If it’s yellow, let it mellow.

Saturday 02 April 2016, Northland New Zealand.

The morning broke open with a better sky than it closed with last night, solidly grey but not raining at least. Today we return to the car and continue our journey south. Not a long day driving again, we are spending a night in Leigh, an hour north of Auckland. We were not in any rush.

We took in the view from the front of the B and B as we were packing the car, I love the way the mist is curling up out of the hills, feeding that big wet blanket looming above them. Perhaps that rain might come back?

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We left just before 10:00 and I made my first stop not far out of town, my last Northland church on this trip. The church at Taumarere was originally built in Paihia in 1874 and was barged here in 1926. It does not look like it is used overly much anymore. I was trying to get a photo with the mist and low brooding hills as a backdrop, but there was not enough space on the narrow strip of land surrounding the church.

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Our first stop was in Kawakawa at the famous HunterWasser toilets. I had been looking for these a couple of days when we passed through Kaitia on our way up the country as I was sure they were in that town. I was really pleased to find I was wrong and we got see them today. I have heard about them before but never seen them in the flesh. Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian architect and artist who migrated to New Zealand in 1975, he passed away in 2000. He has designed buildings all over the world and I always thought it bizarre he built a public toilet in northern New Zealand. They are a shining light in an otherwise unspectacular rural NZ town. And they are free to use !

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Whangerei Falls was a fairly regular stop on any northern journey, though the car park and facilities have improved since I was last there, there are some facilities at least. The falls sit in a residential area and the size of them really come as a surprise to the newcomer. At 26 metres high they are bigger than you would have thought.

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There is a nice circular path from the top to the base and back up again to the car park. They were a really enjoyable diversion on our travels south.

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There was a huge amount of spray coming off the falls, I took a quick snap before heading back into the trees.

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We were meeting my daughter and her B/F on the way back south. We had agreed to meet in Matakana but sadly ended up being forced to meet at the Brick Bay Winery Smile The pinot gris was really really nice and I was gutted to be driving. Even though it is sunny in this picture, a very heavy shower passed over soon after, and heavy showers passed over for the rest of the day, we got damp a couple of times. Me thinking ‘I wish I was not driving!’

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After a soothing glass and a shared cheese board we headed off to nearby Snells Beach for a walk. It has been a popular Auckland holiday destination for many years, but I was shocked at how big and built up it had become since I was last here.

The beach is still lovely, and this photo of my daughter Mel and her B/F, Dickie is one of my favourites of the whole trip, the light was just perfect for those few minutes.

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As you could tell by those clouds, we did not get to stay for much longer and they were soon on top of us, and they dumped a fair amount of rain in a very short time. Though it did not seem to bother these two old blokes netting for their tea.

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We stopped in Matakana on the way out to Leigh to pick up some provisions, cheese, crackers etc for a pre-evening drink. El really liked Nosh, the deli we shopped in, and Matakana in general.

I had rented a bach for the four us to stay in. The original plan was my son Aiden, and grandson Mason would join us as well. However, Aiden had tickets to a music festival in Wellington and had stuffed up dates for the weekend… A bach is basically a beach home, they used to be small and full of shabby furniture, mismatched crockery and cutlery, piles of board games and a BBQ outside. Seems these days that most cost more than a million dollars and are palaces for the rich. NZ is changing like the rest of the world.  Though, our bach, in the village of Leigh, is a proper bach bach, we loved it.

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Brown Fibrolite is classic New Zealand bach building material, it made me nostalgic for times old.

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I was really pleased that I had picked such a good place to stay, Leigh itself is a little bit inland and does not have the spectacular sandy beaches some of the other places on this stretch of coast have but this place made up for any of that. El really liked it though she was not so impressed with the loo poetry.

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The other reason for selecting this place was it was walking distance of Leigh Sawmill Cafe, where we went for dinner – and a couple of bottles of, you guessed it, pinot gris.

Kicking about in and around Paihia.

Friday 01 April 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.

