Category: Northland

Kaitaia is next along Northlands Twin Coast Discovery route

Kaitaia is my next port of call in this two weeks travel around Northland ( www.northlandnz.com) and after leaving Gumdiggers Park (see my previous post) as I continue along the Twin Coast Discovery route to what could be called the capital of the far north.

kaitaia DSCF3840great public art

This area has an interesting mix of Dalmatian and Maori history: it is also home to the originator of ‘nek minnit” , a phrase that has been heard on lips of skateboarders through to a member of parliament (and which no doubt spelt death to the saying among young people!) Nek minnit was made popular by a kiwi skateboarder who appeared in a video that went viral and which shows his scooter, apparently destroyed outside a corner shop, known as a dairy here – although the skateboarder made the video, I believe it was from one of his Kaitaia cousins he first heard it!

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I check into Mainstreet Lodge a clean and friendly travellers lodge in the centre of town and where I meet Mike, the new owner and manager. Not surprisingly, I have just heard Mainstreet has doubled its occupancy over the past year under the new ownership and updating.

I believe this accommodation will also be a boon to people walking the Te Araroa trail – hike that takes people the 3000km (1864 miles) from the top of New Zealand to the bottom: of course it can be done in stages!

One of the unique points about this place is it’s the only place I know of that has a Whare – a Maori meeting house. This house grew out of a Maori carving school and some of the carvings were made at the school and so Whare Te Ohonga was born – the name means “The Awakening”.

mainstreet whare IMG_9477

I took a look around the new Te Ahu Centre on the corner of Matthews Ave & South Road which has some impressive design work. I’m told it houses a library, museum, cafe, i-SITE and the Far North District Council service centre as well as the Little Theatre, Te Ahu Cinema and Community Hall so can be well-used by locals and visitors alike.

More than 100 Perspex versions of one my favourite birds, the kuaka (bar-tailed godwits) hang from the atriums ceiling and the flight formation mimics the migratory birds amazing annual journey to the Northern Hemisphere – seems it likes a perpetual summer despite the huge journey twice a year.

Carvers working under the direction of tohunga whakairo (master carver) Paul Marshall have completed four, seven-metre pou (rather like totem poles) representing Pakeha, Te Rarawa, Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kuri.

They encircle the atrium and look down on a giant stingray etched in a polished concrete floor symbolising the seafloor and Te Hiku o te Ika – the tail of the fish. Three more pou representing Te Aupouri, Ngati Kahu and people of Dalmatian descent stand there.

A floor-to-ceiling fibre-glass kauri tree and swing bridge have been installed in the library where a wall mural evokes native bush and it’s well worth visiting this place on your travels especially as my photos do not do it justice,

What are your must-do and must-see suggestions to see in this provincial town? Of course it’s the jumping off place for trips up to Cape Reinga and that will be my next blog .. a day trip with Sand Safaris to Cape Reinga via 90 Mile Beach.

 

 

Kahoe Farm Hostel ……. the place to stay in Northland!

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Kahoe Farms Hostel , 12ks north of Kao, Northland, was recommended to me by Bare Kiwi: going by my experience of this homestay I will listen to his other recommendations!

So, what do you call a cross between a rural resort, a farm-stay, a holiday club and a homestay? Why Kahoe Farms Hostel of course!

Arriving in the morning, I spent the afternoon hiking in native bush behind this 1930s homestead; (the other one is from the 19thC. and both were built by the owners family) then watched my fettuccine being made for dinner.

kunikuni pigs
Kunekune

I also spent time talking to the cute-in-an-ugly-sort-of –way, kunekune pigs who will not be on the menu – ever!

Kahoe Farm Hotels started when a Kiwi met an Italian in London and they came back to NZ to the family farm which was started by Lyndsay’s Swedish great-grandfather who actually ‘jumped ship’ into the local harbour as his fellow sailors were heading back out after whales – the rest, as they say, is history.

