Thursday 16th May, 2013
Friday 17th May, 2013
Saturday 18th May, 2013
Sunday 19th May, 2013
Monday 20th May, 2013

Thursday 16th May, 2013

Drop Cap e left Auckland this morning. We struggled downstairs (in the lift) with all our luggage and tried to organise a cab. Due to the girl at the desk neglecting to tell us about needing the Auckland dialling code it took quite a bit of effort. Then, in spite of telling the cab controller that we had a lot of luggage the cab that arrived was a sedan. The driver said he couldn't take it so called another taxi, a Tarago, which appeared some minutes later and took us to the Budget Rent-a-Car Office in Parnell, only about 1½ kms away. It cost us $20!

Toyota Highlander photograph

Our Rented Toyota Highlander

Drop Cap ventually we got our vehicle, a smart metallic maroon Toyota Highlander (which is called Kluger in Australia) AWD, full of mysterious bells and whistles, but lots of room. As usual with hire cars in other countries the lights and windscreen wipers were on opposite sides to ours and Mac did a lot of unnecessary windscreen wiping while trying to indicate. It took most of the holiday before it came naturally.

Drop Cap e loaded her up and headed north on the No.1 Motorway. It is a toll road but we were told a way around the tollgates and took a mystery tour. It is lovely country, rolling hills and valleys, very green, and occasional glimpses of the sea.

Drop Cap e stopped for lunch at Wellesford in a cosy café with very friendly folk. We all had soup, pumpkin for Mac, chicken and mushroom for Geoff and me. With some yummy garlic bread it hit the spot for all of us.

Sunseeker Cottage Lounge photograph

The Lounge, Sunseeker Cottage No. 1, Paihia

Drop Cap n again, ever northward, through Whangarei and Kawakawa until we got to Paihia on the Bay of Islands. It was easy to find our accommodation at Sunseeker Cottages Motel. It is a lovely two bedroom cottage, very well equipped and with a balcony overlooking a fabulous view.

Drop Cap ac and I went down to a good supermarket at the bottom of the hill and bought a load of groceries. Quite expensive really. Still we have to eat and self-catering should mean that.

Home again, I grilled some Thai flavoured sausages and made a vegie stir fry for Mac and me. Geoff had his sausages Dibbler style. I will put the leftovers into lunch for Geoff tomorrow as we have a very long day on a coach trip to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach. Another long day today and I am exhausted. Sleeping very badly and in pain from hard mattresses.

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Friday 17th May, 2013

Drop Cap oday we had booked a tour to Cape Reinga via the 90 Mile Beach so it was very disappointing to wake to heavy rain. We got very wet while waiting for our pickup and even wetter on the boardwalk around the Kauri forest which began the day. The Kauri forest was wonderful, huge trees but very wet. The airconditioning in the coach dried us off eventually and it became mostly overcast for the rest of the day, which was a pity because the scenery was spectacular and would have been truly "awesome" with sunshine and blue water. It was a long day after being picked up at 7:30.

Kauri Spiral Stair photograph

Spiral Stair Carved INTO a SINGLE Kauri Log

Drop Cap e explored kauri forest and a wonderful kauri workshop called "The Ancient Kauri Kingdom". Here they worked on kauri which had been buried by some cataclysm thousands of years ago and are being disinterred like the terracotta warriors. Some of the trees were huge and had been perfectly preserved, not rotted away. There is one trunk at the workshop, only about one third of the whole tree, which has had a spiral staircase carved INSIDE it, which leads up to the gallery on the mezzanine. It was quite amazing.
All the artefacts were for sale, of course, but very, very pricey. So we resisted although Geoff bought a small letter opener.

Sand Dune Cape Reinga photograph

Climbing the Dune

Drop Cap rom here we accessed the 90 Mile Beach. It isn't really ninety miles, it is about 64 miles, I think. We drove along the sand, racing the tide and it was great, so smooth. We drove up a quicksand stream, taking care not to stop for fear of sinking, then arrived at the giant sand dunes. Our driver/guide, Hughie, provided boogy boards for the thrillseekers and took one up himself, despite being a grandfather. They came whizzing down the side of the dune like a luge, but it was a very steep climb to get to the top.

