30 January 2013

There and back again...A Northland Tale {Part 4}

On two separate fine and sunny mornings, the travellers depart for places beginning with the letter K, both with lovely alliteration in their names, Kerikeri and Kawakawa. And, come to think of it, the author of this tale muses to herself there seems to be an extraordinary number of places starting with the letter K in this part of the world. Not just Kerikeri and Kawakawa, but Kaikohe, Kamo, Kaeo and Kaitaia as well!




So off they go to Kerikeri, admiring the richness of the horticulture around them, and upon arrival they make time for a coffee in a local cafe (of course!) where they are all tickled pink seeing a miniature pinky-drinking finger being held on one so young! They enjoy their walk around the township too, thinking how much it reminds them of other lovely rural towns in the Hawkes Bay and Marlborough.






Then they are off, on their way to the famous Stone Store (the oldest stone building in NZ) and Kemp House (the oldest wooden building in NZ). They decide that this part of the country sure likes to lay claim to 'the oldest this and the oldest that'!




After some deft skipping between rocks and admiring the historic basin, they seek out the local mini golf course, as a game has been promised to the littlest travellers. They shatter the peace and quiet of the country lane with their laughter and teasing during the game, but there aren't many around who would be peturbed at the sound of such happy fun.



Whilst the rest of the crew take to the beach for their late afternoon swim, one intrepid traveller decides to walk the track from the Falls all the way to the beach at Paihia, not quite realising what an effort this will turn out to be, only thinking that if the man of the house could run it 4 mornings in the row, how hard could it possibly be?

Well, hard it wouldn't have been if the traveller could have just ambled along at her own pace, but with a deadline to meet (the car departing for home after the swim), there was a bit of a rush on. The same traveller is pretty pooped after 7km of mostly walking in the bush in just over an hour. The mangrove swamp in the middle of the walk made it worth the effort though. It is decidedly eerie here, with no sound other than the sound of one's own feet on the boardwalk, accompanied by some very odd popping, cracking and plopping noises made by the mangroves in the swamp.




The next day, the travellers head off in search of the famous Hundertwasser toilets at Kawakawa, immortalised in Billy Connelly's World Tour of NZ, and worth a visit or two during the day! They are definitely the best looking loos the travellers have ever graced with their presence! 






They also decide to ride the 8km long Bay of Islands Vintage Railway which they have managed to keep a surprise from the little ones right until they arrive at the train station. The littlest traveller is pretty happy with his 'prise' as he calls it.











The track itself is unique in that as it departs the station it travels straight down the middle of the main street which is State Highway One no less - with cars and trucks passing on either side. There is a heart stopping moment or two and everyone holds their breath as the train passes ever so close to a concrete truck but all is well and the journey continues. On the way out of town, the guard points out the rarest tree in the world, the only one of it's kind, a 'lava-tree' which the travellers all find incredibly amusing when they finally get the joke. 


Only 8km of track has been restored so far, but it is enough to enjoy the lush green fields of the north, and the train comes to a rest in a little station called Taumarere. The railway won't be able to extend any further unless $0.75-$1 million can be found to restore the wooden bridge, their next obstacle. Sadly, it's hard to see how this kind of money could ever be justified on a railway mostly manned by volunteers. The travellers thoroughly enjoy the open-air ride, made all the more interesting by the conversation with the wonderful volunteer guard who hails from near where the English travellers in the party live. The world really is a village sometimes!





Then there was time for a walk around the rather unusual looking monstrosity across the road from the famous toilets, where all manner of strange mosaics and sculptures keep the eyes busy. Weird, garish and fantastical are all apt words to describe the creations here.





On their return to Paihia, they take advantage of a free hour to shoot around Waitangi, refreshing themselves on the history of the signing of the Treaty in this very important historical place. Then, like every other afternoon, the beach beckons, and setting the scene in the background of today's swim, a massive cruise ship on the horizon sits majestically in the harbour, capable of carrying 3,000 passengers and crew and weighing 85,000 tonnes no less.


The water is deliciously warm on this, their last day here, so much so that even the most water-shy of the travellers (that would be the author!) finds herself fully immersed in the sea without so much as a shiver! And to see one brave wee 6-year old diving fully under the water and meeting the waves head on, having gained so much in confidence over these past few days, was a joy for all to see.

It will be bittersweet to leave this wonderful spot on Earth the following morning, such was the glorious weather and amazing sights they have all seen. But there are still a few more adventures waiting just around the corner.

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