Touring New Zealand 2002
After sailing we spent a day in Auckland packing everything back into the new campervan - another Toyota Townace. It was a little less new and luxurious than the first and lacked Air Conditioning, was not automatic and had about 270,000 kms on the clock when we collected it. It was a typical Rental Car Village campervan - simple, clean and reliable and the engine used no oil in the time we had it despite the high mileage.
We finally left at lunchtime having collected the prints from our films taken sailing and drove straight up to Paihia in the Bay of Islands where we stayed at an old favourite the Twin Pines Tourist Park. We have camped and used their cabins in the past. The camp sites have views over the Haruru Falls and there is a good pub and restaurant on site making it ideal after a long drive although we cooked ourselves.
We went up the coast road, now a Tourist Route and in process of being sealed, diverting to Matauri Bay to look at the Waka, get an ice cream and admire the views out to the Cavalli Islands. We have sailed to here and also camped in the past. There is a walk at the end of the bay taking one up a promontory to a memorial for the Rainbow Warrior. This ship was initially sunk in Auckland by the French intelligence services and was finally re-sunk off the Cavalli islands as a memorial to the crew members killed where it forms the centrepiece of a marine reserve and diving site.
We also diverted to Tauranga Bay where there is another campsite, which we wanted to collect information for the future. It was then on to Manganui to the world famous fish and chip shop for lunch. You ca watch the freshly caught fish being cleaned and select the pieces to be cooked - the days speciality was Bluenose which was excellent as usual and reasonably priced - $15 for three pieces of fish and a double chips. Lunch was completed at Cable Bay, which has a classic Dairy opposite the beach with a huge cone on the top of the building. It was however so windy that the cones were almost blown apart and we had to hide behind the van to eat them - our plans for camping were changed to ring ahead to the Whatuwhiwhi (pronounced fatufifi) Top Ten on the Karikari peninsular for a cabin!
Our neighbours at the campsite were a group who went fishing in the evening in their boat and returned quickly with a chilly bin full of prime Snapper. They had been able to collect their limit in an hour or so and there clearly does not seem to be a shortage of fish in Doubtless bay. We wondered about renting a couple of the Kayaks ($5 for as long as you want) but it looked very choppy and it looked as if we would spend as much time in the water as the fish.
The next morning we went on to the end of the Karikari peninsula to Matai bay which has two perfect semicircular beaches either side of a headland and a DOC camp site. We have tried to stay at several times but have, like yesterday, been foiled by wind or rain every time. It was once again very windy - it was quite difficult to hold up a surf-casting rod, leave alone casting into wind! The sea was however quiet enough to have a swim.
We continued North to Waitiki Landing, which has the last commercial campsite with cabins just before the final stretch of gravel road to Cape Reinga. On route we diverted to a Wharf at Paua to try for supper but the tide was flowing very fast past the Wharf and the tide was low. All we caught a couple of small Snapper, which we put back, so it was a Avocado and smoked Kingfish (bought) salad for supper.
In the morning we left early for Cape Reinga to be there before the coaches arrived. It as glorious morning and we stopped several times on route at viewpoints to admire the "meeting of the Oceans" where the Pacific and Tasman seas meet - a magnificent example of the power of water. We walked down to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, which is the northern tip of New Zealand and looked down on the pohutakawa tree from which, legend has it, the spirits of Maori leave for the underworld via the Three Kings Islands. The whole area is sacred to Maori and most of the facilities have recently been removed and eating is now tapu.
We proceeded to a nearby DOC campsite at Tapotupotu - another favourite of ours. Last year there was a plague of wasps and it was abandoned but this year there were few wasps in sight and several people camping. The weather had now improved and we were determined to get back under canvas once more before the end of our holiday. We got, what we consider, the best pitch in the site on a slight rise looking right out over the bay. As soon as the tide had gone out enough we went out onto the rocks to try to get supper. There seemed to be no Snapper or Kahawai around but Pauline caught a respectable sized Blue Maumau and Pete added another giving us plenty enough for a meal. Blue Maumau are a brightly coloured reef fish and we could see them below the rocks we were standing on. They have a delicate flavour and texture so we fried rather than barbecued them.
We sat and watched the sun set with the end of a rather fine bottle of Pegasus Pinot Noir. We tried the Cloudy Bay Pinot against it, which proved a very interesting comparison. The Pegasus had a much deeper colour and a very full bodied taste which made the Cloudy Bay look and taste more like a Beaujolais Nouveau in comparison - why did Cloudy Bay remove there Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes and replace them with Pinot Noir? Very sad and it does no good to their otherwise excellent reputation.
All good things have to come to an end and we had to start south towards home. We stopped to see if Marty Benson, who took us fishing a couple of years back, was in at his new farm just South of Whaitiki Landing. He was out but we caught up from a colleague of his from South Island. Pack or Paddle seems to be going from strength to strength and they now have a couple of simple backpacker's rooms for people on their fishing and kayaking trips. We must allow time to take a trip or two next year with them.
We continued South using back roads where possible via Horeke and Taheke and down the edge of the Hokianga harbour. We stopped at a high viewpoint to look down on the bar at the harbour entry, which brought many ships to grief in the old days when there were busy ports for the Kauri trade. It was then south towards Dargaville and Kauri Country. We stopped for a short walk to look at one of the largest living Kauri - "Tane Mahuta" - on route. I have described the magnificent Kauri trees before so will say little more here.