Sand Dune Cape Reinga photograph

Coming Down the Dune

Cape Reinga photograph

Cape Reinga Sacred Site

Drop Cap fter this we continued to Cape Reinga, which is a sacred site for the Maoris as the place where the spirits of the dead take off for their spiritual homeland Hawaiki. It was spectacular and punctuated with information boards in two languages made of stone and metal.
We walked down to the lighthouse where the spirits left from then returned to the coach for our provided packed lunch of a chicken salad, fruit juice, corn chips, cheese and biscuits and cookies. Quite nice and perfectly adequate. Our day has been punctuated as well by snack stops, morning tea at the Kauri Kingdom, ice cream an hour or so after lunch, and fish and chips at 4 pm. Geoff indulged in all of the above but I didn't and Mac only had morning tea.

Drop Cap e were the first to be dropped off (we were the last to be picked up) back at the motel by 5 pm and now are trying to decide on something light for dinner, probably scrambled eggs.

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Saturday 18th May, 2013

Drop Cap oday dawned brightly with the sun pouring in. It clouded over with a light shower but nothing major and the sky remained mostly blue throughout. We slept late after all our early mornings lately and got away to a dilatory start after our usual Saturday breakfast of crumpets.

Haruru Falls photograph

Haruru Falls

Drop Cap ur first destination was only five minutes drive away at Haruru Falls. This was really quite spectacular, the rain yesterday helped apparently. It is a horseshoe shaped fall right across the Waitangi River and is very picturesquely sited. It was certainly worth the time to come and see.

Waitangi Boardwalk photograph

Rainforest Boardwalk at Waitangi

Drop Cap y this time it was morning tea time so we fed Geoff a chewy bar and headed off to Waitangi. the site of the Treaty that really was the birthplace of New Zealand as a modern nation. We decided that, since we knew nothing of the history, we would take the Combo tour which included the entry fee, an introductory film, a guided tour and talk by a professional Maori guide and a cultural display at the Maori Marea or meeting house. We got there at 11:10 and just had good time for the introductory film before our guided tour at 12:00.

Waitangi Beach photograph

Historic Waitangi Beach

Drop Cap he film was quite informative, it told how the Maori and the white settlers both complained to the king about rapacious behaviour of whalers and sailors and other riffraff and the missionaries and the British Resident organised a declaration of independence which was ratified by King William IV surprisingly enough.
This worked fine until a naval officer was sent to become the governor and the tribes did not know why, since they had royal assent to independence. The officer's idea was a treaty between Britain and the tribes and this was a good idea except that the missionaries who translated the treaty for the Maoris got it very wrong (perhaps deliberately, perhaps not). The chiefs signed a treaty which they thought gave them self-determination and the British signed a treaty which gave them complete governance, no independent flag for the tribes and a change of port entrance to New Zealand which decimated their income.
The trouble that this brought led directly to the Maori Wars which raged for the next 60 years, ending basically in stalemate. Out of five major battles, the Maori won four, and the last was a draw.

Waitangi Canoe photograph

Waitangi Tribal Canoe

Drop Cap t was a very interesting tour, our guide was a local tribesman, very articulate and a lot of fun. We saw the huge war canoe carved from kauri wood and capable of carrying 150 tribesmen at the oars and travelling at up to 55kph.

Marae (Meeting House) Interior photograph

Marae (Meeting House) Interior, Waitangi

Drop Cap e visited the flagpole which stands on the site where the infamous treaty was signed, then we made our way to the "meeting house", fabulously carved and decorated, where our cultural experience took place.

