Oct 31, 2015
We were up fairly early this morning, to check out and pick up our rental car. It was a little white Toyota Corolla which would be our means of transport for the rest of our time on the North Island. After picking it up we found our way to State Highway 1 and headed north. This part of the highway had several lanes, so we stayed in the left lane (the slow lane) while Paul got used to driving on the left. We continued on Highway 1 until we came to Highway 12, which would take us west. We were on our way to Paihia, on the Bay of Islands, but Jane at Downunder Travel had recommended that we go this way, the long way, so we could visit the Kauri Museum and the giant kauri trees in Waipoua Forest.
The Kauri Museum was a very large and in-depth museum which chronicled the history of logging of the kauri forest. First there was furniture made from kauri, including entire room settings, and there was a whole room dedicated to the resin of the tree. Furniture made from kauri is very beautiful, and so is sculpture made from kauri resin. Some of the pieces on display were carved into sculptures of heads, boats, and anything else you could think of. And there was a big room full of sawmill equipment and logging machinery, a replica of a 19th-century boarding house, and a set of small rooms with vignettes of life in those days. Interestingly the mannequins in those rooms were modelled on actual people who lived in the area.
It took us a couple of hours to go through all that, and when we were finished we decided to have lunch at the small café. For quite a reasonable price we had meat pies, beef for Paul and chicken for Rosemary. This would be our first experience with New Zealand meat pies.
After lunch we continued along the highway to the Waipoua Forest. This is a special reserve dedicated to preserving the few kauri trees which remain, and it’s still a pristine example of native forest. We stopped at the visitor centre and were helped by a lady who told us where the trails were, just a few kilometers along the winding highway. As we walked the trails to the giant kauris they stayed hidden until suddenly we were in their presence. Around them are smaller kauris, some of which are fairly big in their own right, but you hardly notice them when you see the giants. They were huge! Both of us were impressed by their size.
Now that we had seen the trees we headed to Paihia, which took a couple of hours. We would be staying there for two nights. Upon arrival we checked in and were given Room 1. The hostel is laid out like a 60’s motel so our room was on ground level and had sliding glass doors for entry. The kitchen was quite small and was very busy, so rather than trying to squeeze in we walked down to the beach to see the scenery, which was the beautiful Bay of Islands. When we returned the kitchen was a bit quieter, so we managed to find room on the stove to cook our rice and veggies. There was no room to sit inside so we sat outside at a picnic table to eat.
Nov 1, 2015
Last night, or actually early this morning, the New Zealand All-Blacks won the World Cup of Rugby. So we could hear some cheering in the neighbourhood. But nevertheless we slept well and woke up feeling good. Today we planned to drive to Cape Reinga, the far north end of New Zealand, and luckily for us the weather was good—slightly overcast but not raining.
It was going to be a long drive today, but it seemed like something we had to do. We followed the route suggested by Google Maps, and soon we were heading north on Highway 1. It was now a standard New Zealand road, two lanes with a line down the middle. We drove through sheep farms and cattle farms for the most part, and it was quite twisty and turny, especially the forested section in the Mangamuka Gorge. We passed the last golf club, and the last sheep farm, and finally after three hours we reached the Cape.
We had a great view of the Tasman Sea (on our left) and the Pacific Ocean (on our right) along with the cape and the lighthouse below. We loaded up a day pack with our lunch and headed down the path to the lighthouse, where we sat to eat lunch. The day was now beautiful with blue sky and a few clouds, and sitting at the lighthouse was really nice. Beside the lighthouse was a finger post which had Vancouver on one of its fingers. Just a mere 13,222 kilometers away! We stayed for a while enjoying the views and taking photos; we looked for whales and couldn’t see any, but there was a skylark doing its long display high above us.
We headed back to the car and made our way back to Paihia. On the way we made a diversion to see the giant Te Paki sand dunes. There were people climbing them, and supposedly you could go sandboarding there but we didn’t see anybody doing that. So we carried on down the road.
We decided to follow the coast road back to Paihia, contrary to Google Maps’s suggestion, and if we didn’t get pack until 7 pm then so be it. But surprisingly this route was actually faster and we got back to Paihia at 5:45 pm. The kitchen was busy again, but we only had to wait a few minutes for it to clear out. Our dinner went down very well after a long day of driving.
Nov 2, 2015
Today we were leaving the Bay of Islands, although we could easily have found more things to do here, and moving on to Rotorua. So, another day with lots of driving. Back on the road we joined Highway 1 and headed south. Traffic was heavier today, as it was a weekday, but flowed well so we made reasonably good time.
Around 11:30 am we decided to pull over at a lookout. It was the Dome Lookout just north of Warkworth and it turned out that the lookout was actually 1 kilometer away along a trail. A walk was just what we needed to loosen the legs, and the fact that the trail went through native forest was a bonus. The view from the lookout was nothing much, but we didn’t mind that. Back at the base of the trail we decided to have lunch at the conveniently-placed café; the items on offer were similar to the menu at the Kauri Museum café. Paul had another meat pie, but Rosemary decided on an egg salad sandwich instead of a pie.
After lunch we continued on our way to Rotorua…
Next: Central North Island