I left UK on May 19th for 10 months of freedom and exploration with a Round the World ticket. Will I find New Zealand as perfect as it was fifteen years ago? How has Australia changed? Will I learn any Spanish in S America?

Saturday, December 31, 2005

The Battle of Takaka and New Year






Well Ill start with New Year as it has only just begun - CLan McGillicuddy have just returned from the Mussel Inn which was too packed and nowhere to sit so have joined the wwoof group and Grant for another game of dictionary - Izzie, the animal rights activist is also here to join us for the night.
It is cool outside but all the stars are very bright outside adn the garden is filled with tents.
An unfortunate wwoofer is trying to sleep in the barn but I am typing which sounds very loud.

Battle of Takaka
ALf's Imperial Army versus Clan McGillicuddy ( aka Freisan Vegans) with Aunt Fannys Sewing Circle providing tea.
There is so much to say! I hope downloading a few pics will help.

To see the McGillicuddy Serious Party 1999 Manifesto use this link to Grant's Tribull Drums website - you can also find pics of Kiwiburns past and present there.
www.tribulldrums.co.nz

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Coromandel Peninsula 5th December -


Set off after a few more days than I had anticip[ated in Auckland - its very easy to get sucked into staying just that one more day especially with Lisa encouraging this. Also was talking a lot ot UK and hte estate agent managing my house - who were completley ignoring my requests for information. Met up with Helen Moody who I met on the boat out to Tiri Tiri Matangi on my second day in NZ and we went to see the World's Fastest Indian with Antony Hopkins which is set in Invercargill (and US) ( I suppose it must have come out already in the UK?) the cinema in ..................
But I was anxious to get away and further motivated by becoming a victim of crime in the normally pretty tranquil suburb of Northcote - someone or somebodies spray painted my car with a red tag ; fortunately Richard discovered that it came off easily enough with turps. I dont know why they singled out my car in particular as it blended in well with all the other white japanese sedans in road adn I had parked the right way - it's illegal to park in opposition to flow of traffic and another strange rule of the road- you must give way when turning left to cars turning right from opposing direction! The Harbour Bridge which you drive over from Northcote to get to CBD of Auckland has had to be extended - so many people live there now - they added another bridge to the one existing - and a japanese company got the job- it's known as the Nippon clip on.
Drove first day to Miranda which is at the bottom of the Coromandel peninsula and a favourite haunt of birdwatchers - there are shell ridges called cheniers - which have built up in the estuarine waters which migratory waders use to rest on after feeding on the rich shellfish supply. I sat in a hide for 4 hours watching barred godwits and wrybills - their beaks twist to the right. Flowers on the grassland around - bachelors buttons , sea primrose, glasswort and mangrove - which you see everywhere in North Island.
TBC........

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas/ Solstice at Happy Acre

25th December
A vegan feast - curried tvp, salad all fresh from the garden, rice, new potatoes from the garden, pickles and buckwheat pancakes eaten outside in the garden . Grant ,45 Amrita,31 their children Ananda (9) and Macunda (3) Dan (30) and Nome from Peterborough , New Hampshire doing the wwoofing thing, Alex from Wahsington State (18) also wwoofing, Andrew from California 51 living in the caravan in the garden, trance dance ( as in doof doof doof) organiser and mixer and Dew an ex pilot from US now resident in NZ, Izzy -from US - animal rights activist and applying for residency in NZ.
It wasn't a nice day and it started raining so we went inside for coffee and puddings - a carrot cake trifle and summer pudding which I made and cream ( not very vegan but cant have summer pudding without cream) Fay who lives in the house bus was at her Buddhist group christmas party so came later to join in a game of dictionary in the drumming barn - find an obscure word in the dictionary adn everyone has to make up definitions and guess the real one - we had some great words - pother - and selcouth - which I am now using - meaning rare, strange, marvellous!
26th , 27th December 2005
Work is progressing on the bamboo man who will be burned at"Kiwiburn" a festival Grant is organising to be held up at the Rainbow community land on Kotinga Road - I remember this community as the place where I went with Grant 18 years ago to an alfresco theatrical performance - The ......Plague.
The festival is based loosely on the now famous Burning Man festival of teh AMerican Nevada desert- but this is of course - much smaller scale (200 people expected) and apparently we have to deal with some of the worst sandfly infested land in Golden Bay. I have however found that Lisa's recipe of dettol and baby oil does work! But it keeps everything and everyone else away as well!

Today is Tuesday and people are arriving for different events ( the garden is beginning to fill with tents!) plus Tuesday nights drumming session - but tomorrow the McGillicuddy clan will start arriving in force for preparation for their campaign - The Battle of Takaka which kicks off on the 30th at 4pm. Aunt Fannys Sewing Cirlce will be joining in , holding their tea party in the midst of the proceedings. The enemy are Alf's Imperial Army but after battle is done we will all join in a huge feast in Grant's garden - it is not known at this point whether the Wizard of Christchurch will attend the proceedings or not. A large iron homemade catapult arrived in the garden this morning and was tested for effectiveness in releasing water bombs - it works quite well after being oiled a bit but would be instantaneously impounded if used in the streets which is why hte battles are not publicised! Really all about street theatre. There are rules too - paper swords can only be made with no more than 7 sheets of newspaperfor eg.
More American wwoofers have arrived - I'm waiting for the full 52 states to be represented before I leave and am sure I will pick up an Ameriken accent and not a Kiwi one before I leave! I am only Brit around.
We spent the afternoon digging a urinal and making a rush boat to take the ashes of last years burning man down the river to open the proceedings for the Kiwiburn which takes place on 2nd 3rd adn 4th of Jan 06. (There is a website for further info.)

