Blog Friday 30/10
Woke early today and watched as the sun appeared over the mountains behind the beach. It had been a blustery night and the motor home had been rocking despite our carefully selected sheltered position.
We drank our tea watching 19 wild horses quietly grazing in the meadow beside our van.
There was little sign of life in the campsite as we set off for our run along Spirits Bay. It still looked impressive with pounding white surf, bright blue skies and picturesque shell sands.
The run, although spectacularly beautiful, was quite challenging. We were running into a strong headwind and the shell fragments subsided and slid under our feet so that we sank into the soft yielding sand with every step, rather like trying to run across a ball pool.
We persevered. Skylarks hovered and sang to our left, gannets soared and skimmed the waves to our right. On the beach, oyster catchers, dotterells and turnstones ran about our feet. Amongst the shells were sponges, pieces of pumice stone and pieces of silver-white drift wood. It was magical.
We ran for about an hour, but were still only about three quarters of the way along the beach. We paused at a tall tree/driftwood pole and then turned back for the return journey down wind. Much easier!
Back at Kapowairua, the campsite had come to life a bit and the handful of other campers were heading off on walks with a friendly nod. We watched a pair of pukeko birds (colourful birds similar to coots) in the camp site and also watched a heron flap by.
We showered and breakfasted and set off for Cape Reinga.
Bill piloted Madge down the gravel track with care and then with increasing speed. The road had quite a camber and numerous bends "like a velodrome" and we proceeded to make our way back to the main road following the maxim to 'drive it like you stole it!' ......
As previously noted Cape Reinga is the spot where the spirits of the Maori dead depart this world. They travel up 90 mile beach and the descend the roots of a 800 year old Pohutukawa tree at Te Rerenga Wairua.
This is also the place where the waves of the Tasman Sea meet the swirling currents of the Pacific Ocean, creating boiling seas around the cape.
We walked out to the lighthouse and admired these impressive sights - cliffs, rocks and surf to the north, massive sand dunes and even more surf to the south. It was easy to understand why Maoris feel that this is a spiritual place.
Back on the road south we were driving along a ridge road. There was a string cross rind which made the driving quite challenging st times.
Half way down the 50 mile road, we turned off west to drive over to see 90 mile beach that runs the length of the Aupori peninsula. Bearing in mind that our van hire insurance specifically prohibited us from driving on the beach we were somewhat alarmed (well, one of us was) to find that the Tarmac road had suddenly turned into sand dune!! We stopped and wandered down into the amazing beach extending as far as the eye could see in each direction.
Back at the van Bill took a good run up at the soft sand and with a bit of a sway and a spot of wheelspin we were on our way again.
By now the fuel gauge was telling us that a fill up would be good, so next stop was the Pac'n'save fuel station to use our discount voucher and fill up. Whilst Bill did that I made sandwiches and we drove on, back to the Bay of Islands.
Although not strictly on our route south, we had decided to return to visit the town of Russell as we missed this on our last drive along the north coast after further reading and recommendations we wished we had seen it, and also see the Treaty house nearby at Waitangi.
Looking at the map we chose Highway 1 instead of the coast road. Not as pretty but surely quicker/straighter/faster???
It was a long hard drive through forests and over mountains. Tourism radio kept us entertained with top tips all the way and the music was good too. Frequent birdspottings kept us alert - lots of birds of prey, probably Australian harriers. After a couple of hours we arrived back in Kawakawa, famous for its dump station (!) and its closed Internet cafe.
We hit rather a low spot huddled outside the (also closed) library in the rain trying to get Internet as the unappealing youth of Kawakawa trooped past in their Hallowe'en costumes!
Moving on we arrived at the turn for Russell and joyously set off up the gravel track through the forest. As Bill enthusiastically gunned our van round the windy roads, there was another all too familiar crash from the back of the van. This time it was the cutlery drawer, upside in the door well, knives and forks everywhere... Again.
Drawer and contents restored we resumed, only to round the next bend and find a big gap in the fence at the side of the mountain road. Worse still, we could see a white can in amongst the trees below. With trepidation we stopped and walked back to see what we could do to help. Fortunately it seemed that although it was obviously a recent incident, there was nobody in the van and no emergency help needed. Phew.
Finally we reached our destination. The town of Russell. Just a ten minute ferry journey from the touristy Pahia in the Bay of Islands, but by contrast a pretty, quiet village surrounded by hills and forests with a lovely tree lined waterfront. We loved it and were so glad we came back.
We booked into the Russell Top Ten camp site. Different from our normal choice of rural idyll but this one had electricity hook up, laundry and Internet and was easy walking distance from the waterfront. Perfect.
Apart from the rain.
We parked up and plugged in and set off to town in boots and waterproofs. After walking along the sea front and admiring views across the bay we were tempted into the Duke of Marlborough (oldest licensed pub in NZ and now a fine hotel) we sat on a decking area at the front and were served excellent local beer, calamari, fish and chips with wasabi mayo and roasted fresh fish with cassoulet and salsa with asparagus. It was excellent. Great food, good and friendly service, and lovely views of the bay.
The rain seemed to have stopped, so it was back to the motor home for some housekeeping, laundry and a catch up with the folks back home.