Final Fingers: alien theories, ancient trees, anecdotal farm visits

Arguably half of New Zealand (the north island) is shaped a bit like a four-armed starfish. The northwest arm is comprised of two fingers — the Coromandel and the Far North. We’ve spent the past two weeks, possibly our final hurrah in New Zealand, exploring these wilds! Since I can’t tear my mind away from onward planning… instead of a real entry, here are some memories:

One of Coromandel's endlessly beautiful beaches

  • Clouds! Big beautiful clouds filling the sky during our days there.

  • Beaches! The sands, the opaque aquamarine waters of the Firth of Thames, the gnarly Pohutakawa trees stretching out over the water…

  • Enough alone-time to run on the Thames waterfront and write (letters and previous blog entries) in the evenings.

  • A stroll through a turn-of-the-century cemetery provided a window to the past — found a family where only 14 years separated mom and son!

  • No hiking in the Coromandel! It’s outdoor/scenic glory makes this a place of legendary status in New Zealand. But most of the land is private! There are only two (constantly crowded) DOC huts, and it’s tough to find a trail long enough for a multi-day trip.

  • Alternative Building — got to see a straw-bale and a rammed earth house. Pat and I are interested in building our own place and like the feel of these long-lasting, cozy homes.

  • Rugby! Watching one evening of the Quarter Finals in the Coromandel Hotel (Hotel = Pub in NZ)

NZers have team spirit when it comes to rugby!

Auckland Surrounds:

  • Red Fox Tavern — a side of the road country pub where a small, skinny, Joe-Dirt type man explained to us how the “aliens” are mapping out New Zealand using a specific type of non-native pine tree.

  • Watched NZ school (beat) Argentina at said pub!

  • At the same tavern, we got invited home to Jo and Mac’s, a lovely couple who gave us a safe place to park, cups of tea, a morning shower, heaps of stories, and sent us packing with a kilo of Red Snapper they’d just caught!

  • An entire day of going to marinas, striking up conversations, and taking to office staff about possibilities for sailing away from NZ this October/November

The Far North — Part I

  • self-confessed tree hugger

    Two days solo in a beach town. The hostel-keeper was cranky, the Samoan man told me he’s glad he moved to American Samoa because “I like their money better.” I walked past a McDonald’s drive-thru and got vertigo seeing everything on the opposite side.

  • Rain! Saw the new “Footloose” in Whangarei. As a critic — horrible acting, plot holes a million miles wide. As a casual movie-goer — fun, funny, cute, possibly better premise than the original film.
  • Found a man headed to Australia next month on his steel boat. Gave us a tour and we chatted for an hour.

  • Rain! Went on waterfall walks and Kauri loops. Kauris are redwood-sized big trees. Their trunks are a stout cylinder, like giant sequoias, and bare of branches except at the top. They look just like the “lollipop” trees that children draw. The bark is like the skin of a rhinoceros. They were nearly logged out of existence and are now threatened with a root disease.

  • Rain! Beat the docks at Opua — the final stand for sail boats headed off into the Pacific or crossing the Tasman Sea. Met an Italian boat builder and two Kiwis who had just come from Aussie on a delivery. Confirmed one boat had just left for Fiji (Kiwis say Fee-JEE), and no others were on the slate.

The Farthest North, Part II

View from Cape Reinga - northernmost jumping off point for Maori souls headed back to the ancient homeland.

  • Relaxed for an evening on the banks of a river at a campground next to two die-hard rugby fans — very “typical” kiwi dudes. Funny!

  • Saw the “Treaty of Waitangi” grounds on a morning run — the place where today’s government was founded.

  • Rain! Bought oranges in Kerikeri — another breadbasket area of NZ.

  • Scenic drives along endless beautiful coastlines

  • Enjoying wine and spaghetti in our camp chairs, sharing childhood memories and thoughts while listening to the teenagers the next camp over party it up. Discussed the fear created by language barriers — how we might be concerned about what the kids were up to and what threat they might pose to us if we couldn’t understand what they were saying.

  • Detoured to the Sahara from NZ. nbd.

    Barefoot beach run! eel (deceased) on the beach! Morning sunbathing, helping the Canadian get unstuck.

  • Cape Reinga — as far north as you can drive in NZ. The “place of departing souls” according to Maori tradition. Gorgeous walk and views to see the meeting of the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea. The waters slam together making a big pool of waves!

  • Biggest Sand Dunes! Got to pretend we were in the Sahara (minus 50 degrees). Decided to forgo sandboard rental from smarmy proprietor and slid down on our camp pads. Obligatory dune jumping photos taken.

The Far North — Return Journey

our little Bongo checking out 90-mile beach

  • Drive out to 90-mile beach, look up and down the coast, drive back to main road.

  • Tacos in the info center parking lot.

  • Rugby at the Mussel Rock — Wales lost to France — a devastating game. Got chatty with the man seated next to us. Turns out he was the owner, and ended up with mega beer discounts!

  • An afternoon with Alec — retired engineer whose goal is to have fruit on trees 365 days a year. Showed us his citrus, tropical exotics, stone fruit, and future plans.

  • Watched NZ battle arch rival Australia in Horeke’s countryside pub. The locals befriended us. Pat ate Hongi (a type of Maori food preparation). NZ won the game with some incredible moves. The staff let us park up out back for the night.

  • The rhino-like bark of the Kauri tree

    Got to tour Will’s rammed earth house, hear his stories about building it, and see some of his carving work. Swapped travel stories and talked politics. He was awesome!

  • Saw the giant Kauri’s — first, second, and seventh largest. All incredibly huge — look bigger than redwoods because the size range is small, medium, and extra-extra-extra-extra-extra large. Paid $2 to the parking lot guard.

  • Hung out in Dargaville recovering from all of the above.

  • Spent an entire day exploring the endlessly unfolding Kauri museum, complete with heaps of history and a tour from the founder’s daughter! ♣

Pics of make-your-own hot springs and more here.

Aliens, sand jumping, and a 1915 Teacher’s Contract here.

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