Dec. 30th, 2002

We're back in Auckland after a week touring Northland.  I haven't been able to find a PC that will allow me to download any of the pictures that we took from our digital camera, so a text update will have to suffice for now.  Maybe I'll be able to add some pictures later. Carol's thoughts are in red.

Te Matua Ngahere (borrowed from another site).

We left Auckland on the 23rd, after packing everything we own into our little Honda Civic.  We headed up the West Coast, north of Auckland, which is called the "Kauri Coast", because there are still some very old and very big Kauri there.  We visited the Kauri museum in Matakohe, which provided us with lots of info on how they used to cut down and process these monster trees.  We stayed in a nice holiday park (campground for you North Americans) and continued driving through Kauri forests the next day.  We went on a hike in Waipoua Kauri Park, and saw lots of fairly big kauris, and also three huge ones.  The 1st, 2nd and 7th largest kauris in NZ.  I was most impressed by the 2nd largest tree, called Te Matua Ngahere (Father of the Forest), becuase, although it's not as tall as the largest, it's much wider.  It's 16.5 metres (54 feet) in diameter.  It's one of those things you look at and think to yourself "It's very rare to see something that's this enormous".  It was truly amazing.They were amazing, so thick and tall.  I think it must have been awesome to have them all over the forest before they were all logged.  We also went to a Kauri Museum, which was mostly about how they chopped them down, which when the tree is 5 meters in diameter, it is no easy task.  They had lots of samples of the big trees there, and beautiful furniture that was made from them.  One huge boardroom table that was one piece of wood.  Also saw lots of nice bowls made from swamp kauri, which is wood that they found burried in swamps, still fully intact.

We finished the day at our holiday home in Houhora, where we spent the next three nights.  It was a fully equipped cottage, so we cooked all of our own meals, including a delicious turkey dinner for Christmas, which also provided us with turkey sandwiches for the next few days, and a delicious turkey risotto in the cabin at Tauranga Bay.

Te Paki Sand Dunes - they're even bigger than this
picture suggests (borrowed from another site)

While based in Hourhora we visited Cape Reinga (at the top of the North Island), and payed a couple of visits to 90 mile beach.  The first was to see the huge sand dunes down Te Paki Stream.  We climbed one of these (it was hard work), and then wondered how we would ever get back down.  We also spent a couple of hours tramping along the beach with fully loaded packs (we're in training, don'tcha know).

We spent Christmas day at Henderson Beach (after visiting Cape Reinga and climbing the dunes), and had a picnic lunch, complete with beer.  Didy'all know that it's perfectly legal to drink beer on the beach in New Zealand.  In fact it's legal in all public places (e.g., in the park, walking down the street, etc.).  I suggested to Carol that if Mark and Dave knew about that law they'd move here immediately.

After our three nights at the holiday home, we headed down south.  We went to Mangonui where we checked email, and tried to get on a fishing boat, no dice.  We rented a tennis court at a posh resort, and Bob beat me, even though he was playing with his old raquet.  Then went to a cabin in the woods. 

We left Houhora on the 27th and headed to Tauranga Bay, where we met Richard who was our host for 2 nights.  He took us out for a day's kayaking on the 28th - a 16km circumnavigation of Stephenson Island, where we saw a little blue penguin, lots of kingfishers, and plenty of sheep and seagulls, some of which tried to dive-bomb us (the seagulls, not the sheep).  We tried to fish, but they weren't biting.  The evening before and after the trip were spent in this amazing cabin that Richard built on his property.  It's a one-room cabin with running water, a gas cooker and no electricity.  There's a huge picture window that looks out onto the bay, framed by pines and a blooming pohutakawa tree, which provided the best view either of us had ever experienced.  We spent hours just looking out the window. There was also a flush toilet and a cold-water shower beside the cabin - literally.  The toilet and shower and totally out in the open, with no walls or ceiling.  It was also the best view either of us had even experienced while sitting on the toilet.

Variable Oystercatcher (borrowed from
another site)

The next day we went to the Bay of Islands and went on a dolphin watching and swimming cruise.  We weren't able to do any swimming becuase the pod we found had a baby with them, but we did see a whole bunch of dolphins.  The pod had a dozen or two members, and they would swim around the boat, and ride the bow wave.  It was amazing to see them in the wild like that.  There was a French family who had a little girl (probably about 6 years old), who wouldn't believe that they were actually wild dolphins.  Her mother kept telling her "Oui, sauvage".

Last night we stayed at the Ruakaka Reserve Motor Camp.  That was another interesting experience.  We walked to the beach, which is a shore bird reserve, where we saw many Variable Oystercatchers, some on their nests with young.  The motor camp itself was also interesting, as there muat have been close to 1,000 people staying there, some in camper vans, but many in tents like us.  OK, not really like us.  They had tents the size of houses, and filled with all of the amenities of home.  They had outdoor kitchens set up, and there was even a huge tent with a ping-pong table in it.

And that brings us back to Auckland today, where we'll be staying for a couple of days and then heading to the Coromandel to do some tramping.  So far we've put almost exactly 1000km on the car.

Hope everyone has (or had) a happy new year!

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