5 March 2014

Norther and norther

It’s 10pm on a warm Wednesday evening in Auckland. I’m sitting on the bed in my hotel room, mildly frustrated because I can’t figure out how to get Sky TV working on the hotel room TV, but reflecting on an amazing few days.

I have been tiki-touring around the Far North delivering some safety training that I wrote for a client. I flew up from Rotorua-Auckland on Monday, and met up with my client contact (who is lovely), and we flew up to Whangarei together. We delivered the training in Whangarei on Tuesday, then drove up to Kaitaia via Kerikeri, delivered in Kaitaia today and flew back to Auckland tonight. We’ll deliver tomorrow here, then fly home afterwards.

I am in awe of the beauty of the Far North. This is my first time going up that way. I quite liked the look of Whangarei, but I completely loved the views leading out of there, and Kerikeri is stunning. We stopped there for a quick snack by the Stone Store at a place called Pear Tree Café (gorgeous garlic prawns, highly recommended!), and then had fish’n’chips at Mangonui in the Bay of Islands. In fact, this was more like a fish’n’chip café than a traditional Kiwi fish’n’chip shop. This was not your ordinary fish’n’chips though: oh no. This was freshly-caught hapuka steaks in a light fresh batter, with big chunky chips that were crunchy on the outside and mealy in the middle. The shop looks as though it’s built on an old pier, so we were eating over the water, looking out over the Bay of Islands. At sunset. Completely stunning. We saw a huge stingray swim past us in a leisurely fashion, as we were finishing dinner.

The late evening light catching all the boats in the bay, and the island just across from the fish’n’chip shop (which apparently is covered with pohutukawa to such an extent that in summer it turns totally crimson) with its little cliffs and shores shimmering in the sunset was a sight I will never forget. The route there is gorgeous, passing a mixture of landscapes ranging from plantation forest, patches of podocarp forest (the main kauri forests are on the other side of Northland), mangrove swamps, ferns, mosses, farms, and beaches that just seem to go on and on, stretching golden in the sunshine. Okay, my prose is getting a little purple, but it was so lovely that I almost had to pinch myself to convince myself it was real. The little towns we passed through all had lovely old old buildings, and I, even I, have now actually seen the Stone Store at Kerikeri, and the Waitangi flagpole across the water. We couldn’t go into Russell because we were really on our way from one work area to another, but I know where it leaves from now. And I spotted the sign to the Hundertwasser toilets, although we didn’t go down that route (which is a shame).

Kaitaia itself is pretty, in an understated, small-town way. I liked it: it reminded me a bit of Greytown in the Wairarapa. I would have liked more time to explore it! And I would have loved the chance to go to Cape Reinga, but it’s several hours out of Kaitaia and we had to catch our flight back to Auckland. Coming back to Auckland was a bit like coming awake after dreaming in golden prose for three days. 

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