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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 1

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007

Note 2: We get talking to some NZ teenagers – they call themselves “Maori cadets” - and I ask them about the flags on the big multi-flag flagpole in the treaty grounds. There’s a NZ National flag at the top and a Union Flag on one side. Then there’s a white version of the NZ National flag with red stars – it’s like the normal NZ flag, but on a white background not a blue one. There’s also a flag the ‘cadets’ called “the Maori flag”, saying it was given them by Henry VIII ??? It’s the St George Cross (red cross on white) but the top quarter near the flagpole is blue with 4 large red stars.

There’s a protester – a lone protester – at the base of the flagpole with a 5th flag – it’s red, white and black and is a stylised view of the Koru – the uncurling fern fond – a sacred symbol of the Maori. The Maori cadets tell us that this is the Tino Rangitiratanga flag, “the Maori Flag”; we’re told that Maori want it on the flagpole at Waitangi, on One Tree Hill in Auckland and on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, alongside the national flag. They seem as puzzled and confused as we are about all the flags ….. And all the fuss. The 21-gun salute heralded some even heavier rain, so after a quick look around the Maori war canoe and the treaty house, we head off back to our motel to get dried out!!! On the way back we pick up our first NZ meat pie for our lunch – it’s very tasty, with chunks of real streak instead of gristle.

The balance of the day is spent in our room – we have twin beds, a small kitchen, TV/Radio/DVD, a sitting area with easy chairs, dining table and two small chairs, and a bath/shower/WC – it’s very comfortable. I also use some of the time to get on the Internet and do some emails home.

Since were still pie’d out from lunchtime, we eat in on soup, pate and fresh bread rolls. The rain is getting worse. I watch England beat NZ in the ODI cricket – this means that England will meet Australia in the final of this tripartite competition.

Day 7 – Travel to Warkworth?

We breakfast on muffins and tea. The plan is to head to Warkworth for a two-night stopover before we head south of Auckland. But, the rain is still very heavy – there’s a minor flood outside our studio unit and there’s a thunderstorm raging. On the TV, we hear that a road/rail bridge has been washed out north of us and people have been cut off – they are likely to be there for several days! That’s all we hear because the power then fails!!!

We’d had some rain on our way up to Paihia, and I’d noticed that there was a water leak into the boot of my rent-a-wreck. I’d botched it up using some chewing gum, and when I was loading up the car I was very grateful to discover that it had worked. The boot was still very damp so before we set off I wrapped the cases in large black plastic bags kindly donated by the proprietor of the Ash Grove.

As we journey south there is little improvement in the weather. A forecast on the radio tells us that only the north half of the North Island is affected and the rain is mostly on the east coast. Our destination - Warkworth - is a coastal town on the east coast!!! So, while on the road, we make a new plan – head for the west coast!!!

We drop off State Highway 1 (SH-1) onto SH-16 and head for a place called Parakai – the Lonely Planet Guide says there are two motels, both with thermal pools in every room, and Chris is seduced by the idea. Before reaching Parakai, we drive through the Waipoua Forest on the Kauri Coast road. This route – via the coast road – is one of the top 5 drives in NZ says the guidebook, and it does not disappoint. Visibility could be better, but the near blackness of the forest and the steam from the recent (and current) rain make for fine scenery.

We stop off in the forest to say hello to a 2000-year old Kauri tree – a strange sort of tree really since it’s almost 40 feet around the base and shoots up, dead straight, for about 50 feet, and then splits into many very small trunks of no significant height or spread. It’s like a tree that been lopped and started to re-grow again, but this is how the Kauri grows apparently. They are a much-lover tree in NZ, especially by the Maori, who use them to build their long canoes. As we arrive, an extended Maori family are having their photograph taken in front of the old tree; Chris and I do the same.

The rain has stopped at last! We pull into the first lay-by to stretch our legs and warm ourselves in a sun we haven’t seen for three days.

When we get to Parakai it disappoints. It looks as if a couple of motel owners have tried to exploit the fact that there are hot springs in the area and forgotten that tourists need restaurants, shops and cafes; none of which can been seen.

We move on to Plan C – go to Muriwai Beach – the guidebook says it is well facilitated for tourists, and has a black sand surfing beach and a large gannet colony. Both of these it has, as well as a nice café where we take tea for two and a piece of carrot cake (which comes covered with caramel sauce and a 3” pile of fresh cream). The café’s proprietor tells us that there are no motels or hotels in town’ just a couple of B&Bs and a house to let. There’s also nowhere to eat! So we take in the scenery, finish our tea and move to Plan D.

Plan D is to head for Auckland, and we pick out a motel in Te Atatu, just north of the city– the Sunset Lodge – and arrive at 5-30pm, after a 230-mile drive. It’s a good motel with large rooms, and a build-in kitchen/dining area. At $95 for the night, we’re well pleased – we’ve travelled further south than planned, ‘saved’ a day (since we plan to move on tomorrow), found a cheap bed for the night, AND found the sun!

Tired, we sit out on the terrace sunning ourselves until it goes down at around 7pm. Since we’re in a gastronomic desert, we head off in the car. There’s a Wendy’s – no thank you. We ask a local Maori who advises us to head for Te Atatu North, near the Waitemata Bay. After 15 minutes looking around the Waitemata Bay area I espy a place with outside seating and good views across the bay to distant downtown Auckland and the Sky Tower. The place is called the Te Atatu Tavern and we dine on roast beef, seven vegetables (yes 7 – see Note below), gravy, a bottle of wine and coffee to follow for $58 total. That’s 2 meals, with wine and coffees, for under £22.

Day 8 – Travel to Waitmoto Caves

We are further south than planned and on good roads so the drive to Waitomo should be quick and easy, and so it proves. We arrive in the near-by town of Otorohanga at about noon and stop off in the high street for a lunch of curried vegetables in filo parcels with salad, homemade chutney and coffee.

Since we have no accommodation booked, we drop into the i-Site to see what we can get – see About: i-Sites in Section 4. A long conversation with Sue in the i-Site office leads to several major decisions: She tells us that Waitomo is all about the caves and the glow-worms – once you’ve seen them, you’re done. So, we re-plan to stay only one night, see the glow-worms caves in the morning, and drive to our next location tomorrow afternoon.

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