We stayed overnight at the Kauri Coast Top Ten Holiday Park overnight . They run trips most nights into the Trounson Kauri Park giving one of the few opportunities to see kiwis in the wild. The chances are only about 50:50 but we must go on one of them some time. We were woken early in the morning when a new block of cabins was delivered on a vast lorry complete with integral crane. We wondered why we had been asked to park away from our cabin!
After the early awakening we left for a walk round the Trounson Kauri Park which has some of the best remaining stands of Kauri left in New Zealand and has been turned into a Mainland Island to protect endangered wildlife.
DOC have set up a new information area and there is a lot of information indicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The forest is surrounded by farmland and has been cleared of almost all Possums, stoats, rodents and feral animals by an aggressive program of poisoning and trapping with great success and Kiwi and other endangered species are now thriving. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six week period in the past.
I mentioned 1080, a controversial poison earlier and promised to return with some comments and this is an appropriate time as well as being the last chance. 1080 has certainly played an important part in clearing Trounson of some of the imported pests. It seems, when correctly used, to be a silver bullet, which can take out most mammals, none of which are native in any case, without significant danger to birds or other native wildlife. It is however highly toxic to dogs, which are banned from Reserves, but is much less dangerous to humans, even children, and quickly biodegrades in water supplies if it ever reaches them. The belief is that it is non cumulative and sub fatal doses quickly clear from a mammals system without any lasting damage.
The main objections seem to come from hunters (most of whom have dogs) and especially when it is used by aerial drops into remote areas where it kills the deer which they want to hunt. Deer also count as vermin and cause enormous damage themselves and are ruthlessly culled in most areas. The damage and health risks from Possums is even greater and needs drastic and urgent action. There seems to have been possibly been an over reaction to the risks of 1080, a poison occurring in plants in countries such as South Africa at quite high concentrations, more than that used in the bait used in aerial drops in New Zealand and without obvious risk through water supplies etc. The DOC web site lays out some of the facts. We have also seen some of the earlier reports on trials on Rangitoto Island where, for example, the increase in honey production and bird life was spectacular and immediate due to increase in vegetation on the elimination of Possums.
From Trounson we proceeded to Dargaville where we visited the excellent Maritime and Settlers Museum up on the hillside. It has been extended and now has some very good new exhibits on Kauri Gum digging as well as the previous maritime and other displays. Well worth a visit.
We then continued to the other "Must Visit Museum" in Northland - the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. This has also been steadily extended over the years and it is now almost impossible to do it justice in a single visit. It has a huge number of displays including a reconstruction of a steam sawmill with original equipment moving in slow motion and a wing with a reconstructed 1900s "quality" home largely in Kauri. There are also magnificent exhibits of furniture in Kauri and other native woods as well as Kauri logging and gum digging exhibits with lots of equipment on display. It is rounded off by a huge collection of old photographs.
We looked at an exhibit covering some of the writers and pioneers in Kauri, which included A H Reed who started the Reed publishing empire after an early career in Kauri. After he retired at 60, he spent much of his time writing and walking the country. He was doing long walks from end to end of New Zealand in his 80s and wrote more than 70 books many on his travels. His last book was completed and published at the age of 99 very shortly before his sudden death. We are adding his books to our reading list of classic books!
We eventually became saturated after several hours and turned the van towards Auckland. The alternative is an excellent little camp site just down the road - an ideal place to recover ready to start again the following morning. Last year we did just that and they let us back in on the same tickets. They also have Friends of the Museum group, which provides newsletters and cheap entry. We also found our Top Ten card gave a big reduction in entry price this year, as I said before we always ask for discounts in New Zealand and usually get them.
We spent several days in Auckland packing and visiting Jenny and Kev as well as Chris and Ralph. This gave us a chance to look at the fascinating video we had been given when we had dinner with Rob and his family. "The Length of a Memory" is a dramatised version of New Zealand's history spanning the years 1812 to 1860, based on fact, and focusing on the meeting of two cultures. By a tremendous coincidence immediately we had finished watching the video we started to read one of the Classic Books we had bought and realised it must have been the inspiration for much of the video with even the characters having the same names. The book is called "Old New Zealand - a tale of the good old times by a Pakeha Maori" by F E Maning who is clearly Frank in the video. The only explanation for the coincidence is that I must have picked that book as the term Pakeha Maori came up in the video and rang bells.
We also spent a bit of time round various second hand bookshops and found a copy of the last book written by A H Reed when 98 - "The Happy Wanderer". It is an excellent book, which recaptures many of the highlights otherwise buried in his numerous travel books, which were already out of print when he wrote it in 1974. He significantly revised all the original text and wrote a comprehensive introduction as well as other new sections. It shows his intellect had not been dulled even at such a grand age. His last major walk covered in the book was carried out 10 years earlier at the age of 89 and covered 650 miles. We can only hope for a fraction of his stamina, intellect and life span.
This is perhaps an appropriate point to end this year's touring with us trying to pack his book and as many of the other classics, reference books and videos we have acquired into our suitcases to inspire us until we return next year.