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Published: March 24th 2008
This is pretty little Oakura beach complete with a pretty husband and a gazillion shells!
With the Easter Holidays fast approaching, everyone in Auckland seemed to be buzzing with anticipation of a long weekend away. The weather forecast promised blue skies and hot, hot sun - a complete contrast to UK Bank Holiday weather - and the opportunity to escape the city and take the new car for a long run was just too good to resist. Alas our plans were almost scuppered when Glynn came down with a bad cold but his determination won through and at 6am on Friday morning, we were all packed and ready for the off.
We had originally considered spending the weekend on the Coromandel Peninsular but instead opted to head north to the much touted Bay of Islands. Traffic wasn't nearly as bad as we anticipated and we zoomed along the motorway which in reality was just a single carriagewayroad. Mist clung low to the hills like a white, wispy sea with just a few of the higher mountain peaks breaking the surface and the odd bemused looking cow watching over the passing cars . It was an incredibly serene sight.
As we left the motorway for our destination, the road became a knot of tight curves
Our first glimpse of the Bay of Islands.
and ever more breathtaking scenery. Glynn's strength was tested to the limit as he skillfully guided the heavy van around hairpin bends and up and down the valleys like a slow-mo rollercoaster. The green open spaces streched out before us along with some spectacular coastline. We made a brief stop in Oakura, a pretty beachside spot with view of some craggy islands out to sea. After almost 4 hours at the wheel and a further 20km fight with a gravel road, we arrived in Rawhiti, a small predominently Maori village nestled on the edge of the Bay of Islands.
It took several drivebys and an enquiry at a local Marae (a Maori meeting house) to evenutally locate our campsite which turned out to be a neighbouring Marae. The reason we couldn't spot it was because there was no-one else camping there yet! For $20, we got to pitch our tent wherever we wanted so we chose to face directly out to sea. The beach at Rawhiti is a kind of silty sandy affair, dotted with pretty shells and flanked on all sides by rocky peninsulars and islands. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking you were on the
This marae used to be the local school house. When the Department of Education closed the school, they took the land too. The local Maori tribes struggled for 20 years to get the land back and now it is used as a meeting house and campsite.
edge of a lake rather than on the sea front as there were so many islands in the distance that they appeared to form one solid land mass across the horizon.
The waters were tranquil and with the hot sun beating down, it was tempting to take up the offer to rent a tandem kayak for $50 and head out into the bays. It would have been our first go in a kayak though and although Glynn's spirit was willing, the flesh was too weak. Exhausted from the drive and still feeling very much under the weather, Glynn slept off much of the afternoon while I went for a dip in the sea instead.
In the evening, we were joined on site by a few other campers, none of whom seemed interested in striking up a conversation. We kept to ourselves as a result, watching the sun go down over the bay and enjoying the peace and quiet. That was until someone in one of the neighbouring houses decided that 9pm was a great time to mow the lawn, even though it was pitch black outside! Aside from the midnight mower, it was also a little noisy with
Te Rawhiti Marae
The neighbouring marae, where we got directions to the campsite.
music and party-fever emanating from one of the baches next to the campsite. Although the noise was nothing compared to the racket we have all day every day at the apartment (we live right next to a 4-lane road and almost every apartment in the block is inhabited by students), it was enough to stop us getting a full night's sleep, which is what we were longing for on this trip.
In the morning, we decided to move on but the sun was bright and the surrounding countryside begged to be explored first. We took advice from one of the Maori ladies staying in the Marae, whose chin and lips were tattooed with traditional blue swirls, and took a trek up to a viewing point near the start of the Cape Brett track. From here we looked out onto the Bay of Islands proper and were able to fully appreciate the natural splendour spreading out before us. Island after island bobbed in the turquoise blue waters for as far as the eye could see. It was easily a view to rival the karst scenery of Vietnam or China - and we didn't have to leave the country for it!
Room with a View
How would you like to wake up to this view in the morning?
If you remember from the last blog, Glynn lost his camera on Rangitoto Island. I'm pleased to report that the ferry company called us up the very next day to say that someone had handed it in. After picking it up, I took it straight home to download the photos and was surprised to find a couple of complete strangers in two of them. I'm guessing these were the folks who had found the camera and it looked like they might have been Korean students. It's nice to know there are still honest people out there.
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