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Northland
By Sue Chan - New Zealand - 16 Jun/03 - Viewed 1806 times.

Bob and Betty Grange live at Pukenui about one third of the way up the Aupouri Peninsula which ends at Cape Reinga the northern tip of New Zealand. Bob kindly offered to take us for a drive up the Peninsula the next day, a distance of around 100km each way – further with our detours.

We left around 10am and our first stop was at Ninety Mile Beach via a track, which only a local would know. (It was here the car became stuck in the sand – Betty’s fault! – but there were plenty of people around to help as there was a surf fishing competition on that week. The car was lifted out by two large Maori men!)

We continued on foot to the beach coming out near the Bluff. Several buses drove past as one of the best ways to visit the area is on a tour. Driving on the beach is not recommended – and not allowed by hire cars – because of the soft sand but 4WD vehicles can make the trip which ends/begins at the northern end at Te Paki Stream where vehicles drive down the stream to the beach. We walked for about 1km before returning to the car and continuing on to Waitiki the most northern shop where Ron took a picture of the old North Coast Lighthouse. Next was Te Paki Stream Reserve with huge windswept sand dunes behind Ninety Mile Beach where we saw several 4WDs and buses exiting the beach. The sign said the return walk through the sandy stream to the beach takes at least two hours so we decided against that! The last 20km of the road to Cape Reinga was unsealed but not too rough. At the car park on the top of the hill overlooking Cape Maria Van Dieman it was very windy. Betty stayed in the car while Bob, Ron and I walked to the point where New Zealand’s first automatic lighthouse was built in 1941. Below the cliffs we saw the surging currents where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Oceans meet. This area is called the Colombia Bank and even on a calm day we could see and hear the waves. Bob told us that in rough weather the waves can be ten metres high and can be heard from miles away.

Bob then drove us to Tapotupotu Bay to find a more sheltered spot for lunch. It was not quite as windy there but gusty and Bob lost his bread - which was quickly taken by a seagull.

After lunch we headed East to Paua – following a herd of cows – and came to Parengarenga Harbour where the sand, which contains one of the world’s purest sources of silica, is extracted and barged to Whangarei for use in glass making. After a short stop at Rarawa Beach only 11km from home, where Bob and Betty regularly go shelling, we finished our journey at 4.15pm. We had spent a very enjoyable day and were all quite tired but not too tired to see some of Bob’s shell collection after tea.

Next day – Wednesday – with rain threatening, we set off at 8.30. Our first stop was at Awanui to see the Church of St. Joseph a landmark since 1887, then the nearby Kauri Kingdom where giant kauri tree stumps, recovered from swamps, are stacked in the yard by the side of the road. Inside the building are many examples of furniture and artefacts made from the timber and visitors can see inside the workroom. An internal stairway has been built inside a giant tree. Here we bought the first tourist stamps – of which there were many!

We reached Mangonui by 10am before the café opened so made our own drinks and had them in the car, as by this time it was showery. On a fine day it would have been a nice spot near the water with restored buildings to visit. With the weather not very promising we drove about 50km to Waipapa where we asked directions to the Rainbow Falls. They were not very far from the town and a very short walk from the car park.

By 12noon we reached Paihia and the rain was clearing. We collected our tickets for the afternoon cruise, looked around town and had lunch. We left on Fullers Hole in the Rock Cruise at 1.30pm first stop Russell the oldest Town in New Zealand where more passengers joined us. The weather had completely cleared but the water was quite rough which meant plenty of white water around the rock making it good for photos. It also meant we could not go through the hole a fact which did not seem to worry many people. We sat out the back both ways (except when asked to come inside and hang on as it would be very rough for a few minutes – which it was!) and got very sun/wind burnt but had a great afternoon. I think this was the best trip we went on.