Ceremonial Greeting photograph

Chief Geoff accepts Ceremonial Greeting

Drop Cap efore the performance there was a traditional welcome ceremony where we had to show that we came in peace. Geoff volunteered to represent us as our chief which meant that he had to stand in front of the Maori chief who was armed with club and spears and unflinchingly endure all the haka style gesticulating before picking up the "gift of peace" placed before him and making a speech in reply.
Geoff did really well, thanking them for the welcome, pledging that we came in peace, thanking them for honouring us with entry to their meeting house and ending by returning the gift of peace.
And, of course, rubbing noses with the head man.

Waitangi Maori Culture photograph

Waitangi Maori Cultural Performance

Maori Poi Dance photograph

Maori Poi Dance, Waitangi

Drop Cap he cultural performance then took off with lovely singing (one of the girls had a wonderful voice)dancing, poi twirling, weapons drills and finally the haka. It was a great performance, very loud and energetic. One of the guys, a very big man, was sweating profusely and I am not surprised.

Waitangi Treaty House photograph

Waitangi Treaty House

Drop Cap fter this it was nearly 2 pm so we went off to the café for lunch. Quite a nice panini and orange juice. Then we went to look at the "Treaty House", which was the home of the British Resident who supervised the signing of the treaty.
The Treaty House was an interesting artifact in its own right as it was pre-fabricated in England and shipped out in pieces.
It was assembled on site and one wall is opened so that one can see the pegs that were used to assemble it and the numbers on the sections to show where they went - not an allen key in sight - IKEA take a lesson.
It was very interesting and we had a great day.

Paihia Totems photograph

Maori Totems at Paihia

Drop Cap n the way home we found a sports type field near the waterfront which had a large display of Maori totems. We wandered over and photographed them but there was little or no information about them. They were just there.

Sunseeker Cottage Garden Toadstools photograph

Sunseeker Cottage Garden Toadstools

Drop Cap e came home, did another shop for groceries and came home to barbecue our lamb chops and make a salad. We ate on our verandah and it was lovely. A complete contrast to yesterday. Long may it continue!
We have a cruise to the Hole in the Rock on Monday and want that to be fine.

Looking over the side of our balcony we can see an array of flora in the bush beside the cottage. Bright toadstools to liven up the day.

Not sure what we are doing tomorrow but I should do some washing. Oh, the joys of travel.

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Sunday 19th May, 2013

Drop Cap fter a night which brought heavy showers of rain this morning dawned quite bright again so we sallied forth for quite an eclectic day.

We started out by revisiting Haruru Falls to see if the rain had made them more full. They certainly seemed to be fushing well. We encountered the two feral (?) chickens we saw yesterday and joked with a Japanese group that they were called "dinner".

Kawakawa Heritage Railway photograph

Kawakawa Heritage Railway Station

Drop Cap hen we headed off through Paihia to the small country town of Kawakawa. This is a heritage sort of place with its railway line running down the middle of the main street, very western movie. As we drove into town we saw the smoke from the steam engine of the heritage railway so we went along to investigate. The train was running today at 10:45. It was about 10:00 so we went to see the other claim to fame of this little town.

Kawakawa Toilets photograph

Rosemary & Mac at Kawakawa Toilets

Drop Cap don't think I have ever seen a town which has tourist groups visiting to see the Public Conveniences, but Kawakawa does. The toilets were designed by an Austrian architect called Friedrich Hunnertwasser, who redesigned sections of Vienna in the 40s and 50s in a style called Jugenstil. It is quite crazy, incorporating colourful tiles, glass bottles, columns in all colours like licorice allsorts. There is even a tree growing up through the roof which incorporates a roof garden with golden domes which disguise the ventilators. Crazy but fun and also functional.

Kawakawa Heritage Rail photograph

Kawakawa Heritage Railway

Drop Cap hen we went to ride the train - 20 minutes each way - just us and a Canadian couple. The guard was friendly and informative and took us for a walk to one of the bridges where he told us about the history of the line. On the way we passed a local landmark which he referred to as a "lava -tree". On a dry tree were hung several ceramic lavatory pans all painted up in bright colours. This town seems to be obsessed with toilets.

