Saturday, June 7, 2008

Auckland to Cape Reinga and back

The hot springs at Waiwera are our destination for the day. The campground is small and right on the beach giving a great view of an island in the bay and also back to Whangaparaoa. The springs are fed into a large pool complex with several waterslides, but the facilities are run down. We have a good soak anyway and it feels as though it is helping my back, but I may have to try and find an Osteopath in Warkworth tomorrow.

The day starts sunny and warm and we start north again, but it rains when we have only been on the road five minutes. We stop at the honey centre and then go into Warkworth and find that the osteopath is very busy so I make an appointment with a physiotherapist. Lunch at the Arts Café and then the appointment, apparently it is nothing serious and can be fixed by some different stretching.

I call Ruth, my old friend from school, and let her know that we are on our way to visit. Ruth, her husband Don, and their three children Meredith, Trent and Xanthe have a beautiful house and farm at Goldsworthy Bay which is near Snells Beach. They have amazing views of Kawau Island and the other islands. The farmhouse is new and they have built to make the most of the view and the light. Dinner is hamburgers with homemade bread rolls and loads of salad and then a walk around the farm with the farm dog Pat and down to Scandretts Bay. In the morning Ruth is occupied with getting Meredith to school and Trent to kindergarten. We drop the Terrano into the garage for a service and go out for the day with Ruth and Xanthe.

First we look at the million dollar beaches at Omaha and then for a long walk in Tawharanui Regional Park and then to Morris and James to look at the pottery and have lunch. Then we go back to the house where Don has collected Trent and they are out on the farm. We sit in the sun and then collect the car and go for a swim with the kids, Ruth makes a roast chicken for tea and then we watch Shortland Street. This is the second night in a row where we have had access to TV so Simon is getting spoilt.

In the morning we leave and go up to the Goat Island Marine reserve snorkelling until we are scared back to land by the giant jellyfish. We want to start moving further north so lunchtime finds us hot and tired at Reva’s in Whangarei. After lunch we head north again to Oakura. The camp ground at Oakura is beautiful and so is the beach. We spend our time swimming and snorkelling before a salad dinner.

In two months time we will be packing to go home, but today we are off to Russell in the Bay of Islands. We get there before lunchtime and take an afternoon trip on the Excitor on a tour of the bays and out to the Hole in the Rock on Motukokako Island. We see a couple of dolphins on the way back so maybe Simon is not doing his usual job of scaring off all the wildlife. After we get back to Russell we just pitch our tent at the camp ground and lie in the sun for the rest of the afternoon.

In the morning we decide to have a quiet day and after breakfast we walk to Long Beach and to swim and laze in the sun until a need for lunch drives us back to the shops of Russell. We spend a quiet afternoon napping at the camp ground and then smarten ourselves up for a lovely dinner at the Gables which has a beautiful view over the water.

This morning we have a bad start as we are booked on a dolphin swimming trip but are late and are leaving the campground when we should be at the boat. We get onto the boat which is late any way and go out hunting for dolphins, don’t find any but find large pod of what might be either pseudo-Orcas or pilot whales. We take loads of pictures but are not allowed to swim with them as they are not gentle like dolphins. We have arranged to be dropped off afterwards at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island for the afternoon. We have lunch at the rather disappointing café and then rent a kayak to go off snorkelling. The rain starts in with a vengeance and keeps increasing as we get to the next bay. Then the wind picks up and it starts to feel like Doubtful Sound again so we head back to Otehei Bay and return the kayak and huddle, wet in the café for the next two hours until the boat gets there. By the time we get back to Russell the weather is clearing and it is a beautiful evening.

We have to get up early this morning as there are UK calls to be made regarding our house and these need to be done in UK office hours. We are sat in the car in the camp ground with the laptop and mobile phones before it is even light. After that start we are on the road fairly early and get the car ferry from Omata to Opua. We pass through Paihia and I think we made the right choice to stay in Russell as it is a lot less developed. We drive to Waitangi but rain threatens again and I am feeling unwell and disinterested at this point. We stop for lunch at Mangonui at the Waterfront Café which is a beautiful little spot. We stop in Kaitaia for groceries and then go to the start of ninety mile beach at Ahipara, planning to stay there but I hate the motels that we look at and the others have no vacancy so we come back to Awanui and the Norfolk Motel so that I can have a proper bed tonight. In the morning we spend what seems like hours just trying to download our email at the motel but eventually it seems okay and we are ready to leave. The morning is scorching by the time we get into the car and are ready to be away. We drive up towards Cape Reinga and go for a walk at Te Paki stream through the massive sand dunes out to ninety mile beach. We don’t get quite to the sea as we have taken a route across the dunes which leaves a large swamp between us and the beach so we just look at the surf and retrace our steps.

Next we go back via Waitiki Landing to Kapowairua to camp for the night. There are no envelopes at the DOC board for putting the camp site fees in so we have just stuck them into the box. We sit down and have lunch but after lunch Simon decides that he does not really want to be here so we get back in the car and go to Cape Reinga. There are loads of other people visiting this spot and we dutifully photograph the lighthouse and the cape and famous Pohutukawa tree and then start our journey south. We feel as though we have rushed to get to this point north and it is a bit anticlimactic. We head south towards Kaitaia stopping for the night at the camp ground at Waipapakauri Beach. We have a nice dinner and then sit in their bar talking to another couple and drinking beer. Simon and I drink too much beer and in our clumsy haste to get into the tent together I split my lip on the torch Simon is holding. Needless to say this takes days to heal.

I awake on Waitangi Day with a hangover and we eat a subdued breakfast before driving south. We take the vehicle ferry across Hokianga Harbour from Kohukohu to Rawene and go to the Boatshed Café for lunch. Sadly they forgot to pass our order to the kitchen so we sat for ages before going to check what had happened to our meals. When my smoked chicken panini arrived it had some elderly grilled mushrooms inside and it took some time for me to remove them before eating. Saddened further by lunch we got back in the car and drove to the Waipoua Forest to look at Tane Mahuta, the 4000 year old Kauri tree. The giant Kauri trees are amazing, there are hundreds of people trying to see them and they still manage to look majestic. Next we head to our camp for the night near Trounson Forest.

Another sunny start to the morning and we are heading back towards Auckland. We stop at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe and really enjoy the displays as they have lots of useful information on the Kauri industry. We stop in Warkworth and meet up with Ruth at the Ducks Crossing café. Ruth has Trent and Xanthe with her but Meredith is at school. We leave her to collect Meredith and drive on to hit Auckland for the rush hour.

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