Category Archives: North Island

Final NZ Days-Kauri Trees-Days 24-26

Waipoua Forest

High in a Kauri Ecosystem
High in a Kauri Ecosystem

Out next destination is the Waipoua Forest  where the remnants of ancient Kauri trees, some of them 2000 years old, are living out their belatedly protected lives.

Boot Cleaning Station
Boot Cleaning Station

There will never again be native Kauri forests like there were when the English first showed up on these shores. Between the massive deforestation of the past and the diseases and invasive pests of the present, the Kauri’s that are left are barely hanging on. Raised wooden walkways wind through the forest protecting the tender Kauri roots from  foot traffic and the diseases carried by boots.

Elevated wooden walk
Elevated wooden walk

Each of the really old trees has been given its’ own name and a lengthy Maori legend to go with it.

Jeff by "Yakas" the Kauri
Jeff by “Yakas” the Kauri

A guide is talking story to a Maori family in their native tongue and we stop to listen to the musical language for a bit. Plaques along the way tell the stories in two languages for those of us not conversant in Maori.

Kauri BArk
Kauri Bark Close up

After wandering around in the forest and communing with the ancient trees there,  it started raining in earnest,  so drove down to Matakoe and toured the extensive Matakoe Kauri Museum.

Dactylanthus taylori, Woods Flowers
Dactylanthus taylori, Woods Flowers

One of the things we learned about was the parasitic fungus that grows on Kauri tree roots which can be boiled down to reveal intricate “woods flowers”.

Woods Flower
Woods Flower

Kauri trees have been exploited for their beautiful wood, and for the sap, or gum,  which can age into a type of amber, and which was exported during the 1800’s to make varnish and linoleum flooring, enabling many gum diggers to earn a living. Many tree climbers also worked bleeding the trees for  sap.

Kauri Gum
Kauri Gum

Even after whole forests have been cut down or blown and buried into swamps by volcanic blasts, the wood and gum is still salvageable. Fossilized gum, like amber, sometimes has insects and plants embedded in it and makes into beautiful carvings.

I actually like the 45,000 year old swamp Kauri wood better than the fresher version. It has a deeper, more interesting character.

Buried 36,000 years in a Swamp
Buried 36,000 years in a Swamp

Woodcarvers are still able to dig up Kauri logs from old swamp grounds to get usable wood and gum. This museum is definitely worth stopping at if you get a chance. The displays run the gamut from pioneers to logging. The huge tree ferns we have been seeing everywhere make pretty wood too.

Tree Fern Wood
Tree Fern Wood

 

 

Tokatoka, the Volcanic Neck Climb

The day cleared up again as we left the museum and drove south for a short hike up a very steep hill, actually what was left of the center of a volcano.

Tokatoka Volcanic Neck
Tokatoka Volcanic Neck

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jeff made it almost to the top but his fear of heights suddenly kicked in just shy of the tiny summit.

As Far as Jeff Could Get on Tokatoka
As Far as Jeff Could Get on Tokatoka

 

 

The top was flat, and maybe 8 feet wide and 12 feet long with steep drop offs all around. The view was amazing though.

View of the River From Top of Tokatoka Neck
View of the River From Top of Tokatoka Neck
South Westerly View From Tokatoka
South Westerly View From Tokatoka

We had to back track a little ways North to  find a campsite for the night. We were not ready to get closer to Auckland just yet. It is so nice out in the country.

New Zealand Horses
New Zealand Horses
One of the Many Fence Stiles
One of the Many Fence Stiles

Night 25, Dargaville, North Island, NZ

Dargaville Barbecue
Dargaville Barbecue
Dargaville Kitchen
Dargaville Kitchen

We spent the night in a campground in Dargaville which the owners had retired to about 14 months prior. Nice folks, who went out of their way to find us a motel near the Auckland airport to stay in for our flight out to Australia on Christmas day, the next (our 26th) night. We did our laundry and ate dinner while talking with them under the roofed over barbecue. The campground was nice and quiet on this pre holiday night and I could almost imagine doing something similar in our retirement. Almost.

