For your interactive enjoyment of today's blog you may want to pour yourself a glass of Hawke's Bay white wine, draw Maori symbols on your face (black felt tip will be fine) and nibble on pistachio nuts. A 400 metre long tape measure will also come in handy as will the knowledge that 'wh' in New Zealand is pronounced with an 'f' sound.
One of the great aspects of New Zealand is the fact that only 4 million people populate an area slightly larger than the UK. Over a quarter of those are in Auckland alone and the rest are busy shearing or molesting the 40 million sheep that dot the landscape. So if somebody builds something on a large scale or does something a bit unique, it is almost guaranteed to be 'the best or most important in the country'. Grow an oddly shaped cucumber or spend a little too long passing solids in the toilet and you're probably looking at a national record. Our circular journey of Northland with Jane and Mike, from Whangarei up to the Bay of Islands, allowed us to absorb some breathtaking scenery and take in some of New Zealand's finest bits and bobs. Highlights included:
NEW ZEALAND'S MOST IMPORTANT DOCUMENT: Waitangi Treaty Grounds. The site of the signing of the agreement in 1840 between the Maori and the British. The Maori's handed over NZ in return for protection and the promise of an hour of Home and Away every weekday and the recipe for Hob Nobs. The grounds incorporate the home of the FIRST GOVERNOR of New Zealand THE WORLD' LARGEST MAORI WAR CANOE.
If you fancy building a ceremonial canoe you'll need a lot of wood and a trip to B&Q won't be enough; what you'll need is a Kauri tree - the SECOND LARGEST TYPE OF TREE IN THE WORLD - and legally the only time you can chop one of these wooden beasts down is for thee production of such a canoe. In Waipoua Kauri Forest, Jane and Mike led us to Tane Mahuta, which at approximately 2,000 years is NEW ZEALAND'S OLDEST TREE. It's a big old b******; 51.5 metres tall and 6m wide.
Across the water at Whananaki Reserve stretches the WORLD'S LARGEST FOOTBRIDGE at 385 metres. The trip across it and back again (770m) is probably the LONGEST WALK BY VICTORIA BARNES IN NEW ZEALAND.
Russell, NEW ZEALANDS'S FIRST CAPITAL, is interesting as the first settlement of Anglo-Europeans, who brought Christianity, mushy peas, queuing, and the art of getting wasted to the country. They also set about chopping down most of the Kauri trees in order to make bigger ships to import more booze and make ceremonial canoes for tourists to take photos of. The village is now decidedly quaint and shows little sign of it's debauched past...at least it didn't until Pat and Victoria arrived.
The general drive around Northland is spectacular; beaches that wouldn't look out of place in the Caribbean suddenly give way to dramatic volcanic hills and forests. It was especially more exciting when Mike forgot that he was no longer firing up a 747 for take-off and forced a car in front to almost double the speed limit and be booked by the police.
Leaving Jane and Mike to continue their days of golf and falling off mountains, Pat, Victoria and I headed south again to Auckland to collect Gill, who flew out from England just to star on the blog. Since then we have been doing some crazy stuff in Central North Island around Taupo and Rotorua and have seen many more record breaking sights. We're saving that for another blog, so keep an eye out if you want to read about paying 50 dollars to see some glowing poo, visiting places that smell permanently of farts and riding Shopmobility scooters down the side of volcanoes....feel free to keep your face painted Maori style until then.