New Zealand

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    • Day 55

      The Northland & 1200 Stairs

      February 3, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

      Way back in July, when we planned the trip, we thought that we would suffer from jet lag from such a long trip, but luckily for us, it was not bad. We thought that a quiet weekend in Auckland would help us get over the time difference but we really didn’t need it.

      Anyways, after 3 nights in the big city, we happily got in the car and headed north to a small town in the Northland called Pakaraka, very close to Kerikeri and Russell in the Bay of Islands, 226 km away.

      We knew that it would take us about 3 hours, so we just took our time and meandered north. The plan was to see as many of the following cool places as possible. What we didn’t have time to see, we would try to see on our way back.

      Here’s the list. The stars * indicate that we stopped there.

      * 1. Warkworth - * a hike in the Dome Forest to the Dome Valley Lookout (336m). We found the start to the trail, which was just off Hwy 1, and walked up 600 stairs through a beautiful forest to the Dome summit. From there, we could see the Sky Tower in Auckland! This stop took about 2 hours, so we got our exercise for the day - 600 stairs up and then down.
      - Parry Kaure Park - loop walk and museum - we didn’t do this as one hike was enough but it sounds beautiful!

      *2. Wellsford - Champion Bakery - someone recommended their meat pies so we stopped here to buy a couple of their bacon and egg pies and a couple of steak and cheese pies. Inexpensive and tasty.

      *3. Kaiwaka - La Nonna Italian Bakery was recommended as a good place to stop for coffee and a treat but it was closed on Mondays, so we didn’t go there.
      - *Cheese store - There were more than fiftytwo cheeses, most of which are cut to order from the ‘wheel’, an old fashioned way. Many of the cheeses are organic and there are several vegetarian options. We bought some excellent cheddar and thick yogurt.

      4. Waipu - Uretiti Beach and Waipu Caves to see glow worms at no cost. We were running out of time so only stopped in Waipu for a late lunch and craft beer at *McLeod’s Pizza Barn. The food was good.

      5. Kawakawa - Hundertwasser Toilets - colourful and artistic public toilets very close to our BnB. We’ll save this for another day.

      At some point, we turned off the highway and got ‘lost’ on a gravel road in the lovely hilly countryside, near Pakiri.

      We arrived in Pakaraka at around 4:30 p.m. and were pleasantly pleased with our new accommodations! Stay tuned...
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    • Day 56

      Where to go? So many cool things to do!

      February 4, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

      The Bay of Islands and the Northland area of the North Island feels like ‘cottage’ country to us. In some ways, I wish that I had planned more time in this area. And it is not just the nature with its beaches and big old trees that interest us, it’s the history of the area that is intriguing. This is the birthplace of the nation where some of the earliest settlements of both the Maori and the Europeans were situated.

      The climate is subtropical and the forests are full of ferns, flowers and many varieties of trees.

      The Lonely Planet guidebook highlighted 7 areas - Cape Reinga at the very top of the island and the 90 mile beach, the Waipoua Forest where the oldest Kauri trees are located, the Bay of Islands where we are, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds for history and the Manguawhai Heads for surfing. So many places to visit and really only 3 full days.

      We decided against the very long trip north to Cape Reinga. It sounds like it would be a great place to visit but we would not be able to drive our car all the way up the 90 km of sand dunes, according to our car rental agreement. We would have to go with a tour group and it is a full day and very expensive.

      So, we are happy to see some of the numerous sights around pretty Pakaraka, while we are here. Even just staying on the farm is a wonderful experience.
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    • Day 55

      Our Pakaraka Air BnB Farmhouse

      February 3, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

      Oh did we luck out! We are staying in a great self-contained apartment on a lovely small farm not far from Kerikeri. Our hostess and host are interesting people who have committed to living off the land and they are extremely interesting people with kind hearts.

      The little farm has about 16 acres with a milking cow, beef cattle, 3 calves, free range chickens, and a black lab named Jas. There are several gardens with the usual vegetables as well as herbs, sunflowers, and all sorts of ‘experimental ‘vegetables. The orchard was full of an assortment of plum, peach, avocado and nut trees.

      Our hostess was a busy lady who enjoyed experimenting while making jams and baked goods. While we were there, she was making kombucha. She had a job preparing a tea for visitors in a local tourist spot. She worked as a taxidermist before she moved to the farm!

      Her husband is a creative man who has a real interest in all things natural. He has a wealth of information about the flora and fauna of the area and loves the outdoors. Our daily evening chats with these two amazing people was always exciting. I guess that the four of us just clicked. Nice when that happens.

      Well, we are happy to be here and anticipate a wonderful stay.
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    • Day 57

      Waitangi Day - February 6

      February 5, 2020 in New Zealand ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

      Waitangi Day is New Zealand's national day. It is a holiday held annually on February 6th to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi - New Zealand's founding document - on February 6th 1840.

      The Treaty made New Zealand a part of the British Empire, guaranteed Māori rights to their land and gave Māori the rights of British citizens.

      In February 1840, the Ngāpuhi, the largest Maori tribe, hosted around 10,000 Maori to debate the agreement for several days. On February 6th, a treaty was signed by around 40 Maori chiefs and representatives of the British Crown at the Treaty House on the Waitangi grounds.The treaty was subsequently signed by another 500 Māori chiefs in various locations throughout the country.

      The ceremonies started at daybreak ( 5 a.m.), with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Arden, serving breakfast at 6 a.m.

      We didn’t go at daybreak, but got to the Treaty Grounds at around 9 a.m., the perfect time before the crowds started to arrive. We parked in a farmer’s field and then a shuttle bus took us to the historic site.

      We especially liked the meeting house. In Māori culture, meeting houses are symbols of tribal prestige and are often named after, and seen as the embodiment of, a tribal ancestor. This structure is seen an an outstretched body, with the roof’s v shape at the front of the house representing the ancestor’s head. The main ridge beam represents the backbone, the diagonal boards that lead out from the roof are the arms and the lower ends of the boards divide to represent fingers. Inside, the centre pole is seen as the heart, the rafters reflect the ancestor’s ribs, and the interior is the ancestor’s chest and stomach. Neat!

      The carvings in the house were amazing and a little frightening.

      I wouldn’t go into all the details about what we did but it was a very pleasant morning. A flypast of fighter jets thrilled us, followed by a 21 gun salute by the HMNZS WELLINGTON marking the 68th Anniversary of the Queen’s Accession to the throne.

      A woman told us to head to the harbour where Maori war canoes would circle the harbour in a whirlpool formation. We watched a huge waka taua (war canoe), 35 m and 6 tons, make its annual outing. It was carved from a giant Kauri logs and can hold about 100 people, 80 of whom are rowers!!!!

      The food/craft tents were awesome and so were the performances (songs and haka, fierce war dances, on the main stage. A bit scary...

      All in all, it was a great morning and we had a lot of fun in the sun!
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