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Published: April 25th 2016
R: We went to Dargaville. Well, someone has to, I suppose.
After Mangonui, we headed into the Karikari peninsula. All around the Northland we had been seeing flocks of wild turkeys. I never would have expected that. Many end up as roadkill and I'm not that surprised. Several stumbled out in to the road in front of me as I drove on. All the beaches up here are just stunning and some have bright, white, silica sand. After pottering about on a few, we headed to Karikari estate, which is a winery on one of the highest points of the peninsula that has extensive views across and to the bays. Naturally, there was some tasting to be done, but as the day's driving had just started, I confined my tasting to a Pinotage and a Long Black (coffee!).
From there we headed to Kaitaia, where another winery, and Monty, the owner was waiting for us. He ran us through his collection on the small, family run winery, Okahu. While we were tasting, a large tabby cat leapt up from behind the tasting bar and began to luxuriate in front of us. You can imagine what Cate thought of that.
We stayed quite a long time, and ended up quite late moving on. After taking a bottle of the rosé with us, knowing full well this was our last day in NZ and that it would have to be drunk that day, we headed on. Next stop, Kohukohu, the departure point for the ferry across a large river that blocked our path. Apparently, this is where Kupe, the Maori explorer, first landed in NZ and that makes the first place to be settled by humans. It was a quaint little old town, with not much really there. We had a bit of lunch and got fought back by the sand flies, ending up sitting in the car waiting for the ferry licking our wounds (literally in some cases!) and then had a quick drive up to the cemetery. It seemed to be largely empty except for about four graves.
The ferry was slow, but only took 20 minutes. From Rawene on the other side, we drove around the coast to Omapere and the Arai-te-uru reserve which is on the mouth of an inlet with sand dunes flanking one side - pretty spectacular. We headed down the Kauri coast to
Waipouri which is a large bit of Kauri forest, Kauri being New Zealand's most important and largest tree species. We went to Tane Mahuta which is the so called Godfather of the forest to the Maori. The trees have largely been capitalised on by the British and now a protection order is in place to stop widespread logging of them. They also suffer a threat from Kauri dieback disease and when we entered the forest we had to do go through special bio security areas which involved brushing and scraping footwear before disinfecting them. Tough times call for tough measures! We did visit the four sisters, a series of four trees linked together at the base, but decided not to bother following the signs for the seventh biggest tree, twelfth biggest tree, seventeenth biggest tree ... And so on. We did have to share some of our space with an irritating American lady who loudly proclaimed, 'They just aren't as great as our redwoods," and while this might be true, the Maori who were also present did not appreciate this one bit (the trees are considered spiritual) but the American lady bustled on, unaware of the offence she may have
We arrived in Baylys Beach just after the sunset we were hoping to see so we settled into our next Airbnb, an apartment unit under a family home with room for 6! After a quick bounce on the beds to choose bed-firmness we decided on a room and headed out to the heights of nearby Dargaville on a Saturday night. The road from Baylys Beach is very dark, and full of roadkill. We nearly contributed when a large black dog lumbered into the road from the darkness and sent us on a screeching swerve to avoid it. I was a bit shaken, but the dog didn't seem to care one iota. They must have already run out of tumbleweeds before we got to Dargaville. None of the restaurants had patrons, neither did the pubs or hotels. It was a virtual ghost town. We ended up having a very cheap curry in a place where we were the only customers for most of it. One person turned up for takeaway pizza (at a curry place) but that was about it.
Dargaville is the capital of sweet potato production in NZ. There is a museum. I'll let you
Sand dunes at Omapere
draw your own conclusions on that.
The next morning, the heavens had opened and we drove back to the airport. We decided NZ had decided to give us a reason to leave after 6 weeks here. We stopped, one last time, at a winery (Villa Maria) which was right by the airport before jumping on a plane to Brisbane to begin the Australian leg of the adventure.
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