Thursday, 26 May 2016

NZ: Northland to Auckland

Sooooooo where did I leave off....

Ah yeah. So we did something crazy the next day, not entirely sure why but we both agreed to it...we drove all the way from Thames up to Cape Reigna in one day!That's 535km (10 km longer than my previous record of Picton to Fairlie in one day).  We hadn't planned on it, even stopping at Mangawhai to do a beautiful coastal walk (these types of walk are fast becoming my favourite as the scenery never gets boring and they're challenging but not too challenging if you get me).

We saw tons of sea shells, climbed over loads of rock beds, squidged around in the sand, got rained on for literally 5 seconds as the rain cloud passed above us, and then double backed along the cliff top to see the same view but from up high.  It was lovely!

We got to NZ's northen most campsite, Taputoputo, at 9pm ish in the pitch dark, set up the tent, then realised we had set it up in the day picnic area and not the campground (this is becoming a theme!) so we had to move it. There were TONS of giant mozzies so we spent 30 mins trying to kill them all before finally settling into bed.

We woke the next morning with the intention of doing a hike from the campground to Cape Reigna, but unfortunatley the weather wasn't playing ball.  Instead we drove to Cape Reigna, and boy, what an experience.  Cape Reigna is nearly the most Northern point in New Zealand, and is special for 2 reasons:

1) It's where the Tasman and the Pacific meet
2) It's the place where Maori spirits continue their journey to the underworld.

We parked up and walked through the wooden arches to the lighthouse.  As you walk through the arches, eerie flute music is piped through speakers, setting the scene.  It was amazing - energy was pulsing through my feet and legs as I walked down the path.  It was such a spiritual energetic place, I can't really describe how it felt without sounding like a  bonkers hippie, but it was pretty incredible and I could have sat there for hours.  As we got there, the mists raised off the sea and we got gorgeous views across the peninsula - we probably could have done that walk!!

Where the Tasman and Pacific meet (this shot isn't very impressive but it was more impressive in real life)

incredible marble seas

at the tree on edge of the cliff is where Maori souls depart for the underworld

After we left we stopped at Te Paki, a reservation of huge sand dunes.  I felt like we were in a Star Wars movie set.  Anja hired a boogie board and slid down the dunes, I didn't because they were expensive to hire and so sat and read my book whilst getting pelted with sand from the high winds.  Fun!

Afterwards we drove to Keri Keri, did a bit of exploring then stayed the night at a farmer's house who's contact details we'd gotten from Hunter (the nice Kiwi boy from Masterton - people are so nice and hospitable here! Imagine being in the UK and getting a call from someone you've never met asking if they could put up a tent in your garden...).  I got really excited as originally he said we could camp in his stable, which sounded so fun and adventurous and I had images of sleeping on hay bales and being woke up by a horse's gentle nuzzle to the face.  I was slightly disappointed when he told us we could have his spare room on arrival, but kept my mouth shut as he probably would have thought I was weird if I turned down a real bed...

We had dinner with him and his mum, in the morning his mum gave us a huge bag of feijoas and guavas (ooh I tried guava jam and it was so disgusting, it tasted like blue cheese but I had poured it all over my toast anticipating I would like it, so I had to pretend I did whilst his mum watched me chomp it down as she'd made it herself) and we went on our merry way to drive to the other side of the coast to see the Kauri trees.

The Kauris are New Zealand's huge native trees, and wow they really are huge. We visited Tane Mahuna, which is 1500 years old and 51.5m high.  It has a girth of 13.77m and is the 4th largest tree in the world.  It was incredible - it's one huge trunk with fat branches sticking out at the top like a canopy, and the branches are covered in the trees leaves, but also a host of other plants that have made the tree its home.  Apparently there's around 300 species of organism living in the tree!

decontaminating our shoesies

Unfortunately they're under threat from Kauri dieback disease, and on a lot of walks in the area you have to wipe your shoes on brushes and then disinfect them before you enter forest ways to stop the spread of the disease.  You used to be able to go right up to the tree and hug it, but they realised that the root system was getting damaged so now they've built platforms and you can view from a distance.  Fair enough I suppose.

We continued our journey south to Waipu, where Rachel, a woman I used to work with in London, had offered us plush accommodation for 3 nights in her lodge in return for some help in tidying up the place.