Wanting to stay away from the main tourist hubbub of ‘downtown’ Paihia, I booked El and I a room in a small B and B in Haruru Falls, a couple of kilometres inland. The room was very comfortable, (it had the nicest chairs ever !) had nice views and good wifi. Perfect for a down day on our small road trip, and a welcome opportunity for me to not be driving all the time. El does not have a drivers licence so we could not share the driving. We had expected that the day was not going to break like yesterday with a great sunrise followed by clear a clear sky, so we were not surprised to look at the window at a grey old view. It is still a damn good view!

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After a very nice breakfast in the B and B we headed out to see Haruru Falls, and maybe get a short walk in before the forecasted downpours arrived. In the very early 80s friends and I hitch hiked up here from Auckland over a couple of summers for the new year celebrations in nearby Russell, we used to stay in the campground near the falls and it was pleasing to see the old campground is still there, looking a bit run down mind.

We were lucky in that there had been a little bit of rain over the past few days as this meant there was some water passing over the falls.

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We spent a bit of time around the top of the falls, I was waiting to grab a photo without other viewers, something I always try to do. We didn’t have to wait too long mind.

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The rain that was due to come had not materialised so we decided to do a short walk along the path to Waitangi. I had originally planned that with good weather we could do the full three hour return walk, but with heavy rain forecast we decided against it. We did get down to the water edge and through a small section of mangroves, before turning back as rain drops started to fall. Naturally the rain stopped before we got back to the car.

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The walk we did was nice enough, we got to stretch our legs a bit and saw some interesting flora along the way. This is a very unusual and spiky plant, it looks quite n nice, but it is wild ginger and is an imported noxious pest and one of the most invasive weeds in the world. I have never seen it flowering before and was not sure what it was until I looked it up.

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The owner of our guest house told us to visit Mt Bledisloe; at a mighty 105 metres high it is hardly a mountain, not even higher than the hill next to it. It does have a big view over Paihia, Waitangi, over to the Hen and Chicken Islands and up and down the coast. On a clear day I am sure it is spectacular. I liked the useful sign at the start of the track.

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Bledisloe was the governor general of New Zealand and presented this ceramic plaque on the top of the hill to the nation in 1934. The plaque was made by 11278 miles away in London by Doulton and is fabulous.

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We drove down to Waitangi to have a look at the treaty grounds. The Treaty of Waitangi is the founding document of New Zealand and is (in theory) the guiding principle by which the government make and change law. It was signed in 1840 as a treaty between the British Crown and a group of north island Maori chiefs and was the document that made NZ a part of the commonwealth.

The treaty grounds are now part of a large new museum which now attracts an entry fee of $40 each, which is far too expensive for us. I was really unhappy that all the museums we wanted to visit had what we considered an exorbitant entry fee. Maybe we are just too used to free museums in London, or low cost museums elsewhere. I was particularly disappointed by the fee here as this location and its history is fundamental to New Zealand’s history and should be made as widely and freely available as possible.

Carrying on to Paihia we stopped near the very cool ‘wee’ public toilet.

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We had a bit of a walk around, and stopped for coffee and a cake, but as a tourist centre there is not a heck of a lot in Paihia itself. Especially on such a grey day.

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There is a a lot to do and see nearby, but apart from eating, drinking and sleeping Paihia holds limited attraction. So we drove up to nearby Kerikeri instead.

Like Cape Reinga I do not recall ever having seen the Stone Store since I was a child. It is one of the classic north island tourist locations, but I just never had cause to go there as an adult. Showing El around was a good excuse to check it out.

The Kerikeri mission station was founded in 1819 and was the first European settlement to be built under the blessing and protection of local Maori chiefs. It was part harbour, part safe haven and part mission site.

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The stone store is New Zealand’s oldest stone building. It was built in 1832. Living in the UK, I do find the fact that it is so new, but still the oldest stone building, quite laughable, but in a cute and loving way!.

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I recall the church at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight that was REBUILT in 1070, and it is so insignificant that hardly anyone has even heard of it, ‘old’ is very subjective.

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Kemp House (or the Mission House) is the neighbour of the stone store and is New Zealand’s oldest building, it was completed in 1822.

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One of the things I find amusing in an angry ironic way, is that the early European settlers decided to bring little bits of home to New Zealand, the church at the mission station has a lovely old English oak tree growing next to it.

