Catch up with me and Rhys in New Zealand Part 1 and New Zealand Part 2.
The first stop on our road trip of the North Island was the Kai Iwi Lakes. These are three beautiful blue/turquoise lakes with sandy beaches. We spent just one night camping here but Rhys got to do a little fly fishing in the morning….no luck though! We stayed at a DOC campsite which was about $6-$10 each, and there were very few people there.
An absolute must is to visit Tane Mahuta when you are travelling through the Waipoua Forest area. This is said to be the oldest tree in new Zealand, up to 2000 years old. The Maori legends around this tree are just beautiful, and I will quote the sign beside the tree.
“You are in the presence of one of the most ancient of trees.
In Maori Cosmology, Tane is the son of Ranginui the sy father, and Papatuanuku the eart mother. Tane tore his parents apart, breaking their primal embrace, to bring light, space and air, and allowing life to flourish.
Tane is the life giver. All living creatures are his children. This is the largest living kauri tree in New Zealand. It is difficult to accurately eastimate the age o Tane Mahuta, but it may be that Tane Mahuta sprang from seed around 2000 years ago during the lifetime of Christ.
The dimensions of Tane Mahuta are:
Trunk height: 17.7 metres
Total height: 51. 5 metres
Trunk girth: 13.8 metres
Trunk volume: 244.5 metres”
Kauri trees seem to be in danger as a disease is sweeping through the forests and killing them. It’s said to be spread through the movement of soil and soil water. Many times we have entered trails where there are stations to brush and wash the soles of your shoes. It’s also important to stick to designated trails because it would be devastating to see more of these trees die. It’s great to see measures like the shoe cleaning areas in place but I have also read a few articles where some New Zealanders are saying that not enough is being done by the government to ensure the protection of the kauri trees..
Rhys also needed some protection…watch out for dogs!!
We stopped in a campground in Opononi Beach and I thought it was pretty hilarious that there were goats on leashes everywhere. This campsite is also where Sparrow got her name. A tiny baby sparrow fell out of a tree right beside us, as dusk fell. So we took it and kept it warm for the night. In the morning, Rhys climbed up a huge tree and popped it back in it’s nest with it’s distraught mama bird. We hope that it’s okay…
We visited the Ancient Kauri Kingdom just outside of Kaitaia. There is a spiral staircase carved from a single massive kauri tree. The trees for all the carvings at this site are not cut down, but pulled from swamps in farmer’s fields.
We also took a very cold dip in the ocean at Ahipara. Ahipara is basically the southern point of ninety-mile beach. You can drive along ninety-mile beach and it even is marked with road signs, as it’s technically a highway. Crazy! Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a risk to drive a campervan in the sand so we avoided any unneccesary hassle and took the real highway up the island.
We spent a night at Wagener Holiday Park because road signs along the way boasted about a beach front campsite. Well, it wasn’t quite the beach we expected to be but it made for something quite exciting for me, at least. As we went for a walk along the water, we saw some people collecting pipis. Pipis are kind of like mussels and you can literally just stick your hands in the sand and pick up handful after handful. There are so many. We collected some for ourselves, which I actually found so fun. I think I like gathering my own food! Apparently you let them sit in a bucket of water for a little while and they spit out all the sand inside them. Rhys and I seemed to skip this step so we enjoyed sandy pipis…
Jokes aside, these were really tasty. We steamed them until they opened, just as you would mussels and ate them with balsamic vinegar. Rhys also made a pipi sandwich, but Rhys makes sandwiches out of anything and everything.
From there, we headed further up the coast, along 90-mile beach. We stopped at the infamous big sand dunes and gave sandboarding a whirl. It was awesome!! I completely underestimated these sand dunes. The only other dunes I’ve seen where the ones in Oregon when we went ATVing, and I thought they were big. But these…were really massive. And let me tell you, walking up them is not easy. I am going to invent a workout machine like the stair master, but instead it will be the dune master. Only a minute or two of walking those steep sandy hills and I was pooooooped. But going down the dunes on our boogie boards was so much fun. I took it easy and slid down on my butt or on my stomach. Rhys was a maniac and went down the steepest hills that no one else would go down. Good thing we had the go pro to catch it all on tape. I think we ate some more sand here, too….
We carried on up the coast to the very top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. This is where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and you can actually see the line in the water…even on a foggy, wet day!
Very close by, there is a great DOC campsite called Tapotupotu. There is an estuary right along it where Rhys and I enjoyed a swim in the rain. The water was pretty warm! The beach is a one minute walk away- you just can’t beat that, either. Unfortunately it was pretty stormy while we were there so we didn’t get to enjoy it.
From that campsite we went to one a short ways away called Rarawa Beach. Most of these campsites are DOC sites, which stands for Department of Conservation. They are usually between 6 and 12 dollars per person which is significantly cheaper than other campsites, although there are very few amenities. I have loved staying at these sites, and lots of them are right on the beach. This one in particular has a beautiful silica sand beach. The sand is so soft and white! Unfortunately we didn’t get to take advantage of it, as it poured rain the whole time we were here. I’d love to return in sunnier weather.
Just a short way down the coast, we stopped at another beach side campsite called Matai Bay Campsite. I just loved this site. The beach was in a small bay and it was soo nice. The rain had cleared away and we spent the day in the sun, relaxing and swimming, and then we went for a nice walk around the bay. This was our view in the morning when we woke up:
A little while later these funny birds walked by, they are called pukekos and they remind me and Rhys of dinosaurs.
Here is another shot of Matai Bay:
We walked up that hill through the bush and took a look from another angle.
We went to the world famous Mangonui Fish Shop and had some fish and chips and kumara fries. The batter on the fish was light and crispy- really good, and the kumara fries were the best.thing.ever. I think the price was a bit steep for the size of the portions, but food here in New Zealand is much pricier than in Canada. The shop was very cool and had a lot of really tasty-looking salads, sauces, and other things. My seafood intake has definitely increased while I’ve been here…
Also, I find it kind of funny how everything is sold separately-for example, in Canada when you order a burger or something of the sort, it automatically comes with fries. Here, everything is separate- you buy one or two pieces of fish, and then you buy either regular fries or kumara fries, or a different side. I’ve noticed this in almost all of the ‘takeaway’ and fast food shops we have been to. Something that bugs me though, is that you have to pay for things like ketchup, too! I always forget about this and then I have to go back and buy a packet of ketchup. For those of you who don’t know me, I’m sad to admit that ketchup is a non-compromisable item. I should probably just start carrying it in my purse…haha!
Mangonui is a tiny, cute little town, but we didn’t stop there, aside from getting our lunch.
We were driving around looking for Matangi Bay, and stumbled upon Te Ngaere Bay. I was totally awestruck about how beautiful (and empty!) this beach was. Well, except for our little friend here. Directly across from this bay was another one, called Wainui Bay and we went swimming there. The water was so warm!!
We carried on to Matangi Bay and hiked up a hill to see the memorial for the Rainbow Warrior. If you don’t know the story of the Rainbow Warrior, I really encourage you to look it up. It’s such a sad story about a Green Peace ship, I’m glad I learned about it. You can see the sandy beach of Matauri Bay below us, and the Matauri Bay campsite is right there. On one side, is the sandy beach, and on the other side there is a pebble beach.
Stay tuned for more fun 😉