In between all this I have managed to get away to see other old friends , Nicola Wooding who still lives around here and still makes jewellry -I spent a very pleasant day with her talking about the past and what has happened in her life over the last years and met her daughter Mahla , now 16 , who Nicola was pregnant with when I left.
Went over the Hill to see David King who was spending Christmas with his family in Richmond near Nelson - met David in the jungle in Ecuador - we pored over an atlas together and he thinks I should try and make it to Tibet if I can.

Have to go as drumming workshop imminent around me..........it's going to be a selcouth couple of days I think.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Saving the Whales!



22 December 2005
I'm now staying at Grant's home - Happy Acre - which also houses his business - Tribull Drums! It's about 10 minutes drive outisde of Takaka in Puramahoi. Last night , Andrew the tanned 51 Californian living in the caravan next to the blue house bus ( where Fay from British Columbia lives) came into the main house where we, Gnome and Dan, from Peterborough, USA, ( Grant likes to have people around!) were chatting to say that the news had just reported a stranding of about 130 whales at Farewell Spit ( about 30 k up the road) ... we decided against going out at night - as in fact the Dept of Conservation had advised people already there to go home - too cold .
Early next morning we all plus Ananda, Grant's 9 year old son ( whose birthday it was - what a birthday present - let off last day of school to save the whales! )- hopped into the Tribull Drums van and zoomed up to Puponga beach where I had camped just four nights before to see the black bodies of the pilot whales stranded well up the beach, the tide right out and the sun beating down. There were only about 60 or 70 other people there ( 8am) and we parked right opposite the mass of the whales - and just immediately got down to the business of keeping the whales cool with buckets of sea water - we dug pools around the whales to keep their tails in water and covered the bodies with sheets with a hole for the dorsal fin where the heat concentrates. Some of the juvenile whales were whistling and calling out in distress and all around you could hear the blow holes opening to expel water poured over them. We had to keep digging new water holes as old ones quickly got really sandy - not good to pour sandy water ideally over the sensitive whale skin. A lot of them were really deeply scarred from old battles etc some had nothces in their dorsal fins - soime were big and there were quite a few young juveniles and one little baby - only a few months old. Some had fresh wounds and were bleeding - one theory that they had been chased ashore by orca whales. pilots are relatively small - big bulls probably about 9 or 10 foot long - distinctive white patterns on their chests and backs - the skin feels rubbery.By the end of the day some were getting bad sunburn - skin wrinkling and peeling off so tried not to touch those areas or pour sandy water over blow holes. Occassionally a whale would open an eye - very eery - small mammalian eye - brown with pupil. But for most part they were kept closed. We were all getting more and more anxious as the whales got more and more distressed with the heat - ireonically day before had been cool with lots of rain today the sun just kept shining and we all prayed for the grey clouds to gather to try and cool things down a bit. I felt the dorsal finsof several and found them very hot which made me bucket water fast as I could.
The media arrived and a helicopter buzzed above - despite the solemnity people took photos of their children pouring water on the whales and a school group arrived ( last day of school!) and there was quite a buzz - friends ran into each other - I met the 2 Brits who had taken me Kayaking from Tata beach ( another post I will have to catch up on!) a group of volunteers wearing orange amnesty international jackets worked on keeping a whale cool ' we were all talking to the whales and telling them to hang on for the high tide at 2pm - it seemed as if the water would never come in but sudedenly I looked up and saw that the wtaer was coming into the bay - we could now get fresh water by walking a bit of a distance , the water in the pools got colder, and before we knew it we were up to our knees in the water and the whales perked up and started to thrash their tails - I stayed until I was in danger of getting soaked - and went back to van which I couldn't find at first because there were now thousands of cars and hundreds of people - DoC staff handing out sandwiches and muffins to people from cardbaord boxes, sightseers - people who had come from as far away as Nelson to see the whales , and a digger which was digging a big channel from the beach furthest away from the water so that smaller chaneels being dug by (hand !) could connect to it and people could float whales down the channel and into the sea.
I changed into swimming costume and ran/swam back - people now supporting each whale to help it regain sense of bouynacy and to help it move head up and down to breather - we all got showered in whale spit! then we were asked to move forwards up to chests in water with whlaes , bunch up and then finally after an age we moved to one side , being careful to avoid the tails, to let the whales go free but formed a human chain to stop them heading straight back to beach - theya re exhauseted and disorientated at this point.

