Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Holidays Week 2

Sunday 13 May
We set off on our road trip north up Highway 1, which soon becomes a normal 2-way road despite its grand name. We have two cars between us but don’t drive in convoy, making sure each car has a working mobile phone. We all stop for lunch in Dargaville and I get treated to the Mother’s Day Special in a little cafe as today is Mother’s Day in this part of the world. Billy continues with his beef, scallop, beef, beef, scallop theme, but we’re all so full we have to take our kumara cake away with us to eat later.

Lined up in front of one of the biggest kauris

Sun setting at the mouth of Hokianga Harbour

The countryside becomes more wild and beautiful as we drive northwards soon entering the winding climbing roads of the Waipoua Forest , home to the greatest of the ancient Kauri trees. So we stop and walk on down to view these enormous 2,000 year old trees. They aren’t all that tall but have the most enormous girth and such a variety of plant life living on them. It’s getting quite late now and the days are shorter, so the sun is going down as we park at South Head, the entrance to Hokianga Harbour, for a short walk. It’s a beautiful view out across the Tasman Sea to the setting sun, and just a short drive now to Rawene where we catch the vehicle ferry across to Kohukohu, and on to the Tree House for our night’s stop.

Tree House kitchen, dorms off to the left.

Pauline remembers us from last time and gives us all a brilliant welcome and settles us in. We have the two dormitories to ourselves which is great as they’re next to the open plan kitchen/sitting area and it’s like having our own place. We get on with doing dinner, Malaysian Beef Rendang, made a while back, frozen and carried up in the cool box (we’re in the middle of the bush here and there are no restaurants or bars within walking distance). After dinner we watch the possums which can be spotted up in the trees next to the house, their big round eyes shining in our torchlight. We walk down to the road and gaze up at the biggest and brightest Milky Way we’ve ever seen.

Monday 14 May
We all sleep pretty well, despite being in bunk beds in dorms, we pack up and drive the short distance to Kohukohu where we stop for breakfast at its famous cafe. Weather’s very changeable: sunshine, showers and rainbows, but warm enough to eat breakfast outside and it certainly lives up to its excellent reputation. Knowing we have a fair amount of time (our next stop, Russell  on the east coast, isn’t far away) we wander around the cute little town of Kohukohu, spending a long time in the Art Gallery, and then Max gives us a special walking tour of the town with the aid of a guide book he picked up somewhere along the line, the highlight for me being the lovingly restored cream store on the side of the road, which looks like an ancient wooden dog kennel on stilts.

The Hokianga car ferry which criss-crosses from Rawene to Kohukohu all day long
We finally say goodbye to Kohukohu, cross over on the ferry boat one last time, and head east to the Bay of Islands. We make our planned toilet stop in Kawakawa mainly for Bill whose favourite artist, the Austrian Hundertwasser, lived here and was commissioned to design and build the most fabulous toilets in the world. Very reminiscent of the Gaudi stuff in Barcelona but if anything wilder and more colourful, the toilets are just brilliant.

Billy outside the Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa
Inside the ladies loo. The windows are made of coloured bottles

Continuing east we come to Opua on the Bay of Islands and take another ferry over to Okiato, and then on to Russell where we’re met by the Book-a-Bach rep and shown round the house. I’ve seen the pix on the website but the house really exceeds my expectations. It’s set back from the waterfront on a hillside but close to the centre of town. It has large windows so the views are great and many them have stained glass edging in beautiful reds and blues. The house is completely built of wood inside and out, and feels very solid: has a lovely Edwardian style fireplace, a pot bellied stove and an old oven installed. Mostly open plan which suits us and the bedrooms are lovely, all with en suites. Mike and I plumb for the separate apartment which is up above the garage leaving all the bedrooms in the house to the kids, thinking we’ll be away from any noise late on, and it works well. There’s also a large spa pool and a gas barbeque, so we really have done very well for ourselves. We wander into town, very blustery down by the sea, but it’s a pretty place with lots of clap-board houses and a nice old wharf housing the i-site at its end. The men book fishing and we shop for essentials and check out the restaurants. That evening we eat out at Sally’s and the oyster fest begins. We have a lovely waitress from Connecticut who manages us very well, noisy bunch that we are.

Looking down to the sitting room from the landing of our Russell house

Tuesday 15 May
We wake up to a wet blustery morning and the fishing trip’s been cancelled. After coffee and a trip to the inevitable local museum, we decide we’ll go walking nearby, while the kids go off to visit the Omata Vineyard, a local winery. 

