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Published: November 12th 2012
My friend Lynne came to visit me in October for 18 days-she is the first non-family member to make the trip to New Zealand. Guess what? The only stressful part of her trip both ways was the U.S. domestic portion!!
When she told me she was going to come to NZ, she inquired about going to the South Island, but I explained that there would not be time-there is so much to do in Northland. I knew she was doubtful-but I think she will agree now that we couldn’t even fit everything in that we wanted to do on the " top of the North" in that time!!
Lynne is a retired GP and is currently a fitness trainer, so I was a bit nervous about whether I’d be able to keep up with her. I had planned a lot of walks-there are so many lovely ones here. But walking on trails-with a lot of uphill!!-is quite different from the flat type of walking Lynne was used to, so she felt challenged and I was happy to be able to walk 3 hrs per day at least after a less active “winter” here without getting too tired!
Muriwai Beach, gannett condo
Lynne and Howard have a bird named “Zaza” who they are crazy about (and a little crazy themselves!)-and since New Zealand is quite enamored of her birds, I planned quite a few bird (brained) activities.
The first morning after Lynne’s arrival we went straight to Muriwai Beach, just north of Auckland on the west coast, to visit the gannett colony. Like so many NZ walks, there are well marked trails with several overlooks that maintain the birds’ safety while allowing a couple of different vantage points.
Did I mention that Lynne took about 2000 photos during her trip? Full disclosure, all the photos in this entry have been taken by her (except for the ones she is in, which I took!!). I think the first few hundred were of the gannets!! I’m including her very favorite here, of a bird in flight.
Our weather in NZ the past few months has been quite rainy, but Lynne brought the sunshine with her, and NZ just bursts into technicolor when the sun is out! She was SO lucky!!
The west coast beaches are rocky with a wild kind of beauty and Muriwai gave her a good idea
of that coastline.
We then headed north on the west coast highway, Rte 16, and stopped off at a sculpture garden for a walk-showcasing many local plants and some interesting art. We then made our way back to Whangarei, where Lynne was very impressed with the views from my home looking over the Whangarei harbor. Rand made a lovely welcoming dinner and “Lynne’s room” was officially named.
The next day we all took a walk from the A. H. Reed Kauri Forest to Whangarei Falls, which is a lovely walk along a river to a waterfall. Just a few of the local attractions in my hometown!! Then we introduced Lynne to my good friends the Meadows, and she met the new lamb arrivals on the Meadows’ farm. It was so nice to introduce a good friend from home to my friends here.
Rand made local mussels in thai coconut sauce for dinner and Lynne was in heaven!!
We spent the next day seeing the town and some local sights, including the Kiwi Museum and Bird House, and after giving her a few days to get over the jet lag, we headed north along the east coast
the wild west coast
to Bay of Islands. Glow-worms are unique thing to see in NZ so we first visited some glow-worm caves-when the lights are turned out it looks like millions of stars are on the ceiling of the cave, quite amazing. We then went to the historic town of Russell, NZ’ s first capital, and stayed in a B and B owned by some friends of mine (Pipiroa Bay Homestay). Gary and Paula have created the most amazing multi-tiered garden in their yard which leads down to the beach, and we walked the garden at least 10 times , marvelling at their creativity and hard work.
I showed Lynne around the quaint town of Russell and we walked out to Tapeka Point and stopped at Flagstaff Hill for the view of the Bay.
The following day the weather gods smiled on us once again and we had a full day sailing on the 50 ft yacht Phantom, Lynne’s first real sailing experience (she is a motor boater). We stopped at Roberton Island and climbed to the top of the hill for a breathtaking overlook of the Bay. There were only 6 of us aboard that day, and we enjoyed talking
with the owners, Rick and Robin (a New Yorker!).
Leaving Russell by ferry the next day, we visited the historic Waitangi Treaty Grounds in Paihia, which tells the story of how the Maori entered into a contract with the British, thus creating the country of New Zealand. Then we headed to some local hot springs, Ngawha Springs, to partake of the healing waters. We ended up in Cooper’s Beach, and early the next morning we joined the Sand Safari Bus trip to visit Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand. The unique thing about this trip is that the bus actually travels on 90 Mile Beach, going 60 mph with the waves lapping at the tires. Lynne couldn’t get over it!! Cape Reinga is quite beautiful and you can see where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans collide. We met a lovely couple on the bus that we also ran into later in our trip.
The next day we took 2 walks near one of my favorite hostels, Kahoe Farms, where we stayed in a farmhouse on a dairy farm (yep, woke up to MOOING cows) and Lynne had her second opportunity to feed a lamb.
Kaipara Coast Sculpture Garden
walked up to St Paul’s Rock singing “Climb every mountain” and Lynne skyped Howard from an area near the top of the volcanic cone. We lunched at Te Ngaere, a lovely white sand cove and then took a walk that was new to me, along the Mahinepua Peninsula which overlooks the Cavelli Islands. This was about a 3 hr walk, MANY steps, but with breathtaking views. This is the part of our trip where I accused Lynne of being fickle, since EVERY day she would say, “This is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!!”
The following day we visited the CUTE town of Kerikeri for its farmer’s market met a friend for lunch and then walked from Rainbow Falls through the forest to the landmark Stone Store before returning to Whangarei.
We did a few more local sights including Smuggler’s Cove walk and Matapouri to Whale Bay, and Lynne got to do some kayaking in the harbor with Rand one morning too!
We then made our way south to a unique island off the coast of Auckland, a bird reserve called Tiritiri Matangi. Caroline joined us for the day, and we took the ferry over and
then had a private guide (Diana, a friend of mine) take the 3 of us around the island where we enjoyed learning about the birds and the plants.
The next day we had a special invitation to visit Gibbs Farm, a private farm that showcases international sculptures in an outdoor setting. As we were entering the drive with a fountain in front of us that rivaled one I’ve seen at Bellagio in Las Vegas, Lynne said, “Are those giraffes?” Me: “Don’t be silly, we don’t have giraffes in New Zealand.” Lynne ; “Then why are they walking ?” Turns out there is a giant giraffe sculpture surrounded by 3 grazing giraffes!! (and we got to hand feed them, too!) We walked for about 3 hrs marveling at both the setting and the huge sculptures.
Then we got in the car and drove about 5 hrs to our southernmost destination, Rotorua, a town which is built on top of a simmering volcano.
The following day we did a challenging but fascinating walk in the Waimunga Volcanic Valley and learned about an eruption in the late 1800’s which completely obliterated the area-and which has now re-forested with lush growth.
Several villages were entirely wiped out in the eruption, and the second day we visited a museum and took a tour of “the buried village” which was a ghost town of one of the original villages. Quite fascinating. Frequently along the road in Rotorua there are steam vents and boiling mud, geysers-it is quite an amazing and unusual place. We also had a pleasant surprise when we ran into the couple (Jan and Rob) whom we had met on the bus to Cape Reinga, and had dinner with them one night.
Our last afternoon we indulged in the Polynesian Spa, hot pools and spa treatments. Lynne loved it.
Last day: driving back to Auckland with a few fun shopping stops and a few hours at the internationally acclaimed Hamilton Gardens. Lynne then boarded her plane to LA, knowing Hurricane Sandy would make it impossible for her to get to the East Coast for a few days-but in the spirit of adventure, she extended her holiday with a few days in California before making it home to New Jersey
Be sure to scroll down to see all the gorgeous photos!!
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