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January 16th 2011 - Houhora Heads, Northland

Wednesday January 12th


We reluctantly left our spectacular view behind at Ruakaka and headed off on the next leg of our journey to Whangerei.  It wasn’t a very long journey and only took us about an hour.  We managed to find a one hour parking spot in town, locked up the van and headed off to search for a Vodafone shop.  It wasn’t long before we found one – there seems to be at least one in every town here!  After a quick chat with the young lady in the shop she sorted us out with a very basic Pay As You Go phone with a $20 top-up, which should see us OK for a while.  It has one advantage, we can phone any land-line in the UK for up to 60 minutes for only $2 – you don’t get rates like that at home!


Happily clutching our new phone we headed back to the van and set off to find a better parking spot. We eventually found a carpark that was actually free!  We managed to find a spot that was under the shelter of trees as well, which was excellent as it was extremely hot and sunny and we didn’t want the van to heat up too much as the fridge was running on battery and we weren’t sure how long that would last!!


We had a lovely walk round Whangerei and ended up sitting outside an Irish pub (as you do!) supping a pint.  After that we found our way to the marina and whiled away the time looking at all the lovely yachts, Clive getting all wistful – he dreams of sailing around the world in a yacht, bless him!  Finally we headed back to the van and made our way to the campsite, which was a couple of miles outside town.  It was an excellent campsite, no spectacular view this time but the facilities were very good indeed.  We got chatting to the couple on the next pitch to ours, they were from England too. What we found amazing was what they were travelling in – its called a Spaceship!  Its basically a Toyota MPV which has been modified into a sort of campervan.  It had an awning which fastened on the back of the tailgate thereby extending the vehicle by about three feet.  The back seats all fold down and form a double bed!  Under this is loads of storage space, including a fridge!  There is also an awning which fits onto the side of the vehicle to increase the space even more.  All in all it is a fantastic piece of kit and there are quite a lot of them touring around New Zealand.

Whangerei Campsite


The following day, Thursday January 13th, after breakfast and another chat with our next door neighbours, we said goodbye to Whangerei and headed North.  A couple of hours later we arrived at the Bay of Islands, which is exactly what the name suggests!  We got the ferry from Opua over to Russell, which was once the first capital of New Zealand.  We have been to Russell before, on our first trip to New Zealand in 2000 and we like it very much.  We parked the van and went for a wander around the town (it doesn’t take long, its quite small!).  It was lunchtime and we were both rather peckish so we decided to have fish and chips! We sat outside the chippy and ate them out of the paper along with quite a few other tourists, they were delicious! 


After our lunch we used the new mobile phone to contact a holiday camp to see if they had room for us, they did and we were told that the camp was only five minutes outside the town centre so we decided to go and get the van settled in then head back into town to do some exploring.  Once again the campsite had excellent facilities but alas no view!  We headed back into town and Clive informed me he had spotted a pub earlier!  We soon found it and enjoyed a drink sitting outside in the sunshine.  After that we wandered down to the front and watched the boats for a while then had a stroll along the pier.  While we were at the far end of the pier we heard music, which at first I thought was coming from one of the tour boats but we soon realised it was coming from the shore and it wasn’t a recording, it was live!  We quickly walked back along the pier and soon found the source of the music, two guys were set up on the beach across the road from the Duke of Marlborough Hotel doing a grand job of entertaining the diners on the terrace.  We decided to stay and listen. 

Live music on the beach!

We managed to find a couple of seats and a table just across from the band and we stayed there for a couple of hours just enjoying the great music and the wonderful scenery, it was absolutely lovelyand we really didn’t want to leave!  I went down onto the beach to take a photo of the hotel, my photo included a couple sitting on a bench and as I was walking back up the beach the guy said he hoped he hadn’t cracked my lens! He and his wife were English and they spend six months every year in New Zealand touring in their campervan, the other six months they spend on their narrowboat Duke back in England!!  Isn’t that amazing!  We must have cruised right past their boat back in May last year when we were rushing to get through Braunston before the Historic Boat Festival started – they were actually there! Their boat, Duke, is a traditional narrowboat with a Lister engine and they go to the Braunston festival every year.  We will have to look out for them when we are on the canals again in the summer.  They also told us that a tuna had been landed and the boat that caught it was due in any minute to get it weighed in.  So I went for a walk with them down to the end of the pier to wait for it.  Before it arrived anoth boat came in and they had been catching crayfish.  Now crayfish at home in the UK are rather small creatures and you would need quite a few of them to make a meal, the ones they catch in New Zealand however are a different matter - they're huge! Actually the size of lobsters but you can tell the difference as they don't have any claws!

Huge crayfish!

The boat with the tuna finally arrived and I was very disappointed with the fish!  I was expecting something enormous but it was a mere 7 kgs!  Its claim to fame however is that it was the first one caught in the Bay of Islands this year!  I went back to find Clive and tell him all about it then finally we returned to the van and got settled down for thenight.  We are enjoying watching the latest season of House on our laptop before we go to sleep!