But they got hte idea and headed out eventually and were followed by two dinghies to make sure they kept going out - 2 days later only 10 rebeached the rest , the 120 odd all made it to swim again! What a fantasitc experience!And only happens every 7 or so years. Farewell Spit and other large sandy land masses are particulary dangerous for these pods and they have been going aground here for thousands of years - .

Happy Christmas and New Year to everybody.... I hope I shall be on the beach!

xxx
Louise

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Zealand PHOTOS

Tiri Tiri Matangi






Above: Bayleys Beach - bach

Giant Kauri - Wairoa Forest , N Island

Trees - NZ

Friday, December 16, 2005

Old Friends



The thing about Golden Bay is that people seem to make an emotional investment to the land here - just about everyone I knew then is still here now and most of them havent moved~!
I went for dinner with Morag who lives nearer to town than before which was Ligar Bay - a beautiful spot.
Have also now met Grant , in his sarong and barefeet , who immediately invited me to stay - his place where I WWoofed is much expanded and he has a huge outbuilding where he makes drums and holds drumming workshops - had a wonderful meal of veg and herbs all from his gardens. Other woofers there now - and Grant as usual is at the centre of all the action - he helps organise the annual KiwiBUrn - equivalent of Burning Man festival in Nevada - and tours with his band , plays at local events etc etc. There is a lunar module at the bottom of the garden and a wind harp just to give you more of a flavour!
Will be 30 people staying over CHristmas etc. Not sure if thats not a bit too much for me but am keen to stay for Kiwiburn and the event " battle of Takaka" where clans fight it out with flour bombs! Grant also has a family now - two sons of 9 and 3. He has done a lot in the years I was away and I was reminded of the life I could have had if Id decided to stay in the bay.

Grant was able to tell me about most of the people I remember and I will look some of them up in the next few days.

Over Takaka Hill


The ferry crossing was beset by rain - nonetheless very scenic coming into Picton with the mist over the hills. Made a fast get away and via a very pretty drive along the coast to Havelock - self professedly famous for green lipped mussels. Pitched tent in garden of the Rutherford YHA which has been going since 1930s in the same building and is currently run and actually owned by the first managers son, Brent who grew up in the building. Was tempted to stay and do the Nydia track - a 2 day walk which the hostel arranges transport to and from but as everyone in the hostel was also going I thought it might be rather a long 2 days awkward silence - and besides the heel is still a problem.
Nice big sitting room with wood panelling deathly silent though no one in talkative mood at all!
Eschewed pasta and tinned tomatoes for expensive mussel meal in the Muscle Boys - a supposedly good restaurant - but it was not good. I had a gelatinous fish chowder - more like a junket - and then rather revolting attempt at moules marieniere - I realised too late - it was Monday night! As Rachel could tell me CHEFS NIGHT OFF! Never go on a Monday - how true and a reminder to everyone else.
Next day it was destination GOlden Bay via Nelson - Nelson is now the hottest place to live in NZ - its got a lovely sunny sandy seaside locatoin and is chock full of artistic types. So it is now huge and expanding even more. I don't even remember being aware it was by the sea - but as I was hitching and a passenger in other peoples cars I suppose I am seeing a lot more now than I did all those years ago.
I toyed breifly with the idea of buying a guitar in Nelson but decided budget would be better spent elsewhere. Spent 3 hours there and saw a lot of the carpark as finding a space was hard. They have a problem with car crime too there and security cameras everywhere. The price of success. Lots of second hand and designer clohes shops - Suzy Moncrieff put Nelson and NZ failrly and squarely on the map pre Lord of Rings with the Wearable Art show - recyclables turned into costumes. Its now moved to Wellington though - but there is a musuem of the winning costumes etc from over the years - but as it cost nearly $20 to get in I gave it a miss.
The road started to get familiar at Motueka "Mot" but again looks bigger than I remember. Less hops grown now though and less kiwi as well - still apples and more recently boysenberrys. The local garden shop in Takaka filled me on this.
After Mot the road starts the monumentous ascent of Takaka Hill which is what kept a lot of people out - at the very top is a karst outcrop and caves which were shut when I got there. THere is also marble . Road descends steeply down to Takaka - winding sharply with the valley and Takaka river visible way below.
Pulled in to T about 7pm ( light till about 9pm these days) - huge supermarket at the entrance which is actually good news on the whole for locals - cheaper and more choice.
Stayed in average backpacker place and went for a walk to see what i could remember - the shady rest-the only place to stay back then and a lovely old wooden family house - has been done up and will reopen shortly as a backpacker place again - the original sign is just visible high up on a post. Gerry the pig hunters house is further away than i thought. I stayed with him and another traveller as a cheaper alternative to the SHady when pruning kiwi fruit full time - but I doubt Gerry is there - he was only renting.
Matt and Pams' house still there - shops - the Wholemeal Cafe - expanded enormously and still serving wonderful food - going since 1977. Places I never noticed before - the masonic hall ! a stone church, the old post office, a war memorial - many things I dont remember. the old pub on the corner is still there but called the Telegraph and looks very spruce as does the whole place. The community gardens still going strong too. Sara Macaready artist studio right on Commerical Street.
Talked to backpacker owner about business of running these hostels. Good way to get into NZ but I'd need to try it out first as an employee I think to see if I could really do it . Still all this is hypothetical at this stage though I really am sure I dont want to live in London any more.