Of the people staying here, one couple from The Netherlands are back for a 2nd visit in a year; an American surfer is also back for a second time, and a Frenchman is on his way up from Auckland, also a repeat visitor says it all.

This farm is also famous for its annual, New Year football (soccer) match … the world’s first tournament of the year here at the Kahoe Valley Stadium. The qualifying matches are held on New Year’s Eve and the final kicks off at midnight. The winners are presented with the Virgili trophy.

Stefano is an avid Inter Milan fan and often invites guests to play a friendly match on the Kahoe Farm stadium.

This is the crème-de-la-crème of backpackers and is surrounded by many walks and activities including a 3-hour round hike to the kauri dam, called ‘the rock pool’ by the family. It’s also a great base to for kayaking from. Canoeing among mangroves is always fun, or you can head out in the Whangaroa Harbour

This is a place to chill for a while, or get involved with the many activities on and around the farm – absolutely ideal for both kiwi travellers and tourists.

Have you stayed here? Or are you planning to?

Football anyone?
Football anyone?
Nearby Kao
Nearby Kao

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Lunch with a view
Lunch with a view
Kerikeri, Northland. History & beauty side by side

Kerikeri, Northland. History & beauty side by side

History and beauty sit side by side in Kerikeri – in New Zealand’s ‘winterless north’.

New Zealand's oldest building
New Zealand’s oldest building

The Stone Store, under the care of the Historic Places Trust, is part of the Kerikeri Mission Station, (1819) and is one of  New Zealand’s oldest buildings. In the group that I was being shown through it,  and the oldest building, Kemp House, (built 1822) one of the English tourists said to her travelling companion: ‘It’s not that old is it?’ ‘They really struggle’ her friend replied, ‘it’s not that long ago.’

As a kiwi of five generations I wanted to retort – “you stupid woman, where do you think you are? This is the newest country to be found and inhabited by you Brits! This newness is just one of our many points of difference to all we  willingly left behind. If you want ‘old’ stay at home you stupid woman.’

Luckily, for my peace of mind,  I kept my mouth shut – no doubt I too have said, or thought, stupid things in other people’s countries too!

Side by side with this European history sits Maori history – the mission was under the protection of one of Northland’s  great Ngapuhi chiefs, Hongi Hika.

All this sits in the beauty of the area: the orchards, wineries and thriving arts community that it is well-known for, and along the Kerikeri River.

On the other side of the river and tidal inlet, is Rewa’s village, a replica Maori fishing village. It’s well worth visiting  this volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation this  to see the native plant garden and learn the use of  the various plants.

See many other stories about the area on the Northland category – see these photos for other ideas of things to do while staying in the area – from buying fudge or chocolate, check out the kauri products or some ceramics – don’t forget Wharepuke for food and ec0-accommodation and Living Nature for your natural beauty products.

old bridge IMG_8864 livingnature kerikeri kerikeri IMG_8839 kauri workshop IMG_8717 kauri wkshIMG_8718 ceramics kerikeri choc factory fudge IMG_8701 guided tour IMG_8804 info tunaIMG_8843 bird IMG_8849 tuna IMG_8842

New Zealand's oldest building
New Zealand’s oldest building

rewas village IMG_8852 rewa IMG_8853 oldest floors IMG_8819 organ piano IMG_8816 public art kerikeri pukeko IMG_8705

Wharepuke. Eco-cottages I stayed at in Kerikeri, Northland

Wharepuke. Eco-cottages I stayed at in Kerikeri, Northland

In Kerikeri, Northland earlier this year, for the first time in many years, I stayed in some delightful eco-cottages.

These stylish self-catering, eco cottages at Wharepuke are nestled in 2 hectares of gardens which were first planted by Robin Booth – starting 18 years ago  on bare land – and have been awarded the ‘garden of significance’ status . The cottages feature original fine art prints and paintings by resident artist, print-maker and tutor, Mark Graver who has his studio on the grounds too.