There are 142 islands in the Bay and the tour covered 35 nautical miles. The commentary was very interesting and we were told of many things including the massacre of a family in 1772. The Cape Brett Lighthouse was built in Thames on the Coromandel Peninsula, barged up the coast and winched 149 metres above sea level. The caretaker lived in the nearby cottage until 1978 when it became automated. Supplies were bought in by boat and carried up the steep steps. On the return journey we stopped at Otehei Bay on Urupukapuka Island, the largest in the Bay, which is a recreational reserve and farm park. The boat stayed here about an hour giving us time for a drink, walk or “Subsea Adventure” before heading back to Paihia. We settled for the drink and sat under a tree and watched the birds. Others walked to the top of the high hill to see the views.

We left Paihia by 5.45pm and visited nearby Haruru Falls. Haruru means big noise, a good description, and these horseshoe shaped falls are visible from the road. A short walk from the car park leads above the falls and is worth the extra few minutes. A Maori legend say a monster lives in the yellow water at the base.

We returned along the SH10 and drove 10km into the Te Waimate Mission Station. The museum was closed by then but we looked around the grounds and also saw the first Home Mission Church built in 1830 in memory of Rev. Samuel Marsden.

Returning to the highway we headed for Whangarei and our bed for the night. On the way we passed through Kawakawa, famous for the toilets. Friedrich Hundertwasser was commissioned in 1997 to design and build them in the main street. With ceramic columns, garden roof and colourful tiles the toilets were built by local labour. School students made the tiles and some bricks came from local buildings. The windows are constructed using old bottles from the district. In 2000 the Hundertwasser Building was given the N.Z. Premier Award in Urban and Landscape Design and it has put Kawakawa on the international tourist route.

About 30km further on we came to Kamo, on the outskirts of Whangerie where we had a reservation for the night. By this time it was dark and showery and the B&B sign was partly hidden by branches so of course we missed it and continued a few km further on to a small shopping centre. Not much was open but the young shop assistants at the 4 Square store were very helpful and worked out where we should go. Of course we missed it again on the way back! We realised we were too far down the road, turned around and finally found it by 8pm.

Kauri Lodge with hosts Pat and Harry was a lovely home with very friendly Dutch people. Pat served us large muffins, lovely coffee for me and tea for Ron and we chatted for an hour or so. Our apartment was on the top floor and had two double beds, separate full size bathroom, kitchen and dinning room, sitting room and another bedroom. It was a pity we did not have more time to enjoy it.

We had walked 4km, cruised for 4hrs and driven 300km in 12 hours. Enough for us for one day!

There was quite a lot of rain overnight and next morning it was still raining steadily. We left at 8.30 after a hearty breakfast – Pat said we had small appetites but we thought we were overeating! Eventually we found the Whangarei Waterfalls – Pat’s directions were not as good as Jenny’s! We took our umbrellas and walked through several inches of water. Fortunately it was a short walk and the falls were very good. We decided not to go into Whangerei as the rain was by now very heavy which was disappointing as it appeared to be a nice town with quite a few things to do. As it rained all morning our only stop was at Wellsford for a drink. Continuing down the coast we did not go into any of the beaches listed in our book and stopped only to take a picture at Orewa to remember we had gone that way! Here the SH1 Motorway began which took us over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, through the centre of the city and then south. We had no problem with this because we did not need to leave it having already been into the city. Auckland has an increasing traffic problem as most vehicles travelling north to south go through the city. We passed through at around 1pm and six lanes of traffic were going nowhere.

By this time the rain had eased to light showers and we stopped at Drury Service Centre on the Motorway south at 1.40pm and visited McDonalds. This is always a good standby.

The rain began again soon after and continued all the way to Hamilton where we arrived at 3.30pm. We found the motel easily as SH1 became Ulster Street where it was situated. After booking in and having a hot drink we unpacked our raincoats and walked several blocks to a supermarket. In the evening the rain stopped but the weather forecast promised more. We travelled 300km and it was 6 hours since we set out so we could not have spent much time sightseeing even had the weather been better.

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