So, here we are back on the North Island and we're on another road trip, this time around Northland, the long peninsula north of Auckland - and we're still enjoying beautiful, sunny, spring-like weather - what happened to the southern hemisphere winter we were bracing ourselves for?
We're currently staying the night in a lodge in Warksworth, a pretty little town north of Auckland.....Hmmm, I haven't written anything on the blog for a few days, so the back story is that we got the ferry from South Island over to Wellington last Thursday, and stayed the night in an art-deco hostel which used to be a plush hotel - its claim to fame is that the Queen stayed there on her tour of NZ in 1953 (so we were wondering if we'd sat on the same loo as her?). It had a great bar and chill-out room so we had a bit of a rest day there, did the laundry and watched a movie...I was also still getting over my injured knee so didn't want to go for a walk round Wellington that day (it seems to have healed now so will be doing a few walks this week)....On Friday we returned to Auckland on the great Overlander train, and saw all the beautiful gorges and volcanoes and snowy Ruhapehu again. We stopped for an hour in Ohakune, a ski resort town under the glowering peaks of Ruhapehu, and we looked round the railway museum. It was interesting to learn about the amazing engineering feats involved in the building of the Auckland to Wellington railway line, especially the Raurimu Spiral with its 2 tunnels and 3 horseshoe curves to get over a mountain with a steep gradient. We also read about the tragic Tangiwai disaster in 1953 when a massive 'lahar' broke away from crater lake and moved down the mountain, and smashed into a bridge just as the train was approaching, killing most of the passengers. New Zealanders seem to just accept the perils of living in a land of volcanic activity and earthquakes as part of life!
We had a frenetic time in Auckland, as Rob invited some of his colleagues round on Friday night for a bit of a party, then we went to collect our hired car on Sat morning, drove out to the countryside to visit Rob's friend Pam who was really nice, then set off on our road trip north on Sat afternoon, with Rob along for the weekend. We stopped to look at the pretty little village of Puhoi (founded by Bohemians in the 19th century) and stayed last night in Matakana, and this morning we went to Goat Island marine nature reserve, which was really beautiful. The beaches of the coast along there are deserted white-sand beaches with lovely sand dunes. At Goat Island we went out on a glass-bottomed boat with aguide who explained about all the fishes, kelps and sponges we saw. The waters were crystal clear and we saw several eagle rays (like big stingrays), lots of snappers (huge, evil looking fish!) and blue maomao, red moki, paroe and other exotically-named fish. The bird life round there was also wonderful - gannets, shags, cormorants etc. After Goat Island we drove up the deserted coast road to Mangawhai, passing olive groves and dairy farms and lots of rainforest bushland. We had to keep stopping to look at unusual birds (Owen!) and we saw 6 kingfishers in all, some up close.
We put Rob on a bus back to Auckland this evening as he has to go to work tomorrow, but it has been such a laugh this weekend, Owen and Rob have been like Morecombe and Wise, they've had me in stitches....anyway, the Maggowza show continues as we go on a merry jaunt up to the Bay of Islands tomorrow, and we'll be staying 2 nights in Paihia there, which takes us up to Weds and then we hope to go right up to the tip of the North Island at Cape Reinga.