Thursday, June 08, 2006

Travel Notebook from Northland and the Coromandel Pennisula

We're writing a couple short separate entries for some of the highlights from our loop around the Coromandel Pennisula and Northland. For the rest I decided another round of random travel notes was in order...

- During out time in Hahei, we had the opportunity to visit Cathedral Cove. A very impressive limestone arch of epic proportions that had you feeling like you were on a deserted island. Which Hahei was. (Deserted at least, if not an island). We had to drive 30 minutes and take the water ferry to Whitianga just to get groceries or a meal. Gotta love traveling in the off-season. Of course near Goat Island we found a backpackers that had been mentioned in Lonely Planet that was actually closed with a giant For Sale sign on the front. Oops.

- One of the biggest obstacles for me moving down here would be Rugby. In New Zealand, it is the national sport and the All Blacks (the national Rugby Union team; not to be confused with Rugby League) is god. Personally I can't stand the game (may have something to do with the no necks giving us ultimate players a rough go at university but I digress) but the Super 14 Rugby Union (consisting of club teams from NZ, Australia and South Africa) final was on during our time in Northland so we gave it a look.

What happened was pure comedy. You can read about the game here but in short a massive fog overtook the stadium in Christchurch leaving the teams running around in the fog not having a clue where the ball was half the time. For those NFL history buffs out there, it looked a lot like a certain playoff game in Chicago. Molly and Becca started asking me about the rules and ended the evening asking "where's the ball?" One good thing did come out of the final though: this fantastic story (please, please click on the link). First worthy story I've heard about Rugby in ages.

I will now change the subject before the NZ SWAT team comes through the door.

- We had the opportunity to have a bit of travel symmetry in the small town of Kawakawa. Kawakawa was the home of one Fredrick Hundertwasser. The same man whose fantastic work we visited in Vienna, Austria last August. He lived in Kawakawa for approximately 25 years and late in his life was asked to renovate the town's public toilets. The result is here. Nice toilets and need to see his work on both hemispheres. Now whether the toilet is a place to mediate as Hundertwasser asserts... I'll leave that up to you the reader.

- I had the opportunity to get in two rounds of golf with Molly, the first time I'd swung a club since Ireland. Shot a 45 and a 100 (with the 45 certified courtesy of Arthur Andersen's accounting methods). However, we did get to take in some gorgeous views of both the Bay of Islands and the Tasman Sea courtesy of the Waitangi and Muriwai Golf Clubs. Muriwai was a links style course and Molly and I got lots of practice hitting out of the rough and the swallow-you-whole-sized sand bunkers.

- While in Paihia, we took a boat ride out to the Bay of Islands. Your typical tourist boat trip with two glaring exceptions. First, we were fortunate enough to see 4-5 pods of Dolphins who then decided to spend the next 20 minutes or so around us putting on a show. A few even got close enough to the front of the boat that you could actually hear them which was hyper-cool.

The other part was when we approached Cape Brett and the "Hole in the Rock". Most days the boat just trudges through the hole. Not this day; the waves were coming in hard and swallowing up approximately half of the volume of the hole. In many ways this was much more impressive than taking the boat through it. Also yet another reminder that we should give Mother Nature proper respect now and again.

- We stayed in some fantastic places on this loop, made all the better because we were the only people staying in them. I LOVE travelling in off-season. Anyway, if you are passing through any of the following places, check out these motels/bnb's for a good place to stay:

-- Cook's Lookout in Pahei/Haruru Falls. By far the nicest motel of the trip with an absolutely unbeatable view (seen at the top of this entry). We had two bedrooms, a kitchenette and living room with full wall window out over the Bay of Islands. Norm and Shelagh were extraordinarily helpful.

-- Island View Villas in Hahei. Host John was helpful with tons of travel advice and lent us spades for Hot Water Beach. We had an apartent with a bedroom with a queen bed, a nice kitchen, and a living room (with 2nd double bed in it) with a deck and windows/sliding doors over a nice view of the ocean.

-- Muriwai Beach Lodge B&B in Muriwai Beach just outside of Auckland (not to be confused with the Muriwai Beach Lodge farther up the road). Fantastic two room suite with large queen bedroom opening up onto patio and fancy bath and then living room with couches, tv, dining table and single bed. Owner Susan was very nice and when we called her that morning to book, she said we were welcome, but that she wouldn't be home til late that night so she told us where she hid the key so that we could make ourselves at home!

-- Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park just outside the Trounson Kauri Forest. We'll talk more about this one in Kauri Coast entry. But it's a nice clean holiday park with all levels of accomodation. We had the nicest: a cabin with a bedroom and then a kitchenette/living room with another double bed in that room with a deck/bbq by the river. Herb and Heather are very nice helpful hosts and Herb leads the one-of-the-highlights-of-our-trip night nature walk (see the Kauri Coast entry for more info)

So there's the odds and ends. Hope you enjoyed them.


Anonymous said...

RE: This Fastastic Story
(the rugby-purse-fight)

The best part of the story was the time. Witnesses said the incident took place between 6:30 and 8:00 am at a bar. Wow, that's either a long night of drinking (the sun's up, shouldn't you go home?), or starting WAY too early.

Anonymous said...

all really, really beautiful. amazing to think you'll be back in two months--i just had it in my head that you'd keep going and going and going...