Feb 8 – 11
We leave Eva at the airport in Auckland ( 😦 ) and continue north towards Whangarei, supposedly 2 hours away, if it wasn’t for the fact that we took a wrong turn and ended up going a longer, albeit more scenic, way. We have two full days to spend in Northland, which is not much, but it’s better than nothing. One can do a lot of things around Whangarei: coastal walks, watersports, diving, sandboarding in the dunes, hiking in native forest, or just chilling on the beach. Which was the original idea, if it wasn’t for the fact that from mediterranean summer we landed straight into Scottish winter, with everything it carries along: cold, wind, rain, fog and rough sea. No one in their right mind would go to the beach, not even me.
Whangarei does not offer much to do on a rainy day (or on a sunny day, for that matter, the city centre at 6pm looks like a plague broke out and wiped out the entire population), but there is a kiwi breeding station, so we go check out the country’s national symbol. They have a fairly big glass room that simulates a forest environment at night (so people can visit), while they leave the light on during the actual night. A few times a day someone comes inside and randomly places worms into the ground, so that the birds learn how to find food in the wild. Supposedly the kiwis are solitary and territorial and they bond with a mate for life. When a young bird is born, it’s perfectly fit to take care of itself and its parents immediately kick it out and suggest it should find its own place. The station currently keeps a pair of adolescent kiwis, a male and a female (who may form a bond or they may not, it’s apparently too soon to tell) but they seem to disrespect the kiwi conventions, as they constantly visit each other in their little dens and hang out together all the time. Bloody teenagers.
The rain stops in the afternoon, so we go for a little walk around the coast towards a lighthouse some 40 minutes drive from Whangarei, but we soon find out the path is inaccessible due to the sea condition. We head back to town and discover a mirage: an unbelievably packed irish pub. So this is where everybody is…I surely cannot blame them, I think I would become an alcoholic in no time if I lived around here.
Day two: the weather is even worse but we nevertheless decide to take a 500 km round trip to the northernmost point of New Zealand: Cape Reinga. It’s not like we have an awful range of things to do to pick from, so between sitting at home and sitting in a car, we decide we may as well drive. It must be a wonderful trip on a nice day. Mind you, it’s still pretty awesome on a horrible day. It takes us over 3 hours to get there following the highway 1 (strangely this one does not have any funny nickname). The landscape is amazing, “just” before reaching Cape Reinga, the highway follows the 90-miles beach, as in, the beach is the highway for guess how long (there is a tarmac possibility, too).
Many settlers in this area are of Croatian descent, they were coming here to work as gum diggers from kauri trees, so you can read a “Dobro došli” next to the conventional “Welcome” and “Haere mai” when you drive through the villages. It’s about 15 minutes walk from the car park at km 0 of the highway to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, but the fog is so thick that we only realize it’s there when we stand in front of it. It’s kind of cool, though. I hope it doesn’t actually serve as lighthouse, because it would not be of much use today. Then its the same long drive home, with a few stops for photos, at least we manage to find a good radio that plays a lot of hard rock and doesn’t do much talking (and no commercials).
On the next day I need to drive Sara back to Auckland airport, amid a little bit of unwanted excitement. As we paid for the petrol upfront, we can return the car empty. I miscalculated how much petrol we are gonna need to get to Auckland, and when I realize we may have a problem, we are on the ring road with no petrol station anywhere near us. When I finally I park the car (which must be running on fumes by now) at the rental shop at the airport, I am covered in cold sweat and thanking any deity I can think of for having spared us a huge embarrassment. But at least I managed to get Sara to the airport on time. Thank you for coming to see me, it really means a lot! Ciao, bella!