Met and talked to nice Scot, Paula - she quit her job in Aberdeen to travel but unsre if she can get work in her field in another Scottish capital and is not keen to move to London. Some awful callow youths from Europe throwing themselves around and knocking back beers who were not pleasant to be around also there. Looked forward to relative peace of camp site again!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Off to the south island

I' m writing this in Wellington as I have a spare hour before the ferry leaves for Picton on the South Island. I had to get from the Coromandel Peninsula down to Wellington for today 12th ( about 12 hours worth of driving ) and left yesterday about lunchtime after a walk and a swim at Cathederal Cove( because the sea has eaten away a huge amphitheatre which you can walk through to the adjoining beach) near Haihe and Cooks Beach- . Beautiful Cove, beautiful beach but too many people but I suppose it was a Sunday. Rather overcast and wet ....but not cold.
Broke the journey in Taihape - nothing much to write about - lots of people staying in the backpackers picking asparagus . I shared a room with two Morrocan pickers , one who hopes to get a full time contract with the Hilton in Auckland and settle here - I have lots of contacts here he said. It is very easy.

I think I was in Welllington 19 years ago (!) when the Flinders Bay put into port and I remember a big tower and a very mediocre curry. Wont see much more this time, but the old railway station looks fantastic (just beyond it is the government house- The Beehive) and I like the feel of the city more than Auckland which is just so spread out.

Feel excited and a bit nervous to be visiting old haunts and a couple of people I knew all those years ago. One now has his own band - Tribul Drums and I've just missed seeing him on tour so hope he will be back in Takaka. I expect a lot will have changed . Golden Bay is one of the places for backpackers to go and whereas there was just one place to stay when I went there I think there are now about half a dozen. Expect land prices will reflect this too!

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Hundertwasser's Loosin Kawakawa




First thing in the morning the sea outside the cottage was nice and calm and although there was a bit of a cool onshore wind I kept wading out until I could bear to submerge myself- still chilly but lovely once in.
I went in again about 3 hours later and then drove to Kawakawa about 27 k away to see the famous public conveniences designed by Hundertwasser, the eccentric Austrian architect and artist.
I had never heard of this guy until Argentina - but Lillie who runs El Pueblito, the hostel I stayed in at EL Bolson produced a book of his work one night when we were all sitting round the table and I leafed my way through the whole book - wonderful colourful paintings, abstract whorls and swirls and then photographs of his designs adn models of his designs - very whacky and wonderful with grass roofs, elements of recycling too - and colourful columns etc -obvious comparison is with Gaudi .
Anyway not many of his buildings got built but he must have had some money and he retreated to NZ and lived on a farm near Kawakawa. The local community persuaded him to design new public conveniences which he did but died just before their completion. Now people make detours from their journey up north to see the loos and they really are something quite apart from anything else in Kawakawa -. HOwever the local council doesnt seem to see the good side of pulling in more trade to rather impoverished Kawakawa and is talking about closing them down because they are "too difficult " to clean. This seems like madness - they should charge something for using the loos if that is the problem - not close down the one thing that is bringing business to the area .
When I got back Sylvia was out on the grass looking out to sea with a cup of tea and she told me how the train used to run right through the centre of Kawakawa - in fact the tracks are still there in the middle of the road and I saw them.


There was also a huge old pink place called the Kawakawa THeatre - now selling second hand clothes. Very few cinemas north of Auckland. I wonder if anyone would go if you reopened one? Or does everyone want to see DVDs at home? Perhaps I should do some market research!

1st December - Dolphins



I went out in a boat today to see dolphins - it was a beautiful day - pretty calm sea and just nice to be out on the water. After about 45 minutes we saw dorsal fins straight ahead - first two then three then four dolphins and a mother and calf (?) leaping right out of the water and coming close to the boat, doing swim pasts at great speed , turning over in the water so you could see their white undersides - very very exciting and wonderful. They were bottlenoses - estuarine dolphins, not afraid of us if we get in the water with them but because there was a baby present we were not allowed. We saw the baby riding on its mothers nose , behaviour which our guide said she'd never seen before - and trying to imitate the adults jumping out of the water but only getting its nose and half body out. Very sweet.
Another pod joined them and we watched for about 20 minutes before moving away - only 3 boats allowed near at any one time and for a limited time only. But they were really enjoying themselves chasing each other at such high speed in the shallows near the beach but also catching fish - we saw a dolphin with a large fish in its mouth. Sometimes one would leap out of the sea adn perform a perfect dive - it looks like sheer exhilaration. We saw two mating as well swimming underside to underside and ignoring the boatrs compeltely .. almost impossible to tell female from male - female has 3 slits underneath and male 2 and that's apparently the only difference.
We put out further to sea to see if we could find another pod without babies to swim with but were not in luck. Saw huge flocks of shearwaters (Butlers I think) which are called mutton birds here - the Maori eat them I think. There was a whale as well but we didn't really see it.

