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Sunday 3 March 2013

Bay of Islands, New Zealand - for Bobskoot

Canadian blogger extraordinaire, Bobscoot  recently commented that he saw more of New Zealand  from the posts that UK-based blogger Gary Francis made whilst touring NZ recently with his wife Jackie than ever he did from me being a resident.  In an attempt to stop further moaning from across the Pacific and to promote Canadian-NZ relationships, this post is for you, you old curmudgeon.  Hope you're happy now :-).

Every year, we meet up with old friends from Wellington for a long weekend to go and do "stuff".  The venue for this year was NZ's Northland which is blessed with a warm climate and ummmm....  quite nice scenery.  Mike, the husband last visited several decades ago and his wife Georgina had never been there.  It's also been some time since Jennie and I were there last.  I did pass through in 2005 on my Honda Blackbird as part of the Southern Cross round NZ in 5 days organised endurance ride, but no time for sightseeing, you understand - more like low flying.  This time would be more leisurely.
 The first destination was the Kauri Museum at Matakohe.  The Kauri is NZ's iconic tree.  Once pillaged for boat-building and decorative timbers, it's now protected although relatively small amounts are available through natural falls or dug up as logs from swamps.  They grew up to 50 metres high and the known diameter of some of the early ones were as big as 8metres!!

 Original boarding house built from Kauri reconstructed inside the museum

Diameters of known historical Kauri trees - largest is 28 ft diameter!

Slab through middle of "small" Kauri... about 30 metres long!

80 year old Kauri sailing dinghy

Maori carving on seat of dinghy

Kauri gum, similar to amber

Turned Kauri bowl, with traditional Maori design

Original 1800's school in the museum grounds

I know it shows my age but as a junior school student in England, we had desks exactly like this. The inkwells sat in a hole which went through into the storage under the desk lid.  If you were careless in putting your books away, it knocked the inkwell, splashing ink everywhere! I lived in fear of one particular teacher who inflicted a fair bit of pain when that happened!

Rules for female school teachers, 1915 (seems reasonable)

From Matakohe, it was off to the town of Paihia, where we booked a boat trip out into the Bay of Islands.

One of the 150-odd islands - idyllic!

One of the reasons for taking this trip was to see if we could sail through the Hole in the Rock, otherwise known as Piercy Island.  Quite a swell can run through the hole and conditions have to be perfect if it isn't to end in tears!  There was very little wind so the signs were good.

Approaching Piercy Island

Here's the hole - looks darned small!

Still looks more than a bit tight but made it!!

The other side of the hole was nirvana for fishermen.  As well as deep water fish, we saw schools of Blue Mao Mao and Kahawai consisting of tens of thousands on the surface - the water was absolutely boiling with them.  Oh for a rod as they are fantastic eating!

The water literally alive with fish

On the return leg, we put in at Urupukapuka, one of the larger islands to stretch our legs and climb a steep hill for some photos.  The water really is the colour shown below!

Secluded bay

View of one of the bays on the island

Another spectacular view from the hill

Stingray cruising by the jetty

On the way back, we wanted to show our friends the historic 1800's village of Russell so hopped off the bigger boat and planned to catch a small ferry back to Paihia later.

Russell waterfront

Jennie and Georgina waiting for lunch - there are worse locations!

Salt and pepper calamari (squid) - yumm!

Very old rubber tree - looks like a painting!

I should add that the tree and house behind it are just a few metres from the water's edge and that the house belongs to the local policeman.  Boy, he's got a tough life, hasn't he???

Russell's historic buildings, metres from the water

Haruru Falls, Paihia - no rain for 2 months and all the rocks would normally be covered with water

Today was the day for the 400 km trip home, dropping our friends at Auckland Airport en route for their flight to Wellington.   However, there were still some things to see and do.  The first was to visit a toilet, dear reader - not every blogger posts photos of a small-town public convenience!!!     Friedensreich Hundertwasser was a famous Austrian artist who designed some incredible buildings in Vienna and elsewhere.  He fell in love with New Zealand and lived in the small Northland town of Kawakawa for a while.  The local council were looking at upgrading the public conveniences in the late 1990's and Hundertwasser offered to design something a bit special.  See what you think:

Entrance from the street

Entrance to the Gent's part

Inside the Gent's - window is made from wine bottles!

