As Wellington city moved into the winter months, the thought of moving up to the "winterless" northland of New Zealand for over a week certainly appealed to me. The Northland, which is basically the land above Auckland or the long, jutty, peninsula thingy bob at the top of NZ! It is within the subtropics and contains many famous tourist sites, the main ones including the Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga.
Meeting my good mate at Tauranga (The Intrepid traveller, Markus KaNZnagh) we headed up through Auckland to the Northland. Since no one really cares about the long winded details of my journey lets just cut to the chase and bullet point it!
Whangerei - Pronounced "Fangaray". Relatively large town. Stayed camping in one of the holiday parks. Kind of a rough spot to be honest and almost got into a spot of bother with the locals,when a suped ups sports car started heckling after a night out as we walked back to camp. Not much to see here folks, one night enough. Move on.
Paihia - Sandwiched between two relatively large towns, Kawakawa and Kerikeri which looked the same to me when driving through.Paihia is the gateland to the tourist attraction, the Bay of Islands. The weather was beautiful, showing off the almost turquoise waters and the array of islands. There was great buzz about with plenty of bars and restaurants. Got the fast boat to check out the Hole in the Rock (~40 minutes out to sea, each way).
Mangonui - Small, secluded sea-side fishing town. Some of the best fish and chips I've had in a long time here.
Maitai Bay - The peninsula north-west of Mangonui. Off the beaten track a little with some non-tarsealed roads in places. Two magnificent bays at the top section, white sand and swimming areas sheltered from the ocean sea. A gem of a spot.
Kaitaia - Closest major Gateway to cape Reinga, not much to see here,scarcity of backpackers places too. Bus tour was recommended, booked it for the next day.
90 mile beach & Cape Reinga - Worth the trip alone. We travelled on a bus full of tourists all of mixed age.Yes, we travelled on the 90 mile beach (which is not 90 miles either!). Clean, firm sand reminiscent of Fraser Island in Australia. At the end of the beach, the bus drives up the Te Paki stream stopping halfway to do sum fun sand tabogganing (tried showing off to the crowds here and nearly put myself in a wheelchair). Next step, Cape Reinga. Full of tourists, super clear day, easily see the Three King Islands and where the Abel Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.
Kaikohe - Didn't feel like we should of been there, pretty rough. Back to Paihai for another night of partying.
West Coast - From Paihia we travelled back to the west coast, done in a day, the main attraction is the Tane Mahuta Kauri tree which is believed to be 2,000 years old (13.8 m circumference). Below is my duck face selfie with it, this pic does not do it justice but believe me the tree is a whomper! Plenty of winding, mountainous roads to keep your concentration intact on this drive with a good deal of forestry land either side of road.
Something I've always wanted to try in New Zealand was hitchhiking. I've heard plenty of mates trying it with consistent success. Apparently, NZ is one of the safer places to try this out without getting put in a body bag. The perfect opportunity came up when all buses from Auckland to Wellington were sold out over the Easter weekend and flights were > 200 squid. A friend (Thanks Sandy!) dropped me to Hamilton ("The Tron") near to the exiting road to Taupo (Midland tourist town). The drive from Hamilton to Taupo is only about 2 hours, which ain't much to the Kiwi's but would put an unpleasant grimace on any Irish man or woman's face.
(1) - So there I was about 40 minutes standing on the side of the road with a backpack and a tent bag on the ground against a light pole, wearing a newly purchased flourescent orange macpac rain jacket. It wasn't long before I felt very dejected, people passing, some giving a mini wave, one saying good luck, some smiling and two funny fellas who slowed down briefly only to accelerate off again with a childish grin (I didn't get annoyed, I would of done the same myself!). I even went into the nearest vegetable store where the owner thankfully gave me a black marker and a piece of paper to write my destination on and help attract some more attention.Thankfully one guy stopped and said he could drop me up further to a better location. His name was Corbin and he had to buy some eggs before leaving. If I remember correctly he wore a towel around his waist! I didn't press further into that detail. He was in his late 20's/early 30's I reckon and mentioned he had hitchhiked before, nice fella.
(2) - The second guy to pick me up, abruptly pulled in when he seen my Taupo sign. A man in his late 30's in a white pick-up truck whom instantly asked if I was Irish. This conversation was quickly followed with his recent travel to Ireland with his wife and whom both had a baby girl in the previous few weeks. Thanks Hayden! He dropped me to the next town, Cambridge.
(3) Here I stood on the side of a main road, again people rubber necking, a few waved. I was there for about 15 minutes before one of the "Jucy" Campervans pulled up with two people in the front. Jake & Los, whom recently got married and were travelling New Zealand for a short 2 weeks. It was their first day in the country and came from the land down under. I squeezed into the front with Los whom I found had relations in Ireland, they were very chatty and seemed excited about their travels. I was dropped off at Tirau, a small town, well....errr... that I probably shouldn't have got off at.
(4) - I made the mistake of getting something to eat in this town, not taking into account that darkness was falling fast, this town was a little bit rough and I stood out like a sore thumb. I had about half an hour to find a lift before it got dark, forcing me to enthusiastically trying to wave people down with my eyes and smile. Not much happened for the bones of 20 minutes and the merry locals outside the local hotel/pub where having a right ol' laugh, heckling at this poor little foreigner chancing his luck. My heart shuddered with relief when a small van pulled in. Black & green paint, Motorcycle advertisement writing across the side, the driver, Liam, a tall chilled out...dare I see fairly handsome man, said he was heading to Napier and passing through Taupo. I jumped in to the van which was basically a shell with wheels, with all the surrounding door seals and interior basically missing, the conversation could only be hear through shouting. He was super chatty and talked about his motorcycle selling hobbies, his Barista skillz and his longing to move to the countryside to a house with flaky old paint. We drove while darkness arrived and he finally got me to Taupo after over an hour of travel, I spotted him a kebab for his troubles.
So there I was in Taupo (beside the biggest lake in NZ), which was damn cold by the way, a far cry from the consistent tropical temperatures of the far north. I stayed in a random backpacker spot. I was too tired to go out and the climax of the night was a young German guy whom almost overdosed on Ridilin (ADHD drug) warranting a swift call from the ambulance. I managed to get a 6 hour bus from Taupo to Welly on the next morning (Sunday) I didn't fancy my chances of hitchhiking and reckoned I may have struggled to make it to work Monday Morning if I had. As I drifted over the hills of Porirua, I could see what I missed even though it was only a week, Wellington, such a beauty of spot. As I thought that in my head, beads of miserable heavy rain smashed against the bus window and if I recall correctly...the wind picked up a little too.... good ol' Welly!
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