Wharepuke has solid green credentials and actions – they include:

  • the cottages are purposefully designed for energy conservation
  • they use available local goods and services
  • they use organic cleaners and products
  • they encourage the reuse of sheets and towels by guests to save water and products
  • they recycle any rubbish
  • they have their own sewerage system which bio-treats water and which ends up back on the garden
  • And, they offer local and organic food and drinks where possible

These cottages are peaceful to stay in, and as this a great wedding venue, I imagine both guests and brides love staying here – I know I did!  I also valued the little torch on the key-ring to lead me home through the subtropical bush late in the evening.

Another asset about this place is the restaurant set within the gardens. Food at Wharepuke is a fully licensed cafe and restaurant specialising in Thai-inspired and modern European food.

Judged the “Northland Cafe of the Year” I can vouch for the fabulous dishes produced by the Welsh chef Colin Ashton , and his staff. An advantage they have is their herbs are mostly all grown on site.  Interestingly, the restaurant was once army barracks and was trucked to the site. Even if you can’t stay at the cottages make sure you eat at the restaurant.

One of my food recommendations is the Thai Tasting Plate. Dishes I especially loved were the very tender squid, the raw fish, spring rolls and the lavash bread!

Mark Graver- the resident artist – is the author of the book Non-Toxic Printmaking. (A&C Black, London 2011) and tells me he had to self learn how to create non-toxic printmaking. He was awarded First Prize at the 2010 Lessedra World Art Print competition in Sofia, Bulgaria and has work in public and private collections worldwide.  See his website for details about his work and the workshops he gives.

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Singer Frankie Stevens signed the chair .. that I sat in for lunch. Only days earlier he had been MC at the concert in the Treaty Grounds I’d attended. (see an earlier blog post)
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Lush subtropical gardens
cottage bedroom
a peaceful retreat
food at wharepuke
YUM!
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Fabulous gardens
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Food at Wharepuke can be served indoors, on the deck, or here in the garden
Food at Wharepuke
Food at Wharepuke
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Mark Grover at work on his etching … water based inks on copper
thai tasting plate
Thai tasting plate
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A saying to live by
veiw to lake
View from my cottage
view from veranda
another view from my cottage

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Keri Keri : a different natural beauty spot!

Keri Keri : a different natural beauty spot!

While in Northland, at Keri Keri, (Feb 2012) I went on a factory touring of Living Nature with Brett Alexander, their Research and Development Engineer.

From what I heard and saw, it seems Living Nature is one of the world’s most truly natural skin care ranges with over 200 products made from

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the unique and potent properties of New Zealand plants, honey, and clays. As they say, their beauty secrets and products have been 80 million years in the making!

Isolated for all those years, over 80% of New Zealand’s native plants are indigenous and it seems many have remarkable bioactive properties and it’s from those active ingredients that Living Nature make their skin care products.

They claim they create some of the safest, purest and most effective certified natural skin care in the world: all without the side effects of harsh, dangerous or damaging chemicals.

As Brett tells me “Our products reflect the country in which they were developed – pure and potent.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Green in all areas, they use carbon-neutral hydro and wind energy and filtered rainwater, the packaging is fully recyclable and their paper and cartons are sourced from renewable, managed forests and, like their inks, are free from dioxin and chlorine.  He continues, “We use no animal products, other than humanely obtained beeswax, honey and lactose. We will never test our products on animals.”

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They even use heat to gloss their lipsticks, and all equipment is cleaned not only at the end of the day, but also at the start!

Once my tour is over (you can see more about their products, processes, and quality tests on their website www.livingnature.com ) I had a wonderful facial with a rose quartz stone and the world-famous manuka honey.  After days on holiday, with sunburn, wind and sea air damage I needed it. Superb.

“It feels like my skin is just sucking it up” I say – “yes, it is” replies the therapist. I was also given a product to try – Radiance Night Oil. Evidently, the scent of Rose Oil de-stresses and increases elastin levels too, so my skin will feel firmer and look younger overnight. With 65,000 perfect rosebuds distilled into just 1 ml, they have bottled one of the world’s ancient beauty secrets.

