Road trip north…

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So we headed off up north, swapping Hannah for my Mum – seemed like a fair enough swap at the time….

Me, Mum and Wayne sunning ourselves on the deck of the ferry over to Russell.

We went to Paihia, over on the ferry to Russell and visited Waitangi.  This is a part of the country that is steeped in history – Russell was once New Zealand’s capital city and was referred to as “The Hell hole of the Pacific” back in the good old days of sealers, whalers and  missionaries.  Hard to believe now. Although it does contain many gorgeous old and historically significant buildings.

Ollie driving the ferry. The Skipper was very laid back and it turned out he grew up only half an hour from where we live. He let the boys steer the ferry for ages, casually mentioning that they may want to keep to the right a bit, or steer away from those rocks…! I love meeting other people when travelling, it seems easier somehow and always confirms what a small place the world is and how we have more in common with others than we often care to remember.

Waitangi is often called the birthplace of our nation as this was where the founding document  – the Treaty of Waitangi – was signed in 1840.

We have had many discussions about the history of the Treaty over the years we have been homeschooling.  Usually  equivalent to a complete Social Studies unit, over a few hours of intense questioning, reasoning, querying and disbelief at what happened.  So it was awesome to visit Waitangi and for the boys to see where it all happened.  We had plenty more questions to discuss.
Charlie was horrified at the treatment of the Maori by the Europeans and spent the next day designing a true New Zealand flag, with no trace of a Union Jack on it!!

The great flag pole on the Waitangi Treaty grounds. The flags caused much debate in our family!

Charlie and his teddy “Furry Soft” inside the meeting house. This was built to balance out the overwhelming colonial presence at Waitangi, next to the Governor’s residence.

We stayed up at Puketi Forest where we had once lived in our bus (see “the bus trip”).  There is a great D.O.C hut there which we had booked.  (Department of Conversation).  The trip did become a bit of a “Oh do you remember that?”  and “this is where we…”  Mum was very tolerant!

Puketi Hut, sleeps 18! Gran and Charlie playing cards.

Tree huggers – one of the mighty Kauri trees at Puketi Forest. These amazing trees are truly giants and command a great respect.

Trying to see the top….

Keri Keri is a cool little town, well worth a visit.  We had a lovely walk along the river and a picnic by the Stone Store, the iconic building there.

Two nights in Maitai Bay followed, a beautiful golden arc of a beach with a DOC camp right on the beach.  We  walked  to the end of the peninsula, Charlie decamped to the beach with spade in hand and spent hours making defences against the sea.

Maitai Bay, KariKari Peninsula – not Rarotonga!!

Looking back from out on the peninsula.

Just so it is understood how beautiful it is…!

Then away and up to the very top of Aotearoa!  Cape Reinga now has toilets, parking, lovely landscaped walkways and information boards – oh and a post box!

I guess, like life, it is all a matter of perspective….
This is where the two seas meet – the Pacific and the Tasman. The sea churns and boils where the two sets of currents meet and clash, it is pretty dramatic especially on such a glorious day as we had.

The classic lighthouse-signpost-top of the country thing.

The coast sweeping west, the start of Te AraRoa – the Long Walk. I started it when I was 19 year old and then sprained my ankle 2 minutes in so abandoned it!!

Heading to our next camp we stopped for  a spot of sand dune boogie boarding – is there a technical name for this?  It was as though we had stepped into another world, a desert landscape at every turn.  It was stunning and surreal and heaps of fun as the boys surfed down again and again.

Ollie looking very Lawrence of Arabia as was fitting at the mighty Te Paki sand dunes about 20 drive from the Cape.`

Wayne in mid flight

This was the main hill we slid on, down to Te Paki stream. The dots are people.

Spirits Bay – KapoWairua has great significance to Maori as it is the launching place of Spirits as they leave on their journey to the spirit world.  I have been there a couple of times before and find it an incredibly alluring place that draws me back.  A huge and totally stunning beach, made up mostly of tiny orange and pink shells – I have a bottle of them from previous visits in our bathroom.

It was wild and wonderful! The colours intensely blue and golden and white….

And another wonderful, large DOC camp right there.    We managed to climb up onto an  island at low tide and had views right back along the sweeping beach.