Final Night in New zealand

The next morning as we headed into Auckland, we ran into our first serious traffic on the whole trip. Apparently everyone and their brother was escaping  Auckland and traffic going north was bumper to bumper and barely moving. Our side was fine. We were the only ones on the planet planning to spend Christmas eve in an airport motel. We were also under a tight deadline because we had to get to our room, empty the van, take it to be washed and vacuumed and be back at the Spaceship place by 5pm.

The motel was the only night we had needed a reservation and it was the worst place we stayed. We were the only two people at the onsite restaurant for dinner and the two Indian women working there were watching a movie in their native tongue as we ate. Even though we did not understand the words, the movie was easy to understand- classic man meets woman, falls in love, blah, blah. It was a very strange way to spend Christmas eve.

In the morning we would catch a shuttle to the airport and bid farewell to this great country of New Zealand. We had such a great visit and there is so much more we did not get to see. Twenty six nights was just barely enough to get a good idea of the places we saw and it would be much better to spend a few months here, like the backpackers seem to do. I would have liked to do some long back country hikes or wander around on horseback, do a longer sailboat trip…It is one beautiful country and worth whatever it takes to get yourself there.

The next stop is in Perth Australia for a week with my daughter and her family, and then finally, home to the critters.

Last View of New Zealand
Last View of New Zealand

-Wendy lee, writing at Edgewisewoods

 

 

 

Cape Reinga and Hokianga-NZ Days 25-26

Cape Reinga-Day 25

Ninety Mile Beach is on our left side, to the west, out of sight over the dunes, as we head north on Route 1F, the only paved road on narrow Cape Reinga.

Looking West Towards Tasman sea
Looking West Towards Tasman sea

Water is never further than 5 kilometers from us on either side.  New Zealand did not officially go metric until 1976, but it is still strange that they call it 90 Mile Beach when I measure it at 90 Kilometers on my road map. Our rental agreement with the Spaceship people does not allow us to drive on this beach,  but many people in four wheel drives, and even some tour buses, come up here just to do that. A  stream bed serves as the beach access road.

Paki Stream to 90 Mile Beach
Paki Stream to 90 Mile Beach

According to the signs,  you  must drive on only the hard packed, recently wet, sand and know the tides so you don’t get stranded out there. I don’t feel a need to drive on the beach anyway, as I prefer the peace and solitude of walking. We opt to come back to this spot after  driving  out to the north end of the Cape , where the lighthouse is.Reinga Light

Cape Reinga is a deeply  spiritual site for the Maori, and the DOC (Department of Conservation) has  Maori  guides stationed at the park ready to answer questions. Most of the guides we have seen during our month in New Zealand have been Maori’s and all of them have been friendly and ready with their stories.  Quite often, they flow into speaking Maori and then have to translate for us. I am glad their musical sounding language has not been destroyed.

Close up of Te Aroha
Close up of Te Aroha

We are told that, at  this most sacred site, out on a cliff,  stands a single 800 year old Pohutukawa tree,  named Te Aroha, that according to Maori legend,  carries the souls of its’ people as they depart for the afterlife. The link will tell you more about that.

Te Aroha
Te Aroha

 

It is awesome  to see this legendary and lonely tree still surviving and it does feel spiritual, even to us.

The Tasman Sea and the South Pacific Ocean  meet  in a visible line north of the light house, with different shades of blue waters headed right for each other, breaking into waves and then churning together.

Tasman Meets South Pacific
Tasman Meets South Pacific

It looks like a scary place to have  to cross in a boat, even without the deadly rocks jutting out nearby.

A buzzing noise starts to intrude into my brain and as I look around for the source, Jeff tells me to, “look up, way up. ” Finally I see it, a square shaped drone cruising around, and then I locate the guy operating it. We wave to the drone as it takes our picture and then wander over to get a closer look as he brings it down to earth. It is a good one,  homing in to base on its’ own when the battery gets low or you call it in. Usually they annoy the hell out of me but this guy is being careful not to buzz people too closely and the wind up here carries most of the sound away. Besides, the scenery is just to beautiful to let anything get in the way. We have seen many parks here where drones are not allowed, which I can appreciate. We can see a smaller cape to the west from the lighthouse hill without a drone.

