Tuesday, April 22nd: It was nearing the time for Stephen to
leave New Zealand and return home to Budapest. Although something told me that I'd
see him again soon, we said our good-byes in Auckland (lunch at Denny's). We continued
north along the east coast, up the North Cape, in the direction of Whangarei (pronounced
Fangarei). About five o'clock that evening we decided to stop in the small coastal
town of Ruakaka. There was a nice little caravan park on the beach where we decided
to stay for the night. Our tent was still not yet repaired, so we got a (very) basic
cabin for NZ$20 (US$8.50). About 5:30pm we got a call on our cell phone: "It's me
[Stephen], give me your GPS coordinates." His flight was delayed. And so,
we spent the next few days driving around the northern tip with Stephen.
The driving in the North Island is different, but just as interesting as in the South
Island (many Kiwi's might differ with me on this). The scenery is consistently lush
and green, with rolling hills, lots of twisty roads, beautiful little coves with white
sand beaches, and the infamous "Ninety-Mile Beach". Well okay, it's not
really 90 miles (more like 90 kilometers) but it sure is a kick to drive on during low
tide. At its most northerly end it intersects with Cape Maria Van Dieman and the tip
of the North Island. You can't actually drive up to the absolute tip of Cape Reinga
on the beach. You have to turn off just short of it and drive up a muddy riverbed with
waters about 2-3" deep. It goes for about 2 kilometers before it hits the main
road. Along the way you want to stop and marvel at the huge sand dunes and
join the bussed-in tourists surfing the dunes (on plastic sleighs). But, you can't
because the mud will suck you in like quicksand! I feel like I've driven on just
about every imaginable surface now. And, I didn't fall!
down 90-Mile Beach
View from Cape Reinga
That day Stephen decided to drive down the west coast a ways. We
stayed at our caravan park in Doubtless Bay (so named by Captain Cook because he was
doubtless it was a bay), and managed to rendezvous with our long lost friends Mimi and
Stefan (fellow travelers we met in Australia). After a brief visit and dinner with
them, we all parted on Friday, April 27th. Mimi and Stefan were leaving for home
(Switzerland) a few days later.
The ride down the west side of the cape is much quieter than the east.
There are fewer towns and traffic, which made it more fun. We stopped for the night
in Kohukohu where we had heard about the best backpackers
(as per the Lonely Planet) in New Zealand. It is called the Treetops
Backpackers. We got the cabin at the top of the hill and had an awesome view over
the Hokianga River. Its a lovely little spot nestled in native forest and is famous
for its huge pig, Piglet. The short story is that Piglet (a former house pet) was
kicked out of an Auckland suburb by the local council after a lengthy battle by locals to
let him stay. Now he lives happily in a very large pen at the Treetops.
I say he's very happy because he got fed table scraps (pig-slop) several times a day
courtesy of all the backpackers, and his head is the size of my front wheel!
On Sunday, April 29th, Jurgen drove up to meet us and give his bike a good shakedown /
test-ride. He was very excited that his bike was about ready for his RTW trip.
We drove through the ancient Kauri forest and stopped to pay a visit to the oldest
tree in the forest (it's over 2,000 years old.) The buried Kauri trees that
have been uncovered in swamps are still being used to make souvenirs and are as old as
Monday, April 30th, my Ohlins shock finally arrived in NZ, and Chris was able to pick
it up at the airport, without paying import duties or GST (sales tax). Tuesday morning he
brought the bike into Motomail where he and Kerry
installed it on my bike. Kerry also gave me a used TKC-80 rear tyre, which was the same
type I was using, but this had several more kilometers to go -- Thanks again Kerry.
By Wednesday, we had made our way down to Rotorua, the home of old geysers and
countless Hot Springs. The smell can be overpowering in this place but if you are
into mineral baths, this is the place to be. Rotorua also has the largest Maori
population in New Zealand. There are numerous Maori cultural shows. We,
along with Stephen, went to the Tamaki Maori Village where we experienced life in a
re-created Maori village, ate a traditional Maori meal (called a Hongi?) and watched a
selection of Maori dance and music. Despite the pouring-down rain we enjoyed
Warriors dance with scary faces
That next morning we said a real and final goodbye to Stephen.
