Took a trip up to the very north of New Zealand passing up through Waipora Kauri Forest, stoping to see Tane Mahuta the largest tree & God of the Forest. It was probably the largest tree I have ever seen, certainly in terms of its girth (13.8m), and is about 2000 years old. Apparently much of NZ was covered by Kauri forests before the europeans arrived and found they made great ship building material.
Further up the road we stopped at a visitors centre to hear the story of Opo, a dolphin that appeared in 1955 and would play with people at the beach. Whilst it is fairly amazing how friendly Opo became with the locals it is more incredible that the town is still able to trade on the memory almost 50 years later.
The next 3 nights were spent at Paihia, the tourist centre of the Bay of Islands. Normally touristy areas are a real turn off for me but the backpacker ghetto of Paihia had one of the friendliest social scenes of anywhere I’ve been so far and it was a struggle to persuade myself to leave. There were several Dutch girls in the hostel who were able to give me a lot of grief when their team whipped Scotland 6-0.
It was also the place where, at 3am, I fell trying to descend from my to go to the toilet. Somehow my foot got caught as I tried to jump from the ladder. I landed with a loud thump and I was worried about who I might have woken up. The sniggering from around the room told me several others and that they were more amused than annoyed. I limped off to the bathroom for the original purpose of the journey and to inspect my wounds; a large bruise across the top of my left foot and a grazed right knee. Quality pratfall.
I took a day trip from here up to Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific in a swirl of currents. On the way there we passed through the Puketi forest, drove along most of 90 Mile Beach, up Te Paki Stream and went sand boarding on the dunes. Sand boarding was a laugh but a lot of hard work hiking up the dunes through soft sand. Cape Reinga is a special place to the Mauri as it is to a tree here that their spirits come for several days after they die, before moving on to their ancestoral home lands.
On the road back down we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, a business that makes wooden decorations, tools and furniture from the preserved wood of buried 45,000 year old Kauri trees. Much of the work is stunning but most amazing of all is a section of trunk that has been carved into a spiral staircase between the 1st and 2nd floors.
After watching NZ win 3rd place in the Rugby World cup it was time to head south again. The plan was to fly from Auckland to Christchurch missing out the bottom part of North Island as I had done most of the activities in the central part in my 1st week here. It was in Auckland I had a couple of minor annoyances: first I left my credit card in a restaurant and wans’t able to get it before I had to catch a plane and second I found my hostel reservation in Sydney for the New Year period had fallen through and that everywhere I was trying now was fully booked. Minor irritations but they took the gloss off my last day in Auckland.
Some final thoughts about Auckland : all the nights I have spent here I have stayed at the ACB hostel, NZ’s biggest. Its size prevents it or its bar (the Globe) from being particularly friendly places where you might make friends. It is however, clean (except when the maids clean the wrong bed when someone leaves a dorm room), modern, efficient and a good place to plan further travel. It does have some bad planning though, with several bunks having their ladders up against walls. It also tends to have mixed dorms and on one night there were two girls sharing a single bunk in my room. I didn’t realise this until next morning, though this was just as well as I doubt I would have slept if I’d realised earlier.