Cape Maria Bay from Reinga Light
Cape Maria Bay from Reinga Light
Reinga Light
Reinga Light

There is a distance-to-places sign post by the lighthouse that everyone is getting their pictures taken at and one guy climbs onto the shoulders of another to put a flag on it.

Distance Pole Climber
Distance Pole Climber

We are as far North in New Zealand as we are going to get and the time to leave this wonderful country draws near. My least favorite part of any good vacation is when I first realize that I have to leave soon.

On the drive back down the peninsula we stop back at  the 90 Mile Beach car park and walk down the middle of the shallow creek, between huge dunes, towards the beach.

90 Mile Beach Access Road
90 Mile Beach Access Road

Squeals reach our ears before we see the busload of tourists sledding down the huge sand dunes and across the creek. The dunes are steep, with a very long trek up to the top, and it looks like a pretty scary run, but we have done this before in Australia and don’t feel the need now. It is fun to watch them until the last bit at the bottom, where there is an abrupt turn onto the flat which looks harsh and possibly painful.

Sand Boarding
Sand Boarding

As we are walking the 3 kms to the beach, various 4-wheel drives pass us, splashing through the shallow creek and we decide there are just too many people around here. We decide to skip this beach and  head south again, down the west coast towards some really big Kauri trees.

Kohukohu to Rawene Ferry

After meandering around some little country roads in the general direction we wanted we  came to a dead end at a sizable bay. The road just ended at the water.

Ferry to Rawene
Ferry to Rawene

There was a woman sitting nearby who told us there would be a ferry after awhile and that it was a long way around otherwise, so we got out and waited with her. It was a small ferry, holding maybe six cars, and it ran mornings and evenings until dark so local folks could get back and forth to work.

View From Ferry
View From Ferry

It was almost Christmas and everyone on the ferry but us seemed to know each other and were wishing  happy holidays. We were all dropped  off on the other side in the small artsy looking village of Rawene, which I would have liked to spend some time in, but Jeff kept us moving.

Hokianga Bay

We worked our way down through the little bay side village of Opononi and out to the Waimamaku Coastal Track  at the mouth of Hokianga Bay. The gathering clouds kept changing the light and there was a great view back towards the village.

Opononi on the Bay
Opononi on the Bay

We were getting hungry and needed to find a place to camp but this coastal park was too gorgeous to miss. On the other side of the narrow harbor mouth was a giant sand dune lit up by the sun and the water was a glowing blue

Sand Dune Across Mouth of Martins Harbor
Sand Dune Across Mouth of Martins Harbor

Looking out to sea was even better with a shiny pewter sea.

Sea View
Sea View

And then looking back up towards the signal tower (think modern lighthouse) hill…Hard to believe this was all at the same time.

Signal Hill
Signal Hill

There was sea-sculpted sandstone in colors of rust, with embedded balls of minerals…20151222_454820151222_4549

Sandstone
Sandstone

 

 

 

And windblown shore plants with trails disappearing into them,

Trail
Trail

Unfortunately, it was getting late, and we had to leave this gorgeous place or miss out on a fresh fish dinner at the local pub tonight.

We stopped on the way and got a campsite at the Opononi Holiday Beach Park, a great little place that had goats tethered out to mow the grass and which wasn’t even listed in our guide books.

The local pub was just down the road and we got a table outside looking over the bay. A statue of Opo the friendly dolphin sits out in front. The link has a great old filmstrip  about this famous critter, which is amusing to watch. I was enjoying a beer and watching a few small fishing boats coming back in for the night as we waited for dinner. The fish was good and fresh.

Back at camp we checked out the kitchen block which had a big covered porch and views of the bay. There were three huge handmade wooden tables made of single slabs of the most gorgeous wood, which I think was swamp Kauri.

Kauri Slab Picnic Table
Kauri Slab Picnic Table

We walked down to the water and watched the sunset over Hokianga Bay.

