Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Northland- east coast

I spent a lot more time on the eastern side of Northland- but am running out of time for blogging with a return to work looming- so you might just get a few highlights!
First up is the amazing bridge at Taipa. I parked and walked back to look at it properly and was so glad I did. On one 'prow' is a shag and on the other is a whale diving. There was a plaque dedicated to Sire Heke-nuku-mai-nga-iwi Puhipi, who was a master waka builder and celestial navigator, and who had been involved with the building of many bridges in Northland.
I stopped at several beautiful bays on the way south- then stopped for longer at Kerikeri, where I was a teacher many years back in just my second year of teaching. There have been many changes since then. It was nice to enjoy some rare sunshine this day!
 There used to be a bridge here but there was some serious flooding, and now there is a majorly changed route.
 The Stone House stands here still. You could enter now as it is a shop- when I was living in the area it was closed all the time.
 I was disappointed to find I couldn't enter Kemp House though. I bought a Heritage NZ membership this year, but so far have only managed to use it once in Russell- many places are either closed or only open on Sundays.
 St James church in Kerikeri.

 There was lots to see wandering in Russell. I did a guided tour of Pompallier House that was incredibly informative about how the Catholic missionary station printed material in Maori. I also noticed some prominent graves in the Russell cemetery.
 There was more light shed on this one to a Ngapuhi chief when I visited Ruapekapeka Pa a few days later. He was fighting with the British against other members of Ngapuhi in the last of the northern wars.
 There was a lot to take in at Waitangi. There is a new museum to members of the Maori Battalion. I found it extremely moving, and actually left in tears. One day I hope to go back and view it more.
The government is clearly making good on its promises that we should all be able to learn more about the New Zealand Wars. The Ruapekapeka Pa site has had a lot of work done with infrastructure near it like paths and parking. Again it was a very moving, and somewhat sombre, place to visit.

Last photo in this blog post is of Whangarei Falls. Great track to walk around to see it from various angles and heights.
Storms were promising as I drove south finally to spend some time with my niece. One day I will return when it is all perhaps slightly warmer and drier!
This blog post is really just skimming the surface, but work is calling!

Cape Reinga

I have visited Cape Reinga twice before, it is such a special place. It was bitterly cold as I began the walk down to the lighthouse, and it was time to don hat, scarf and gloves- but as I descended, there was more shelter from the bitter wind.
I appreciated the signs about the geology of the place. There were many signs, perhaps almost too many in parts, though they all told different parts of the story.

 I found it interesting that on this third visit, it wasn't the lighthouse that seemed significant to me, but I was more focused on the Maori stories about the spirits travelling through Northland to jump off on their final journey to Hawaiiki-A-Nui.
 There were of course few tourists. Strange to have the place almost to myself.
 And far below was the tree from which the spirits slip off into the underworld to return to the land of their ancestors.
 On the drive back south I stopped to look at the Te Paki sand dunes- but I left others to do the climbing and descent.
 My sister told me to stop off at Kapowairua (Spirit's Bay.) The sand here was very special to walk on, and I ran the shell particles through my hands repeatedly.
There is a DOC campground here, and I can imagine stopping here one summer in a tent before too much longer.
I ended up spending the night at the very northern part of Doubtless Bay, in the Whatuwhiwhi holiday park, ready to head down the east coast of Northland.

Northland - west coast

From Coromandel, I drove right through Auckland as far as Dargaville to begin my west coast exploration of Northland. I made a brief stop at Matakohe en route, where there is a beautiful kauri museum I have seen previously. The cemetery next to the church was interesting: I guess I was expecting to see a lot of Dalmatian names, but instead I saw lots of Smith family headstones!
I stayed the night in a simple but comfortable motel that took me back to the 70s in many ways- and the owner was a very personable man, who had got up very early one morning in Kaitaia to reach Cape Reinga before sunrise. The motel wasn't far from the large river which runs through the town.
Next morning as I drove north, the rainfall of previous days was obvious in paddocks. Hard to believe that Northland/Auckland was in serious drought before my arrival!
My next stop was at the Kai Iwi freshwater dune lakes. I had learned about dune lakes as part of my NZ Flora course where we looked at the plants colonising the dunes along the Himatangi coast, but I was very surprised by the size of these ones.
I had seen Tane Mahuta before, but of course had to stop off to see this grand kauri tree again. There were some other kauri walks in the vicinity, but only one of the three was open, and it was 50mins return. I just didn't feel like risking the rain again, sook that I am, and didn't walk it. 
It wasn't long before I reached the twin Hokianga towns of Omapere and Opononi. The beautiful view when I first saw Hokianga Harbour took my breath away again.

I had lunch here but decided to move on almost to my own bemusement. I had previously passed through here midsummer when it was too busy to even think of trying to park and stop for a while- but somehow it all felt too "Auckland" for me today.
So it was on to Rawene, where a winter timetable for the ferry sailing meant I had just missed one, and had to wait nearly an hour for the next one. (My punishment for skipping a night in Opononi I guess!)

It was already getting dark when I arrived in Kaitaia, and I had no idea where I would stay. Fortunately I saw a motel vacancy sign, a petrol station and a sign pointing north for Cape Reinga all within 50 metres or so- so I found a place to hunker down for the night.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020


For just over two weeks recently I explored something of Coromandel and Northland. Here are a few photos from the Coromandel part of the journey.

I spent a night in Hamilton en route and reconnected with some old friends. Called into the Cathedral Cathedral which has been extended since my days as a student in the city.
 I based myself in Thames for a few days at an old hotel. Romantic idea, but the noise from the bar wasn't conducive to sleep a couple of nights... The church of St James over the road was an impressive sight in the sunshine. Note the rainbow- sun only came in small snatches on this wintertime journey.
It was a beautiful trip north to Coromandel Town, with many views out to sea. I finally came to know what is meant by the 'Islands of the Hauraki Gulf".

A highlight for me was a trip on the railway at the property where Barry Brickell lived and worked as a potter for many years. What an inspirational man.
 The views from the Eye-Full tower at the top were impressive.
Next day I drove back up to Coromandel Town to go inland and east in a loop that took me up to Port Charles. Not a lot to see at Port Charles itself but the drive was dramatic.
 My favourite place in the whole of Coromandel was this viewpoint on the trip, on the way to Port Charles. The local Moehau Environment group have been working for many years to get rid of predators and enhance the environment for kiwi in the area, with the result that kiwi numbers are increasing.
After Port Charles I continued down the eastern coast for a while, passing farmland, ocean bays, and mangroves.