On top of the island Ollie makes a very cosy bed out of the springy bracken. Spirits Bay out beyond him is huge, it takes two hours to walk along it!

The boys were like lion cubs, tumbling and play fighting at every chance – and there were many beaches and expanses of grass to do so. The favourite game was this Bull Game a type of wild rodeo ride. It was either this or full-on Tae Kwon Do mixed with play fights…. Mum and I would just be amused at such physicality and even though we tried to play fight once, rather half heartedly, we found that doing crosswords and eating chocolate were more to our liking!

More frolics at the incredibly white sanded beach, Rarawa Beach, on the way back down.

Through the beautiful Hokianga and crossing the huge harbour, way inland, by car ferry. This goes from the delightful Kohukohu (the sort of place I could live if I was taking a year off to write a book – and as Ollie pointed out it had a fire station and ambulance!) to Rawene. From there is it just a hop skip and a jump to the harbour entrance at Opononi.

Opononi was famous in the 1950’s when Opo, an incredibly friendly dolphin decided to spend everyday playing with the locals who would ride him, throw balls for him, pat him and generally delight in his presence.   The museum there has a very entertaining film from the summer, very dated now and quite amusing to watch for various reasons.  Worth a trip.  While at the museum we learned that the statue of Opo has been removed and amid much community debate is going to be re-cast in bronze.

Have a look at this!   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kSTozayartQ

We stayed in a “real” camp there, right on the beach still and had the most gorgeous sunset, I seem to have very few photos as was more concerned with the excitement of doing a load of washing!

This is the view from the camp of the entrance of the mighty Hokianga harbour. Beyond the gap you can see the white horses on the waves, whereas in the confines of the harbour the sea was smooth and flat. The Hokianga is known as an estuarine drowned valley and extends inland for 30 kms! Check out more about the area – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hokianga

I need to also mention that for the duration of the trip Granny was self appointed “refuse officer”.  This meant while camping she sorted the rubbish – recycling, compost, landfill and then was responsible for getting rid of it.  She took her job very seriously, as befitting for a “R.O.”  and Charlie made her a badge…

Granny with her RO badge tucked behind her ear!

Imagine our RO’s joy upon arrival at Opononi to see a row of rubbish bins!! She could sort our rubbish to her heart’s content…..

Of course we popped in to see Tane Mahuta the undisputed King of all Kauri and of the forest – NZ’s largest Kauri tree!
Even while taking photots for other tourists and finding out where they came from Tane was as awe inspiring as ever, like all Kauri.

Impossible to capture the size really…..

Nearly there!

Just have to mention Goat island!  Very cool part of the world, out through twee and funky Matakana, and “music-central” Leigh, the end of the road takes you to Goat Island which is a marine reserve. A tiny island, only spitting distance from shore, which you can snorkel around, take out kayaks (even glass bottomed ones!) or a boat tour, all of which, along with hostel, and labs belonging to  Auckland University are found at the road end.

Goat Island! The weather didn’t inspire us to try snorkeling, but we will return in the summer.

The rocky shore stretching out at low tide, you can imagine how fantastic it would be to snorkel over.

Just before the end of the road you will find Goat Island Camping a lovely place to stay with views over the whole area. We stayed in one of these funky caravans.

They also had very cute little cabins to stay in…Very cute!

Moving on we had hot thermal swims and slides at Waiwera, pizza and kebabs at Orewa (sounding a bit like a song isn’t it…?) then a last night with our big kids in Hamilton.

It is always so inspiring to  hang out with them.  Dane is managing the temporary ice rink, so the boys all went ice skating.  Kim took the night off work from Chim Choo Ree to hang out with us.

Us girls…Lucy, (Dane’s partner) me and Kim. I always find it slightly confusing as I feel 25 inside still, yet these two actually are in their mid twenties. Strange.

Kim (currently ginger…)and Wayne. I know it is blurry – sorry! (one of the kids took it).

It seemed at though we were away for ages as we did so much.  It took a day of feeling resistant to getting home and all that entails, then I felt thrown back in to  our life and our lovely community, like a big warm embrace.  And that was a good feeling.

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