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A Week in Northland

North Island Map

A map of Northland, highlighting in orange the places that we stopped en route.

Another month, another trip. This time, the destination was an area of New Zealand that we hadn't visited since 2002 - Northland. The name basically tells you where you can find it. You head as far North as you can in the North Island of New Zealand, and pretty much after passing through Auckland, you'll find yourself in Northland.

By a happy coincidence, our trip just happened to be at around the same time as the business end of the Super 14 rugby tournament and we'd get the opportunity to see three Super 14 matches during our trip. Given that there were to be two opportunities to see the Waikato Chiefs, BJ and Fiona again joined us for the trip.

Our route from Wellington took us up through the Central Plateau to Taupo. There, we hit a few golf balls into the lake. Well, there is a prize if you manage to get it onto an artificial island. We then hit the road again and headed up to Hamilton for our first rugby match. Here, the Waikato Chiefs took on the Wellington Hurricanes in a top-of-the-table clash. The conditions weren't particularly good for rugby, with it being quite greasy. This meant that there was a pretty high volume of handling errors and it turned out to be a pretty poor quality game given the ability of both the teams. The Chiefs eventually won out.

The next day, we continued North from Hamilton, through Auckland and continuing on through the small towns of Kumeu, Helensville and Wellsford. Our destination was the pleasantly scenic Bay of Islands where we were planning to stay at the former Capital of New Zealand - Russell. The weather was wet down South, but the further North we went the better it got. By the time we reached Wellsford, the Sun was finally pushing through. After some time in and around Paihia, we took the ferry across to Russell. By now it was dark, and we spent quite a while trying to find the key to the bach in which we were staying. The key was well hidden!

The next day, we took a boat trip out on to the Bay of Islands. Once again, the weather was far from ideal but en route round some of the many islands in the bay, we were lucky enough to find some dolphins that were keen to follow the boat for a while. We continued out to the famous Hole in the Rock; which, funnily enough is a rock island with a big hole or archway through it. The sea was too rough for the boat to navigate the hole and before long we returned to harbour. In the afternoon, we took a trip out to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the treaty which effectively underpins the formation of New Zealand was signed between the representative of the British Crown and a number of Maori tribe chiefs back in the 1800s. This site has seen plenty of controversy in the past especially on the annual Waitangi Day public holiday.

An early start on the following day was required for another long day of driving right to the very North of the North Island - Cape Reinga. The area North of the Bay of Islands is fairly sparsely populated and is far from the most affluent of regions in New Zealand. The region suffers from fairly regular flooding with some towns - Kaeo in particular - seeming to suffer flooding at least once a year. The drive up to Cape Reinga takes a long time, despite the lack of traffic and this wasn't helped by the fact that the last 10-15 kilometres to the Cape were being resurfaced. The view from the Cape shows you where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean and the waves of these two bodies of water crashing against each other. The views are quite stunning.

For the drive back South to Russell, we risked driving along Ninety Mile Beach - a beach that stretches from Kaitaia to the Cape and although it isn't actually 90 miles long, it isn't far short of this. The drive was a little bit risky as the tide was fairly high and the rain was starting to drive in, making the sand even wetter and making it more difficult to navigate a route. However, it turned out to be pretty much incident free.

The plan for the next day was to relocate ourselves a bit further south to Whangaparaoa where we'd stayed on a previous trip North. We took a fairly long winded route so that we could visit the town of Kerikeri. Mainly so Andy could visit the Parrot Place. Following this, the drive South was pretty time consuming and a little dull. A quick stop at the provincial Capital of Northland, the city of Whangarei broke things up a bit but it was quite a relief to arrive at our destination and put our feet up for a while.

The remainder of our trip was a lot more open ended and so we organised a few plans that evening. For the next day, we decided to go kayaking on the Puhoi River. This was a little bit risky considering how erratic the weather had been during our trip, but we timed it to perfection - arriving at the mouth of the Puhoi for pick up just as the rain started to fall. An easy and pleasant kayak which we followed up with a stop off at the Waiwera natural springs to allow us to fully wind down from the day's worth of adventure.

We were drawing towards the end of yet another classic Kiwi road trip, but we still had time to visit a few spots we'd never been to on the way South. We stopped off at the coastal resorts of Piha (home of the television series, Piha Rescue) and Raglan. Both popular with surfers throughout the year and we also saw the Super 14 games between the Waikato Chiefs and the ACT Brumbies and also the game between the Auckland Blues and Canterbury Crusaders.

