Thursday, 2 May 2013

Paihia to Matai Bay

We said goodbye to the tabby cat with a farewell bowl of milk and set off into Paihia town to look at boat trips, but crossed them off the list as being too expensive. The Treaty Grounds at Waitangi were also very expensive (free to NZ citizens) at $25 entrance plus $20 for the suggested guided tour (about £50 for both of us), so we decided against that as well and headed off to look at Haruru Falls, which were moderately interesting.

Haruru Falls
It was at this point we remembered that Paihia is where Alan and Jackie live, the couple who invited us to share their BBQ at the campsite in Masterton. They’d given us their address and phone number so we called and went round for afternoon tea and very welcome they made us. Alan appeared with his arm in a sling, apparently a couple of weeks ago he’d fallen off a ladder trying to trim back a large totara tree in their back garden that was a bit too close to their house. He broke his arm and had a huge amount of bruising on his back. Guess for someone who’s nearly 80, he was lucky not to be any worse. I did tell him to throw his ladders away and not go up them again!

Alan and Jackie
Jackie invited us out to an evening meal at their local ex serviceman’s club in the town with them and to stay on their drive for the night to save campsite fees (Alan is in the spare bedroom due to his arm and bruising, so there was no room inside). 

Our friend the stick insect!
We went off for the afternoon to look at the Treaty Grounds (not going inside) and walked up to a local viewpoint (not only for the view but also to get some exercise) and returned at 17:30, jumped in their car and went to their club. It’s a great club, dance floor, bar area, upstairs eating area, darts and pool area, quite a big club. 

The flagpole at the Treaty Grounds

The beer was sensibly priced (for a change in NZ) and the meal was huge for a very reasonable price, so we had a very pleasant social evening, meeting a few locals and listening to the committee notices and the weekly draw (just like any working man’s club anywhere). Back at Alan and Jackie’s we saw Alan’s wine cellar where all his home brewed wine is stored – and what a collection! Wine made from almost anything, including a batch of chili wine. You won’t like that he said – too hot! Well, it had to be tried and, I have to say, it was really quite enjoyable, with a really nice chili kick as an aftertaste. We had a bottle to ourselves and quietly worked our way through at least half of it!

Jackie and Alans' House
This morning Jackie cooked the ‘full works’ breakfast, it was just fantastic, what a way to start the day. The weather was also clear blue sky and hot and we enjoyed the first class view down over Paihia bay and the headland beyond. They really have a great house in a great location and are both excellent hosts and seemed genuinely pleased we had been to see them.

Matauri Bay
After a long breakfast we left around 10:30 and continued north on the coast, through Kerikeri, to see a stone warehouse! Stone buildings are unusual in NZ and it’s a bit of a tourist attraction, but they are pretty common in the UK so, for us, it was - a stone building (yawn!). On we went to Matauri Bay, an idyllic bay with the picturesque Cavalli islands just offshore and a crystal clear sea, it is a superb place with a campsite right next to the beach and one we had been recommended to stay at by a couple we met in Mount Cook months ago.

The Rainbow Warrior monument
We could see why they enjoy staying there, but we hadn’t the time unfortunately, our reason for going there was to see the resting place of the Rainbow Warrior, the Greenpeace ship sunk by the French secret service in 1985. In those days the French were testing nuclear weapons on some small South Pacific islands, with much opposition from the rest of the world and particularly New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa and other small island states who had routinely been exposed to radiation, despite France’s assurance that there would be none. 

The final resting place, in front of that triangular rock
In 1985 they intended exploding another device on an island about 4000km northeast of New Zealand and Greenpeace sent the Rainbow Warrior to peacefully demonstrate the world’s opposition. 3 days after arriving in Auckland 2 French secret service agents exploded 2 bombs, sinking the ship and killing Greenpeace’s photographer, Fernando Pareira. At first France denied any involvement, but eventually they admitted it. 
The Cavelli islands
The Rainbow Warrior was moved and eventually scuttled just outside Matauri Bay where today it is a popular dive site. We walked to the top of the hill where there is a monument to the ship and a great view out to where it rests today (actually we took the wrong route up, scrambling up a very narrow uneven path with huge drops straight to rocks and sea below, but eventually made it to the top to find a nice gravel path back down again!).

Matai Bay from our campsite
After a few more stops for absolutely breathtaking scenery, we have ended up at a DoC (Department of Conservation) campsite at Matai Bay, which is at the end of a peninsular just below the final bit of land leading up to the very tip of Northland. Alan and Jackie had recommended this to us, it’s cheap, has limited facilities but is in an amazing position overlooking an unbelievably beautiful bay with sandy beach flanked by rocky bluffs and turquoise clear blue sea. It is truly out of this world! We went down onto the beach and, digging in the sand at the water’s edge with our feet, we collected some shellfish that we think are called pipis. 
The magnificent paella
We bought them back to the van, boiled them and added them to the paella that Jackie cooked using the ‘going cheap’ king prawn’s, sea food marinara and all the other bits we’d bought in ‘Countdown’, the supermarket in Kerikeri. What a feast, washed down with a nice chilled white wine, a beautiful warm evening with a golden sun setting in a clear blue sky and overlooking the most idyllic bay! Life is pretty good! Thank you Alan and Jackie for the recommendation – we don’t ever want to leave!

On the beach at Matai Bay

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