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While the oak is fine, what the settlers also brought with them were pests; rabbits, deer, possums, rats and mice. These animals have devastated the New Zealand countryside, destroying native vegetation, birds, insects and reptiles. With very few exceptions, New Zealand had no land based mammals prior to European visitors. The early Maori bought pigs with them from Asia, and prior to that there were only bats and sea based mammals. The native birds and insects had no chance.

I loved these epiphytes growing on the branches in this tree, I have seen these on a few occasions before, there is small one in my sisters garden, but I have not seen one this massive, or close to the ground. An epiphyte is a plant that grows on another plant without harming it.

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On the way back to Haruru Falls we stopped in the Cottle Bay Winery for a small tasting, I was driving so needed to be very careful. They made a really unusual walnut liqueur which was really nice, so we ended up buying a bottle of that and a white port to take back to London, as well as a bottle of wine to drink later on.

I ended up driving a lot more than I wanted to today, but the weather sort of dictated what e could do, but it was good to get too a few places I haven’t seen, as well as show El some more of my lovely adopted homeland!

 

Cape Reinga

Thursday 31 March 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.

After a really nice evening, we slept well and were up early. We had quite a big day ahead, with five or six hours driving to get up to the top of the country and back down again, but to Paihia on the east coast. El was up to watch a great sunrise, but slack bugger that I am I missed it entirely. I am not much of a photographer! I did catch the glow just before the sun fully popped up over the horizon.

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After an unspectacular breakfast (I still ate like a pig) we checked out and were on the road early. I had planned on catching the car ferry from Rawene, but foolishly did not check a timetable before we left and arrived with a 45 minute wait for the ferry. I took a photo of the great old church at Rawene.

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With another half an hour to go we checked out the local coffee shop and sat out on the deck in the sun, gazing over the harbour and enjoyed a very nice flat white.

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The car ferry is small, it is only a 15 minute journey, and there were only eight cars on it, still more than I expected for a mid-week morning.

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I took a photo of the route planner that was outside the car window on the ferry. We drove up from the bottom of the map to the top, up the right hand side and down the left. Luckily there are not too many road choices !

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The small town of Rawene.

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Another church, stupidly I forgot to note the name of the church, and even more stupidly I cut the top of the spire off. Doh!

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The drive up to the cape is very pretty, wild and remote, and fairly deserted on the road as well. We decided to not take the beach route (and the rental car terms forbid it anyway) and with so much driving already planned we did not take any detours either. We could have gone to 90 mile beach for a look. Next time.

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The road to the cape is excellent, it was unsealed not that long ago, pleased to see some of the petrol tax dollars I paid in NZ put to some good use.

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We arrived at Cape Rienga early in the afternoon, the car park was about half full, which was a relief, I was half expecting a load of tour buses, but it was pretty quiet. The walk to the tip and the lighthouse takes about 20 minutes. I was a little bit excited as I had very much been looking forward to coming here, and showing El some of my adopted homeland.

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Soon we were there, at the cape.

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where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean at the very end of New Zealand.

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Only 18029km back to London!

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We were a little snackish as we set off back southward. I had been big-upping the fish and chip shop at Mangonui on Doubtless Bay on the way, so we stopped there for a very late lunch. We were not impressed, service was a bit confusing and not particularly friendly and the small fish and chips were nice, but massively overpriced. I was disappointed to be honest. It is not on my recommended list any more, sadly.  We had such a good eating and drinking experience in New Zealand, shame to have a couple of places bring it down a bit.

After the break we carried on driving down to Haruru Falls, just outside Paihia where I had booked a room in a B and B for two nights. I was glad to get there, after six hours in the car, albeit with lots of breaks, it was nice to not have to get back in and drive again.

Though we had to in the end, there are no restaurants in Haruru Falls, so I had to drive into town for dinner. We did have an amazing Thai at Amazing Thai.

It was another good day.

Lord of the Forest

Wednesday 30 March 2016 – Northland, New Zealand.

As this New Zealand trip is a large part of El and my holiday allowance for the year I snuck a few days away for just the two of us amongst the family and friend visits. Family and friends are a crucial part of my visits back to NZ and I really enjoy them, but after long flights and jet lag I find them stressful and draining as well – especially trying to fit everyone who wants to see us in to such a tight schedule. El and I were both looking forward to going away by ourselves for some R and R. Naturally I planned on squeezing in touring and road trips and sightseeing and as much as possible. I never learn.

