|This is our last NZ entry and we are writing it after arriving in the USA on Sunday, April 25th. It is difficult to realize that our 5 month’s visit of New Zealand is completed! Where has the time passed? This entry is rather long, but just remember, it is the last!!!
We concluded our previous entry with our heading north from Hamilton. We stopped in Manukau to see if we could make contact with Debbie at the Top Ten Resort, but she and her husband Steve, were on holiday and would be returning next week so we continued on to our friends, Dennis and Lynne who had invited us to spend some time with them in Waitakere. Thank goodness Dennis met us in Swanson on his way home from his job as we would have never found their home. They have a lovely place in the country – down and around through a wooded area! The sign by their entrance reads: Thiseldome! At first we thought it referred to thistles but soon found out that it translates: this will do me. Lynne says that the sign was there when she bought the place and at first she thought the same thing we did. However, when she saw the place and said “This will do me.” the realtor shared the real meaning of the sign! Obviously someone else must have said the same thing. Rather clever, don’t you agree? Anyway, we spent the week end with them and had a wonderful time. They drove us around the area showing us several special spots including Muriwai Beach and the home to the Takapu Refuge, an Australiasian gannet colony. There is a walking trail to two viewing platforms and it was fun watching the activity of the beautiful birds. And it was a great place for a picnic! Sunday we drove into Auckland and to the top of Albert Park where you can see the entire Auckland area. We stopped for fresh fish at a huge fish market downtown—a perfect choice for dinner.
There is so much more to see in Auckland, but we really wanted to head to the Northlands. We drove through Helensville, a small town with historical buildings, shops and a post where we could extend our diesel tax coverage. We have almost used the 4,000 km that we added in Twizel in the South Island. We were hoping to see a highly recommended Kauri museum in Matakohne but unfortunately weren't able to because we arrived shortly before closing. We spent the night actually right on Baylys Beach (the first time for this). There were a few other cars/RVs there so after checking with them decided that we would be safe. The next morning we were about ready to go when our German neighbor came over to ask if we could watch her sleeping baby while she went to the toilet. We ended up visiting with her for a while—people love to talk! We finally drove on to Dargaville where we did our grocery shopping and filled our rig with diesel. On our trip north we had a lovely day passing through kumara (sweet potato) country and taking walks to several special Kauri trees. Te Matua Ngahere (the Father of the Forest) has a trunk of over 5 m in diameter and is believed to have the widest girth of any kauri tree in NZ and is possibly the oldest, too—probably 2,000 years old! Nearby are the famous Four Sisters, four tall trees clumped together. The largest kauri tree in NZ is 51 meters and is named for the Maori god of the forests, Tanemahuta. It is also very old, between 1200-2000 years old. We drove up to the lookout point on Pakia Hill that has a spectacular view of the harbor and the golden sand and went to the visitor’s center. After a little confusion of where the freedom camping spot was located we finally found it—a beautiful spot overlooking the Hokianga Habour.
The next morning we drove to Rawene, a cute little village from where a car ferry crosses Hokianaga Harbour to Kohukohu. There are several historical buildings located here from the time when kauri timber and gum were exported from here. We also enjoyed the mangrove boardwalk. The ferry ride is short, about 15 minutes and because we had a heavy vehicle cost $30—I think passengers are only $2. The ferry was already heading out when a truck pulled up to the dock, so the captain backed up and picked him up! Such customer service! Kohukohu is very small but we walked around anyway, giving the other autos a chance to get ahead of us! Our drive to Kaitaia was through lovely country and there were very few cars, so it was an easier drive for Eric—not so much pulling off for the faster drivers. After checking the price of the Ninety Mile Beach tour at the Information Center in Kaitaia, we decided to go for it. Actually it was very reasonable at $55 per person for all it provided. Since we would not go until the following day we decided to drive about 30k to Mangonui, a lovely fishing port where there is a café with award winning fish ‘n chips. We must confess that we did not agree and still would give our vote for Lockie’s in the South Island! After dinner we drove back to Kaitaia where we stayed overnight at the local RSA. The next morning we boarded our bus at the Information Center’s parking lot where we left our RV for the day. Our bus trip included a trip to Cape Reinga—almost at the northern tip of NZ where a lighthouse still operates and below you can see where the waters of the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. It was really impressive and the walkway to the lighthouse was very well maintained. Our driver stopped at a lovely beach area where we had a picnic lunch(provided). Then we drove to sand dunes where anyone who wanted could slide down the dunes on plastic tubs. Eric slid down a higher dune than I did, but I was proud of the fact that I even did it! From there we headed for 90 mile beach. Anyone can drive on the beach, but you need to be aware of the tides. However, I understand most car rental companies prohibit driving the beach. It is a very flat beach and without any driftwood. Our trip also included a guided tour of Gumdiggers Park, a major gum-digging site and a chance to see the ancient Kauri Kingdom workshop and gallery. One of the highlights of our trip was our Maori driver who sang a few songs in the Maori language and told us several human interest stories. We didn’t get back to our RV until about 4:30, so it was a long day. Nice too for Eric to have a day off of driving! We had decided to drive out to a DOC camp at Maitai Bay for the evening and had hoped to meet up with a couple we met on the bus who was also there, but by the time we got there it was pretty dark. We’ve really been noticing the difference in the daylight hours, they are definitely diminishing! Another camper came out fearing that we had hit the water faucet and then told us that we could camp on a premier spot. The next morning we could see why it qualified – we had a perfect view of the ocean! We met someone there who has been living in his rv for 3 years and this campground is his favorite! Another difficult place to leave!