The last leg of the trip, back to Wellington again took us through New Plymouth where a 2nd attempted trip to see Wilkies Pools (near the Dawson Falls we'd visited on our previous trip) was nearly scuppered by torrential rain - again.

So, finally here's a good few photos from the trip.

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Top Left: Rodney So'oialo - the Wellington Hurricanes (and occasional All Blacks) Captain. Bit of a dirty mo there from our Rodney.

Top Right: The Waikato Chiefs feed the ball out from a ruck into the backs.

Left: David Smith, Hurricanes winger. A top quality player capable of some destructive speed and breaks on the wing. As BJ would say, "He's my boy!"

Bottom Left: From the Bay of Islands, as we pootled across the harbour on one of the many boat trip options available, we came into close quarters with a pod of dolphins. A decent close up of its fin here.

Bottom Right: And a bit more of the whole dolphin in this one. No snout, but a good bit of blow hole in here.
No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.
Anyone fancy a Retail Level turnover budget?
I found it, I found it and it was THIS big!! Top Left: The famous Hole in the Rock as seen from our boat. The sea looks pretty calm from this photo, but it was still too choppy for the boat to navigate the hole. When we visited back in 2002, we took a trip on a jet boat which did go through the hole. In fact, we saw the same boat doing this very thing when we visited this time.

Top Right: Sunrise over the Bay of Islands as seen from the bach we were staying at in Russell. It was an interesting bit of accommodation, raised up from the shoreline with one bach higher on the hillside and another carbon-copy lower down. We were staying in the higher one. It was pretty damn cold.

Left: The Kauri tree known as the King of the Forest (Tāne Mahuta). This can be found on the winding road - Route 12 - between Dargaville and Kaikohe.

Bottom Left: A stunning view from Cape Reinga with the famous lighthouse in the foreground and the threat of rain visible in the distance. Contrary to popular belief, Cape Reinga isn't the most Northerly point in mainland New Zealand. There is a walk that you can do (a round trip would probably take a couple of days at a decent pace) which will take you to Kapowairua; from which it is a short distance to reach a slightly more Northerly spot than the Cape.

Bottom Right: The sand dunes at the top of 90 Mile Beach. Sadly, the weather wasn't good enough for us to dare doing some sand duning down these. Oh, and that's BJ's car in the foreground.
 No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.
Taking some affirmative action.
Top Left: The view from the historic Russell flagpole; which has been cut down several times in the past as a protest. There's 360 degree views across Russell and the Bay of Islands from up here and is well worth a visit.

Top Right: A fantail (Pīwakawaka) in flight.

Right: BJ shows that he has the same ability to show off his opposable thumbs as a bear carved out of Kauri wood at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, just North of Kaitaia.

Bottom Left: Jen acquaints herself with a young Macaw at The Parrot Place, Kerikeri. We're not 100% sure what sort of Macaw this is, but it could be either a Green-Winged Macaw, or possibly a Catalina Macaw. At the time of our visit, the parrot had not been named, but I have since found out (from the Parrot Place website) that it has been called Elmo. It was a friendly Macaw, but given its size it was quite heavy to have sitting on your arm.

Bottom Right: The beach at Matapouri, on the coast East from Whangarei. This place has been noted for a future visit due to the long sandy beaches and the lagoon that sits behind the beach. It looks perfect for a spot of sea kayaking as well with its own natural harbour populated with islands.
No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.
A little less conversation... Some photographs from Mele Waterfalls where we abseiled down the falls.

Left: BJ attempting his best imitation of a Japanese tourist in front of an incredible view whilst visiting the Whangarei waterfalls.

Bottom Left: A picture taken from Cape Reinga of the touristy direction sign. 9,735 nautical miles to London. I don't think we'll be walking that one any time soon.

Bottom Right: A Tui. From a distance they look black, but when you see them close up, you can see that they are more of a purple colour with iridescent blue wing feathers. It is also known as the Parson Bird due to the tufty feathers on its neck.
Oi! What you looking at?? Finish it off in style
Taking some affirmative action.
Top Left: The sunset from the beach at Russell outside the bach. Not a bad view all in all. I can imagine its an excellent place to stay in the summer, but it was pretty cold whilst we were there.

Top Right: A crab on the beach at Port Waikato, near Raglan. An extra stop we made on the way back South.

Right: The river at Whangarei that BJ was previously obstructing by stepping in the way of the lens.