This time he really was going home, right? Will we be seeing you in Ushuaia for
Christmas Stephen? We had two days left on the North Island before we had to catch
the ferry back to the south. Steve Bell had highlighted a route on our map that
winded south east through the Te Urewera National Park on our way to Napier. We were lucky that day that the rain decided to stop,
because there was 120 kilometers of windy, single-lane, dirt track road to get over.
It turned out to be a fabulous ride (except my right pannier mount broke -- we
think it cracked during my Malaysia accident, and all the rough riding stressed the crack
into a break). We stopped at a magnificent waterfall (thanks to all the rainfall)
and snapped shots while Chris strapped my pannier securely to my bike. He rarely
finds the beauty in the scenery at times like this. The mount would later be
welded, and Al Jesse will send us replacement mounts.
Unfortunately we arrived in Napier in the evening just as it got dark. Napier is
a town known for basically 3 things: an earthquake around 1930 that leveled it, the Art
Deco style the town was rebuilt in, and the wine that's grown in the region surrounding it
along Hawkes Bay. Because we had to hustle it down to Wellington and the ferry the
next morning, we really didn't get to explore any of it. Oh well, there's always
So, our grand tour of the North Island was at an end. We were very
pleasantly surprised with the scenery and roads of the North Island. If you
have plans to come to New Zealand, leave ample time for both islands!
Friday, May 4th: On returning to the South Island we stopped again at Ross and
Gretchen's place for the weekend. Gretchen and I had talked about doing some
tramping (that's Kiwi for hike or trek) in Abel Tasman National Park. It is a
beautiful park at the northern tip of the South Island and it has several different tracks
to follow, most along the coastal shore. We finally got our chance on the Saturday.
Although the weather didn't cooperate with us it was a fun and beautiful walk just
the same. We caught a water taxi to a cove a few kilometers down the coast.
The trip on the water taxi was fun, as we climbed aboard the taxi while it was parked on a
trailer in the parking lot. A tractor then pulled us a few kms to the boat ramp,
dumped us in the water, and the taxi gave us a lift to a drop off point up the coast.
From here we did an 11-kilometer walk along beaches, up and over hills and through
beautiful native bush to another cove. At the end was a nice little lodge with a
cafe set up to service the hungry needs of trampers. Thank goodness there was a big
fire going to help drive us off and warm our weary bones.
Pick-up at end of the day
The weather continued to be rainy for the next few days and thwarted our
plans to go on another walk on Sunday. On Monday Chris and I headed down to
Christchurch via the Lewis Pass (my personal favorite vs. along the eastern coast). The
weather became cold and dreary as we approached Springs Junction, where we met up with our
friend Nigel Marx. We first met Nigel and his partner Kitty at the Hokitika Wild Foods
Festival back in March. Springs Junction is the halfway point for the rest of the drive
towards Christchurch. While raining cats and dogs Nigel still managed to point out a
few sights of interest. When we were coming out of the mountain range, low and
behold the weather cleared up. That's how it is here: when it's raining on one coast
its dry and usually sunny on the other. Nearer to ChCh we stopped in Waipara to see
a family-run cold-press olive oil operation. The mill, named Athena, won best olive
oil in New Zealand last year. They are good friends of Nigel's (who we also met at
the festival in Hokitika) so we got a private tour and sampled the goods on their first
day of pressing for the year.
|Erin & Nigel look on as worker gives
tour of Olive Press Plant -- this machine pulverizes the olive into pulp. Next, the
pulp is put on spread out onto 1-meter diameter round mats where remaining oil is squeezed
out under a giant press.
Monday night, May 7th, we arrived at Garry and Jo's home in Rangiora,
about 50kms north of ChCh. It would have been nice to stay longer, but we had to press on.
Our NZ touring was coming to an end, as we were heading back to ChCh to prepare for our