Posts Tagged ‘Northland’

September 7th and 8th: More roadside attractions

September 9, 2008

Our tour of the Northland completed (at least for now), we were ready for more permanent surroundings, so we set out down State Highway 1 bound for Wellington. On the way, we came to the conclusion that New Zealand has way more awesome roadside kitsch than the US. Also, pigs.

Becky fell a little in love with this charming gentleman.

A lonely pig grazing amongst cows. Becky fell a little in love with this charming gentleman.

Inside this structure is a shop that sells - you guessed it - woolen goods from New Zealand's finest.

Inside this structure is a shop that sells - you guessed it - woolen goods from New Zealand's finest.

This WWII-era plane was converted into a (cookie-themed) cafe.

This WWII-era plane was converted into a (cookie-themed) cafe.

On any long drive you’ll have to stop for a bathroom break, but how often are the comfort facilities actually a tourist draw in their own right? In Kawakawa, the public toilets were desgned by the renowned Austrian artist and architect Frederick Hundertwasser, who had retired there. It was his last major work before his death.

The windows are made of wine and liquor bottles in cement.

The windows are made of wine and liquor bottles in cement.

We stopped at Whangarei (FANG-er-ay) Falls in Northland to stretch our legs and see a beautiful waterfall. It was a short, easy hike down to the foot of the falls, and we were even able to walk over the river right at the top of the waterfall (on a footbridge — don’t freak out, Mom).

hanging out at Whangarei Falls

hanging out at Whangarei Falls

We hit Wellington just before dusk on Monday and were able to see a little of the city before checking into our hostel and starting our housing hunt.

Home at last, once we find one!

Home at last, once we find one!

September 6th: Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga

September 9, 2008

On Saturday we took a bus tour up to the northern-most point of New Zealand, along Ninety Mile Beach – a bus tour because they actually drive on the beach itself for the majority of the way up. Our car, champion though it is, didn’t have the 4-wheel-drive capabilities to keep itself from becoming a permanent addition to the scenery. It wouldn’t have been the first one, either:

Oops.

Oops.

Along the way, we saw several seals lounging around on the beach. There were also tracks in the sand from the herds of wild horses that live in the dunes and brush off the beach, but we didn’t see any.

Damn tourists! Get off my lawn!

Damn tourists! Get off my lawn!

At Te Paki, we headed inland through the dunes. Some of these were massive — several stories high and ridiculously steep. So, of course, we pulled out the boogie boards and prepared for mouths full of sand.

Rad.

Rad.

At last we reached Cape Reinga. The view from the top overlooks the meeting of the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east, and it was amazing how visibly different they are.

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga and the meeting of the oceans

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga and the meeting of the oceans

The turquoise waters of the Tasman Sea

The turquoise waters of the Tasman Sea

On our way back down, we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom shop. mostly they were trying to sell us ludicrously expensive furniture and knickknacks hewed from ancient swamp kauri, but they also had a rockin’ staircase carved inside a massive, 45-thousand-year-old kauri log.

This picture only captures about half the log's width.

This picture only captures about half the log's width.

September 5th: Roadside attractions

September 8, 2008

Our drive toward the northernmost point of New Zealand was greeted with fairly gloomy weather; apparently, New Zealand had decided to remind us that we’d arrived in early spring. (September showers bring October flowers?) The morning was brightened, though, when we saw about a dozen wild (we assume) roosters hanging out on the side of the road.

No, what are YOU doing here?

No, what are YOU doing here?

The morning was brightened still further when we discovered a rare treat of Northland: calla lilies, growing wild by the side of the road. They’re apparently as common as weeds here; we’ve seen them many times growing wild along fence lines.

With weeds like these, who needs flower boxes?

With weeds like these, who needs flower boxes?

On yet another impromptu stop we saw a huge field full of sheep at pasture in a valley below the road. When we approached for a picture, though, the nearest handful of sheep glanced up at us and fled in panic. The rest of the herd soon followed suit, leading to a full-scale stampede down the slope.

where tourists are tourists and sheep are nervous.

New Zealand: where tourists are tourists and sheep are nervous.

We finished our drive up to Ahipara to book our hostel, and then following advice from the information center we headed up to the Karikari Peninsula for the afternoon. Matai Bay is a completely isolated, indescribably beautiful beach; it’s also a government-protected biodiversity area, so there was an impressive array of native plant life. We stayed until near sunset.

The unspoiled beach had some excellent shells and the like, including this live starfish.

The unspoiled beach had some excellent shells and the like, including this live starfish.

The skies open up over Matai Bay.

The skies open up over Matai Bay.

September 3rd and 4th: Driving North

September 7, 2008

Once were safely on the ground in Auckland, the first mission was to buy or hire a car. We ended up with an adorable, zippy little 1996 Toyota Starlet for just NZ$11 a day for our trip. We’re quickly adjusting to driving on the left side of the road. Trickier is the fact that the controls for the turn signal and windshield wiper are reversed from what we’re used to, so we end up signaling some turns by wiping our windshield.

Isn't it cute?

Isn't it cute?

We set out in our new car to New Zealand’s Northland. We stopped for an afternoon in Devonport, just across Torpedo Bay from Auckland, where we had a terrific view of the Auckland skyline.

A view of Auckland from the beach

A view of Auckland from the beach

Our first trip out into the country also gave us our first of what will surely be many sightings of New Zealand sheep. They were somehow not as excited to see us as we were to see them.

Baaaaah.

Baaaaah.

From Devonport we drove north along the east coast. The scenery in Northland is spectacular. We camped in a park on Hauriki Bay, where we were awakened before dawn by a multitude of bird calls that sounded really unnatural. The park is the site of a project to reintroduce native fauna to the area, so they were probably denser there than anywhere else on the island. So much for sleeping in!

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.

Jonathan gets stuck in the tent.


We went on a hike from our campsite to a hilltop with a magnificent view of Hauriki Bay and then down to the beach, where there were a bunch of pohutukawa trees, some of the most bizarre-looking trees we’ve encountered yet.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

The gnarly branches of the pohutukawa make for good seats.

Heading up the west coast of the North Island along the Tasman Sea, we drove through the Waipoua Forest, home to the world’s oldest and largest living Kauri trees. We had to stop for about an hour to wait out a rainstorm, which was fitting for this rainforest. The vegetation was incredibly thick and was the most surprising combinations of evergreens, desert-like brush, and palms. The tallest and oldest single kauri tree, called Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest in Maori), scrapes the sky at over 50m tall and a whopping 14m wide.

Look closely -- Jonathan is short, once again.

Look closely - Jonathan is short, once again.

Sadly, the camera battery died before we were able to capture the breathtaking views from the northern end of the park, looking out over a small valley filled with lush greenery. The sun, just coming out after a spell of rain, added even more to the scene. We stayed in a hostel not far from there, overlooking the Hokianga harbor, where as we watched the sun set that night, a seal was playing in the surf.