We spent a few days in Taupaki after coming back from the Coromandel Peninsula. Then we headed north towards Goat Island which is a marine reserve and is meant to be a great place to go wadding and see loads of interesting fish and marine life in shallow waters. We had a walk around and the water was incredibly clear but all we saw was a couple of snapper. We headed north still going through Mangawhai where we stopped for a couple of beers as the sun went down and then moved on to Whangarei.
We spent the next day walking around Whangarei; it has a new area called the Town Basin which is an area near the harbour with shops cafes and tourist walks which was nice. It was a pity that it was lashing it down with rain but we had a walk around and walked one of the sculpture trails by the water before finding some good old' NZ pies for lunch. With the rain beating down we hid in the van for the rest of the day.
We woke up the next day eager to get on the road despite the fact that it was raining torrentially. We went to a local Kauri forest to do a canopy walk. Kauri are really really old trees, they can easily be over 800 years old and are enormous. They are no longer allowed to be cut down in NZ but a lot were lost to forestry so the remaining ones are protected. We got back to the van to find it wouldn't start (whoops). After Jeff went for a walk in the devastatingly wet rain he found someone with a jump lead who would come down and help, whilst San flagged down help at the side of the road but only managed to flag a bus full of elderly people. The van started with the help of jump leads and San promised to never leave the heated rear window button on again!
We drove on to a little town called Kawakawa where the only reason for going here is to see the local public toilets which were designed by a famous artist Hunterwasser. There are signs for the toilets before signs for the town. We stopped here and took some photos of the toilets which felt a little bit odd before moving on to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. This is the site that the treaties between the colonising Europeans and local Maori chiefs signed to try and ensure peace between the two groups. Of course the treaty has been broken almost constantly since it was signed but at the time it was seen as a monumental step and was good to walk around the site this was achieved. A little up the road we stopped for fish and chips at a moored up restaurant ship which was very tasty! We shot through to Kerikeri for the night driving along the beautiful coast of the Bay of Islands which was stunning when the rained stopped for long enough to see anything. We arrived at the campsite wet and tired and went to bed.
The sun was actually shinning the next day! The first day since we have been in Northland. We drove out to the Rainbow falls on the edge of town and did a walk around which was nice, warm and dry! We went to a local chocolatier in town and spent a lot more money than we should have done on a lot of very tasty chocolate and then on to do some wine tasting at local vineyards trying some of the far North's wines. From there we headed on to Whangaroa harbour to walk the Duke's nose track. We were told it gives you fantastic views over the Bay of Islands but is quite challenging as there is no path for the last 15 metres and you have to pull yourself up a huge rock using metal chains stuck in the rocks but the view is worth the effort. The walk is named after the Duke of Wellington whose face should be able to see in the rock. What we learnt was that when you start looking, nearly every rock starts to look like a face! It was spectacular up there but a little windy so we headed down and on to Tauranga Bay which has pink sand beaches. The sun had come out and the beach was completely empty so Jeff went fishing from the rocks and San sat on the sand and read in the sun. Not a bad day!
We woke up at a campsite in Ahipara about 3km from the famous 90 Mile Beach. We decided to take a bus tour up to Cape Reinga after the recent antics with our van we didn't want to risk driving 88km over sand, so we found a good deal with lunch included. We started in the town of Kaitaia and headed straight for 90 mile beach while the tide was out. Numerous cars and buses get stuck on the beach so we felt safer doing a bus tour. In the summer there are about 25 buses on the beach, today there were only 3 so we picked a good time to do it. We drove the huge beach highway for about 20km and stopped for photo stops. We went through streams (which can be quite tricky as quicksand can be present so you have to know what you're doing). We played on the sand dunes at Te Paki dunes, Jeff boarded and San tobogganed down. Once we built up an appetite we continued to a beautiful lunch stop at Tapotupotu Bay. We enjoyed the sun and the incredible beach and waved the hungry seagulls away. From here we went onto Cape Reinga and walked to the lighthouse, a stunning walk with views of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific sea colliding (it was quite calm today and this is usually more prominent on a windy, rainy day). In Maori belief, Reinga is the departing place of spirits of the recently deceased.
Next we stopped in a tiny town in the Far North and purchased some local ice cream, Jeff had hokey pokey and San had gold rush (caramel with chocolate hokey pokey bits). We stopped at a viewpoint and saw some of the incredible white sand beaches that stretch across the peninsula. We had a look at a white sand beach in Ranguanu harbour; there were some spectacular views of rock formations and the Tasman Sea. Our last stop was the Ancient Kauri kingdom; a workshop where they use reclaimed swamp Kauri trees to make furniture and art. There was a lot of beautiful kauri carvings here, a bench for $55,000 and a spectacular spiral staircase leading to a gallery. The log used to build the staircase is 45,000 -50,000 years old; it was found in a swamp and was perfectly persevered. It weighed 140 tonnes, it's the largest kauri swamp log known to be erected.
We drove south to Rawana to get the ferry across the Hokianga Harbour; it was a short 15 minute crossing but saved us a lot of driving. We followed the coast for a while and saw some spectacular sand dunes that were massive jutting out into the sea. Our next stop was Labyrinth Puzzle. It was a tiny place accessed via a 6km horrible gravel hilly road and not well sign posted but was a little treasure of puzzly type activities.
From here we went to the Kauri Coast, a 20km stretch of road through a Kauri Forest. We stopped and saw the largest Kauri tree in NZ; it was 51 metres tall and 14 metres wide, pretty big for a tree! We also saw the four sisters; a group of four kauri trees growing from the same spot. They weren't as tall and after having seen the big one Jeff wasn't very impressed. That was the end of our Northland adventure.
Before starting work we decided to pop down to National Park and see Kellie one last time before we leave NZ. They have been working hard in their hostel and managed to put us up in a nice room. We ddid some mountain biking, enjoyed the new hot tubs and had a masterclass watching Kellie and Foxy work the bar, it was a fun few days but now on to work before heading off to Asia.