There is a side road off the Highway 10 where you can circle several lovely beaches so we drove that road before rejoining the main road to Kerikeri where we spent the evening at another RSA. We left the next morning for Waitangi where Treaty House, the site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place. We stopped to see Haruru Falls before heading to Paihia a touristy town where we could have taken a passenger ferry to Russell, but instead drove a little farther to Opua where we could take a car ferry. Russell is a small pretty little place now but its early European history was turbulent. We took a back road rather than returning to highway 1 and followed the coast. The views of the various bays were beautiful. We finally reached our destination, a DOC camp at Otamure Bay. The Northlands is experiencing a drought, so the use of water at this place is very restricted. One of the campers had dug for pipis—small clams, so I was finally able to at least taste one. We tried to dig our own, but the tides were already coming in, so we were too late. We left the next morning and thought we could take a short cut back to the scenic coastal road but ended up on a gravel road for what seemed a very long time. We finally got our bearings and drove through a lovely area of beautiful coastal views eventually back to Whangarei. The 26 m high Whangarei Falls were very photogenic and the AH Reed Kauri Park has short walks. We even walked on a boardwalk high up in the tree tops! If we would have had more time it might have been fun to explore the area in more depth, but our time is running out! We spent the evening at another DOC camp behind Uretiti Beach sand dunes on Bream Bay. The tide was coming in again, but we did manage to dig five pipis and a cockle, but the bucket fell over so we’re not sure if the sea gulls stole our cockle but we did eat the pipis! The camp host told us that the NZ Refining Company had a great visitor’s center, so we drove a few kilometers back the next morning and it really was so well done.
We did take one side trip off of Highway 1 to explore a few beaches, but with our time limitations we needed to continue driving south. The woman who taught me encaustic art told us about Puhoi, a small community settled in 1863 by pioneers from Bohemia. I was especially interested because of my Czech heritage and it was located only a few kilometers from the main highway, so we stopped hoping to see their museum. Unfortunately they were short of volunteers so did not have one available that day. We did talk to a few people and learned that there are many relatives of the first settlers still in the area. There is a Catholic church being renovated, an old convent and school.
We had met a couple in the S. Island who told us they’d love to have us stop by if we get to Orewa. We were able to pull up next to their house for the evening. Our visit was good timing for them, too as they were having some problems with their computer so Eric was able to help. We left them around noon and were able to get to Debbie’s Top Ten Park before the heavy rush hour of Auckland traffic. While we were there Debbie’s mother-in-law was visiting and ended up buying our RV! What a relief to have that problem solved. We were really glad that we didn’t have to bother anyone with selling it. After spending a couple of nights in the parking lot we drove back to Dennis and Lynne’s place where we had more room to clean up our RV. On the 24th we drove our zebra RV to its new owner and then went to Debbie’s Top Ten and rented a cabin for the night. Steve, daughter Sarah and a friend of theirs were planning to go into Auckland for the big ANZAC celebration the next morning, so we were able to join them. The celebration begins at 5:30 a.m., so we had to get up early!!! ANZAC Day is a national day of remembrance celebrated in Australia and New Zealand on April 25th every year, honoring members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought in Gallipoli in turkey during World War I. It was a beautiful ceremony and even though we couldn’t see much because of the thousands of people there, we heard well and the message of remembrance was beautifully expressed. We returned to the campground and finished packing. Debbie and Steve graciously offered to take us to the airport. We arrived in plenty of time but when we looked at the flight board it said FINAL BOARDING, so with that news we moved quickly! We had hoped to have our final cup of flat white coffee!!! It turns out that US flights here have to go through two security stations. I had brought small dull pointed sewing scissors to work on a small stitching project and had no problems with carrying it going over, but the first station inspection measured it, discussed the situation with a coworker and finally let me go on. Then when we got to the second inspection center I had to let them go! Our flight back was turbulent most of the way, not terrible, but bumpy for sure. We were glad to land. Then we had to wait almost an hour for the airport’s carousel’s to be activated. Our cell phone didn’t work in customs but just as we were leaving the area the phone rang to let us know our friends were ready to pick us up. What perfect timing!!!
It’s hard to believe that we are back. We had a wonderful time!!! We wished we had more time to explore the North Island, but we realized we would never be able to see everything! We will never forget the beautiful country and the kind people of New Zealand. And we really appreciate all of your thoughts and prayers for us hoping that we would be safe and have a great journey. We did. Your prayers were answered!