The next morning, Friday January 14th, we left Russell and headed for Kerikeri.  When we arrived we did a bit of shopping then drove to the campsite.  Once we had got settled in we  had a spot of lunch then went for a walk into town.  Kerikeri is a bit of a one-horse town and there wasn’t really a lot to see or do. We found a bar and sat outside watching the world go by for a little while then headed back to the van for the evening.  We had just got back and opened all the doors and windows to get some air into the van when the most beautiful cat sauntered over and jumped up into the van like he owned it! He spent quite some time exploring every nook and cranny then finally curled up under the table with the intention of going to sleep!  Clive had to shoo him out in the end!

The feline stowaway!


Saturday January 15th dawned hot and sunny once again.  We have been sooooooo lucky with the weather, its been absolutely incredible!  We had breakfast then packed everything away, we were just about to set off when the lovely cat arrived again and jumped inside. He promptly settled down under the table again and I honestly think he would have remained there and gone with us if Clive hadn’t physically pulled him out from under the table and ordered him to leave!  I would happily have adopted him, he was a really beautiful cat with the softest fur and the most beautiful blue eyes!


Finally we headed off once more, this time we would be leaving the East coast of Northland and heading across to the West coast.  On the way we decided to stop for a coffee in Doubtless Bay and found an idyllic spot at Cable Beach.  We were just about parked on the sand, it was absolutely fantastic. 

Beachside coffee break!

Whilst we were sitting drinking our coffee a car pulled up with some young people in it, they all dived out onto the beach and then one of them sauntered over and asked if I would take a photo of them.  I obliged, expecting them to want one taken with the view behind them – no, they wanted one with their car!  They turned out to be a group of Brazilian students, studying English here in New Zealand! 

We continued on our journey and soon arrived at Ahipura where we planned to stay the night.  We finally arrived at the campsite and once the van was on her pitch and plugged in we decided to go for a swim on 90 Mile Beach!  This beach really is awesome, I don’t think it is actually 90 miles long but its very long indeed, it just goes on and on and on, endless miles of fantastic beach with hardly a soul on it!  Just the occasional 4x4 and a few coaches racing each other down the beach to give the tourists a thrill!  The sand however, which is extremely fine, was very, very hot!  I was wearing flipflops and ended up doing a very strange dance trying to keep my feet from burning! We had a lovely swim, the waves were quite big but with nowhere near the strength of the surf we had encountered at Tawharanui last weekend.  Then it was back to camp and showers to get rid of all the sand and salt!


This morning, Sunday January 15th, we decided to make the trip up to Cape Rienga, just about the Northernmost spot in New Zealand.  It is right at the tip of a long finger of land pointing up from the top of New Zealand.  It took us two hours to make the drive but it was worth it.  The views we encountered over the last few miles were breathtaking and at Cape Rienga itself, awesome!  Cape Rienga is a very spiritual place for the Maori people of New Zealand.  It is said to be the place where the spirits of the dead leave to go back to their homeland.  It is also where two seas collide; the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, this causes some very strange currents and we could see swirls of sand being carried by these currents and forming circles, almost like the Koru, the new curl of a Ponga (fern tree) which symbolises new life for the Maori’s. All in all it was an amazing experience, we walked right out to the lighthouse and had to have our photo taken showing how many miles it is from London! Well, it had to be done!

Been there, done that, tick it off!


We eventually tore ourselves away from this amazing place and made our way back down the road.  We took a detour at one point back to 90 Mile Beach, which is on the East side of  the “finger” just to take some photographs.  They really don’t do it justice and cannot really show just how vast this beach really is.  What I think is wonderful is that unlike other beautiful beaches around the world this one is totally unspoiled, no highrise hotels and all the razzmatazz that goes with them, just a long, beautiful beach surrounded by huge sand dunes, its awesome.

                                    90 Mile Beach looking North

90 Mile Beach looking South                                   

We have ended up at yet another amazing place.  Houhoro Heads!  This is actually situated on the West side of the “finger” at the mouth of an estuary. We parked the van and plugged her in then went for a walk.  What we found was fantastic, the brightest, bluest water just begging us to go for a swim! So I took a few photos then we rushed back to the van to change into our togs and went for a swim.  It was very shallow and we had to walk out quite a way before we could actually swim.  Oh but it was lovely!  We were very hot and sticky after our long drive up to Cape Rienga and the water was blissfully cool and refreshing. 

Houhora Heads

As this campsite has WiFi access I decided it was a good opportunity to do a blog, the trouble is that we are now travelling daily and seeing so much that I could do with blogging more often but can only do it where there is reasonable WiFi access. This site has a good one that allows plenty of download over a three hour period.  Other sites offer a different WiFi which gives me unlimited time but limited download which will allow me to do emails and Facebook etc but won’t accommodate a blog and photographs!  Ah well, you can’t win ‘emall!!  Till next time………………



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