Looking for my Leopard

I have a link to rather good .com - try linking to them and playing this new song - Looking for My Leopard. Definitely recommended for cheering yourself up if the day has not been good I understand that this site is www.reallyratherpopularnow( no that doesnt really exist) at least I dont think so!
www.rathergood.com

30th November

A lovely bright bright sunshiny day - I took myself off for a loop walk along the path to Cape Brett but circling back via the old whaling station at Whangamumu - a total of about 6 hours walking and boy did my left heel feel that - I had hoped that with exericsing it regualary , flexing it etc it would be ok - but it started to play up about an hour in. HOwever I carried on and was determined to enjoy my walk which I did - but what a barbaric practice whaling now seems. But it was thought perfectly ok back then in the late 1800s and still today knowing full well how endangered they are people want to hunt and kill them to eat- because they taste good and there is a tradition of hunting them. Seems unbelievable when we know now how intelligent they are and how close to us in evolutionary terms. But look at fate of a lot of monkeys. Its times like this that vegetarianism as a choice that westerners can make, seems to make a lot of sense to me.

Russell - 29th November - Books

tuesday 29th November
I made a trip into Russell , not walking but driving and saw the historic church, museum ( good card collection) and oh my goodness a shop selling books - not strictly a bookshop , as it sold other stuff too but I spent at least an hour in there trying to decide on a book (in English!!) to read - and settled eventually on a collection of NZ short stories (Best NZ Fiction Volume 2 edited by Fiona Kidman- all stories new for this book and copyright dated 2005) recently published . I wasnt' disappointed either - there were some really good ones - by Eirlys Hunter, Pierre Furlan, David Eggleton, Fiona Farrell ( but I know she has done better elsewhere - and heard a radio play about a campground which was poignant for me - picking the best spot etc) Anne Marie Jagose, Shonagh Koea, Tony O Brien and Vincent O Sullivan, Witi Ihimaera ( author of Whalerider, the book (before the film)) and there's another O' writer but I' ll leave him out for now. Felt inspired to reread some Katherine Mansfield who still seems to inspire and have relevance for this generation. I had wanted to buy Bill Brysons a History of almost everything - but looking at the book was put off by the amount of pages that are made up of appendices and thought my money better spent on pages of writing not reference.
HOweverI have already finished the short stories and need another book! Would like to read some contemporary NZ authors. Brian Crump has mentioned JO White for short stories "Ruby" and "SHareen". I have thought about sending this new book now I have finished it to the Morley College library back in London , down the road from Peabody and where I did my C&G photography course - Murray is a Kiwi who runs the Arts dept and also runs probably the only course in NZ literature outside NZ ( also has published a spy thriller I believe) and I liaised with him when I took photos for the college's first literature festival (instigated by Murray) starring none other than Fay Godwin (who grew up in NZ) of whom I took photos for the Morley magazine - is she a relation of any sort I wonder on the Godwin side?
A day of culture because I got back to the cottage and listened to contemporary Kiwi music - no actually it was Ozzie ( not Osborne) - "Combat Wombat" - who sound great- good hip hop. Also reviewed that night were Coco Rosie - Ok and next day a young American (David Bowie) who sounds just like Kate Bush ( Hanna take note!) but I didnt write downher name - as it Alison something?? I'll never find out now.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bay of Islands and Godwin Cottage

I left Hi Hi (please note I have shunned bad jokes about Ha Ha - Hi Hi is pronounced He He ) and carried along the coast on Route 10 taking the turn off to Taupo Bay which the Godfreys had all mentioned as somewhere I should go. It was a glorious day and a glorious Bay - very few people around - just a surfer and two sunbathers and I got into the water - freezing cold ! And dodged waves which were quite rough then dried off on the beach. I was intrigued by what looked like shell fish gathering going on in the water by two women with bags around their waists held bouyant by inflatable inner tube of a car tyre or perhaps something smaller. Seemed to be scooping up sand from under the waves and passing it into the bag which must have been filtering out the shellfish - razorclams? cockles?? I still don't know . But I do know now that only Maori are allowed to take oysters from the shores - but anyone can take mussels. There is a scallop allowance per person too.- but you have to dive offshore for those I suppose because they swim! I am dying to do a Ray Mears thing on the beach - but need someone to point me in the right direction and dont have any of his books with me.
Stopped again in Tauranga Bay and Matauri Bay- in the latter there is an assemblage of old buses and caravans resembling an emcampment but I didn't see anyone around - so maybe only at weekends. No luxury houses here onthe skyline........yet......I liked the feel of Matauri Bay and Lisa's Dad took photos of early NZ surfers here . The remains of the original Rainbow Warrior blown up by the French were towed here and dropped and you can dive them. ( I didnt)THere is a memorial to the two who died and the boat on the hill overlooking the bay.
In Keri Keri I was looking for fish but no fish shop - I was directed instead to the New World shopping centre which had live mussels - enormous green lipped - and scallops - very reasonably priced.
Kerkeri is supposed to be or has a tag of being a bit alternative, organic, with farmers markets etc - but I didn't see much evidence of this on the main street - it's all posh cafes and real estate so I didn't hang around.

