after the annoying Auckland weather I put my trust in the tropical Northland, to be precise the Far North, and headed up to find some sunshine. well, the first 10 days were pretty similar to the capital – lots of rain and cold –, but on Boxing day the summer finally arrived and stayed.
I spent 4 weeks in the Bay Of Islands, was based in Kerikeri.. which is a bit out from the bay and it gave me some surprises.
first of all, my New Zealand exile was at it’s fullest, I couldn’t find a better place for the self-reflection and isolation. as much as I hated it in the beginning, so much grateful I am for this now. on a personal level I changed a lot in these weeks, I reconnected to myself that I lost almost a year ago, and also my vision cleared up on where and what I have to do.
a more practical aspect of this area: if you don’t have a car to go around, your only option is hitchhiking. I don’t mention the public buses, simple because of the impossible ticket prices.
I haven’t done hitchhiking before, for the first time I felt pretty uncomfortable with my quick written sign, but it took only 5 mins till a car stopped and dropped me to my destination. as hitchhiking here is really a thing, very common, also very safe, I extended my comfort zone and used this fun and cheap way of travelling (at least in a 30 km radius).
my favorite hitch trip was the Kerikeri-Kawakawa-Paihia-Kerikeri circle. raise your hand if you’ve ever hitchhiked to visit a toilet! I did. namely I went to Kawakawa to check the Hundertwasser style public toilet (what could I say, I was starving for some art and culture). actually it looks really cute, but I already loved my concept of the visit, so that was just an extra.
Kerikeri is a small town, perfect place to relax next to the bush and enjoy the sounds of the nature all around. this is something I will really miss; loud landing possums from the roof, midnight kiwis, the beautiful kingfishers and fantails and of course the song of the tui.
you can find many trekking options in the North. I only visited the Rainbow Falls, that has a really gorgeous walkway along the river. after Bali I don’t think that New Zealand can show me anything in the topic waterfalls, so feel not keen to hunt them all (what’s the point of a waterfall if you can’t swim in it?).
my favorite thing in Kerikeri is the Saturday market. first I went there before Christmas and was prepared for some “cheap” countryside thing, but for my biggest surprise the market is super busy and has an amazing vibe; lots of fruits and veggies and honey and food and live music, it’s really a must do activity if you are around.
the center of the Bay of Island is Paihia, there are all the backpackers and tourists. if you need some civilization (like I did a few times) this is the perfect place in the neighborhood. I also visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, the nation’s cradle. honestly, it was okay; I’m happy that didn’t pay the full price (got my ticket on Bookme) and sadly can’t say that it was super interesting. shame on me, but what caught my attention the most was the garden behind the Treaty house.
the highlight and the original reason of my stay in the Far North was the road trip up to Cape Reinga. the beauty of this trip, that I did it in 17 hours, alone (loved it), driving a borrowed car.
probably I am the only person who’s not deeply interested in the amazing nature of New Zealand. pretty sure it would be different if I wasn’t alone or at a different time, but now the only thing I was up for: beaches and sunset (last time I saw it in Bali in August, so it was for me a must have).
let me share my route (with travel map), I think everyone can make and enjoy it to the fullest.
sunrise in Matauri Bay
I left at 5:30 and arrived just in time for the first sunbeams above the bay. driving in the dawn is pretty stressful as the roads are full with bunnies, ducks, possums, literally with every kind of animal and of course I don’t want hit any of them.
the bay was a perfect choice for sunrise, I enjoyed my second morning coffee on the empty beach with this view:
the morning mist and the colors in this sunlight are just amazing. the only problem that on the winding roads there’s no spot to safely stop and enjoy the view for a few minutes.
breakfast by the Coca Cola (Rotopokaka) lake
this lake is really cool. the water was nice and warm, the color is crazy, it doesn’t smell (just like any other lake) and I was all alone around 7am. with my favorite tracks playing in the car, walking (sorry, not swimming) in the lake, then a sandwich on the bench. did I miss anything?
