Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life From the Passenger Seat

The sibling road trip BBS and I arranged of the North Island was rather lacking in solid planning. We came to a mutual agreement to allow anything vaguely resembling an actual plan to remain fluid. We each had spots we wanted to visit on our four-day route and anything else, we decided, would be gravy.

High on BBS’s to do list, and smack dab in the middle of our first day’s route, was the Kauri Museum in Matakohe. Although we decided we didn’t want to pay to see the actual museum, we both fell in love with several hand-carved bowls in the gift shop that we foolishly didn’t purchase. The experience only went to prove my theory of travel shopping: Is this something you’ll regret not owning in five years? If so, buy it!

Later that first day, we arrived at the Waipoua Forest where we visited the enormous Tāne Mahuta. It may seem odd to pull off the road to
take photos of a mere tree but at over 167 feet, this is the type of tree that gives birth to legends about faeries, elves, and Avatar’s Hometree. Taking in the millennia-old trees along those miles of winding roads was truly breathtaking and made taking the much longer scenic route more than worthwhile.

After a good night’s rest in Paihia, we were on the road again, this time to see Cape Reinga, on the northwestern tip of the Aupouri Peninsula. Often referred to as the northern most point on the North Island, Cape Reinga is a photographer’s dream with breathtaking vistas in literally every direction.

We were informed that from the plateau where the lighthouse is located, it is possible to see the actual point where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. The weather was typically overcast during our visit, so I wasn’t able to see the mythical line myself.

As I stared out across the ocean I was able to imagine the land as it must have been hundreds of years ago when the Maori first arrived in New Zealand. The churning waters below and the rough, craggy hills behind me hardly seemed like they would have been a welcoming sight to the weary travelers. Yet, as I have said before, New Zealand is just that: welcoming and warm. I can’t think of anywhere better to find oneself when running away from home and responsibilities of reality.

After walking around Cape Reinga, BBS and I piled back into the car and headed for lunch at the Mangonui Fish Shop. The fish and chips shop had been recommended to us by the oft-absent front desk clerk at our hostel and didn’t disappoint. Since we were there off-season, the restaurant wasn’t terribly busy but the fish was freshly fried and the chips were crispy and plentiful.

Our last stop before heading back to Auckland was Kawakawa and its “world famous toilets.” Designed by Austrian artist and architect Friedensreich 1988, the toilets are a popular tourist stop for anyone in the area.

BBS and I didn’t see as much of New Zealand as either of us hoped during his stay. We explored small patches and made the most of our time. While he no doubt wished I was more amenable to hiking and tromping around random hilly paths, I would like to think he still had a good time while I showed him around “my island home.” Perhaps the best part of the trip was the places we didn’t see because that means I will have to return soon.


sprinkles said...

I wish I could afford to travel as much as you do.

Anonymous said...

The view along the beach looks amazing--and you didn't go and paddle??
Are those really toilets? I love the grass roof!!

Caution Flag said...

Now I'm going to have to research those world famous toilets! You always do find the best things in your travels :)