After a great two weeks in Matakana, and having spent a month in New Zealand already, we finally broke off on our own and did some travelling. It was a bit difficult saying goodbye to my wall, not too mention all the happy hours, but we’ve had an awesome few days since.
When we were in Thailand, a Kiwi guy we met suggested that we explore the north of the North Island, as not a lot of people make it that far up. Many of the guests we met at the Lodge had gone to the Bay of Islands, and only ventured further on organised tours. We don’t have the time constraints that they faced, so we decided that we’d spend 10 days driving around, exploring and doing a bit more work in Northland.
Thanks to some good researching by Mrs H, we picked up a cheap hire car from Whangarei, a bright red Ford Falcon with almost 300,000km on the clock. Almost instantly, the bags opened and we filled all available space. We then filled up the New Zealand essential item, a chilly bin, with some food and bits and drove off.
Our first stop was the Waipoua Forest, home to some of the largest and oldest trees on earth, Kauri trees. Some are between 1200 and 2000 years old, and are vast – the diameter of the biggest was over 15 metres. We stayed the night at a campground in the forest, and the next morning explored around. Our timing was pretty good, and we avoided all the tour groups. The size and age of the trees was incredible and the quiet made it a pretty magical experience…
… Until the last tree we visited, the very famous, largest and most easily accessible Te Matua Ngahere, which was surrounded by tourists. The sign near the tree states that it was alive and growing at the time of Christ.
With avoiding tour buses being the objective, we got up early the following day and drove up to the top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. There is a lighthouse at the end of the headland that you can walk out to, and a handy sign that tells you just how far you are from things. The most amazing aspect was that this is the point where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. We’d read about this, and heard it was supposed to be impressive, but the actual effect was breathtaking. You can actually see them coming together and forming waves, breaking into different directions. The seas are even different colours. Words and pictures really don’t do it justice, and we were glad to be up there with so few people.
That afternoon, we visited the huge Te Paki sand dunes, and once again avoiding the crowds we climbed up to the top (exhausting), and surrounded by Tatooine / Lawrence of Arabia views, did the natural thing and lay down on boogie boards and zoomed to the bottom. Laura was a lot better than me and I still have sand in my hair. To finish the day off, we drove over to the west coast and went to 90 Mile Beach, which as it sounds is a huge long beach that stretches all the way to Cape (it’s actually only about 65 miles long, buts it’s still pretty darn impressive). It’s possible to drive on it but a lot of tourists have lost vehicles to it over the years, so I parked at the edge, but just standing on it was pretty cool. Nothing but beach as far the eye could see in either direction, and then out of the distance a 4×4 truck appeared, cruising in and out of the surf and flew by us. Damn boy racers…
The following two days we spent just outside of Mangonui, and Law found us an amazing place to stay. It was an awesome little caravan in a mini orchard, with spectacular views and really friendly owners. They’d stocked the fridge and cupboards, gave us a basket of their fresh fruit and veg, and the some fish fillets that they’d caught for dinner. Amazing.
Whilst it was tempting to just chill out there, we did venture out to do a walk nearby. We drove out to Totara North and did the Wairakau Stream Track, a 5km walk through forest and alongside a river. We stopped off for swim at one point, and once again were surrounded by amazing views and no people. The highlight was at the end of the track, with an optional 750 metre climb up the side of a mountain and out onto a rock known as the Duke’s Nose, named after Wellington. It was generally okay but steep, until the last section which is a 10 metre abseil straight up using a chain stuck in the cliff face. The panoramic views of Whangoroa harbour were beautiful and decent place for lunch.
After a week of road tripping, it was time to go back to work for a bit. Along with motel running, bed and breakfast-ing and wall building, fruit picking and selling can now go on the CVs. We have just spent a few days living on a farm near Kerikeri, where in exchange for food and accommodation we have to do 4 hours work a day. This being New Zealand, I’m outside in the fields whilst Law has the easy job of looking after the roadside shop. Typical.
We’ve had an awesome time in the Northland, and are really glad we came up here for a few days. Every beach we went too was idyllic (and abandoned), the vistas are amazing and the roads are practically empty. If this is the busier, less spectacular of the two islands, the South Island slideshow could be a long one…