She gave us a tour round and our jaws were literally scraping along the floor (OK you pedantic people, not literally) because the place was insane.  It was huge, incredibly decorated and very plush indeed, with a hot tub, swimming pool, lovely views, huge beds, beautiful bathrooms, 2 kitchens, 2 lounge areas - it was brilliant.  We were given our own rooms with huge comfortable double beds and soft sheets and a bathroom to share.  We were in for a treat!  For some reason I barely took any photos and the ones I do have don't show how amazing it was...

We spent the afternoon helping to refill bathroom product bottoms (such a hard life) before having a BBQ and a catch up about what had been happening at work since I had left over a couple of glasses of wine.

The following day we got up super early to drive back North to Paihia where we had booked a day long yacht trip of the Bay of Islands.  Half way there and we got notice it had been cancelled due to the weather - boo hiss!   We decided to go to Paihia anyway as we hadn't been yet, but there isn't really much there to do in the rain so instead we ended up driving round Paihia and Keri Keri in an attempt to get a massage and/or facial - the perfect rainy day activity!  Eventually we came across a lady doing 20 min massage for $20, which seemed fabulous until afterwards when we both emerged wincing in pain because she'd massaged our neck tendons so hard I was worried she might actually kill me.  Three days later and it was still sore to touch our heads!  One day I will learn that things are cheap for a reason...

That night Rachel and Chris took us out for pizza in this really trendy pizza joint in Waipu, which was funny as Waipu is tiny and doesn't have much else in it (apart from this really cool pizza joint!).  We each had a pizza and then shared a pudding pizza (omg so amazing must try this at home) then came home and sat in the hot tub where Chris started telling us about Maori funerals.  The casket lies open for 3 days and over the course of the 3 days the body is visited by friends and family who are encouraged to talk to the body.  On the final day the body is buried and they have a feast.

We had no plans the following day so Rachel put us to work reorganising the laundry cupboard.  Nothing matched so we had to measure each sheet, duvet cover and pillow case and attempt to put them into some sort of order.  It took all day and now I am really good at folding sheets (unless it's a fitted sheet, still can't do anything with those things).

We left in the morning to head down to Auckland - the lanes of traffic wider and the skies got cloudier and greyer as we headed south and matched my mood.  I REALLY wasn't feeling Auckland - after living out of a car for 5 months and having the freedom to do anything and go anywhere I wanted, the thought of getting a room and a job and committing to something was terrifying.  Add that to the fact I haven't had an interview in 8 years, worn make-up in 5 months or had to think about anything remotely to do with 'normal life' and I was feeling pretty nervous inside.

first glimpse of Auckland

That night we had a little gathering and a nice reunion of old and new friends and it was really nice and eased my nerves a little.  Justine (from Kinloch) and Wouter (dutch travel guy) both came as well as some of Amy's friends and we had a jolly old time.  Amy got very drunk and fell asleep on the sofa, Anja got very drunk and fell off the decking, and I was tipsy but still had spinny room and wanted to throw up and had to sleep on the sofa rather than a bed incase I did....

look natural, they said

The following day Amy and Colin (Amy's new boy) took us on a road trip to Bethells Lake and Beach - except as everyone was a bit hungover we didn't actually get on the road until about 2pm after a McDonalds brunch.  

We went on a really weird walk which involved walking barefoot through a stream for 2km or so until we got to a lake, then walking back over black sand dunes to get to the car, then a little stop off at Bethells Beach before driving home and having a schnitzel feast.

schnitzel mountain (thanks Anja!)

In the morning I took Anja to the airport and said a sad goodbye, it's been really fun travelling with her and I'll miss having someone as small as me around :-P

We then went for brunch in St Heliers with Colin and Amy's friend Alice (who is friends with a few people back home - small world) before spending the afternoon indoor rock climbing.  This was terrifying but I managed to do a few climbs and also did a little belaying course so I can now belay - wahoo. (I haven't yet returned though, but it is quite expensive for someone with no job).  Amy is really good at climbing and has muscles on her back now. I was very impressed!

After climbing we went for Ramen in the CBD and then wandered down to the harbour front where we sat on a bench and felt like teenagers.  It was a nice welcoming weekend to Auckland :)

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

NZ: The Coromandel

Oh my goodness I am so far behind on the blog it makes my brain hurt to think about catching up....

