I have been in New Zealand long enough to do certain things “traditionally”. One of them seems to be our New Year’s escape to Northland. If second time counts as “traditional” 🙂
Raglan is a popular summer destination and a great place for a New Year’s party. This means that that it is difficult to find a parking spot, that you have to wait for a coffee, that you keep seeing people you don’t know and that there is at least 50 surfers at Manu Bay before 7 am. Do I need any more reasons to escape the town?
“Wes, I wanna go on a little holiday.” “The weather forecast is bad and the best waves will be in Raglan.” “Hm… still, I wanna go on a little trip. I want to explore. I want to be a tourist again, even if just for a short while. We live in this beautiful country and we don’t even know it. Besides, you know never to trust the weather forecast in New Zealand, it is ALWAYS wrong. And if we don’t surf for few days, I don’t think we will fall sick or anything. Please, please, can we go somewhere?”
We hit the road. We drove all the way to the Trounson Park on the west coast of the north island. We pitched our little tent, waited for a dark and went for a “hunt”. There is a beautiful track leading through the forest full of ancient kauri trees of XXXL sizes. “Oooo, looook, glow worms! This is sooo beautiful! Why don’t we go wandering in a forest in a pitch dark more often?” “Sssh, I can hear something… Possum! And another one there!” They are kind of cute, although one of the most hated species in New Zealand. We came to a creek where there was a pretty big eel in it. But we haven’t seen any kiwi birds, what was the reason we stopped at the park in a first place. “Hey! We just saw one a bit further down, on the left side. Maybe it is still there.” No luck. After more than two hours of wandering around the forest I gave up. Ah well, next time I guess, I really need to go to bed now. “I’m staying here. I wanna see this bird!”
Wes wandered around the forest for a bit longer but wasn’t getting any luckier. Pretty disappointed (and pissed off) he returned back to the tent and just as he wanted to enter it he heard some rustling at the back of the tent. And there it was, the little kiwi bird! Well, they are actually not that little…“Lana, Lana, wake up! Come out, quick! What takes you so long? Come quickly!” I just fell asleep when I suddenly heard Wes. At the first moment I had no idea where am I, what is it going on, why is he screaming and what am I supposed to do. Finally I crawled out of our tent, looked into the direction of a torch and saw a real-life-kiwi! Sooooooo cute! It didn’t really mind me and Wes screaming next to it and pointing the light in it.
The next morning we drove further north. Kaitaia is a little town, full of Dalmatians (it even welcomes you with Dobro dosli! sighn) and Maori, nothing really pretty about it though. But it is a necessary stop before you continue your way further up – to get fuel, food and some cash. Going up north it really seems to be going to the end of the world.
Tapotupotu is the most northern beach of New Zealand. Actually it is the only beach in the country that is catching the north swell. And there was some of that on the last day of 2013. We were lucky to get spot in the little campground, just because it was really busy. We set up our tent right on the beach, so the first thing that we would see in the 2014 is (hopefully) some waves. And we did! After a pretty fun night that we spent with a Brazilian, Colombian and Kiwi couples and when we were introduced to all different world New Year’s traditions (choking on 12 grapes and jumping 7 waves, all for good luck in the coming year) we woke up in the most beautiful morning with a sunshine and fun little waves that we had all for ourselves (shared them with only few sharks apparently). “Happy New Year Wes! If this is how the whole year will be, we are pretty lucky 🙂 ”
It’s been 7 years since I first visited Cape Reinga, the most northern part of New Zealand and it is just as beautiful as I remember. A tiny little lighthouse at the bottom of a small peninsula under which Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. From there we drove back towards south and stopped at Henderson’s Bay on the east coast of the peninsula. We have had an amazing surf a year ago there so we were hoping for another one 365 day later. The waves this time were slightly smaller but the surf was just beautiful – the sand is white as Snow White’s skin (uuu, I’m getting poetic), the water is crystal blue and a little tiny pingeuin swam right next to me while sitting in a line-up.
“Where should we go next?” “Russell?” From Paihia you take a little ferry to get straight to Bay of Islands. Russel is a small town with beautiful buildings, quite posh houses, fish restaurants and pretty sunsets. No surf. We spent an amazing evening there, wandering around those two little streets and started the following day with a refreshing morning swim.
We continued further south. “Let’s go to Elliot Bay. At the end of this road we need to turn left and then where the road turns inland, there should be a farm that we need to cross and hike to the spot. Sounds quite adventurous to me…” “Hm… we came to the end of the road, but I don’t see any farm here? It can’t be that one… What, you think we should just take the boards and walk through that way… I think people might laugh at us…” “Let me see the map again? Are you sure we are on the right road?” “I think so, I normally get this navigating things pretty right…” It turned out that we completely missed the road and ended up on a pretty sheltered beach that has probably less waves that Porec in Istria. Ha ha, luckily we didn’t grab our surfboards, put our wetsuits on and started walling on someone’s backyard… 🙂
Elliot Bay offered some fun little waves. Sandy Bay looked fun as well, but we were pretty tired by then and fancied just a quick nap on the beach. Maybe we are getting old, but sometimes being lazy just fills right 🙂
The last night we stayed in Tutukaka. Just because I loved the name of the town. Well, you can’t really call it a town, it’s basically just a marina, few summer baches, a camping ground and a tiny little beach. It is pretty popular though – it is one of the main diving spots in New Zealand, offering a starting point to Poor Knights Islands. There are some rare animals and plants living on the Islands, species that have extinct on the mainland. Among these is apparently also a 30cm long (including legs and tentacles) Giant Weta – I’m not sure I wanna meet that one in real life…
What I absolutely love about Raglan is that it is always great to come back home! It feels like coming from holidays to holidays. The main crowds have also disappeared by now so things are back to normal and it seems like there is a fun summer in front of us 🙂