We left Hamilton and set out for a four hour drive to the final area of New Zealand we had yet to visit, the remote Northland. Rain followed us, heavy at times and intermittent at best. We passed through Auckland, the city where we had landed seven weeks earlier. Traffic in this area was heavy and we slowed to a crawl around the city. We had literally come full circle, starting in Auckland seven weeks ago, traveled south down the east side of the North and South Islands and then north up the west side of the South Island. Now in our final week we would circle north of Auckland on the east side of the island and then west down the other side and back to the Auckland airport.
Other than the rain it was a pleasant drive. The Northland area of the North Island is known as “Wilderness North” with more than 100 bays and beaches as well as forests, sand dunes and serene lakes. It is New Zealand’s narrowest region. It is a long narrow peninsula with no place more than 44 miles from the sea and is more tropical in climate. Northland is where the Maori and Europeans first decided to settle and this area is known as the “Birthplace of the Nation”. Some of the country’s oldest buildings are in this area.
We arrived at our first destination for a two night stay in Tutukaka. Our motel was located on a cliff with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean. The Tutukaka coast area is rated as one of the Top Coastal Destinations on the Planet by National Geographic Traveler. We could certainly see why with these views!
After a long day of rain as we drove up to the motel we looked out over the ocean and saw a beautiful rainbow, our first one in New Zealand. We registered, went to our room and unloaded the car and then went for a walk. Another beautiful rainbow awaited us and after admiring the view we stopped along the fence to greet some curious sheep.
We loved our motel apartment, a two story apartment with floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the ocean on both levels. The upstairs bedroom had a nice balcony. Our only complaint was the only bathroom was on the first floor. I could really get used to those cliff side ocean views! The weather during our stay here was uncertain with rain one minute and sun the next, but the rainbows made it worth the rain!!
We made a trip to Waipoura Kauri Forest to see the world’s tallest and largest living kauri tree. It is named Take Mahuta meaning Lord of the Forest. It is one of the most ancient trees, having sprung from seed around 2,000 years ago. It is 170 feet tall with a girth of 46 feet. While there we also hiked to see Te Matua Ngahere, meaning Father of the Forest, the second largest known living kauri tree with a height of 95 feet and a girth of 54 feet. (Keep in mind neither of these trees are as old or large as the California Redwood/Sequoias.)
At the parking lot where we hiked to the trees there was a man in a truck with a sign saying for $2.00 he would be sure your car was safe. At first we thought he was just trying to take advantage of tourists, but two official New Zealand government signs said there had been a history of car thefts at this car park. The 2.00 charge was for his time. Considering there were at least a dozen cars in the car park and cars were constantly coming and going, he probably did very well. During high tourist season he probably brought in quite a bit of loot for himself each day. All he appeared to do was sit in his truck and collect $2.00 as each person walked by. Didn’t even have to get out of his car. Over the past two months we have seen quite a few signs in tourist car parks warning of break ins, but this was the first time we paid for a watch dog.
- Diesel fuel is cheaper than regular but vans and trucks have to pay an extra tax to the government to keep up the roads.
- Their natural gas field is about to run out.
- In New Zealand they have the Lions Club, Rotary Club and Salvation Army. We saw Salvation Army in almost every town we went in, even the smaller ones.