It’s great to be in the North as this is our “roots” and where both of us spent our formative years growing up in a rural area here. We spend a couple of days with my sister in Whangarei and visit the Parakao Store which is full of memorabilia, a great atmosphere and is apparently the local “biker” stop on the Twin Bridges Highway.
We drive up Parihaki and it’s very familiar from our childhoods, standing under the ANZAC memorial and thinking how it seemed so, so tall back then! But hang on, what’s going on, they’ve changed its name to Parihaka – they can’t do that…it’ll always be Parihaki! The ride out to Ocean Beach is also so familiar, with the continual glimpses of Mardsen Point Refinery from different bays where Paul worked on the expansion in the early eighties.
We are back in Pohutukawa country and although the summer blooms have gone, they are still a nostalgic part of the northern beaches. Each bay has some sort of childhood memory for us, either a relative’s beach-house or going for a swim during the summer months. As we head north the beauty of the east coast is quite overwhelming – no wonder on world travels we’ve been underwhelmed by beaches, we always had these ones in the back of our minds!
Some are more remote than others (no latte’s or “smashed avocado” here) and all are now in the throws of quietening down for the winter. But the north is quite mild and we are experiencing warm temperatures and a humidity we haven’t felt for months.
We decide to camp again and take a beach-front site at Whangaruru and it feels good to set up our little chairs with a bottle of wine and have the beach to ourselves! We decide to stay two nights…
We ride up the Bland Bay peninsula and can see our camp at Whangaruru just across the water. The views from the top are to die for and the autumn weather is just glorious.
I guess it’s a matter of opinion but we feel like we’ve saved the best to last as we head north on the east coast. This is really what we came for and it’s picture perfect. The roads are brilliant for bikes, no matter which way we go and there’s gravel road options and off-road tracks down to little bays…and on it goes.
We reluctantly leave our beach-front site and head out to Kaimarama Beach past Rawhiti and reminisce about camping out here back in the seventies when we came up for a New Year at Russell.
The views across the Bay of Islands to Urupukapuka Island are dazzling and a mecca for anyone with a boat as you can utilise every bay and the countless islands provide more havens.
We ride in to Russell for lunch on the waterfront – a pie from the bakery and a cup of coffee from our thermos flask! Next is the Opua Ferry and Paihia where we both came as kids for swimming at the beach and ironically were both at Waitangi when the Queen and Prince Charles visited back in 1968 – but we didn’t know it!
It’s amazing how much Kerikeri has grown and become the city of the north and the old store (New Zealand’s oldest stone building) is as beautiful as ever.
Then it’s on to Matauri Bay, and as we pass Lonsdale Park I am reminded of a school trip here in the sixties when the road was still all gravel and the bus had a real job getting down and then up the steep hill to the beach.
We camp in a wonderful spot just out of the wind and the memories are so strong of playing on the rocks. Paul’s Dad was stationed here during WWII in the Home Guard of the New Zealand Army as they thought the Japanese would make an attack on the bay using the Cavalli Islands.
The Maori Pa above Matauri Bay is also the site of a tribute to the Rainbow Warrior, a Greenpeace boat which worked for peace, conservation and a nuclear-free planet. It was bombed in Auckland Harbour in 1985, killing the photographer on board as it was about to set sail for Mururoa Atoll (French Polynesia) to stage a peaceful protest against the ongoing nuclear tests. The ship’s final resting place is in the Cavalli Islands out from Matauri Bay and is now a popular dive spot and fishing sanctuary.
Funding for the impressive memorial came from generous local support and some of the reparation money paid by the French Government as a penalty. It was a shocking affair at the time and I remember how we all boycotted French bakeries (and anything French) and called baguettes “Kiwi Sticks”!
They fondly call it the “winterless north” in these parts and she is really showing us her true colours as we take the loop from Matauri Bay to Whangaroa Harbour. The views and the beaches are magic over roads just perfect for motorbikes…this is seriously the best there is, anywhere!
Mangonui is an historic fishing village and the main centre in Doubtless Bay, a perfect place for a two-night stop as we continue our journey to the top of New Zealand…
Tip of the Day
When your boat doesn’t fit across the bridge, just breathe in and hope for the best!
Favourite of the Week
The Helena Bay Cafe and Gallery – OMG, has to be the best gallery I’ve visited in New Zealand. So much variety and all of it home-grown – not an Asian import in sight! The food is spectacular with stunning views of the coast and even the gardens are full of sculptures.
Show Me A Sign
The camp at Whangaruru had some crazy signs and maybe the camp manager has been here too long…but he was friendly enough and gave us free fresh eggs each day from his own chooks!
Story of the Week
Paul’s sister, Diane, is a primary teacher at Paihia School and we decide to call in. They are all on lunch while we talk outside her classroom and it’s refreshing to see the kids in their bare feet on the concrete area playing skipping games and running around. The school is very multicultural with a roll of 200 and Diane teaches the 8-9 year-olds. After the bell goes, she invites us in to allow the kids to ask questions.
They ask us if we’ve been to Brazil, Africa, Norway, Scotland or Austria on our bikes and we can only say yes to the last country! It’s hard for kids that age to think of questions, so I ask them who would like to “sit” on my bike. All hands shoot up at once so the whole class come out and line up to have turns sitting on both our bikes.
Some had never sat on a bike before and they all love Paul’s GPS, almost as much as he does! Little Stevie is the first to sit on my bike and queues up straight away next to Paul’s bike. He asks Paul why he has left his key in the bike ‘cause he reckons it will get pinched! Then he asks Paul what’s in his front saddlebag so Paul tells him about our bike covers and how they make the bike invisible and Stevie says, “see I told you they’d get pinched!” The kids are happy to keep lining up, again and again and they all scream when Paul starts his up! It comes time to go so Diane asks them to sing us a Maori song and it’s really cool as they have “actions” as well as the singing.
She reckons they will remember this for a long time – just as we will remember them and their enthusiasm for a long time.