Monday, December 30, 2013

Road tripping across Northland and some trivia

Well no..not a recipe in spite of the break in my posts. Blame it on holiday planning and then the actual holiday. I am now in my siesta period - the recuperating vacation after a vacation and doing all the catch up that is needed.

Coming from India, it is a rude shock to see things fill up so fast in a small, sparcely populated country. Motels have fewer than 10 rooms and so during a holiday season, good rooms at good prices are hard to come by.  And being a piscean don't help one bit.. nopes. Fickle mindedness can be a very nasty trait to put up with...  ummm for your partner. (Wicked!!)

Well, finally we booked a mix of backpacker and motel accomodation over 6 nights to explore Northland. We went up the west coast from Auckland to Dargaville and from there to Kaitaia to Cape Reinga, the northern most tip, and came down the east coast via Kerikeri, Paihia and Whangarei.

The Kauri Museum :
It was a vacation filled with activities. High on adrenaline after diving out of a plane at 16500 feet, we took the 2 hour odd drive to Dargaville. Enroute, we visited the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. An entrance fee of 25 NZD per person buys you nauseousness from the rich smells of Kauri wood. On a serious note, it is breathtaking to see the size that a kauri trunk can grow to. Indulge in the spectacular food from the Gumdiggers cafe located on the same premises. Visit the matakohe school as well as old post office to feel like you got a good bargain for your 25 NZD.  Strong urges to splurge at the museum store must be fought with as the things are very very highly priced. The same tee shirt is available for half the price at other stores.

Destination Dargaville and Tokatoka peak:
Tokatoka peak provides a 360 degree view and is about a 10 minute steep climb from the main road.
Dargaville is a small town on SH16 and is known for the Kai Iwi Lakes and Waipoa forests where one can see the great Tane Mahuta. An old school serves as a backpackers accomodation and if you can overlook the sirens of the neighbouring police station, The Greenhouse Backpackers is a good place to stay at. It is closely located to all supermarkets and restaurants.

Kai Iwi Lakes and Tane Mahuta :
Located at about 30 minutes from Dargaville town center is Kai Iwi Lakes - 3 fresh water lakes formed in between mountains from rain water. They are breathtakingly beautiful and a popular camping ground is situated closeby.
Next is the Waipoua forests where one could go camping and trekking.
Tane Mahuta - the Lord of the Forest - the largest living Kauri tree. Kauri trees are native of NZ and large kauri forests have been buried under the earth for years now. Scientists believe that a huge Tsunami caused these forests to get submerged underground not once but 3 times around. They have soft roots which do not go deep into the ground and this makes them more sensitive to pressure. They take years to mature and grow to their full height. These trees have self healing capabilities eliminating knots, providing great timber for furniture. Their gum was used for varnishes and resins.

Cape Reinga, Tapotupotu Bay and 90 mile beach :
An overnight stay at Kaitaia is important if one is to take the bus tour to Cape Reinga. Don't be misled and believe me when I tell you that you can drive all the way to Cape Reinga. It has been 2 years since the road has been paved. The only thing you won't be able to do if you don't have a 4 wheel drive vehicle is the 90 mile drive along the beach. Well, it is not 90 miles but about 98 kilometres but since 90 mile sounds cool, it is called that. Who cares right? Well, the beach drive is not much fun.
Tapotupotu bay made me breathless. The blueness of the ocean on a sunny day is from some picture. Limitless shade sof blue. Again, a popular camping ground.
Cape Reinga is the northernmost tip of Northland to us commoners. If one is a scientist, there is another tip which is part of a scientific reserve which is actually the northern most tip. There is a coastal track that takes one 3.5 hours from Cape Reinga to Tapotupotu bay.
Avoid the bus tour if you want to do any trekking - you get about 40 minutes at Cape Reinga with 5 bus loads, at the minimum, of people.
Tapotupotu Bay90 mile beach
A rustic little unspoilt town midway on the east coast is Kerikeri, home to the oldest stone store, rainbow falls, the parrot place, Palmco gardens and the famous Matakana Chocolate House. Rainbow falls was serene with almost no one at 9 am. It is called so cause of the 7+ tiny falls that make the whole falls. Avoid the parrot place if you don't like seeing trapped birds, more if you have to pay a 10 dollar entry fee.You do get a handful of peanuts to feed the birds and if you are too shy to do that, feed yourself. The Kerikeri belt is known for Macadamia nuts and that's what the Matakana Chocolate House is all about - Macadamia nuts and Chocolate.

Paihia :
The San Francisco of Northland. Crowded with a famous pier lined with restaurants and water based activities. It is known for its pohutukawa lined white sandy beaches but hey Orewa beach is the same and less crowded or commerctial. Fortunately we stopped just for lunch. However, if you are keen, you could go to the Aquarium by the bay, swimming with the dolphins and parasailing.

Whangarei :
Whangarei is a huge port town. We stayed at this rustic eco place called "Little Earth Lodge" where you are away from network coverage, close to glow worm caves, in the middle of a beautiful birdsongs and beautiful views.

We went on a fishing trip here which was a mixed experience. At some point your consciousness does kick in and one stares at the ocean wondering why one paid 85$  to sit amidst 20 odd people who are trying to get the bang for their buck.