Thursday, 25 April 2013

On through Northland

With the weather being better than forecast, we’re heading on up the east coast of Northland through a mixture of mainly warm sunshine and little wind, intermixed with occasional quite heavy downpours. It’s a place of beaches and scenery with only modest height mountains, so we’ve been cruising the lanes hugging the coast, occasionally hitting the SH1 main north road, which is surprisingly busy (for New Zealand!).

Yesterday we left Orewa to arrive firstly at Wenderholm Regional Park (we thought our van from Wenderkreisen might feel at home in Wenderholm!) and took a walk past an 1860’s ‘historic’ house and round a headland, beautifully tended in amongst the trees, with BBQ’s, shelters with seating, taps and, nearby toilets with showers, all free to use and all with stunning sea views and a $5/person campsite (although we found it too late!).

Jackie with rucksack on Mullet Point
After endless very scenic seaviews we arrived at a place called Scandrett Regional Park with its ‘historic’ (1860’s) homestead and farmhouses, right on the beach. The leaflet we picked up said “Don’t miss the chance to head out to Mullet Point and see the fantastic views from the historic Maori pa site. Pack a lunch and enjoy a leisurely lunch at the Point”. Sounds good to me, so while Jackie was looking round the gardens of the homestead, I got lunch together, packed a rucksack, handed it to Jackie to carry (well, I can’t carry one can I!) and off we set. I included the big carving knife, chopping board, French stick, cheese, pate and all the trimmings, plus obviously, raincoats, hats and gloves (yes, it probably was heavy!). Great views at the top and a great walk (come on Jackie, what’s the problem?).

Doesn't this look like a desert island (except for the hills in the distance!)
Leigh harbour
After the buzzing metropolis of Warkworth we stayed on the little coast roads, went through Leigh (which is supposed to be a typical English seaside town but it didn’t look much like it to us. Nice harbour though) and ended up at a campsite at Pakiri beach, where the river frequently almost floods the surrounding area as the sea banks up the sand blocking the river flow. They keep on having to clear a path through the sandbank to avoid flooding (quite exciting for kids to dig with spades I’d have thought, except they’d probably get swept out to sea when the bank finally gave way – there was a lot of water being held back!).

Mangawhai Head
Today we continued north through more coastal roads, stopping at Mangewhai Head (very scenic and nice scrambles over the rocks right out to the head - and we saw a young seal, playing and basking in the sun, the first one we've seen for months!) and did ‘dog rescue’! On the main road towards the beach was a brown labrador standing in the middle of the road looking lost and a bit panicky. Other cars didn’t stop, but we did and he was such a placid, cute dog who wanted reassuring and stroking. Obviously being lost he lay down off the road and let us fuss him. He had a free phone number and ID code on his collar, but we had no cell phone reception, so were just wondering what to do, when his owner came by in their car. We got him in their car, she thanked us very much and drove about 100m to their house! Oh well, he seemed lost – maybe he was just missing them!
Jackie had to do a bit of climbing
The young seal we saw playing

A final stop we made was at a rocky beach where we collected green lipped mussels for our tea! Its the first time we've managed to get enough for a whole meal, but we had to be selective to get one's big enough. At the campsite tonight we cooked them in white wine, onion and cream, followed by stewed feijoas (supplied by Robyn) and custard - fantastic! 

Jackie collecting mussels for our tea!
We’ve now made it up to a place called Whangarei which seems to have quite a few things to do, a canopy walkway through native Kauri trees, spectacular waterfalls and hilltop lookout walks, plus Abbey Caves, an undeveloped and unguided system of three glowworm caves. Take a torch and, if the waters more than waist deep, don’t go in! Enter at your own risk it says. Sounds like fun, think tomorrow might be quite busy, I’m a bit concerned we might not get back in time for tea and cake!

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