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Wednesday 25 Feb 2004
Auckland, New Zealand

finished the northland baby!!

Ive just finished trawling up and down the northland and Im back in Auckland since its unavoidable on the way back down! The roads here drive like a dream, though are rather small, extremely curvy and often very hilly... rather like the roads in the Wicklow/Dublin mountains around Ireland. In fact the scenery up north has looked similarly Dublin-mountain-esque too...

Ive found New Zealand to be surprisingly quick to drive around than looks on a map (curvy roads et al). In theory I could have driven the entire northland area in about 7 hours! The car is also a joy to drive and camp in, and should stay that way for the two months I have it *knocks on wood*

22nd Feb

... after much trawling around Paihia, I finally found a relatively cheap campsite (5 dollars compared to 15 for the others!) down at the end of the road. I found it based on hearsay, since there are no signs pointing the way.

Take a left before the bridge to Waitangi Island and drive on down by the large boat which is permanently beached... youll come to it after going straight about 100 metres! Nice view of the bay too!! Its super-cheap on account of the various "repairs" being undertaken so it might be more expensive in years to come.

by the way, this day commemorates 1 YEAR I have been on the road, bumming around the world! Im a certified nomad now!

23rd Feb

While waiting around Paihia for the Bay of Islands tour starting at 1pm, I decided to visit the historic Waitangi National Reserve on a separate tiny island that is dominated by a golf course! This is where the historic document between the British and the Maori chiefs was signed declaring that the Maori accepted the Queen as their "protector" (although this "protection" became somewhat lax over the years!).

Its realy quite interesting to read the Maori history.... unlike the aboriginals of Oz who were present on the continent since prehistoric times, the Maori actually regard THEMSELVES as migrants to New Zealand, the same as the whites (or "Pakeha" in Maori). The Maori history recalls how the first canoe came from Polynesia 900 years ago and brought Kupe (the first Maori) who explored the land and proclaimed the new country. Essentially the reason the Maori were treated better than the Aboriginals was because they had a "monarchy" tribal system and a "tribal government" of sorts. The aboriginals were all nomadic and existed in small, separate tribes without a central leader.. hence the reason the Brits thought of them as "barbaric".

Anyhoo, on the island you can visit a Marae (Maori meeting house) and see the original house owned by the first British magistrate. A replica of the first canoe is also on the island... apparently the largest war canoe in the world. It is made out of Kauri trees.. more of which you will read about later...

What really got to me, though, was that I could have quite easily avoided paying the 10 dollar entry fee and simply walked up to the site by via the beach nearby (something that MOST visitors were doing). Doh!

I really do feel like Im in Polynesia or Hawaii though, what with names for places like "Kerikeri" and "Karupukapuka"

Finally I went on the Bay of Islands tour.. essentially the main thing to see up in the northland. I got a good deal with FULLERS of a half-day tour for 55 dollars (*cough* student price!). I avoided paying 100 dollars for the dolphin tour... (essentially the same as my tour, but with added dolphin swim) since I had already swam with dolphins in Oz!

A half-day tour proved to be plenty.. I got a full tour of the harbour and the several mountainous islands dotted around the place. Its so much like Halong Bay in North-East Vietnam its quite uncanny. I still think the Whitsunday Islands off Queensland has it for beauty though...

The highlight of the trip is going through the "hole in the rock". This is a large rock island with a perfect hole drilled through it by the sea, just large enough to fit our boat through. This is really thrilling and easily the highlight... although the island stop and swim on Karupukapuka was also refreshingly welcome.

Headed off north after some fresh fish n chips and soon arrived at Houhora. Took a quick look at Ninety Mile Beach... just a really long beach running the entire west coast of the northland. It was raining quite heavily so the scene didnt look particularly interesting. Managed to sneak into a caravan park here around 9.30pm without having to pay... I unwittingly parked beside a mosquito nest though, so paid for the night with incessent buzzing and bites. AAAARGH! Mums mozzie spray came in handy though.. I used the entire can in one night, spraying the mozzies instead of myself. Worked though.

24th Feb

Drove up to Cape Reinga today.. the northernmost point in New Zealand reachable by car.. the actual northernmost point is 20 km away, but within view.

From here its possible to see where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet in a torrentous clashing of waves out in the middle of the ocean.

Drove down the west coast, crossing the Hokianga Harbour on the car ferry.

Arrived at Waipoua Kauri Forest.. stayed at the camp site beside the visitor centre. Didnt pay the 7 dollars though cuz it was on an "honour" system. I cant afford to be honourable on this trip, unfortunately...

I also met Mike from Germany here, arriving in on his bike out of the blue.. Mike is a friend of mine that I met in the hostel here in Auckland and the guy whose beers kept me from waking up on time the next day (thus making me get a parking fine!!!).. I dont hold it against him though

Another coincidence non?

25th Feb

Left early in the morning (so the ranger wouldnt grab me!) and finally took to walking the Waipoua Kauro Forest.. saw super-large Kauri trees. These are like the red-woods of California, just not quite as tall, but up to 5 metres in diameter and 4000 years old! A beautiful forest walk though, especially the walk down to the Katta tree. Bumped into Mike yet again!!

Back in Auckland. Have checked my car in for a service for the filters and automatic transmission tommorrow. Could cost me 400 dollars though.. ouch! Well at least theyre a RELIABLE company (hence the exorbent price) so I wont have any problems with the fixes they make, unlike so often in my Oz "experience".

Just parked in parking lot and will probably be able to stay here in my car overnight (5 dollars... nice!).. A guy who was leaving saw me paying for my ticket and offered me his (which still had a few hours on it). Too late Id already bought mine, but his generosity was still profound. Ive found people here are so helpful and friendly toward one another .. none of the anti-tourist vibe I got often in Oz. Ive heard a lot of accounts of NZ friendliness toward others. Hell, I forgot to mention the lady I met in the caravan park in Houhora who forgoed (is that a word??) her morning of fishing to drive me to the nearest mechanics when I thought my battery was flat. Not a problem in her opinion!!

(the battery wasnt flat though, just a bit of moisture on the connections in the morning prevented it starting.)

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