We were actually a lot more settled in Auckland than we thought and it was quite sad to leave. On our last day of work we went up the skytower and we both didn't say a word to eachother - just stared out over the city and thought of all the memories from the last six months. We could see Ponsonby where we lived most of the time, the crane at the bottom of the road, the route we walked to work, our offices, our church, the lovely house we looked after in Remuera and Rangitoto where we had climbed with friends. Eventually we came down and took the inner link bus for the last time back to Ponsonby. We got a sneaky maccers and drove down to Point Chevalier or Pt Chev as the locals call it and enjoyed the fact that in this city you can just pull up next to a lovely clear bay where people were swimming in the golden setting sun, at home this would probably have trolleys dumped in it and litter everywhere!
So off we set in Cyril our bright green van, over the harbour bridge and headed north to our first stop - Whangarei, lots of people wondered why we were going there as its just a busy town but we wanted a few nights to settle in with Cyril and we found that there were some really nice places around there. We went to the Abbey Caves where there were gloworms (although we didn't actually see any!) and a lovely viewpoint. There were problems with theft from the carparks in the area but a lovely group of old people from the local lions club took turns in watching the car parks - such a nice idea!
Next we headed further north up the Tutukaka coast where there was some beautiful coastline and lovely little beaches like Whale Bay and then got to Russell at the Bay of Islands. Russell was once a bit of a naughty place in the 1800's as there were lots of drunken sailors around and all the other stuff that goes with drunken men missing women!
We did a boat tour from Russell to sail around some of the islands and see the hole in the rock - which is exactly that. On the way out of Russell we went by a pod of dolphins - we went to the back of the boat to see them and they were playing and jumping out of the water - so sweet. The boat then sped up to move on and the dolphins started chasing the boat - the water was so clear you could see them swimming after us, they could go so fast and then they would leap out of the water - it was one of the most amazing things we've seen - they were so happy!! After the dolphins we sailed up to the hole in the rock, which looks just like durdle door at home. The captain suddenly said we were going to go through it which was quite surprising at it looked like we wouldn't fit through - and it was a bit choppy but we made it through! Next stop was a little island called Moturuahia , the water was so clear it was lovely, we got off the boat and walked to the top of a hill where we had a magnificent view over the islands. Then it started to rain and by the time we got back to Russell it was pelting it down.
The following day was Waitangi day - the day the treaty between Maori chiefs and the British crown was signed back in 1840. It is a national holiday in NZ and as we were literally a short boat ride away from Waitangi and its the only day of the year its free to get in the grounds we decided to go and have a look! The weather was really bad, the rain was lashing down and it was really windy. There was a village fete sort of atmosphere in the grounds with lots of stalls set up and many families walking around and the most police we have seen in NZ yet! There were a few protesters but they were very peaceful. We went into the house where the treaty was signed and it was very interesting although maybe a tad one sided on how the British came and saved the day!!! We then walked into Paihia to get the boat back to Russell where we got absolutley soaked.
The next few days the weather was just as bad, we drove up to Matauri Bay on a road known as 'million dollar view road' unfortunately the only view we had was very low grey cloud and rain on the windscreen! We took refuge in a caravan park near Whangaroa harbour and luckily the next day we were back to blue skys again. We next went to the Karikari peninsula to a tiny place called Whatuwhiwhi. It was really nice here, really quite remote and really unspoilt. We had a few days to explore and there was one beach that you couldn't access but it looked so untouched and natural that we could imagine dinasours roaming around- think pictures would show you what we mean. We found the most gorgeous bay called Maitai Bay where the sand was really white and the water was turquiose and there were hardly and people there.
Then we drove as north as you can up to Cape Reinga at the tip of the North Island. The drive was great - just farmland and hardly any other cars on the road. The closer we got to the tip the more dramatic the coastline got, as we got to the Cape we parked up with all the tour coaches and other campervans and walked to the Lighthouse where there was a really good view over the rough waters below - it's where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific ocean. In Maori legends this is where all the spirits leave to go to their spiritual homeland - not a bad place to do it!! On the drive back down we stopped at a few wonderfully deserted beaches like spirits bay and Rawara beach - just amazing scenery.
Heading back South we had a few days in the Waipua forest area. Now we are not really into trees but in this area there are big Kauri forests and some absoloutly huge Kauri trees, there was one called Tane Mahuta its trunk was massive - 13.8 metres and it was 51 metres tall! We enjoyed some walks around the forest and spent a few nights in Trounson park in a lovely caravan park by the river. The park did kiwi spotting tours every night so we decided to go on one of them. A really doddery old man took us out in his little minibus and into the dark forest. Kiwis are nocturnal and very shy so we knew its quite rare to spot them. The old man had a red light to look for them as they can't detect red light. We marched through the forest and the moon was shining brightly through the branches, we could hear all sorts of animal and insect noises. We kept stopping when we heard rustling and could hear a kiwi squrking nearby. We saw a possum running up a tree and a weta on a log. We also saw gloworms under some rocks. We didn't actually end up seeing any Kiwis but we both really enjoyed the little tour. The forest was like a fairytale!
Next stop Coromandel....................................................