26 October 2001 to 2 January 2002

31 October 2001 - 7 November 2001

After a week of partying, eating and drinking to much, we finally left Auckland for Northland. Here are some highlights from my diary and photos of this trip, to what is called the Far North.A few miles north we reached the giant Kauri forests.

These magnificent trees, some of them 2000 years old, once covered much of New Zealand. They were extensively logged and today only a few remain. We slept next to the Trounson Kauri Reserve in a cabin that overlooked a river, cold but for Doreen, swimmable! We went on a night bush walk and heard the night sounds of the bush including the elusive kiwi (now an endangered species), and saw some of the animal night life.

We drove along the Aupouri peninsular, parallel to the 90 Mile Beach, where we saw more cows than sheep. The rolling hills look as if they've been knitted green in plain and purl. The road ends at Cape Reinga, which looks like the most northern point of NZ.

According to Maori tradition their spirits travel to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Cape Reinga and then descend

into the underworld (reinga) in the sea below. 

It is here that the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean and the waves come crashing from opposite directions to meet in quite a distinct line

We walked down the steep grassy hill (about 200m) to Sandy Bay, with the sea to our left and the hills to the right covered with green shrub and low trees. We were quite alone in this vast and wild scenery. Eitan rested under the shade of a Pohutukawa tree while I swim in the sea - he called it skinny dipping; I called it communing with nature.


Further south the Te Paki Stream runs between the sand dunes and the vegetation leading to the 90 Mile Beach. After lunch we crossed the stream and walked on the dunes.  It was hard climbing up the sand dunes but once on top it was surprisingly firm. Walking on the dunes had a feeling of timelessness – ours were the only tracks in the sand and we knew that a few hours later the wind would cover our tracks as well. The shadow of a dark cloud moving swiftly in the wind, swept across the dunes. It was an awesome experience watching it approach and then envelop us in its shade. The Ten Commandments or another such movie would have done justice to that spiritual moment.

It is spring here and the weather is very changeable. When rain overtook us at Whangaroa, we decided to test our new raingear. We set off for St. Paul's Rock (600m), walking up a grassy and muddy slope with the last part rocky,  to be negotiated with chains.  When we reached the top the rain stopped and even though we were nearly blown off the top the view was magnificent and all the little bays and islands opened up before us with endless rolling hills in the distance.  Eitan says he no longer wants to be called 60k (his cycling name in Holland). He now wants to be known as The Big Bad Wolf; that's because he huffed and puffed
his way up the mountain! 

Paihia, Bay of IslandsWe woke to bright and sunny weather and prepared for a morning sea kayaking. We took it as a good sign that we had Merva, an older woman who owns Kayakfun Tours, to be our guide.  But her fitness and energy left us feeling weak and even had the younger people a little overawed. Both Eitan and I were having more than a second thoughts about the advisability of this new experience. In the end we decided that it was best to be in separate kayaks to prevent arguing as to who wasn't rowing correctly (the other couples had come to the same decision) and Eitan went with Merva, Dry clothes and snacks in a dry bag and into a special hole, bottle of water on a bungie cord on the outside of the kayak and us in the spare hole. First we had to put on a wetsuit-like skirt and then stuff ourselves into the hole. It is a lovely experience being so close to the water; it's like cycling with your arms.  The most difficult (and  unflattering) part is getting out of the kayak!

After a quick change we boarded the Excitor, a very fast double-hulled boat, to take us to the Hole in the Rock, off Cape Brett.  It was a breathless  ¾ hour ride to the Hole in the Rock off Cape Brett. Seeing the sky on the other side as we went through was beautiful. We circled around the huge rock and then entered a large cave where Tane Mahuta one of the Maori deities is supposed to reside.  The cave has a smallish hole leading to a cave on the other side. The entrance looked too small, but our skipper slowly entered. While he manuoevred the boat so it wouldn't crash into the sides of the cave we watched mesmerized as the swell wooshed through the hole, followed by a burst of spray, like spray from a blowhole, wetting  us all. . It was magnificent and all too short.  As we left we saw various fish in a feeding frenzy and many seabirds.