Sunset at Opononi
Sunset at Opononi

Day 26

In the morning , the baby goats were playing, jumping all around their mothers, bouncing off the banks.  We stopped in at the info center on the way out where there was a long wall of murals outside about the history of Opononi.

Mural in Opononi With Moa Bird legs
Mural in Opononi With Moa Bird legs
Opo in Mural
Opo in Mural

One panel depicted the legs of the extinct 3 meter tall Moa bird. Another was about Opo. There were other panels about shipwecks, the signal light Kauri tree logging and Maori life.

We hated to leave, yet again. Places to go…things to see.

 

The Wooden Labyrinth

Next, we drive down a long, winding,  gravel road through lush jungle-type greenery, with giant tree ferns and palm trees, and pull in at a sign for “The Wooden Labyrinth” puzzle shop. We are met at the door by Louie the puzzle maker,  a happy man who hands Jeff a puzzle by way of greeting. Jeff works that puzzle out fairly quickly and Louie hands him another harder one.

Louie the Puzzlemaker
Louie the Puzzlemaker

While Jeff is working on that one he tells us he started out working on big Main Frame computers at age 19, back in 1969, and retired  at 21, to make puzzles full time. He attends international puzzle parties every year where each person brings100 puzzles, and they exchange them with 100 other puzzle makers, so they each leave with 100 different puzzles from all over the world. He has thousands of puzzles in his shop, some his own creations, many from other places. Jeff was in heaven.

Mister Peacock and the Elephant in the Yard
Mister Peacock and the Elephant in the Yard

I talked with Louie and fed Mister Peacock  bananas while Jeff  made his puzzle selections. The elephant in the photo held a donation can for an elephant protection group. Then we went outside to do the maze. There were letter clues to collect to spell an answer to a riddle, and we ended up needing help to solve it, but it was fun. Our prize for finishing was a lollipop, which we didn’t deserve.

Mister Peacock showed us his beautiful tail on our way out.

Peacock Fan
Peacock Fan
Peacock Back Fan
Peacock Back Fan

-Wendy lee, writing at Edgewise Woods Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

Coramandel to Waipu Cove-Day 23-24

Kauri Forest and Then Up Coramandel-Day 23-24

Views on Way to Kauri
Views on Way to Kauris

We left Sapphire Springs in search of a really big Kauri tree that was supposed to live nearby. Kauri trees have beautiful, tightly grained, durable wood and huge forests of them used to cover the islands, but the original stands were decimated in the 1800’s and have not  recovered. These days the oldest trees are given their own individual names and protected within parks and people are attempting to cultivate new groves of them.

The sign at the trail head has a cleaning station, with a boot brush and an underground tank with a spray nozzle to clean your boots  before you enter the forest.

Kauri Tree Disease Prevention
Kauri Tree Disease Prevention

Every Kauri stand we come across has these stations in an effort to prevent the spread of a soil borne fungal disease, Phytopthora agathadicidia that is now attacking the trees.  It is good to see them trying so hard to prevent the disease, even though the chances are slim that it will help much.

Young Kauri Forest
Young Kauri Forest

After hiking for an hour and a half we figured out that we were on the wrong trail, and were instead in a young Kauri forest, so we had to go on down the road to the next trail head.

Tuahu Kauri Tree
Tuahu Kauri Tree

Once on the correct path, we quickly arrived at this tree, named Tuahu, which was huge and towered over the surrounding forest. We met a local man and his well traveled grandson while enjoying the tree. The boy was ten years old and had already been to the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore in the States.

As we resumed our drive towards the coast we came to an interesting looking park in a narrow gorge, with swinging bridges over the river, and decided to stop.

Karangahake Gorge

Originally a protected Maori gateway, this steep walled canyon became  an industrial gold mine from 1883-1933. Thirteen levels  of tunnels were chiseled through the mountain,  and rails carried the broken quartz rocks along narrow ledges to wood fired kilns. The surrounding hills were totally deforested to provide fuel. After eighty some years, the trees and ferns have reclaimed the area

Karangahake Gorge Walkway
Karangahake Gorge Walkway

Today, the woods have grown back over the old mine buildings and some of the tunnels have walking trails through them,with swinging bridges criss crossing the river.

