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Published: March 17th 2010
Our first view of Whangarei city centre - not bad!
Having enjoyed our stay in the hospital owned house down in Rotorua, Glynn and I were keen to try out another one of the cheap to rent holiday homes and enjoy another fun weekend away. This time we headed up to the city of Whangarei, capital of the Northland.
We left on the Thursday night after waiting for the post-work rush hour traffic to subside. It took us just over 2.5 hours to get there, making use of the Northern gateway toll road for the first time which cut out a good 10km chunk of twisty roads that we would otherwise have taken.
On arrival, we were surprised to find an even more awesome house than the Rotorua one had been. This time we had a double garage with electric door, a huge kitchen, huge lounge and dining room together, 3 double bedrooms with an en-suite in the biggest plus a massive bathroom with a bath that could easily have fit 2 or 3 people in it! Outside was a large wooden deck wrapped around half the building with views out across the trees and even a glimpse of the sea in the distance if you peered through the
The local clock museum doubles as a tourist info centre and just happens to have the most enormous sundial outside!
foliage. How awesome!
We started our first full day by heading straight for the city centre and picking up some tourist information and maps of the local area. The weather wasn't looking too good with greyish clouds overhead and a cold breeze so we were happy to mill about the shops for a while and get a feel for the little city's vibe. We decided to search out a place called Botanica which promised us a host of indoor plant houses including a big cactus garden. Bless the lady in the tourist info for she was very friendly but not so good at marking locations on maps. We wandered around the area where Botanica was supposed to be for a quite while before giving up and wandering through a nearby park instead. As luck would have it, on the other side of the park was the very place we were looking for! A shame it didn't turn out to be all that exciting - there were some very nice flower, plant and cactus arrangements but really it was no more impressive than visiting an old Victorian style conservatory.
With rumbling tummies we need decided to hunt out some
The Cactus Garden
Apparently Botanica is on the must-see list of Whangarei. It was nice but looked just like someone's well tended conservatory really.
food. We luckily passed by Whangarei's only vegetarian eatery called Gopal's, a Hare Krishna restaurant similar to many of those we discovered on our round the world travels so naturally that was the place to stop for lunch! The food was great value for money and very tasty but alas it's only open lunchtimes so no chance of returning for dinner later on.
After lunch, the weather seemed to brighten up so we decided to take a walk up to one of the main local attractions - the Whangarei Falls. We started out at the centre of a loop walk that followed the Hatea River through some pretty woodlands and on up to the Falls themselves. The Whangarei Falls are a 26.3 metre high cascade falling directly from the rockface at the top straight down into a big pool at the bottom. It hasn't rained in the area for a long time so the Falls were probably a lot less fierce than usual but nevertheless they were lovely to see.
At this end of the track there is another loop walk leading up towards the top of the waterfall via a few great lookout points. I stopped at
You Are Here.
Our route today!
one lookout where I was treated to a gorgeous side-on view of the falls while Glynn pressed on ahead. Just as I was taking a photo, I had to stop and do a double-take as in the distance there was someone walking out onto the ledge - right at the top, right next to where the river turns into the waterfall!! Zooming in on my camera I suddenly realised it was Glynn! Being the fearless madman that he is, he decided to take advantage of the low water levels and venture out onto the area the waterfall would usually have covered. My heart raced seeing him so close to the edge and that huge drop but it's not the first time he's done this - remember that waterfall in Bolivia? Mad. Totally mad.
I quickly raced round to see where he was sitting and then some how, he managed to persuade me to join him! Out I clambered on the rocks, terrified of slipping and falling but equally exhilarated to be so daring which is not my style at all! Sitting in a little rocky nook with my feet dangling down, I could see what had drawn Glynn to
One of many pretty views along the Hatea River - made even prettier thanks to Glynn.
the spot - the view and sound of the water rushing down was absolutely brilliant!
After carefully working my way back to the safety of the path, we continued round the loop track and then back along the river trail to complete the loop at the bottom of the track. It turned out that this last section, called the Canopy Walkway, was a raised wooden stilted walkway that enabled us to see life from the same height as the tree tops. It was really lovely and must have taken a hell of a lot of work to construct - proof indeed of how much the Kiwis value nature and the outdoors and want to ensure everyone can experience it - even those in wheelchairs. Terrific stuff.
Back at the car, I persuaded Glynn to drive to another waterfall I spotted on the map that didn't look to be too far away. When we found the place though, it looked like there would be another decent walk to get to it and by now we'd been on our feet for over 6 hours and just didn't fancy anything remotely strenuous. Instead, we headed home and relaxed in our lovely
A typical NZ river scene - not a rusty shopping trolley in sight!
holiday house for the evening. Bliss!
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