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
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!
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!
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.
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!