Reflection of Outside-Inside
Reflection of Outside-Inside
Tree Fern
Tree Fern
Interior of Tree Fern Trunk
Interior of Tree Fern Trunk

Giant tree ferns, flowers and lichens add color.

Beauty Comes Back
Beauty Comes Back

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hahei Beach

We finally make it to the coast and a stop at Hot Water Beach, a very strange place which seems like a normal beach until you realize that there are a lot of people and everyone is carrying a shovel.

People With Shovels on Hot Water Beach
People With Shovels on Hot Water Beach

We follow a string of folks out to a tightly bunched crowd, all madly digging holes in the sand and sitting in them as they fill with water.

Sitting in the Dug Out Pools
Sitting in the Dug Out Pools

It is pretty amusing to watch this whole process and although I am not digging, I can see where if you had a bunch of friends and some beer, it might be fun. Hot water seeps onto this section of the beach from a couple of 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) springs, for two hours either side of low tide. It is a small area and there is a fair amount of jostling for best position.

20151217_3333 A flourishing business has evolved with shovel rentals,        paid parking and cabin rentals nearby.

Our  campground for the night, the Hahei Holiday Park is just a short drive around the cove. A couple of boys are doing a great job of miming a rope pulled taut across the road as we approach the entrance gate. We pretend to be held back for a few seconds before they collapse to the ground laughing and we give them a “Good job!” and a thumbs up. All the people that work at the park are in the middle of an outdoor  Christmas party, so they tell us to park in an empty section and catch them in the morning. A thunder storm is brewing up black clouds as we find our spot and then quick head down to yet another beautiful beach before it hits.

Storm Brewing on Hahei Beach
Storm Brewing on Hahei Beach

As usual on most New Zealand beaches (except the hot water one) there is hardly anyone around and it is breathtakingly beautiful, with little islands off shore, long vistas, clean water, and clean sand. When the sky starts turning an alarming shade of green, we high tail it back towards the camper van, but the storm beat us back and we get totally drenched. The rain is coming down in buckets, wind is whipping the trees and we pile into the van and wait it out. Dinner does not happen tonight because the storm did not let up until late, so we just had a snack and lay on the bed reading and downloading camera cards for awhile. When it finally stopped raining we got out and set the tent up over the tailgate, went to the bath house and washed up and crawled into bed.

When I went to the kitchen in the morning for my coffee water, I was disappointed to find no table inside, only picnic tables outdoors, and since they were all wet from the storm, there was no where to eat and no one else around to talk to. I ended up using our own little table and chairs, which we hardly ever use, back at the van. This place looks like it is going to be a big party spot in a couple of weeks and they are booked solid. There are lots of different showers, a covered airing room to dry bathers and such and I notice how different the plumbing is here than at home.

Wash House
Wash House

The water pipes are all exposed and not insulated in any way, which probably means it does not ever freeze here. They are able to have wash stations and fish cleaning sinks and all outside all year round.

Cathedral Cove

There are hiking trails and cool destinations close by and today we are walking out to Cathedral Cove so we get an early start.

Dept of Conservation Trails
Dept of Conservation Trails

Lucky that we did because the parking area is already getting

crowded and I imagine in peak season it is impossible to find a space. we have packed a lunch , swimsuits and sunscreen, since it is sunny and warming up fast.

Flat Cliff Top Meadow
Flat Cliff Top Meadow

We walk through tropical forest with openings into sunny meadows and views of the ocean.

Arch to Cathedral Cove
Arch to Cathedral Cove

Then down a steep path to a white sandy beach cove surrounded by cliffs and sea caves with the clearest blue water.

Changing Cave
Changing Cave

At his point we had to duck into a sea cave and change into swim suits.

Cathedral Beach Sea Stack
Cathedral Beach Sea Stack

We waded around and walked through the cool shady archway into another secluded beach with sea stacks.

Cool Shady Beach Cave
Cool Shady Beach Cave

It seems like this huge shady cave would be an excellent place to cool off on a hot day at the beach. It is open on two sides with great views of the water.

