10 June 2010 – Whangarei, NZ
BB asked me on the 9th whether I'd prefer to have a relaxing birthday or a day full of activity. I predictably chose the latter. Thus I was too excited to sleep in & awoke before 8 --rare. BB was already up & there was a pile of cards & gifts on the table. He served me hot chocolate & French toast in bed while I opened my gifts. The first card was a real surprise; my parents thought far ahead & sent a card to Jean who had managed to sneak it to BB when she was here in April. And BB even remembered to give it to me! In addition to the special local Whangarei full cream milk BB gave me yesterday, from him I got a massage, a beautiful paua shell necklace he bought right under my nose at Te Papa museum in Wellington, a book in Spanish entitled "Señor Don Gato", NZ stickers, popcorn boxes to use for movie nights, & a giant button which says "Birthday Girl" which I wore all day.
I knew he'd rented a car because he said yesterday we didn't need to ask Giselle to pick up our scuba tanks (one of the few things we simply cannot do on our push bikes), so he left me to dress while he went to get the car. I called M&D to thank them for the card & gift, & when BB returned with the tanks, we took off on our adventure. He had told me to pick out a nice outfit to wear for dinner that he'd pack, so I knew we'd be gone all day, but I only had a suspicion what our first destination might be... The Kauri Museum. Lots of people have told us we should see it, & it was definitely worthwhile. As we'd heard, it wasn't only about kauri - the largest native NZ tree - it was a big museum with lots of interesting stuff: the history of the kauri timber industry in NZ among other things like old bottle collections, dioramas of NZ pioneers, & old photos of the area. There was an amazing collection of kauri gum (not amber because it's too young), both raw & polished or sculpted pieces.
BB said we had a 2-hour drive to our next stop, so we needed to get going. It was a clear cold day & the drive through the pastoral scenery in the middle of the North Island was very pleasant. The drive didn't take quite as long as expected, which gave us additional time at the Ngawha Hot Pools, which we'd heard about from our friends on Monkey Feet. It was a funky place with about a dozen timber-lined pools of varying temperatures & colors with boardwalks between them. Only a few other people were there, so we were really able to relax & enjoy not thinking about projects, weather, preparing for sailing or anything. The color of the pools ranged from inky black to iceberg blue-white & they all had interesting names like Bulldog (the inky black pool) & Doctor (why Doctor?). Some were much too cold, a couple were too hot, but the ones that were just right were divine. A little drizzle added to the atmosphere.
We smelled terrible from the sulfur & there were no showers, but BB had thought ahead & brought everything necessary for a shower back at the marina, after which we changed into our dinner clothes. We had just noticed the Japanese restaurant in Whangarei a few nights ago, & I was glad he had chosen to spend the money his mom gave us for my birthday dinner there. It was delicious - a special treat indeed. Thanks again, Jean!
BB riffled thru his wallet after dinner & admitted that he'd forgotten something & had to go back to the boat - not surprising since he had so much to remember today! He had me convinced that we were going to a show since he's been trying to find something worthwhile to see in Whangarei for weeks - I'm so gullible! When we arrived back at the marina, I said I'd wait for him in the marina office rather than going all the way to the boat, but then it was strange that the lights were off at the office.... Those lights are always on…
Yes, I was truly surprised. Twenty of our cruiser friends had assembled there, decorated the room with balloons & streamers, plus there were poppers, party hats, noisemakers... And there was a big cake & champagne. How could he possibly have put all this together so quickly? We were planning to leave just the day before yesterday! Apparently he delegated the ice cream, champagne & decorating to friends, but he went & got the cake this a.m. & hid it on Monkey Feet; he organized everything else - I was extremely flattered that he'd gone to such a great effort to mastermind this fun-filled day on my behalf.
The crew of Rackham - Guillome, Nicholas, Erwan & Benedictine - had another surprise for me. I had asked Bertrand & Guillome several months ago if they knew the French song "Aline," but they were only able to sing a bit of it. But now, for my birthday, they had learned the song & even written a verse just for me in English. It's a beautiful song, & it was lovely to hear it all the way through for the first time.
What a great party. I haven't had a surprise party since the one my roommates Harriet & Jean put together for me in Boston for my 24th.
My cake was fabulous. It had fireworks on it, & there was even enough left over for a birthday cake breakfast (a Rice tradition) with another two liters of fresh local Whangarei milk from my loving husband.
Quite a birthday.