Continuing on our road trip, we visited the Old Stone Store in Kerikeri which apparently you have to do!
We also went to Rainbow Falls and Rhys climbed around the rocks to go behind the falls. I laughed pretty hard when another tourist visiting the falls was gobsmacked to see Rhys climbing out from behind them. He said “Is that your partner!? He looks like Gollum coming out of the caves!” Bahaha.
Rhys’s friends had gone fishing and caught a whole bunch of snapper, which they smoked. It’s sometimes quite hard to cook in the campervan, but we managed to make these smoked fish fritters and they were so tasty! We used mashed potatoes, green onions, salt, pepper, and the smoked fish. We mixed it all together and dipped them in bread crumbs and then fried them up. I’d never had a smoked fish fritter in my life, but I was pretty impressed with our little creation. Normally Rhys said he would use Worcestershire sauce with these but we only had soy sauce, which actually happened to be pretty good. It made me envision an Asian inspired version of these with lemongrass and ginger and I know I will give it a go when I have a bit more of a stable kitchen. Look at our fancy, romantic camping table- hahaha.
We visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds and I got a bit of a social studies lesson that was old news for Rhys. The waka (canoe) was gigantic and I loved all the carvings in the building where ceremonies are held.
The Bay of Islands is a beautiful area and I particularly loved Paihia, across from Russel. It’s very touristy, and there were two cruise ships in the bay while we were there, but I really liked all of the shops and cafes in the town. In the evening we enjoyed drinks on the water at ‘Alongside’, a restaurant and bar located on the dock with comfy couches and outdoor seating.
In the morning, we went on a boat tour to the famous “hole in a rock”. We were so lucky and saw a pod of dolphins on the way there. Apparently they were sleeping, as they were just slowly ‘cruising’ through the water. It was very cool to go through the hole in the rock, and when we got to the other side, there were fish jumping like crazy. The tour stops at a little island where you can have a picnic or hike up to the top of a hill for a nice view. On the way back to shore, we were lucky enough to see the same pod of dolphins, but this time they were much more active- jumping all over the place. There were baby dolphins, too!
We said good-bye to the Bay of Islands, and headed down to Whangarei. Here, we visited the Kingdom of Zion which is a sort of wildlife refuge for large cats. Big cats like lions and tigers are my favourite animals so I really enjoyed this tour. One of the lions was even Aslan in the first Chronicles of Narnia movie. There are a total of 33 cats and we saw them all, from various kinds of lions to tigers and white tigers, to black leopards and cheetahs.
While in Whangarei, we also went to a Kiwi House where we were lucky enough to see two kiwis in their exhibit. Kiwis are nocturnal birds so the exhibit is extremely dark and it takes quite some time for your eyes to adjust. I think we had mistaken a kiwi for a rock for several minutes!! The Kiwi House was also cool because when the kiwis are hiding in their little dens, there are infrared cameras inside so you can watch them on a TV screen. They are amazing little birds and extremely fast, which surprised me.
When we returned to Auckland, we went to the Eminem concert. It was his first time ever coming to New Zealand and in my opinion, he killed it. It was a really fun show to be at, and even nicer because it was outdoors on a sunny, hot day.
We made our way South with a new addition to Sparrow. Our latest mascot, as I like to call him “Caveman Dobby”, painted by Rhys as a child. I just can’t get over how hilarious this guy is. I’m pretty glad Rhys’s gran dug him up for us!
We were heading to Rotorua, the land of the rotten eggs, as I like to call it due to it’s constant sulphur smell, but we made a few stops before we got there. One, was to get the all important kiwi must-have photo at the giant Lemon & Paeroa bottle. Lemon & Paeroa is a type of pop here, and it’s actually pretty good. I don’t drink much pop, but I have been enjoying ginger beer here, and it was good to try the L&P, too.
We stopped at the Karangahake Gorge which is a really cool site. It used to be a mining area so there is lots of old equipment and building remains here. There are great walking and cycling trails and we passed many joggers and bikers as we took a walk on a Saturday morning. You can walk through the old train tunnel here which goes on forever. It’s very dark and I would say about a kilometer long!
We stopped at Mt. Maunganui for a few days, and I think it is one of my favourite places that we have been so far. There was a surf carnival on which meant the beach was packed with families, as kids competed in various swimming and surf-ski races. We took a walk up to the top of the mount, which only takes about half an hour, so that we could take in this beautiful view. The town here is so cute and walkable, and I loved looking in all the little shops and restaurants (of which there are a ton!). I couldn’t get over how beautiful it was here!
I just can’t believe the colour of the water…#nofilter haha. Next stop, Rotorua!