Cathedral Beach Path
Cathedral Beach Path

The day was warm and sunny, the water clear and still a bit cold, but we waded around, relaxed,  and checked out the caves and cliffs until the tide came in too much. There were a few people here picnicking and a group of kayakers wandered in but it was not crowded yet. I wanted to stay here all day, scrabbling over the rocks and exploring further up the coastline but we had to walk back out through meandering pathways to the van and continue our journey. Darn it.

We headed  around the Coramandel Peninsula on the road. There are tracks at the far north where no roads go which would be good hiking.

Random Roadside Bee Hives
Random Roadside Bee Hives

Colorfully painted beehives are randomly parked all over roadsides throughout New Zealand and we passed some of these on the way. I never saw any that were all one color.

Coming Down the Coramandel Range
Coming Down the Coramandel Range

Then we climbed a steep hill and dropped down the other side for a nice view of the west side of the Coramandel Coast.

Fishing Boats Out On Coramandel
Fishing Boats Out On Coramandel

We started to see fleets of fishing boats in the harbors.

Pied Shag
Pied Shag

Then there was a whole group of a Cormorant type bird called a Pied shag. I love the way they stand around and dry their armpits.

Jeff wanted to go into Auckland to get more information on the northern part of the island, right into the center of the city.

Auckland Free for All
Auckland Free for All

When the pedestrian lights are GO they come from all directions at once and totally clog the center of the intersection. No cars move, only people. There were a lot of people.

Auckland Tower
Auckland Tower

The i-site was a few blocks walk from where we parked, in the base of the big needle tower. Gathering travel information was a bust because the internet was down all over the city. No body knew what to do. I just wanted out. On the way, we watched crazy people suit up in flight coveralls to jump off the tower– from really high up. They were tethered to bungee cords and guy wires but it looked pretty scary. I just wanted to get out of town and our talking GPS kept turning us around in circles. We finally made it out and headed north again. Seemed like we drove all day long and we did not stop until we got to Waipu Cove, except for a quick stop at a super windy beach camp that was full anyway.

Waipu Cove

The camp at Waipu Cove was one of the nicest ones, with a cozy kitchen and shiny new bathrooms. Tonight is our twenty first night traveling around in New Zealand. We have another five days here and then we have a week in Perth, Australia.

Waipu Cove Kitchen and Bath
Waipu Cove Kitchen and Bath

We pulled into camp fairly late in the day and as usual, wanted to go right out on the beach. We had to cross a wetland to get to the dunes walk and they had a hand powered rope ferry to pull yourself across on.

Hand Ferry Across Waipu Marsh
Hand Ferry Across Waipu Marsh

I loved crossing the water on the little floating ferry and walking the winding path through the dunes. The wide open and deserted beach was one of the few where we actually found shells. There was no one out there but us.

Shells from Waipu Cove
Shells from Waipu Cove

There is only one other tent there tonight, although closer to the road there are quite a few cabins with folks that look like they are staying for long periods.

Waipu Campsite
Waipu Campsite

We cook our dinner at Waipu Cove and make ready for another day. It is peaceful and quiet and we can see a lot of stars out and hear the ocean. Tomorrow, there are the Waipu limestone caves that we have to explore

-Wendy Lee Writing at Edgewise Woods, Gardens and Critters

 

 

 

 

Waipu Caves to Kerikeri-Day 22-23

Waipu Caves- Day 22

Since Jeff is a caver and I only want to explore caves I have never seen before, Waipu Caves is our next stop. As we get close, ancient limestone boulders that have been worn down by running water start showing up in the fields we pass.

Limestone Rocks
Limestone Rocks

A housing subdivision (one of the few we have seen) has lined up a bunch of them as part of their entrance fence.  There are also big bird- nest- looking epiphytic plants perched in some of the trees.

Epiphytic "Bird Nests" in Tree
Epiphytic “Bird Nests” in Tree

The Waipu Caves parking area is in a meadow and has an outdoor shower attached to the outhouses so you can clean up after getting all wet and muddy in the cave.