I didn't stop in Paihia either but rushed onwards to the car ferry at Opua and a five minute journey over the water to Okiato (sounds japanese doesnt it?) where I took off again round the twists and bends and past inlets thick with mangroves which are everywhere in the north island in estuarine situations - even in the Auckland suburbs - and also equally prevalent the " for sale" signs ( lifestyle blocks on gated estates). I drove through Russell in the late afternoon and found easily the sign for Long Beach, gleefully bypassing all the motor camps and backpacker places, up over a hill past the cemetry on the brow of the hill where Christina Godwin is buried in a plot which wasn't yet opened up for burials but which she selected because it had a view of both sides of the bay - Richard Godwin is buried with the servicemen further down the slope on the Long Beach side.


Godwin Cottage
Down the hill and driving paralell with the beach and the bay past a huge perfectly shaped tree - which Sylvia told me later was a Moreton Bay fig - I eventually came to number 125, the most beautiful in my opinion of all the little original bachs which have survived the years . I opened the little wooden gate with my back to the sea and fished out the key, grasped the seahorse and turned the key in the latch and entered the little world of Godwin Cottage - like going back in time 50 years. Entering a world of holidays by the sea but also a private world with books and b&w family photos a small container of memories but also a space to be utterly yourself and free of all sorts of modern trappings - no tv, no telephone no washing machine - but still with all hte luxuries you could want - a bathroom and a shower - hot water and a cooker and oven kettle and toaster and most importantly coffee plunger! And curtains! (an unknown concept in Peru). Outside huge bushes of lavender and red roses, plum trees and an old khaki caravan engulfed in a yellow flowered bush. Inside again; a sitting room with comfy old armchairs , book lined shelves and a radio which I immediately switched on and tuned into and found for first time Radio NZ - equivalent of Radio 4, with mightily feisty female presenters giving all interviewees a hard time and Brian Crump playing very eclectic Kiwi music and talking to interesting Kiwi artists. There were paintings of birds and the sea , of dolphins and swordfish, these not the best of his paintings says Sylvia just what was left over by her father who studied painting in Paris for a year but was advised to keep it as a hobby rather than a career ( quite hard advice to swallow at a young age).
A silvereye perched on a very old fruit tree that I couldn't identify as I sat outside and had a cup of tea brewed in a pot (!) on the table by the hedge,in the dwindling sunrays of the day . A thrush, a duck and a californian quail all came up to see if I might have something for them too and it became obvious that mynah birds were nesting in the old chimney.
I cooked up my scallops first as a starter in a bit of butter with white wine and garlic - they were sumptious - then a pause whilst I steamed my mussels - did a sort of jus for them with again some butter and garlic and a bit of lemon juice and ate them with a salad and some bread ( Vogel as it seems Kiwis don't go in for making designer or indeed brown breads much, at least to sell -perhaps why they need bakers!)
As the sun went down and the odd noise of car engines passing by stopped altogether all I could hear was the constant wash of the waves over the shingle and sand and the crickets start up their background music. I went to bed very happy and feeling as if I had just arrived in a way home - a place you could come to write a book or make big decisions or simply forget about everything and anything else external. A place of absolutes and infinites.

Waipoua Forest to Russell, Bay of Islands

26th NOvember
It was a soggy day in the Waipoua, the trees dripping and a short track that takes you round a circuitous route till you are confronted with the awesome presence of the tree with the Maori name Tane Mahutu; receiving an audience of visitors as if a King kept back by the wooden handrail. It is impossible not to be impressed and quite naturally people were allowing each other to be alone with the tree for a short while. My goretex jacket turned a darker green with the unrelenting drizzle.

I drove on thinking of the two Dutch cyclists I met in Trounson Motor camp who were having a rest day today - good planning! They were spending 4 months cycling round the south island and two in the north. They wore designer glasses and cycling shorts. They looked very fit but older than me. And they were very happy. I think there are an awful lot of hills in New Zealand it certainly isn't the easy option.
I cannot get the radio in the car to tune into a station I like and for some reason the FM band stops at 90 and Lisa told me best station is at 98.9 so I have abandoned it and have been singing out loud in the car instead which is another benefit of travelling alone - for everyone else too. I also turned off the aircon and now just button down the window to hear the birds and smell the air. Ive been singing songs from the 60s as played at the party I suppose and some David Bowie - don't know why - songs just come from the lyrics I suppose - if you've heard a certain word that day it can trigger a song.