Lava Tree Kawakawa photograph

"Lava Tree" Kawakawa

Kerikeri Basin photograph

Kerikeri Basin

Drop Cap hen we came back we headed out of town to Kerikeri where we first explored the Makana Chocolate Factory where we watched some girls painfully slowly handmaking chocolates. They gave us a couple of tasters which were really yummy and I would have been tempted but for the price! I bought three individually boxed champagne truffles. Everything was beautifully packaged and very tempting.

Drop Cap e then went next door to a kauri wood workshop where everything was very high quality but equally expensive so we just looked before moving on. We had lunch in a café in Kerikeri - a bit pricey, food is very expensive here, they have a GST on food which added about $12 to every grocery bill.

Kerikeri Historic Precinct photograph

Kerikeri Historic Precinct

Drop Cap fter lunch we found our way to the Historic Precinct of Kerikeri. This is centred on Kerikeri Basin, which was a Mission station. Here we found the Stone Store, the oldest stone building in NZ, the Kemp House, the oldest European timber building in NZ and a church and mission garden. It is a very interesting area, it's funny that everyone seems to think that the southern areas are more historic but the Northland is the earliest settled by Europeans in the country.

Wharepuke photograph

Mac & Geoff at Wharepuke Falls

Drop Cap rom here we crossed the river on a footbridge and went for a walk along the river for about a kilometre, passing the disused hydro power station to the Wharepuke Falls. These were lovely and fushy, well worth the walk.

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri photograph

Rainbow Falls Kerikeri

Drop Cap hen we came back we drove further along the river to Rainbow Falls. These were much bigger, with a longer drop than any of the others we have seen lately. Really good. (Waterfalls seemed to become a feature of our touring everywhere this trip. Mac loves them so it's all good.)

Back home to do a load of washing and cook a chicken stirfry with noodles.
Eight kilometres on my pedometer today!

Monday 20th May, 2013

Drop Cap hen we awoke this morning our valley was full of thick mist but the clear sky promised sunshine and did not disappoint. We pottered around this morning, ironing, packing and generally preparing for leaving tomorrow.

Bay of Islands photograph

Bay of Islands

Drop Cap e were picked up at 12:30 by the guy from the tour company who whisked us into Paihia for our cruise to the Hole in the Rock. This was a great afternoon, the Bay is full of islands big and small (surprise, surprise) and the sun was sparkling on the water.

Russell Wharf photograph

Historic Russell Wharf

Drop Cap he boat first took us across the bay to Russell, the historic town which was the beginning of the whole Northland area. It used to be a haunt of smugglers, whalers and other riff raff and known as the "Hellhole of the South Pacific". Very refined and pleasant today.

Dolphins photograph

Playful Dolphins, from the Boat

Drop Cap e encountered a pod of dolphins on the way which gambolled around the boat for quite a while and a couple of people from the tour went for a swim with them. I would like to have taken some photos of them but they tended to be too quick. I just got large expanses of empty water. I hope Geoff got some.

Hole in the Rock photograph

Hole in the Rock, Cape Brett

Drop Cap hen we went on to the Hole in the Rock near Cape Brett. For once this was on my side of the boat so I was able to take some shots, but it was really amazing as we went through. The captain said that this morning's tour had not been able to go through because the swell was too high. But it was quite an experience as we were absorbed into this major cave through a much smaller opening, and popped out the other side like a cork. The cave inside was much bigger than either opening.

Bay of Islands photograph

Bay of Islands

Drop Cap n the way back, using a different channel we encountered another pod of dolphins and they really seemed to enjoy being around the boat. We stayed for quite a while with the dolphins leaping and diving, then when we left they followed us for quite some time.

Drop Cap e got back to Paihia just after 4 p.m and our cheery ex-rugby playing driver was there as we came out. He drove us all the way up the drive to our cottage, thus saving our legs. Only 2 km on the pedometer today.


Drop Cap e went out to dinner tonight to the local Thai restaurant, we felt spicy. It was quite good, but not as good as our own local, despite the decorative flowers made out of radishes or something. Tomorrow, a long drive down past Auckland to Whitianga in the Coromandel Peninsula.

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