Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Northland - The Northern tip of New Zealand

So...we've been traveling round for about a week in the van and have managed to visit Northland, the very Northern tip of New Zealand.  We have mostly been visiting beautiful beaches where it's still just a little too cold to get in the water and sunbathe (although you wouldn't have thought it from seeing some of the Kiwi's on the beach - everyone here seems to be completely immune to the cold winds!).  In fact, we have the link of the route we took right here:
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Driving through the countryside in the North was really amazing.  In the sunshine, everything looks almost photoshopped!  The greens and blues are more vivid, there doesn't seem to be a tree, or cow, or house that looks out of place.  It really is picture perfect.  

On the second night we managed to stay for free at a roadside rest area, and met this other couple who were also heading north, so we decided to go to Taupo Bay together.  This was a really small fishing/surfing village (and when I say really small, I mean about 10 houses) with this amazing beach.  Tony saw the opportunity to do a spot of fishing finally, so he got to it straight away.  It was actually pretty windy and a bit chilly that day, even though the sun was quite warm.  So we were sat in our little chairs on the beach all wrapped up!  Typical... Afterwards we were recommended this 'world famous' fish and chip shop in Mangonui, so we stopped off there for a bite.  It was pretty good, although Tony said that the one on the Isle of Wight was just as good if not better...and it wasn't as big as the portions you get in England either.  Still, it was right on the waterside and the fish itself was really tasty.  

Taupo Bay
Taupo Bay (with Tony fishing in the distance)
After our fish and chips indulgence, we headed to Rarawa beach for a night before going on to Cape Reinga and the northernmost campsite in New Zealand - Tapotupotu Beach.  It was chucking it down when we got there, and because we had a purposely built tarpaulin to keep the rain away I suggested we learn how to put it up....Well, an hour and a half later we had finally done it, after a lot of swearing and arguing, and by the time we'd done it the rain had stopped and it didn't rain again for the rest of the time we were there.  Not just that, but it was also quite windy, and the tarpaulin was almost blowing away half the time and almost kept me up all night with the bashing on the roof of the van...

The next day we wanted to get on and see Cape Reinga before the possibility of more rain, so we packed up and went on our way.

Tapotupotu Beach
Tapotupotu Bay - The Northernmost campsite in New Zealand
When we got to Cape Reinga the weather was perfect - apparently the day before it had been really cloudy and rainy and you couldn't see anything!  The Cape is a sacred place for Maori people, and you can see why.  It's really beautiful and you can see the sea from all around.  The meeting point between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean is like this huge swirling whirlpool, and they say that it's the coming together of man and woman.

"The Meeting Point"
The Meeting Point between the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean
The lighthouse was pretty cool as well, although it's obviously not manned anymore...

London's only 18000km away!
Lighthouse at Cape Reinga
We had to start heading back down the northern tip after that, so we went straight to a seaside town called Ahipara.  The town itself is just at the end of Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually only 55 miles long) which you can drive down all the way from the top.  We didn't unfortunately as we weren't sure whether it was high or low tide, and also because the van is 2 wheel drive and we didn't want to get caught out on the sand. 

Next we went to Mangawhai Heads, another small beach town on the East coast of Northland, not far from Auckland.  Tony was determined to try and actually catch some fish that we could eat (having only caught a bonito which they use for bait over here), so we stopped off at a local fisherman's shop where he was persuaded by a lovely shopkeeper to buy a new rod.  He did get it for a really good price, and the shopkeeper (Darryl!) told us where we could park up and camp for free as well, and right on the beach.  

After a couple of unsuccessful attempts, including catching one bonito, battling with seagulls who were trying to eat his bait, and then actually catching a seagull (he had to put his jacket over it to stop it flapping and remove the hook from its beak!! - I was pissing myself it was too funny), he finally managed to catch a Kahawai.  This is a local New Zealand/Oz fish and it was much bigger than the little bonitos he'd caught before. 

Tony with his first proper catch!
So he was pretty happy with that, as you can see....then I said, so...what are you going to do, how are you going to kill it?  And he just looked at me with a bit of a blank expression and an "err.....shit!  I dunno!!"  So we got his survival book out (thanks Linda!) and it explained how to gut and kill the fish.  It took bloody ages to die.  We didn't know we were meant to "bleed" the fish (i.e. slit its throat) to kill it humanely.  Never mind, next time...

Me cooking up the fish (I am not drunk, although I do look it...)
The next morning we woke to more rain, but to the sound of the sea which was amazing.  We went for a bit of a walk on the beach and took some photos of rocks.

Token arty photo of rocks and the sea in Black and White
We are now in Auckland (again) waiting to pick up Charlie as a surprise from the airport.  It's about half past midnight here and she gets in at 2am.  On Friday we head to the surfing mecca, Raglan, and then on to Taupo (possibly to do a sky dive - I am as yet undecided) and then I can't remember where. 


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