Haruru Falls Resort, where we stayed at Paihia is on a tidal river just below the Haruru waterfall. Jan at reception suggested I kayak down to the sea and hike 5-km back through forest and mangroves.  After agonizing and feeling very adventurous I decided to do it while Eitan went  fishing.

Jan kept on saying these were fun kayaks, not like the more stable sea kayaks of yesterday.  Fern, Eitan's sister is my mentor in all things outdoors. With her words ringing in my ears I made sure I had dry clothing and insisted reception give me a plastic bag to put over my haversack.  Feeling quite confident, after all I had sea kayaked the previous day, I placed my bag in the front straddled the kayak and tried to slip in. Thankfully I didn't overturn as water sloshed into the kayak and the haversack, in plastic, remained dry.

I rowed up to the waterfall but only fantasized about going under the spray and water.  I then started a leisurely row down the river, supposedly with the tide going out, making my ride easy.  I saw Shags (Cormorants) nesting in trees and even  babies in their nests.  Where the river widens to an estuary there are mangrove swamps.  It took quite a lot of courage to go right in between the trees – absurd fears of roots coming out and catching me, crocodiles (none here) water snakes (ditto) needed to be overcome before I ventured between the mangroves. It truly was a feeling of adventure.

Again I loved the closeness to the water and  pulling the paddles through the water. Trying to paddle correctly I felt like some character out of a Dr. Seuss book - pull me, push me as I struggle to pull the paddles cleanly though the water while pushing forward with the opposite hand to take off the strain and not lifting the paddle up too much so that water wouldn't come dripping down the paddle onto my body, all this while trying to ignore the numbness in the heels of my feet resting against the body of the kayak and the pain in my arms from the unaccustomed exercise.

 The river is wide and to be alone on it was daring for me. Strange, when I am with my sons I am prepared to do things that are scary because I know they would help me if I were in trouble. If Ant had come, because he doesn't feel so confident on water, I would have to be in charge and the one responsible if something happened. And yet, alone on the water was frightening in a way.

Not too far down the river the wind came up. Little waves were forming and at times they broke over the front of the canoe. It felt as if I was battling the waves and the tide. I was so thankful for yesterday's sea kayaking experience and the tutorage of Merva, “pull the paddle cleanly through the water and make sure you pulled it right to the back.” Just occasionally, for a few minutes everything would fall into place and I would be paddling cleanly and skimming over the water.  But the wind and the rain strengthened and I was really battling, not making any headway.

I looked around to see if there was a place to beach the kayak but there wasn't. Unfamiliar with the weather I didn't know whether the rain and wind would increase or pass over. So I had to take a deep breath and just keep paddling until I reached the pre-arranged meeting point.  I was very pleased I managed to beach the kayak as taught but I had landed on very soft sand and fell down into a kind of quicksand and got soaking wet. No one to help so I had to haul the kayak out of the water and onto dry land. By this time I was really chilled. Luckily a nearby shed was sheltered on one side from the rain and wind. Uncaring of the passing cars I changed my clothes and bundled myself in my rain gear.  When the resort eventually sent someone to fetch the kayak I decided to walk back. The track was very muddy. It passed through huge tree ferns and native shrub while through the mangrove swamp there was a boardwalk.  Very muddy from slipping and sliding and squelching it was still a great feeling to accomplish the route as planned.

Came back to find Eitan with two small fillets – all that remained of the respectable sized snapper he had caught.  Nonetheless pan-fried snapper fillets made a great lunch! 

On the way back to Auckland we stopped to visit Gill Davis, Richard's mom who lives near Whangerei Falls. Despite the rain she was game and we togged up in our raingear and walked to the pretty Whangerei Falls and then crossed the flooded river. She, barelegged, and in soaking sneakers was very happy sloshing about. I had a picture taken to prove just how watertight my shoes were - my feet didn't get wet!

Back in Auckland just in time to see an excellent production of Verdi's Falstaff and prepare for the next adventure....
a trip to Whakatane and the volcano on White Island.

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