Opononi, New Zealand, 20 February 2007
Kuhokuho, New Zealand, 21 February 2007
Kahoe, New Zealand, 22-23 February 2007
Auckland, New Zealand, 24-25 February 2007
With the car fully packed we headed north up the west coast. Our first stop was Baylys Beach (just outside Dargaville). It was great to have the freedom of the car. Dargaville is a sleepy little town full of hardware stores, liquor stores and trucker style cafes. A workin' man's town. As mentioned we choose to stay outside of town. Baylys Beach is, as the name suggests, a seaside village. We got in after 7pm, threw up our tent and had food & wine in the Funky Fish. The following morning we jogged along the beautiful white sandy beach and enjoyed exploring the rest of the area. Before leaving the campsite we couldn't resist having a go on the trampoline... yes, we are big kids. Check out Claire's star jump on the left!
Next stop was the lookout point in Waipou Forrest. Waipou Forrest is the biggest attraction north of Auckland (and has the twistiest, windiest roads). Why? Because of the huge and ancient Kauri Trees of course. At first we weren't that impressed, we thought back to the Alerce Tress of Parque Pumalin in Chile, now those trees were big. But then we saw the 2nd biggest Kauri tree (Te Matua Ngahere) and it was nothing short of phenomenal. The girth of the trunk is 16.41 metres, trust me that's big, and they think it could be as old as 4,000 years. Then it was another 30 mins stroll to the 7th largest tree, called Yakas. This was good because you could get right up close and touch the tree and give some true perspective to the photos. Finally, it was time to see the daddy of them, the largest remaining Kauri Tree, Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest. The trunk girth is a mere 13.8 metres but it is much taller than Te Matua Ngahere. It was very impressive indeed.
We stayed the night at a holiday park in Opononi and went to watch the sunset at Pakia Hill. The following morning we caught the ferry across the beautiful Hokiango Harbour. As the weather had turned a little dull we decided to take a day out and simply relax in the beautiful Tree House Eco Lodge. We checked in and lazed around on bean bags reading our instruction manual for the new camera. The lodge is surrounded by sheep, ducks, hens & lush subtropical vegetation. We had a cabin next to the sheep, and in the morning we opened the patio door to find Polly sleeping on the porch. Very cute, she had took shelter from the heavy rain, if we'd permitted she would have been in our cabin without hesitation.
Leaving the Tree House and it's comfy bean-bag filled lounge behind us we continued north towards 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reigna. On route we stopped off at the Kauri Kingdom crafty shop. This shop was filled with the most beautiful Kauri wood products and the centre piece of the store is a spiral staircase carved out of a single piece of 50 year old swamp Kauri. In fact the stump was put in position then the store was built around it. The staircase needless to say wasn't for sale but if you were interested in a $55,000 Kauri sofa then you would've been in luck!
The weather at this stage had turned rather sour. I guess we can't have it our own way all the time. We drove onto 90 Mile Beach (see piccie opposite) and took the car for a quick twirl on the stand. We kept driving towards Cape Reinga at the top of the north island before deciding it really wasn't worth the effort. Not in this rain. We turned around and drove to Kahoe Farm, a charming B&B that had been recommended to us. By the time we arrived the rain really was torrential. It was a great place to lay low for two days while the storm raged outside. On our second night we enjoyed a Czech movie (I Served the King of England) at the local cinema as the annual film festival was taking place. Now, when I say cinema I mean parochial hall in the middle of nowhere with maybe 100 seats upstairs looking out over the balcony at a makeshift screen. Very entertaining. Then it was back to the B&B for late night drinks in celebration of Laslow's birthday & that was every entertaining too!
Thankfully the next day the weather had come good again. Sonja (Laslow's wife) had organised a chocolate birthday cake which we all enjoyed (with the exception of Claire) as part of a healthy breakfast. We carried on down the road to the Bay of Islands. The views were really incredible as we drove into Pahia, the main tourist town. We didn't stay here too long before taking the ferry across to Russell. Having walked the various streets and visited the oldest surviving Church in New Zealand (Christ Church, 1836), we boarded a super high speed power boat (Excitor) out into the bay. It was like a roller coaster on water, one second you're up the next second you're down. Mighty! When we reached the world famous "Hole in the Rock" (don't worry we hadn't heard of it either) the water was too choppy for our boat to pass through. We lingered for a few moments to take photos before speeding our way back to base.
Back at the car there was nothing left to do but twist and turn our way back to Auckland. Geez, and I thought the roads in Ireland were crazy but they ain't got nothing on NZ. In the absence of a formal toilet, en route, Claire was obliged to use the al fresco facilities. In doing so, she encountered a mozzie attack & has been nursing 67 bites since. Eeeek!!
Moon over Hokianga Harbour from Pakia Hill