After the forest I climbed a steep steep hill (very glad not to be a Dutch person pedalling up it) - and then over the top the sea came dramatically into view and opposite in the middle of the bay a giant beige coloured sand dune as high as a hill with a forest of variegated greens "shrouded in mist" (gosh what a a cliche that phrase has become I realise a I write it!)connecting it to the mainland. Apparently to cater for the "adventure backpacker crowd" who I am beginning to develop a strong distaste for - not individuals just the notion of this market who are coming over in their thousands now to discover NZ post Lord of the Rings - it is possible to take a fast boat over to the dune climb to the top and sandboard down. Thankfully, due to the rain, the slopes were bare and peaceful when I arrived. THe little settlement of Opononi lies at the bottom of the steep hill and it has a museum where you can view the B&W film of Opo the dolphin who came into the bay one summer in the 50s and became a huge tourist attraction. A few months later her body was found floating near the bay and the thinking is now that the dolphin died from malnutrition - spent so much time with people that didn't keep its required fish intake up. This is why now there are rules governing swimming with dolphins wihch is not permitted if there are babies present - they have to feed from their mothers milk at two minute intervals or else they risk malnutition or hyperthermia ( they are born with the same body temperataure as humans) .
There was nowhere to buy fish in the town -or pretty much throughout NZ - everyone catches their own. In fact there was a fisherman on the beach and I asked him what he caught - snapper , flounder, dory and there were shark and ray in the bay too. I bought a coffee in the local frying shop to have with my sandwiches in the car . I then realised there was an auction going on behind me - the house on the hill was a backpackers , an old house with land and accom for 19. I was about to leave but 2 ladies came down the driveway so I got out and asked them how much it went for - $419k was the answer. Ihope it stays a backpackers and doesnt get broken up into subsectoins for luxury "lifestyle" plots as they are termed here with all the hard sell you can imagine. The ladies agreed but they also say that the property boom has created a lot of jobs. i got talking to them and asked about immigration - well we would love you to stay! they both opined- come and stay in Northland - its beautiful and quiet and not too far from AUckland. Jeanette gave me her card in case I was ever in Dargaville and needed a place to stay - she works as a coordinator for ESOL programmes teaching English language to new immigrants. She has just helped a young couple from Uruguay settle here , he is a beekeeper , on e of the preferred occupations and she is pregnant, only a month to go and they landed in NZ with $25. Jeannette told me that NZ is looking for apiarists and bakers.
THer is an old Maori Pa ( or fortress) site on the hill at other end of the bay - I never saw these in the south island and in fact Maori culture in general is much more prevalent in the north. The hill are not dissimilar to iron age hillforts and now Ive seen one I keep noticing more.

Also on the beach was a NZ dotterel which I managed to get a picture of. Quite rare. Beautiful russety breast and deep black eye. Also seen: pied stilts, Californian quail(not on beach) and the ever present and very noisy mynah birds - which are bad news, along with wild ginger ( Please report Wild Ginger!Danger! Spraying Wild Ginger!) because they squat other birds nests.

From Opononi I followed the coast up an inlet to the port of Rawene, still bucketing down, to get to the other side -you do know that the main road is closed on the other side? the ticket seller enquired. I did beacuse the museum had also warned me. Those other cars have just left the ferry he said.You will have to go round the long way round. But on the map there was clearly an alternative road - unsealed, but still a road. Cant I use that? You can I was told - but he wasnt keen. I started to wonder what sort of road this was - did you need 4x drive? But I wanted to see Kohukohu on the other side which sounded interesting - ( old hippy hang out too) -so I wasnta going to be deterred and an unsealed road wich no on eelse is using sounds much better than taking the long way round . Kohukohu used to be the third biggest town in NZ when the kauri industry was at its height as a port of trade adnd commerce but due to fires and lack of commerce has now shrunk to a few houses - though most of these are old and original. A once was town.
On teh other side which I could hardly see for sheets of rain I drove through the town and found a cafe to ask directions as the roads were all unmarked. The waterfront cafe was lovely old building, with very friendly owner and best cappucino Ive had so far in NZ. He and another old man in a wooly hat put me on the right track and the sun came out as I climbed out of the town on the unsealed road and up to a magnificent view of the bay. I met very few other cars and made frequent stops to take photos of old and new corrugated farm buildings and abandoned old cars in fields of white wildflowers. I saw a new home made of corrugated iron designed as a tower. I passed a sign Organic New Zealand! and signs to a campsite ( for sale) and organic farm - and was tempted to stop but kept going as already late in the day. I rejoined the main highway at Broadwood ( road was the Puponga Road) and sped along the rest of the way to Ahipara which is a famous surfer town. In fact the man in the cafe had asked if I was a surfer - must be my new tan and pink and red shirt from the recyclables shop near Mangawhai Heads.
But I found Ahipara rather uninspiring and the campsite similarly uninspiring. I booked a trip up 90 mile beach to Cape Reinga teh very tip of the north island , in a bus for next day and then paniced becasue I couldnt find my alarm clock which I imagined somewhere on the Trounson Park motor camp. But I used Lisas mobile phone which she kindly lent to me ( to keep tabs on my whereabouts) to wake me up and all was well - except I got carreid away thinking as I got up so early at 6am that i had loads of time and started writing when i realised I only had 15 mintues to get to teh deptarture point. Made it - tent down in minutes and a healthy pace in the auto.