One of the Flooded Waipu Caves
One of the Flooded Waipu Caves

We knew we would be getting wet on this trip so we put on our water shoes and shorts and grabbed our headlamps, cameras and flashlights. It seems a shame to go underground on such a sunny warm day.

The entrance to the main cave is huge and open with a shallow stream running down the middle that disappears under a ledge further in. Nice big Stalactites are hanging from the ceiling and Stalagmites are growing up from the floor. We wander around in the big room, impressed with the condition of such a well known cave. There is no graffiti or trash and the formations are still in good shape.

I can hear people splashing through the water on the other side of the overhang and we duck under to explore the rest of the cave. We have to wade through fairly cold water about knee deep for about 4 meters to reach dry passage again. The people we heard have disappeared. We turn out our lights to look for glow worms and see only a few so we turn the lights back on and keep going.

Eventually we find a room with an entire “sky” full of Glow Worm “stars”. My camera will not take a good photo in such a dark place but Jeff gets it on his. Before we turn the lights out we can see where they are by their glistening threads that dangle down from the ceiling. Once the lights are off you can see their luminescence . They are yet another endangered species that occurs only here in New Zealand.

There is a trail going up the hill that might go to more caves so we go for a walk. Jeff checks out every cavey looking spot he sees and I sit on rocks and take off my shoes and enjoy being in the woods barefoot. The track goes somewhere eventually but we turn around and go back to the van for some lunch and to finish checking out the other cave spots. One has a flooded entrance and you would have to get fully wet to explore it so we pass.

One of the Flooded Waipu Caves
One of the Flooded Waipu Caves

 

Back on the road again we pass more of what we call Moldy Marshmallows- round bales covered in green plastic. We have seen alot of these.

"Moldy Marshmallow" Hay Bales
“Moldy Marshmallow” Hay Bales

Then there is a giant tree stump in a yard that looks like someone is going to make a tree fort with,

Big Dead Tree House Stump
Big Dead Tree House Stump

Rainbow Falls

The next stop is strange because we have come out onto sort of flat ground, and there is a sign for Rainbow Falls. We are trying to figure out where it could possibly be in such a flat looking place. It turns out that this area is like parts of Missouri, where the river valleys are all below the main body of land instead of having hills rising up from them. The trail meanders around through a small woods and suddenly the bottom drops out and there is a huge waterfall below us. There is a bench near the top of the falls and we talk to some local folks while their grandkids splash in the shallows nearby. This couple has come across to the mainland to visit after serving as caretakers at a wildlife preserve  out on an Island  for many months. That is something I would consider doing.

We followed the trail down to the bottom of the falls where there was a deep swimming hole that the Maori used  as a fishing trap for tuna (eels), which at one time was a major food source.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

Today, the eel populations in New Zealand are seriously threatened by over fishing from commercial fleets, hydro electric dams which prevent their migration, draining of wetlands and loss of native forests. Sigh. It seems to be the same all over the world these days.

Whangarei Falls

We stopped at Whangarei Falls town park and walked a trail along the river to a wooden walkway through a Kauri Forest with some 500 year old trees .

Whangarei Falls
Whangarei Falls

On the way there were kids jumping off a rope swing into the river but the water looked like grey water from a washing machine and was not appealing to me. It was the first water we had seen that actually looked and smelled polluted. The falls were still pretty and the walk was beautiful.

Kauri Boardwalk
Kauri Boardwalk

Kerikeri-Day 23

Later,after driving up to the Bay of Islands, we got a camp site at Kerikeri Holiday Park where the woman manning the the registration desk went out of her way to help us find a  sailing trip on the Bay the next day. We ended up with a spot on the  Gunga II, a forty foot sailboat that would feed us lunch and take us out to an island where we could get off and explore.

In the meantime, we set up down near the river and enjoyed the last bit of warm sun for the day before going up to the kitchen to make dinner.

