Saturday, February 12, 2011

Far North: Sledding, Sun, and Sand

Way back when (December), when we had just found jobs and were starting in a few days, we decided to take a quick trip to the “far North” or Northland. It was so strange that the Far North is warmer and a holiday hotspot, not chilly and icy. This is the bit north of Auckland, and we had heard that in particular the Bay of Islands was not to be missed. We had wanted to rent a motorbike for the weekend, but that turned out to be RIDICULOUSLY pricey, so a tin can rental car had to do the trick. Although it’s not that far in kms, the roads are very windy, so it takes a while to get anywhere. We started on the west, and first point of interest was the kauri forest. Kauri are massive, massive trees, up to 5m across. They aren’t all that tall, but they are wide. The forest felt straight out Jurassic Park, and I kept waiting for a dinosaur to pop out to eat us.
A tree big enough to hold a staircase

After the forest, we popped out near two small towns, with the most gorgeous beach. Seriously, top scenery so far at this point. So beautiful, we thought we should move out there.
The next day we took a tour up to the northern tip of New Zealand. To get there, we took a bus up the 90-mile beach, racing the tide to get through. This was really neat. After that, we went sledding. On the sand! Walking up the hill was a serious workout though, and the sled was not fun enough to get us to climb it twice. Snow is much better for sledding, so hopefully you all get to do some of that! Not to rub it in or anything.
The day started with a Maori welcome
We had a brief stop after this, as a van was blocking our path. We were still travelling on sand, up a little stream between the sand dunes. A van had managed to get very stuck at the narrowest part. Three tour bus loads of people got out to take a look, as this wasn’t in the brochure. The bus drivers did not have much sympathy for the driver and yanked him out pretty good. Apparently it was the second time one of the drivers had pulled him out that day, so his patience was running a little thin. It was a good show though, the van just flew out of there!
After all that excitement it was time for lunch. We stopped at a little bay near the tip which was absolutely gorgeous. You can go and camp there, and you would pretty much have a private beach, except when the buses came through. I would love to have stayed there a few days, staying right off the water. Water makes everything 10 times more scenic I think.
This is where we want to camp!
From there we went all the way to the very tip, Cape Reinga. The view was fantastic, and the feeling of being the most north in a country was really cool. This is also where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. We can’t really pinpoint why this was so great, but it was honestly a highlight.
The very tip of New Zealand
However, soon after this we found Andrew’s wallet had gone missing. This seriously wrecked the rest of the day. We think he must have dropped it at lunch, but someone should have seen it very easily there, so who knows what happened. The tour company was very helpful, but it hasn’t turned up. We got to know Skype a little better as he used it to call the banks etc. We heart Skype! It saves us a ton of money! Andrew’s driver’s license was in his wallet too so we are not sure what our options are there. This was sucky, but we are so glad that nothing happened with his credit cards before we cancelled them.
In a bit of a bad mood, we headed out to the Bay of Islands area. We scored a good deal on a hotel, and were pleasantly surprised that it was decent! We debated and debated whether to do a cruise around the Bay as it was highly recommended, or to go sailing, or to save our money. It’s so hard to know sometimes! We did end up doing a cruise, deciding early morning last minute, and while it was good, I’m not sure we would have done it again. Trust your instincts I guess, and then put those dang brochures away!
That being said, a real true highlight was getting to see dolphins in the wild. Wow. They swam along the boat, really close, jumping and blowing. There were even a few babies in the group, which meant we couldn’t swim with them, but that meant some money back! Yay money! This was touristy, but also so cool.

We also went out to the Hole in the Rock which was cool too. This is a gigantic hole through an island that has been formed by water over time. It was too rough to go through, which was too bad. We got quite a ride back, with a lot of water splashing and the boat riding some really big waves which made for a bit of excitement.
The Far North was really nice, one of our favourite places in NZ, and that's saying something!

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