On Wednesday we left Christine's house with some excellent suggestions and headed north. First stop was at Trounson Park, a bush walk through a grove of kauri trees, which are NZ's oldest and biggest trees. Some are 1200 years old, 150 feet tall, and up to 9 Meters around (about 30 feet). But they are completely different from our redwoods. The bark is swirly and patterned like a patchwork quilt. The trunk often grows in a spiral. They are surrounded by tall tree ferns, and their upper branches are a habitat for more ferns and orchids -and of course a huge number of exotic birds.
We had a lovely, long walk there and then headed out to our next destination, we thought. But what we had understood to be a loop leading back to the main road turned out to be about a 40 mile long dirt road through a completely gorgeous rural area of pointy green hills and valleys, endless sheep and cattle farms, and eye-goggling views. Sounds like fun, right? Wrong ! All that time creeping along in that huge van, raising up a huge dust cloud behind us, wondering where on earth we might end up (road not on our maps) had us pretty stressed.
We finally emerged in a bleak little town called Kaikohe, and were we ever happy to be there! We got a little lunch and drove on to Ngawha Hot Springs, where we got out of our wool undershirts and into bathing suits to sample the 8 different thermal pools at this place, everything from "the Scotsmam" which was cold water to "the Lobster", the hottest, which seemed to actually be boiling with bubbles. It was a funky place for sure, but the price was right and after our hours on a dirt road, it was just the ticket!
That evening we found a really lovely "holiday park" campsite in the beautiful small town of Pahia on the Bay of Islands. There we were able to do laundry, have showers, and clean out the van in addition to having a delicious Thai dinner in town! Today we drove too long and saw a lot more rural scenery than we bargained for. Our internet access is sporadic, which is frustrating.
Location:New Zealand, northwest