Monthly Archives: April 2014

Northland

We skipped through Auckland on the freeway and when stopping off to check out a boat ride we found Ray’s dream stop. We met up at a marina with an English couple we had met walking and they told us about this site with free camping surrounded by hundreds of boats. I wasn’t keen but I must admit I did enjoy the passing parade of boats and then the light show of sunset and city lights over the harbour.

The trip up the coast gave us a mixture of walks with some showcasing the coastal scenery with its variety of eroded rocks and inland waterfalls which we always seemed to visit with the sun in the wrong direction.

I love the way the Kiwis not only don’t ban adventurous things but actually gives signs and leaflets telling you how to take step outside the boundaries  with just a warning sign saying it’s at your own risk. In this case we visited a number of caves in the Whangarei area with our maps telling us where to find them, how long they are and how deep the water would be. We chickened out of one when the water went above our knees but then in the last one we could see the light at the end as the water got deeper so we ended up waist deep rather than retreating. Another we did retreat from as the jumbled rocks to climb out through looked more difficult than going back 60m. There weren’t any great formations but there were glow worms and it was much more fun finding our own way through the dark than following a guide.

Mountains are always looked for to provide views but of course that means climbing up lots of steps (when it’s a well made path) and then enduring knee jarring descents. They’re always worth it though especially when you are looking down over glorious harbours as from Mt Manaia.

We visited The Hole in the Rock the non tourist way when we reached the Bay of Islands. Instead of taking a boat trip we walked out to the cape (where we couldn’t actually see the hole but that wasn’t why we went). It turned out to be the hardest one day walks we have done so far and we did it twice – out and back. It wasn’t so much the length (17km) but combined with the terrain. We began by climbing to the top of the ridge which was okay but then we continued to yoyo up and down for the rest of the walk. We celebrated if we got 100m of flat walking. Then we finished with the steepest climb of the lot to finally arrive at the lighthouse only to discover the hut was 200 vertical metres below. It was worth it for the grand ocean and cliff views at the end and on the way out,  though Ray says he’s not so sure.

There were yet more bays, beaches, peninsulas and harbours as we travelled up the east coast each with their own glorious views. We enjoyed Whangaroa Harbour with the climb up St Pauls rock to see the harbour on three sides and Mahinepua beach and peninsula for a lovely underrated walk and Rays favourite campsite with a magnificent sunrise to top it off. Coca- cola lake near Matai Bay lived up to its name.

We finally reached the last leg of Northland with the trip to Cape Reinga. We had stops to admire a staircase made out of one Kauri log and  a side trip that gave us the sight of two dogs moving a mob of sheep along the road by themselves, not a human in sight. At the top were the hordes of tourists heading out to the lighthouse and then the hordes of mosquitoes at the campsite to make a change from the usual sandflies.

After the ten days it took to come up the east coast we went back down the west in three. Instead of the numerous bays and headlands it has two enormous beaches and two very large harbours. We found some nice scenery around Hokianga Harbour and then passed through the forest with the largest remaining Kauri trees.

We finished by revisiting the wild west coast out of Auckland. Muriwai gave us a gannet colony that Ray was pleased to enjoy for free and then we returned to Piha for some different walks. Whatipu was our final stop with more rocky landscapes and a vast beach as well as caves that were sculpted by the sea a long time ago and are now a kilometre inland.

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East Cape to Coromandel Peninsula

East Cape gave us a variety of experiences. We began with historical wharves – some falling down and some having been repaired and showing how industry was quite different in the past.

We saw some of the churches – very important to the large Maori presence on the Cape. One was very traditional on the outside and beautifully decorated Maori style on the inside. Another was just placed beautifully on a headland.

Around every corner was another perfect bay or scenic piece of coastline. We saw the sun set over the sea from Mahia Beach and the moon rise over Anaura Bay.

We moved on from East Cape and skipped right across the Bay of Plenty and all its beaches and went straight to the rugged and interesting coastline of the Coromandel Peninsula, a jewel of the North Island. First we explored some of their gold mining – the currently revived open pit gold mine at Waihi and the fascinating tunnels, railways and history of Karangahaka gorge. One tunnel we walked through was one kilometre long and another had windows cut into it so the miners could dump the rubble straight into the river.

We went to the tourist haven of Hahei which gave us the much photographed Cathedral Cove. We walked in with all the tourists at a high tide which limited access through the renowned arch. I then walked back in for sunrise the next morning and was surprised to find I wasn’t alone. It was well worth the early morning and two hours walk.

All the mountain ranges in the middle of the peninsula gave waterfalls to view and the remaining kauri trees that had not been cut down by the rapacious loggers. I also finally managed to photograph one of the harriers that we constantly see feeding on road kill.

The very northern tip of the Coromandel is like a different world. It is accessed by a narrow winding road that puts off many of the tourists ( with good reason as I held my breath as we went round every blind corner, especially those that hung over the ocean. Luckily we only met a Spaceship* on one and stopped in time) and the only accommodation is basic camping provided by the Department of Conservation. The scenery was stunning especially the two walks we did at the tip showcasing a dramatic coastline. * Rental company

We finished our time on the Coromandel Peninsula with an overnight walk to the Pinnacles, a remnant volcanic outcrop with magnificent views to the ocean and towns. The walk is a classic for many New Zealanders, especially Aucklanders who fill the 80 bed hut every Saturday night. We climbed up the steps and ladders to the viewing platform and then like every one else followed a rough path to the other end and admired the magnificent view to the coast without benefit of fences saving us from the drop. The Kiwis do not have a nanny mentality like Australia.