27th November - Cape Reinga
This is a standard trip - you go all day in a standard bus which drives up the beach and I mean on the beach up to the top and then back down on the road stopping at points of interest but its a good way to see most things in a day and was reccomended by Lisas parents.
If I had gone by myself I would have missed Denis. Denis was our Maori bus driver , who had a good singing voice and like d to use it. Someone chipped in afterhe sang a maori farewell Didnt Billy Connelly sing that one on television He cant bloody sing! was the quickfire response. Denis had the traditional Kiwi sense of humour that I have now come to expect when driven or ferried anywhere - which goes along the lines of " Safety: if you see us crew jumping for the lifeboats then it's fairly likely it's time to abandon ship" Denis- " NOw Id like to welcome you all aboard this bus today - a little about myself - Ive just got out of prison , this is my first job ever, I've got a provisional driving license etc etc..." you get the picture. Luckilyhe didtn sing and talk all theway and he did tell us a lot of interesting stuff.Saw pairsof caspian tern - some with sand eels intheir beaks, flocks of white fronted terns, variable and pied oystercatchers on 90 miles beach ( actually 64 miles) other 4x4 vehicles with fishing equipment passed us - they do a lot of surfcasting and a big compettion is held every year on the beach - Denis ran through all the details of the biggest catch and prizewinners etc but it went past me mostly.
We then went sandboarding (optional) adn I opted to have a go and was very pleased that I managed to stay on the board unllike most other people so actually really enjoyed this part and was a bit of exercise too climbing up to the top. Just after Denis had driven off again and we were driving up ateh Te Paki stream he started to warn us how if we attempted to drive up here we should be very careful as it is easy to come a cropper - at that moment we rounded a corner to see a bus at a 45% angle in quicksand and everyone on board standing by the side - attempts to pull hte bus backwards by Denis just lodged the bus more deeply so we took on the shipwreckedpassengers on our bus and met a kiwi from napier - the famed art deco town - who works in Made In Aoterorao and has invited me to drop in when there.
We all enjoyed the unscheduled drama. From there it was up to Cape Reinga where I felt decidedly hurried - "Right see you on the bus in 40 minutes" - hardly time to walk to the lighthouse and back.
Cape Reinga is set in miles of unspoilt coastline and of great spiritual signifigance to the Maoris - they believe that the spirits of the dead travel all the way up 90 mile beach to Cape Reinga to descend down the roots of the Pohutukawa tree which still grows on the rock near the sea, into the underworld. Vastly beautiful and spoilt only by the constant stream of us ... probably better to come at sunset and camp on the lovely nearby DOC campsite at Tapotupotu Bay. Whole peninsula also once covered by the giant Kauri trees and settlers from the Dalmations ( is this Yugoslavia /Czechoslovakia?) came in a kind of Kauri gum rush to make money from timber and the valuable kauri gum ( origin of word gumboots) used in paints varnishes and linoleum. Peninsula also covered in forests planted by a community trust to precent erosion in the 60s - the Aupouri forest- pine trees. YOu cant help wondering what this land must have looked like before all hte Kauri were chopped down. An incredible forest. And the landsscape changed irrevocably in under a century.
Back in Kaitai Iat 5pm I talked briefly to Andrea and Jay - ANdrea is from Wellington and advised me not to drive back up to Cape Reinga but towards Mangonui for the night - very beautiful and good fish and chips- so I did. I camped at Hi Hi about 5 k from Mangonui on a motor camp which was practically empty , right on the beach. A very quiet little place . The famous fish and chip shop was very expensive and a very meagre handful of chips. Seemed more of a place to drink wine from what I could see. But I like Mangonui and at the other fish and chip shop they were kind enough to ring for me to see if the Swamp Palace Cinema was open which it wasnt so I went back to camp and sat on the beach until it was dark, looking at the stars.
It was a quiet camp but not a quiet night. I was far away from anyone else by a stream. Just after my light went out I heard something crashing away in the undergrowth and splashing in the stream. I thought it cant be a person surely?? But I couldnt sleep and had to know what was causing this racket. In the dark I made my way to source of the noise - I could see a shape moving in the dark which gave me a abit of a jolt - I turned on my torch - a tiny little hedgehog sat still ansd looked away from me rather sheepishly like a naughty child caught out. What a noise it can make! We sat there for a while and then, satisfied I returned to bed. In hte morning I found out that the splashing was probably being orchestrated by a pukeko - a sort of giant coot - a very ungainly bird who when it saw me , tried to run awaybut kept tripping over its own webbed feet with a huge green leaf in its beak - a very funny bird. It had two tiny little chicks who ventured out with Mum every now and then and didnt mind me as long as I kept my distance.

28th November
Breakfast - didnt happen becos there was nothing to cook in - and not even a kettle to boil water. A huge kitchen and devoid of other happy campers too so I felt a bit cheated. No one up in the office to lend my a spoon or a bowl either. Other kitchens have been fully equipped so I was unprepared for this.
But it was a hot and sunny day....and I was determined to make it to Russell. I had the key to Godwin Cottage in my backpack - a long slender old key with a brass seahorse keyring and I was eager to try it in the lock!