Apparently, he wanted it to be a spirtual place.  I'm not sure about being overcome by spirituality, but was very much relieved.  Seriously though, What a fantastic place and not a bit of graffiti anywhere!

Outside view of bottle windows with Canna Lilies

Lunch at Matakana Village in idyllic settings

Smashed potato, chorizo sausage and spinach with a creamy aioli - heaven

Hope you've all enjoyed a few photos of what New Zealand's Northland/Bay of Islands area has to offer and that's just scratching the surface!


  1. Wow Geoff Haruru falls is very low. When we were there on 2007 on our honeymoon there was 3-4 times the amount of water running over the falls. Sadly we didn't get to go through the hole in the rock as it was like a washing machine in there the day we went out.

    1. Steve,
      Yep, have never seen the falls so low. Most of NZ hasn't had any real rain since Christmas. Our previous attempt to get through the hole failed too. We were in a keelboat and were worried about the mast hitting the sides of the cave if it rolled a bit whilst motoring through. Nice to have knocked off at last!

  2. Geoff, not only Bob has some interest in what your country has to offer. Thanks for the tour, I would hope to see more if these installments.

    I wish I had had more time but I never got this far North. I should have though, because I am a Hundertwasser admirer, and I like that he put his art to use, be it in a house or why not a public washroom. It fits his character.

    1. Thanks Sonja!
      On your next company trip to NZ, you'll have to make time to travel to the Far North. I'm sure you'll have willing tour guides :-).

      Pleased you like Hundertwasser - the friends we went north with went to Europe last year and saw his famous block of apartments.

  3. Beautiful photos, spectacular subjects. As I sit here at 6 degrees and surrounded by snow, it's all I can do not to weep! But I'm happy that such beauty still exists on this planet- and it's all yours! Imagine!

    1. I apologise for the stress Martha! I think that beauty exists everywhere on the planet but it is nice to have a slice of it on our doorstep.

  4. Such pretty photos Geoff - you really are spoiled living in New Zealand.

    The Kauri wood is so beautiful. I am lucky that I have a piece gracing my coffee table right now care of Rogey.

    1. Thanks Brandy,
      It is nice round our way but you're pretty spoiled in Oregon too! Have to agree about Kauri - we have a bowl on our coffee table too. Not as ornate as the one in the photo though!

  5. I love the far north Geoff, all places I have visited often. Although I prefer to stay in Russel rather than Paihia. I just find it very peaceful and quaint.

    I still find it amazing that more people dont visit the north more often , wonderful place.

    The Kauri Museum is and always will be a favorite, I love visiting the place.

    Consider NZ/Canadian relations restored...

    1. Hey Rog,
      Never thought about Russell as a place to stay but you're absolutely right as the ferries to and from Paihia run until 10 pm in the summer so it's no hassle to nip over to Paihia for a meal if you can't find what you want. Mind you, the eating is pretty fine in Russell!

      Yep, always something new at the museum which has been missed on previous occasions.

      Cheers :-)

  6. Geoff you do have a lot of beautiful country to share. Looking forward to more.

    1. Thank you Karen! Next weekend, weather permitting, I'm off for an annual 3 day riding weekend with the lads in the central north island. If it all works out, you might actually get to see photos taken from the side of an active volcano!

  7. Beautiful pictures!!!! What a lovely place to live and visit! Those are the poshest loo's I have ever seen, pretty spiffy. Those trees are amazing.

    1. Thanks Dar!
      It is nice, but as I said to someone else, most places you're not familiar with seem awfully exotic!