I wanted to go up to Cape Rienga, the most northly tip of New Zealand, the only other time I was there was in 1975 – mum and I think so anyway. It is pretty much a new bit of New Zealand for both us, though I have been as far as Omapere before. It is a long drive from Auckland so I broke the trip up over three days so we could relax a bit and see a few other things on the way up, and down again.

It was a slow start to the day, we left mum’s place at 9:30 and after a wrong turn here, some incredibly bad traffic there and some stupid lane choices and getting stuck going the wrong way on a non-moving motorway it was an hour before we actually were officially ‘on the way’. I had elected to go up the western side of the island and come back down via the eastern.

By some sort of miracle, it was a stunning day, warm and sunny and perfect for driving. I have slowed down a lot on the last few years, Kiwi drivers are notoriously awful, not madly suicidal like some countries, just rude, arrogant and ignorant. I was that person behind the wheel. No longer; cruising ‘up north’ at a sedate pace was the order of the day, enjoying the reasonable quiet off-season, mid-week roads, and some great scenery.

Our first stop was Matakohe, at the Kauri Museum, we decided not to go into the museum as it was a bit pricey, but we did look in the shop and I took a couple of photos of some of the buildings outside. I have a thing for the old churches in Northland, I have a few photos from ‘back in the day’ kicking around somewhere. I was going to stop and take photos of as many as I could, but only managed to grab a few. They are quite unique, mainly built in the latter part of the 19th century when Anglican missionaries flooded into the country, they are small, wooden painted white, often with a red roof. They look lovely.

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The old Matakohe post office – also lovely. New Zealand’s history is not very old, there are no ancient buildings, but the ‘old’ buildings are quiet unique to New Zealand.

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Heading further north we came across this wonderful old derelict church.

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After a pretty reasonable, though quite expensive lunch in Dargaville we were soon heading north again up to the Waipoua Forest. The Waipoua is one of the largest areas of northland kauri remaining in New Zealand, and I was keen to stop briefly to see Tane Mahuta, New Zealand’s biggest kauri tree. The road north was surprisingly good, a lot of work must have been done here in the last few years, though it is pretty windy and we got stuck behind someone going really slowly and the Kiwi driver came out in me for a while and I was muttering and cursing for the ten minutes we were held up.

We stopped by the Waipoua River to take a couple of photos of the river and some of the other kauri growing.

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After a leg stretch, we were back in the car and finally stopping at the entrance to the short path to the big tree itself, Tane Mahuta ‘Lord of the forest’. It is not a particularly tall tree at only 58 ft tall, but it is 45ft round and looks massive. It is quite impressive up close.

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The tree is accessed via a board walk to prevent visitors from trampling too close to its roots, as the bush is quite dense the tree almost appears by surprise when you walk round a gentle bend in the path. I have been a bit obsessed with taking photos with a bit of flare in them but went full flareage here !

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It is only a short drive from the Tane Mahuta car park to our final stop for the day at Omapere on the edge of the Hokianga Harbour. There was a viewing point at the top of the hill above the harbour so we stopped to have a look. I hadn’t really told El much about the places we would be staying and she was really excited to know that we were in a small hotel right next to the wharf in the bottom of the photo. What a view !!!

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I had booked a room on the internet, but had not really specified any particular requirements, once we were there I asked if we could upgrade, for a nominal increase in cost to a beach view room, and thankfully we could. Wow ! out of the room, on to the ground level deck, across a small stretch of grass was sand and then sea. We could not be any closer. After nipping back up the road to the shop to get a bottle of pinot gris, I was togs on (NZ for swimming costume) and into the sea. My first swim in 18 months. It was cold, but not too bad, El watched…

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Once dry and refreshed with a glass of wine, it was camera out and I took a lot of photos as the sun slowly sunk into the sea in front and to the side of us, the golden hour was truly golden.

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The sky started off with a nice set of clouds and I was really looking forward to a great colour show once the sun dropped out of sight below the horizon.

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However it was not to be, as the clouds slowly dissipated before my eyes and the wild red and purple sky that was in my head did not materialise. It was very special all the same.

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A great start to our road trip, tomorrow is Cape Rienga!