I also checked out the Doubtless Bay, but it was busy with campers and smelled strong (from that the ocean washed out, or from what goes into it), so after taking a picture I left to the Karikari Moana, exactly to the Puheke beach.. and oooh my god.
who said that New Zealand doesn’t have white beaches? look at this:
pure perfection (except the super cold water) and it has a secret beach too: the one of the most perfect places I’ve ever been, a real hidden gem.
people came around 11 am, so before the sun started burning crazy (missing ozone is not fun) I left.
I have to say New Zealand has a nice diversity in beaches, that was a bit unexpected but I like it more than the same-same looking ones. also, there’s nothing that wants to kill you while you enjoy the sand and the sea (at least here in the North), so beaching is more relaxing than in Aussieland (Australia-New Zealand 1:2)
dessert for lunch in Te Kao
as it’s on the way, impossible to miss it and simply just why not, I stopped by the famous local store for an ice cream. this is the small portion:
the taste was really good (this one the kiwi pavlova) and hey, it’s only $3.
one thing I have to recommend: don’t even think about to get a 2degrees sim card in New Zealand. I don’t recall why did I buy this one, but around the Karikari peninsula it decided that I’m abroad and switched to roaming, then around Te Kao every time I wanted to change from airplane mode a phone error appeared. I was thinking that awesome, my phone is dying.. until I arrived back from the very far north and the service worked normal again. so if you don’t want to stay without reception and data and GPS (always download offline maps!), do not choose 2degrees.
sunburnt in the Spirits Bay
if I was a spirit, I definitely would live here. amazing. despite the camp site next to it, the beach is huge and empty. white sand, super clear azure water, powerful waves.. and no shade, so my 50+ sunblock didn’t help anything at 2 pm (for now my skin is nice tanned, but for an afternoon it was red as hell).
I also enjoyed the way down to the bay: the white gravel, the curvy road and the dust behind the car are screaming for drifting. so I did. and loved it.
the bay has of course something else to do with the spirits and this is a really intriguing part of the story. I was not prepared in history and culture, but the more I hear and read about it now, the essence and beauty of these stories just catch me.
the final destination: Cape Reinga
I arrived to the cape around 4pm, that meant it was pretty quiet (tourist peak is before noon). it’s a beautiful spot, well organized, the view all around is amazing, I also loved the small information notes on the side of the walkway. the very best thing of this place is the meeting point of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. this was the first time I have seen something like this and it’s truly mesmerizing. so if I was a spirit, I would love to fly through this cape too. the atmosphere is very calming and truly magical.
slow drivers break at Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes
okay, so the order on the way was: sheep, cows, bush, f*cking lots of sand. I was not up for sand boarding: mainly because my burned skin didn’t feel the scratchy sand, but also because this activity is more fun in a group. so I just stopped by, tried to figure out how the hell got here this much sand, then “enjoyed” the slow ride out behind too slow drivers. I was not in a hurry, but guys.. please.
sunset on the Ninety Mile Beach
first I hit the beach at Te Kao: the wide shore and the circles in the sand looked pretty cool. unfortunately the wind blew extremely strong, it was simple not enjoyable to sit there, also I still had like an hour till sunset, so decided to change location.
my last cigarette at Waipapakauri
I arrived to my second spot also much more before the real sunset time, so I smoked my very last cigarette by the car, listening – wait for it – to the radio and gosh, it was just perfect. it was windy on the beach but the parking place was protected, so just enjoyed the sunshine and the smoke. the fun part is the radio. I don’t remember when I last listened intentionally a radio station, but my mobile was out of its senses so haven’t got any other option. the More FM was basically the only acceptable and on that day somehow it gave a nice mainstream vibe.
when the time had come I walked with a few others to the beach to watch the sun go down. I really appreciated this time, as I really missed it and the view gave me exactly what I wished for.
the one hour drive back home was easy – under the starry sky and the Cheshire Moon, arrived back at 10:30 pm. I would say it was a perfect day, not too exhausting, I got everything that I wanted and needed, also have a current favorite song too (sorry):