Monday, 11/8/93, 9pm
Well, back to Sunday first : We got up and filled our tanks with leaded coffee in preparation for the drive north. We packed everything in our rental car and took off up Highway 1. It actually started with four lanes wide, but once we left Auckland, it turned into a two lane, rural road, complete with patchwork and one-way bridges. The country was rolling green on green pastureland. It was very “pastural” (get it?). It was really beautiful, and I even have pictures to prove it.
We worked our way north through towns that all sounded a little strange. They started normal enough: Albany, Dairy Flat, Silverdale; but then things got weird. A sign for Whangaparaoa, towns like Orewa, Waiwera, Kaiwaka, Waipu and Whangarei. We stopped at the last one for lunch at a foodcourt in a small shopping mall. While searching four an ice-chest for food and drinks in the car, I found that they don’t exist in New Zealand. Nobody even knew what I was talking about. Once I found they are called Chilly bins, everything got better, though.
Back on the road north through Hikurangi, Whakopara, Waiomio, Kawakawa and finally to Paihia. It’s very interesting going past a road sign at 80 to 100Km/h, trying to pick out a familiar town when they all sound (and look) the same. We stopped in Paihia for directions at a nice house overlooking the town and the bay. The couple even invited us (though we were total strangers) into their house for a drink of water, and just to talk. We were pretty surprised at this hospitality.
We drove around Paihia for awhile, and then took the ferry about 300 yards across the Bay to Russel, where we bought a hamburger for dinner. It wasn’t the best dinner, but it was the only place open on a Sunday evening. We started driving east towards our homestay. The roads turned to gravel pretty quick, and stayed that way for the 18Km we had to go. It was a BEAUTIFUL drive down the edge of the bay to an even more unbelievable location.
The house we’re staying in sits about 50 meters up a steep hill overlooking Waipiro Bay, which is a part of the Bay of Islands. It’s a beautiful house. Imagine a three story, octagonal house, with a large, square addition on the back (hill-side). We actually stayed in the octagonal section with our formal living room downstairs, and the bedrooms upstairs, all overlooking the bay. It’s all done in natural wood with exposed beams. It’s really something else. We stayed up to talk to Thomas and Beatte (our hosts) until about 11pm, when we hit the hay.
MONDAY: We got up at about 8am, got cleaned up, and went downstairs for a hearty breakfast of poached eggs, fresh baked breads, fruit salad, cereal, coffee, tangerine juice and more. This sure beats any of the hotel meals we’ve had so far, and at only $35NZ/night including the room. What a great way to travel.
Our fishing opportunity fell through due to inclimate weather, so we decided to head north towards the top of the island. We headed up Highway 1 again through more places you can’t read on road signs at 80Km/h +: Moerewa, Te Ahuahu, Rangiahua, across the Mangamuka Bridge, up through the Maungataniwha Range. We kept heading north: Kaitaia, Awanui, Waipapakauri, and we were finally on the Aupori Peninsula. This is the long, skinny, mostly uninhabited (except by cattle and sheep) northern tip of New Zealand.
After a very long time, we finally got to “The most photographed lighthouse in New Zealand” or “the World” (I can’t remember which) at Cape Reinga. It was a beautiful as it was bleak and desolate. Aquamarine Tasman Sea meets deep Turquoise Pacific for a battle of wills. It was quite a sight.
After leaving Cape Reinga, we started back south, wanting to actually go out and drive on 90-mile Beach (it’s actually only 66 miles, but measurements weren’t as accurate when they named it). We ended up following a tour bus track down the middle of a small, sandy stream, working our way out to the Tasman Sea and the 90-mile Beach. We were a little reluctant at first to drive our car down the middle of a stream, but hey, we’re tourists, and it is a rental car! The locals told us that it was OK to drive down the stream, as long as we didn’t ever stop near the water. Remember standing at the beach, on the wet sand. You tend to sink. Cars do the same thing, so you just can’t stop once you get started.
Unfortunately it was high tide when we got to the beach, and it would have been impossible to continue, so we drove back up the stream, and started the four hour journey back to the homestay.
We veered off to the east on Highway 10, towards what Beatta says is the best fish-n-chips place in the northland. It’s a little restaurant right on the bay on the north side of Mangonui called simply Seafood Restaurant. Although I can’t say from experience it is the best, it definitely set our sights high for future places.
As we were finishing dinner at the picnic tables on the deck, a squall blew in rather quickly, and we had to jump back in the car and head for home. It rained for the entire trip back home, and once we got there, started clearing again. Weird, fast weather…
Now Bill and I are sitting in our living room listening to a nice classical music tape with Audre Lardiot playing oboe tunes written by Vivaldi, Fischer, LeClair, Albinoni, and Hummel. We’re frantically updating our journals before we get too much more behind. I supposed we should also start trying to arrange our lodging for tomorrow night, so I’ll sign off now that I?m caught up, and see what I can work out.