River at Kirikiri Camp
River at Kirikiri Camp

I was cooking noodles and throwing shredded up carrots and cabbage in with some bottled sauce while a Korean guy was cooking nearby. He offered me some Kim-chi, which I did not know how to use, so he came over and looked at what I was making and told me it was basically the same, only fermented. My food took about fifteen minutes to throw together and he was getting all complicated, so it took him a lot longer. In the end, the two dishes looked pretty close and he said he was going to try my quick way next time. I told him I would try his way as well. It was fun to have this exchange while cooking. There were other people in the huge kitchen as well . The young French contingent was pretty rowdy, teasing the heck out of their boyfriend,  and we were all drinking wine and having fun while we cooked.

Sailing the Bay of Islands

Early the next morning we went down to the dock in the village of Paihia to meet our sailboat and 10 people joining us for the day. We stopped at Russel, across the bay, to pick up two more.

Gunga II
Gunga II

There was not enough wind at first so we motored out with a Dolphin escort. There had been Orca whales hanging about the last few days and the dolphins were just starting to come back. Orcas eat dolphins.

Dolphin
Dolphin

We motored close to some small volcanic islands and then into the middle of a very windy part of the Bay. There were islands everywhere and lots of sailboats . I helped raise the sails, which were harder to crank than I expected, and we started moving fast through the water, relaxing to the sound of the sails and lapping waves. The sun was shining, it was warm on deck, popcorn and beer was passed around. I would like to do this more often.

Lava Islands in Bay
Lava Islands in Bay

Some of the islands were just volcanic rock  homes to birds, one had a few houses on it, others had gorgeous sandy beaches and green hills.

Gunga II Under Sail
Gunga II Under Sail

The Captain had been living on his boat for 23 years and had just recently bought a house on land. He told us a story about a round the world trip where one of his fellow captains had relied on satellite connection and a PC to navigate and got seriously turned around because the computers could not negotiate the Maori names of places. Some Maori words are different by only a letter or two and I can see where this might be a problem. There was a story in the local paper yesterday about a guy who tried to sale his new boat up from Wellington and wrecked it on some rocks. when he called 111 for help he gave the wrong place name and  took the searchers many kilometers in the wrong direction. He nearly died from hypothermia before they finally found him.

Waewaetoria Island

We were headed to Waewaetoria Island, which had hiking trails and a half moon beach and looked like a magazine spread, with clear aqua marine blue water and a clean bottom.

Waewaetorea Bay
Waewaetorea Bay

We anchored the boat and got the dinghies and kayaks ready to launch. The water looked so inviting! But it was still cold and it was driving me crazy.   We rode in a small dinghy to the beach but I swore I would swim  back to the sail boat after we hiked to the top of the hill and got warmed up.

From the Island Hilltop
From the Island Hilltop

The views from the top of the hill were amazing and we got nice and warm from the climb. The grass looked like it would be prickly and we were all barefoot walking around but it was actually soft and knee deep. We were assured there was nothing that would bite or sting us here and it didn’t even make our legs itch. I would have never walked in stuff like that otherwise, but they have no snakes or poisonous critters to worry about here.

Looking Down on the Beach
Looking Down on the Beach

Once we got down to the beach again, I waded around in the shallows until my lower legs were numb, thinking I could get used to the cold long enough to swim to the boat.  The breeze, when I got out of the water and waited to dry on the back platform, was going to make me totally miserable and cold. I bailed out. I hate being cold.

NZ Bay of Islands
NZ Bay of Islands

I took the dinghy back, while only one brave soul swam, and we boarded the boat, ate lunch and sailed away from the island. It was a hard place to leave and a well spent day on the water.

We hit the road and drive North on Coastal Route 10.

Camp Kitchen at Karikari- Night 23
Camp Kitchen at Karikari- Night 23

Tonight we are staying at a camp further up the coast on Karikari Peninsula-not to be confused with Kerkeri, where we stayed last night. This place is one of those Top Ten Holiday Parks and is filled with really loud and annoying Chinese staying in the cabins above us, who do their best to keep us up. Tomorrow, we drive up the skinny northern most neck of the island to Cape Reinga lighthouse.

Our New Zealand trip is almost over and I wish we could stay longer.

-Wendy lee, writing at Edgewise Woods Gardens and Critters