Looking down the wharf at Russell, with one of many rainbows
Looking down on Whangamumu Bay with the whaling station hidden to the left

We drive westwards on a tiny road past little bays, ending up on a gravel road where we park in a layby. The route to Whangamumu is marked and we should get to an old whaling station on the bay on the other side of the hill. Walk starts off boggy, crossing a meadow and scaring the pukekoes, but we’re soon climbing through kanuka trees on a decent path, the only trouble being that it’s on clay so a bit slippery as it’s been raining recently. Climbing quite steeply then we get to the crest and this most beautiful crescent-shaped bay appears below us in the afternoon sunshine with a fishing boat sitting in the middle of the natural harbour. It’s downhill all the way, and we get a quick shower of rain just as we arrive. We begin by unsuccessfully searching for the old whaling station, can’t find it anywhere despite the signs, so explore the beach, walking through a wonderful tangle of ancient collapsed Pohutukawa trees with strangely patterned clay rocks at the water’s edge. Across on the far side of the cove Mike spots the old whaling station, painted green so well camouflaged and seemingly impossible to get to at high tide. There’s bright sunshine and a double rainbow above us as we head back over the hill to the car.
A tangle of ancient pohutukawa trees on the beach

Out to eat again this evening, and the Duke of Marlborough comes out favourite when we vote on which restaurant to grace with our presence. It’s the oldest and finest restaurant in Russell, and used to be a famous drinking hole for the riff-raff that made up the population in those days. Once Russell was known as the hell hole of the Pacific because of the savage and drunken behaviour of the whalers and sealers that lived in the place but tonight the D of M seems a very civilised rather up-market establishment even after the Boons arrive and get stuck into the inevitable oysters.

Wednesday 16 May
Weather not great again so we decide to go to Waitangi, scene of the famous treaty between Pakeha and Maori  in 1840 which gave rights of land and waterways ownership to the Maori in exchange for their allegiance to the Crown.

Detail of the waka at Waitangi

We go back across the Bay on the ferry and have lunch in Paihia before driving on up to Waitangi. It’s a rather beautiful spot with a large wharenui (carved meeting house) beside a green lawn with a large flag pole, overlooking the Bay of Islands. We go in for the guided tour, which is, as usual, led by a Maori woman. There’s a long tradition of Maori women acting as guides to the Pakeha and in our experience they’ve always been entertaining and good value. So we learn about the history and signing of the Waitangi Treaty and our guide told us the story of her ancestor being one of the last to sign the treaty but finding little space left went and placed his name right at the top of the list. We’re shown the enormous and impressive waka and learn about the significance of the magnificent carving in the wharenui.

On the way home we split up: the kids are buying food for the barbeque and we’re off to buy vast quantities of oysters; we’re eating in tonight. The dining table looks splendid and everyone pulls their weight to get dinner on the table. Mike has set a new record, totalling 29 oysters in just 3 days, but others aren’t far behind, Billy having given up on his beef, scallop, scallop, beef diet.

Table's all laid for dinner. Oysters are quite cheap here: just as well!

Late in the evening Bill and Craig decide to have one last go at catching a fish and take their crab lines down to sit on the wharf hoping for a nibble.

Thursday 17 May
We’re out by 10, crossing Hokianga on the car ferry one last time and heading south back towards Auckland. We plan a stop at Waiomio Glow Worm Caves. It’s Maori owned and run but much smaller than the Waitomo caves we’d seen south of Hamilton. Our guide is informative and delightful, she leads us through a narrow cave entrance between walls of stalagtites and stalagmites. There are no electric lights so we’re carrying 3 lanterns between us. Occasionally she stops and ask us to turn out the lights so we can gaze up at the glow worms shining for all they’re worth up on the ceilings, making strange patterns with their greenish light.  The tour takes half an hour or so and we exit much higher up the hill side and walk back down through native bush strewn with enormous rocks and boulders. Back at the carpark I must be slightly disorientated, as I try to climb into the wrong car – it’s not even the right colour – most embarrassing.

We stop for lunch at Waipu and eat well at the Pizza Barn which is rather tastefully decorated with twentieth century kitch. Across the road we wander round an antique shop where we are recommended to take the coast road rather than the highway. It’s a good plan, more interesting than the highway and we stop at beautiful Lang’s Beach and wander, collecting shells and gazing at yet another rainbow, must be the twentieth of the holiday at least.

Lang's Beach on the way home

Back home we decide to eat out at Galbraith’s and spend a lot of time debating and voting on what to do on our last full day together.

Friday 18 May
Rangitoto it is, though I decide to stay home and prepare lasagne for our last dinner together. Mike, Craig, and Bill do the full circuit but Katy, Max and Rachel get the early ferry home. They forget to take a camera to Rangitoto unfortunately. Max and Rachel stay in town and go to the imax, while Kate and I have a relaxing time wandering round the local Newmarket designer shops and shop for dinner. A lovely evening at home.

Saturday 19 May
There’s a lot of sorting and packing going on, then once Max and Rachel arrive from the flat, we walk round to the local Parnell Farmer’s market, buy yummy food for lunch and some lovely flowers are bought for me. After lunch Kate, Craig and Mike go to the Art Gallery and the rest of us head for the Sky Tower. I’ve not been up it before and am not usually very keen on these kinds of attractions but it was lovely going with the boys and Rachel and we got great views across Auckland of course, though try as we might we couldn’t find our house (hidden by the bulk of the hospital we think).

Looking out over the harbour and bridge to North Shore from Sky Tower

Everything’s packed into the two cars and we drive in convoy down to our favourite Thai restaurant on the Great South Road. A lovely dinner and we’re all off to the airport. Not much fun hanging around feeling sad they’re all going, so we don’t stay long. Big hugs all round and they’re gone.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a great 2nd week you all had and had so much fun. Am sure parting at the airport wasn't the best of things but the remaining months will fly by am sure now till you are heading back to the UK yourselves. This is turning into a great diary of your life down under and reading back from the start it is an amazing read. :o)