 

My skin absolutely felt better, but younger overnight?  I’m not sure – I think my skin is long past being able to respond so dramatically, so quickly! However, I am absolute convert to their Ultra Rich Body Cream: luscious!

My face needed this treatment!
My face needed this treatment!

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Tall ship sailing in the Bay of Islands, New Zealand

Daily my finger traces the map. I’m following Northlands Twin Coast Discovery route behind the wheel of my low-cost rental car from New Zealand Rental Cars and now in the Bay of Islands  I sail in a tall ship ( R Tucker Thompson)  but first I visit the birthplace of New Zealand – the Waitangi Treaty Grounds. It’s not only historic and beautiful but also set in lush native bush and has guided tours and cultural performances night and day – I took advantage of the entry ticket being valid for two days to make sure I saw it all.

Next day, I challenged my fear of heights by soaring skywards with the Flying Kiwi’s parasail: New Zealand’s’ highest. Adrenaline was flowing before we left Paihia dock! Their website said the take-off and landing was smooth and gentle and that’s true!

 

Yes, that’s me up there!

I just hadn’t factored in the height in the middle and I was flying single, not tandem or triple. It was not long before I was at the height of Auckland’s Sky Tower above the water. Although fearful, during the ten minutes I did take some photos of the fantastic scenery and the boat pulling me. It seemed like a little dot, sometimes going in a different direction to me and the colourful parachute that floated above.  This is a must-do for fabulous views of the bay and some of its 144 islands.  Adventurers, and wimps like me, love to say “I did New Zealand’s highest parasail”.

Still in the bay, I went dolphin watching. As we searched in and around the islands and bays I realised why the first European to visit the area, Captain James Cook, named it The Bay of Islands.  Unusually there were no dolphins on my trip (another trip is offered when this happens) but we did see a pod of Orca, killer whales, feeding – no wonder the dolphins where hiding. However, it seems their genetic warning system about this top-of-the-food-chain mammal, has not caught up with the fact that, in New Zealand, orcas prefer sting-rays.

This was the first area settled by Europeans. Whalers had arrived at the end of the 18th century, while missionaries arrived in 1814, and Russell is the centre of this history.   Going there by one of the little ferries that leave Paihia wharf regularly and soon I’m enjoying a delicious lunch at ‘The Duke’. As I eat, I’m planning on sleeping in one of the rooms in this elegantly restored hotel next time I visit: they say they’ve been ‘refreshing rascals and reprobates’ for years and I’m sure I’d fit in!  Granted the first liquor licence in New Zealand, it’s certainly grown from ‘Johnny Johnson’s Grog Shop’ and the drunken sailors that Darwin hated, to this stylish Duke of Marlborough Hotel.

Here in the bay, I took another step back in time on board the R Tucker Thompson, a replica tall ship and took an afternoon sail on her from Russell back to her berth at Opua wharf.

R Tucker Thompson comes into the wharf at Russell

‘TheTuckeris a gaff rigged schooner that operates as a not-for profit charitable trust: their mission is “Learning for Life through the Sea”. It is also used for tourism in the Bay of Islands from October through April and, for the sail training activities between May and September.

Designed by a naval architect it was originally a fishing boat with a large engine and a small sailing rig. Another man, Tucker Thompson, changed her design to build her in steel – making the hull longer and deeper to accommodate the tall rigging and is a replica of vessels that plied their trade on the Pacific West Coast of the USA in the early 19th century. (See more about the background to the ship on the R.Tucker Thompson’s website).

A day or two before my trip on the ship, I met Russell Harris (who was in partnership to complete the ship) when the model of the ship “Tiny Tuck” was on show in Paihia. Dressed in traditional clothing and with a cat-of-nine-tails in hand,  I was pleased he was not on board when I sailed just in case I did something wrong!

