Blog Thursday 29th
The far north
We woke to the sound of rain drumming on the roof of the van. This triggered mixed emotions. Firstly disappointment and frustration that we could not go for an early morning dawn run along the silver sands of the Karikari Peninsula, but secondly delight that we could snuggle up in our nest with mugs of tea and a pile of maps and guides and a highlighter pen.
We peeped out from our windows there was a very sorry scene around us.
Our nearest neighbours were a young couple sleeping in their car, outside were their camp chairs, towels and laundry, all spread out dry....
The remarkable thing was that when the rain eased, the birds sang, and the sun came out, the Aussie girls emerged from their car and laughed heartily at their predicament. They giggled as they tipped the rainwater out of their camp chairs, tittered as they poured the water out of their trainers, chuckled as they wrung the water out of their jeans and were full of mirth as they observed their sodden towels. Astonishing behaviour and very uplifting!
Suitably impressed we put on shorts and set off to run round Maitai Bay.
Now sunny with blue skies and a good smattering of wild flowers and birds it had turned into a beautiful morning after all!
When we returned the camp site had come to life. All the campers with tents and cars were busy draping wet things everywhere to dry and us lucky camper van drivers were busy having hot showers and cooking breakfast. The peace was then shattered by the arrival of two enormous monster motor homes. Literally the size of a school bus, each towing a small car. One even had its own herb garden on the back. Their German occupants emerged and strutted the site, hands on corpulent hips. By this time, we and another nice Dutch couple had moved our vans into the newly vacated prime spots overlooking the beach (another of the many advantages of a camper van) and so watched smugly over our plates of scrambled eggs as the new arrivals negotiated the bumpy and newly boggy site to park at the top behind some trees.
The entire camp site they watched in fascination as they continued to perfect their pitch as they used hydraulic levellers to create the perfect home, attached silver skirts around the base of their vans and watered their herb garden.
At this point it was time for us to move on and we trundled off down the dusty track, heading for The Far North.
As we drove down the track the heavens opened with another heavy downpour and we pictured all the poor campers rushing about gathering up their damp belongings, the Aussie girls hooting with laughter all the while!
First stop Kaitaia on the west coast for provisions. Not much of a mention in the guide, but a nice little town with a wonderful library with free Wifi. It was the wrong time of day to call home, so we caught up on emails, downloaded some maps and uploaded the blog. There was also a branch of our new favourite supermarket Pac'n'save. Rather like a larger version of Lidl but with a fantastic fruit and veg section and great fresh fish. A large tub of fresh green-lipped mussels caught our eye, as did some gurnard fillets. Supper sorted!
All provisioned up we then set our sat nav for Cape Reinga and headed up the northern peninsula to the place where the spirits of Maoris go when they die.
The west coast of the peninsula is called 90 mile beach. A very long flat strip of sand 65 miles long. It's possible to drive the length of it at low tide.
Half way up the peninsula we turn down a small side road to buy avocados from a road side stall and drive to Houhira Heads, a small village looking out over a sandy estuary where local people were fishing and sieving the wet sand for 'Piri' a cockle-like shell fish which they were collecting by the dozen. We sat and watched them, with tea and a sandwich before driving on north to our destination at the northernmost tip of the peninsula - Spirits Bay or Kapowairua. This was one of Mike's favourite special spots earlier this year.
It was another great DOC campsite in the sand dunes overlooking a beautiful beach.
There was an honesty box for our $15 payment. We parked and hurried onto the beach as cloud and rain have been forecast.
The beach was vast and completely different from anything we had visited so far. A long stretch of pink/apricot coloured shell sand with pounding surf and a silver sea. There was a mist hanging in the air above the sea, and the late afternoon sun low over the western mountains created a mystical feeling to the beach. We could see why Mike thought so much of it. We walked east then turned and walked west towards the sun. The clouds broke and shafts of sunlight came through here and there, illuminating the water and sand. We sat on the beach for an hour or so, just watching the surf and reflecting on life. It was a marvellous place.
After sundown it was time to create our fish supper. We washed and scrubbed and debearded the mussels under the campsite tap and then steamed them in white wine to make Moules Marinere - delicious! Pan fried gurnard and green beans to follow. All washed down with some nice cold Sauvignon Blanc.
Time for a bit more route planning and then off to bed.