      I'd have a loo in the garden if it looked like that one!

  8. Like Rog, I love the Kauri museum - been there a couple of times. Have done the Bay of Islands a few times but want to ride to Russell one day - rather than take the ferry.

    Also, want to check out the art-farty loo one day but need an excuse to stop eh - it seems it bit dodgy to be heading into the toilet with a camera...

    1. Hi Andrew,
      Have taken the Opua to Russell ferry in the car but I must take the bike now that Rog has opened my eyes to staying there.

      Hahaha - yeah, I pocketed the camera before entering the "inner sanctum", although it was early and there weren't too many people around! The steam train which runs down the street is still operational too - thought that had closed years ago. They were still building up steam when we left unfortunately.

  9. Geoff:

    So much to say. I'm flabbergasted. You actually have a memory card capable of snapping more than 3 photos. Your computer must have been working overtime with lots of buffer overflows.

    I liked the Bay of Island, The Kauri Museum/Wood, Haruru Falls, the Hole in the Wall . . . I'm running out of breath.

    I also remember being in school with inkwells and we were issued a new pen with a new nib every month. To write we had to dip the nib in the well constantly to keep writing. We had to take turns shoveling coal into the pot belly stove to keep warm, and we had to walk uphill both ways to school. Ah, those were the days

    That is a neat washroom. I could see myself using those facilities

    Riding the Wet Coast

    ps: and thank you again for snapping more photos than usual

    1. Bob,
      Delighted that your flabber has been gasted! Don't expect treats like this all the time, buying a new memory card to hold additional photos and a new computer to handle them all got me into serious trouble :-).

      Northland is a gorgeous place but as there are not many major industries up that way, unemployment is higher than a lot of other areas. However, I guess a relative lack of major industry is why the place is so pristine.

      Hahaha - those school nibs were terrible things - used to blob ink all over the place. For the life of me, I don't know why they didn't allow fountain pens straight away. It was at some stage in junior school when we got the nod.

  10. Geoff:


    go to post 4721. You just missed Radioman. He was also just in Russell

    Look at all those beaches he went too. So deserted, no one on them. Just looking at them makes us want to come over.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  11. Hi Geoff,

    I will always be amazed and in awe of the beautiful island you call home Geoff. Thanks for sharing a bit of it, please keep it coming I cant get enough :)

    Absolutely love the fancy loo, when you mentioned the famous block of apartments I suddenly knew that I knew who that guy is .. I'm not good with names ;-D

    I reckon it would have been interesting trying to get pics in a men's without looking a bit .. weird maybe .. but really dont tourists take pics of it all the time?

    1. Thanks for the very kind words Brenda. I love it, but there again, I love Australia too, as well as other countries!

      Yep, that block of apartments features in all sorts of travel books.

      Hehe - well, in mitigation, at least I didn't photograph the "inner sanctum" but you're right, it's much-photographed!

  12. Bob:
    Small world!! As well as travelling up north, he rode the Forgotten Highway which both Sonja and I have done (Sonja on 4 wheels.

    NZ is the size of Britain but with only 4 million people, you do get lots of empty spaces!

  13. Evening Geoff,
    Just a little background info: Matakohe Kauri Museum was started by Merv and Richard Sterling who were also very heavily involved with the beginnings of MoTaT, though first called the Old Time Transport Preservation League [think MoTaT is easier on the tongue!]. They, along with the Stewart brothers and several others were deeply concerned that our logging and kauri gum history and that of our early transport and technology would disappear. Many considered them all 'nutters'! We owe them a deep vote of thanks for what they did - most of paid for out of their own pockets.

    BTW - when are you implementing those Rules for Female Teachers at Chez James?? Lust curious...

  14. Mark,

    Thanks for the heads-up. We do indeed owe them a considerable debt.

    Oh haha - so you want to see me emasculated, do you? (Well, more than I am already). The helmet usually hides the thumb print on my head :-)


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