Tuesday 27/10. Whananaki.
Woke up for the first time in our cosy camper van, sun sneaking through the roof lights. It was very peaceful, just birdsong and breeze.
I think today for the first time it dawned on us that we really could do whatever we want, whenever we want; and that was quite a strange feeling after years of deadlines, demands and to do lists..... The feeling put a sort of soft focus on the future.
So... What to do today?
Well that was easy, waking up a few yards from Bream Bay - 'A sweeping arc of golden sands and clear blue waters, banking into picturesque rural scenery' - We went running along the beach north from Uretiti to Whangerai and back. We ran on the firm sand just below the high tide mark and saw hundreds of shells, lots of variable oyster catchers and a five foot long dead eel. There were also lots of yellow lupins, palm trees and bright purple flowers Growing in the dunes.
Back to the motor home for breakfast. Scrambled egg on toast followed by melon, eaten outside in the sun (and wind).
Had a FaceTime chat with Mike, who updated us on farm and family back home.
Time to pack up and move further north. How lovely to not have to take down a tent, fold ground sheets, pack bags... Just clear away the breakfast things, fasten all the drawers and cupboards, and drive away!
First stop today was Whangerai. Great coffee at the i-site and the usual helpful advice and booklets. We had a brief and unsuccessful trip to buy a Spark NZ SIM card for my phone, only to find that the SIM was locked by O2 and I would have to ring O2 to get it unlocked... Humph.
We had more success at 'Pac'n'save' with buying the groceries that we forgot yesterday, and now felt fully prepared to head out into the back of beyond with everything we needed.
Next stop was the Whangarei Falls and the A.H.Read Kauri Tree Canopy Walk along the Hatea River.
The walk started by crossing a stunning treetop boardwalk Above the tops of the 500 year old Kauri trees. It then descended to the river bank and round through the forest up to the waterfalls. The waterfalls thundered into a large pool and we admired and photographed and then dived in for a swim. Although we knew that this was a popular spot for swimming (Mike and Bob swam here earlier this year), there was no one else swimming and the water was icy cold, but it was worth it! We dived in off the rocks at one side and tried to swim towards / around where the water was falling into the pool but it's force just made that impossible and after a few photographs to record our bravery (craziness) we climbed out and sat tingling and invigorated on the rocks in the sunshine to dry. After that we wandered back down through the forest.
As we walked we heard lots of unusual bird calls but saw only Mallards, Fantails and several dippers.
We returned to our plan with the intention of driving on to the Bay of Islands but failed to find any camp sites that appealed - our preference being for the smaller remote DOC sites without facilities rather than the huge family beach parks that seemed to surround the more touristy areas. We found just the place on the east coast just north of Tutukaka. It was a long and windy road that climbing up and down hills and valleys and was rutted in sections, but eventually we were an the last few miles of Whananaki Road and arrived at the Motutara Farm Park, overlooking Kings beach and Barons Beach.
We received an very warm welcome and were amazed to learn that we were the only guests and do were shown to pitch number one. Essentially it was rather like having the best seat in the house as we parked on a small grassy platform above the golden sand beach, looking out over the sea illuminated by a rising full moon. After a walk on the beach we returned to our little home for hot showers and a supper big hit smoked salmon and salad. Perfect end to a wonderful day!