Here goes!

So I ended last time with packing up the tent at Dickies Gorge.  We had to be in Thames for 6pm, so we decided to stay in the area we were in as Thames wasn't too far away.  Anja booked onto a goldmining tour, and I went for a walk in Waihi - except I couldn't find the right track and ended up walking through bushes on an animal track before finally admitting defeat, heading back to the car and taking the car for a badly needed car wash.  On the way to Thames, we stopped at Karangahake Gorge and did a little walk along old goldmining railway tracks.

We had arranged to stay at Jayne and Sam's, a lovely couple I had met in the Trading Post (the shop I worked at in Glenorchy).  When they heard I was English we got talking, and they offered us a room to stay in when we got to the Coromandel, which was very lovely of them!

We were an hour early, so parked up along the beach and watched the sun set.  When we went to leave, we realised we'd left the car lights and radio on, and the 7 year old car battery couldn't take it.....cue an embarrassing phone call to Jayne to apologise and ask for jump leads!!

We were fed and watered and introduced to their gorgeous Burmese cat, then shown our rooms (our own rooms! Luxury!!) where we slept soundly.  It's amazing how trusting people in NZ are - they showed us where they hide the spare key, and then left for work in the morning, so we were free to come and go as we pleased!  We had a really lazy day and the only thing we did was drove to Paku Hill and did a little walk up it (it literally took 7 minutes up!). We may have stopped at Maccy D's on the way back....oops! We then had a few beers on the beach with a fire, it was a lovely chilled out evening.

awkward family photo

The following day we waved goodbyes and drove up the West coast of the Coromandel, which is so so so beautiful. My favourite place on the North Island so far! The road it pretty hairy - very windy and hilly curling up the coast line - rocks one side and sheer drop to the sea on the other, and you have to contend with logging trucks speeding down the other side of the road.

We camped at Port Jackson, got told we had put the tent up in the wrong place and had to move it.  The flipside of this is we moved it to a spot where a rabbit lived, so spent the next day throwing it bread and trying to tempt it to eat out of our hands.

We went for a coastal walk which was beautiful - a nice and easy tramp along the cliffs, with bright green rolling hills falling into the sea.  The green here is so green  - I can't describe it!

The walk took quicker than expected and we had a chilled afternoon sitting on our camping chairs by the beach, reading books and trying to roast marshmallows by sticking them on a fork and heating them with a match.  It sort of works....

The next day we visited Cathedral Cove, which is essentially a 20 minute walk to go and see a big rock arch.  It's nice but I expect it would be a whole lot nicer if it had no tourists and felt more undiscovered.

We also went to one of my favourite places yet - Whiti Farm!!!! It was 10 bucks to get in, and when we arrived there was no one around to take our payment apart from a very friendly dog called Storm.  He followed us everywhere with his little tail wagging.  We wandered about trying to find the owner, and were greeted with another dog, and then a kitten, and then another kitten, and then another!!! It was like christmas.  We played with the dogs and cats for half an hour or so and to be honest I felt like I didn't need to go see the rest of the farm, so we were about to leave when the owner turned up, so we decided to go in anyway.

WOW! It was brilliant. They had rabbits, donkeys, geese, chickens, wallabies, pigs, mini horses, ostriches, deer, emus, sheep - and you could hand feed them all! Amazing. I think I have decided when I go home I am going to open up my own petting farm. Every day would be an absolute joy!  I even got headbutted by the dog, spat on by the llama and bitten by the horse, but I was still happy :)

We decided to skip hot water beach as the weather wasn't great and we figured it would be filled with tourists and we were freedom camping that evening and didn't want to get covered in sand and salt water.

On the following day we decided to do the Pinnacles hike.  It had been recommended by a few people and our hike tally on the North Island was pretty low.  It was a pretty walk up to the hut, we stopped and ate lunch then carried on to the Pinnacles summit.  This bit was quite an adventure, scrabbling up rocks and climbing ladders.  I was a bit disappointed with the view at the top - I think I preferred the view on the way up.  We headed back down a different way which was super slippery and I nearly ended up on my bum many times, before heading back to Jayne and Sam's - they were actually away for the evening but had said we could crash at their house anyway - so nice of them!

they're shorts not pants!

We also saw a corker of a sunset - look at these!!