I have done some ‘blue water’ sailing, and it was great to be back under sail again: despite enjoying sailing, I have never been up in the rigging either climbing or in the boson’s chair and this trip was no different – I’m sure many travellers love doing it when they go out for a day sail in ‘the bay.’  So, look at these photos and picture yourself up among the ropes and canvas when you get to New Zealand and go sailing with the crew.

Te Araroa: the long pathway allows you to hike the length of New Zealand

Te Araroa means The Long Pathway – and its 3000 kilometres (1850+ miles) link one end of New Zealand with the other and takes some 5 0r 6 million steps to complete.

The trail starts here at Cape Reinga, Northland.
Tanera Park, Wellington

 

All over the world there are many long walks, what makes this one different is that it doesn’t merely traverse one geographic feature but covers all the variety of terrain of one country: coastline to forests; from river valleys to mountain passes, from lakes to volcanoes!  It even passes through Tanera Park, and beside my allotment, here in our capital city, Wellington.  

 

So, if you plan on walking all or some of the trail you could do no better that use the book by Geoff Chapple, published by Random House, Te Araroa: a walking guide to New Zealand’s long trail.

 

Sailing in the Bay of Islands

On my road trip in Northland I took a step back in time by sailing in the Bay of Islands on board the R Tucker Thompson, a replica tall ship: I took an afternoon sail on her, from Russell back to her berth at Opua wharf.

‘The Tucker’ is a gaff rigged schooner that operates as a not-for profit charitable trust: their mission is “Learning for Life through the Sea”. It is also used for tourism in the Bay of Islands from October through April and, for the sail training activities between May and September.

Designed by a naval architect it was originally a fishing boat with a large engine and a small sailing rig another man, Tucker Thompson, changed her design to build her in steel – making the hull longer and deeper to accommodate the tall rigging and is a replica of vessels that plied their trade on the Pacific West Coast of the USA in the early 19th century. (See more about the background to the ship on the R.Tucker Thompson’s website).

the ‘tiny tuck’

A day or two before my trip on the ship, I met Russell Harris (who was in partnership to complete the ship) when the model of the ship “Tiny Tuck” was on show in Paihia. Dressed in traditional clothing and with a cat-of-nine-tails in hand,  I was pleased he was not on board when I sailed just in case I did something wrong! (I’d prefer to ‘walk the plank’)

Want a taste of the cat? I don’t think so!

I have done some ‘blue water’ sailing, and it was great to be back under sail again: nevertheless, despite enjoying sailing, I’ve never been up in the rigging either climbing or in the boson’s chair and this trip was no different – although I’m sure most travellers love doing it when they go out for a day sail in ‘the bay.’  So look at these photos and picture yourself up among the ropes and canvas when you get to New Zealand and go sailing with the crew.

Follow them on @RTuckerThompson

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Food, weddings & accommodation at “the Duke”

The Duke of Marlborough is one of the most historic hotels in New Zealand. Russell, (formerly known as Kororareka) was one of the first European settlements in New Zealand, and “The Duke” here in Northland has featured significantly in its colourful history including holding New Zealand’s oldest pub license. (NOTE Sept 2012 – The Duke has just won the Hospitality Association “Best Country Hotel’ )

Seems that may have come about by having friends in high places! Having lunch with the current Duchess, Jayne Shirley, I’m told some of the history:

It seems the Duke started out in 1827 as ‘Johnny Johnston’s Grog Shop” – Johnny was an ex-convict and his grog shop served the hundreds of whalers and sailors and who had upset Darwin with their lawlessness.  In a marketing exercise the grog shop was renamed after the richest man in the world – The Duke of Marlborough.

After the 1840 Treaty (of Waitangi) was signed New Zealand’s first government was formed lawlessness began to be controlled and grog shops licensed – with friends in high places, Johnny got the first one –the ex-crim is now respectable!

The “duchess” joins us for lunch

So, as the Dukes slogan and T-shirt says, they have been ‘refreshing rascals and reprobates since 1827’. With such a beautiful building in gorgeous surroundings, I’m not all surprised to hear the Duke is a popular wedding destination too.

The hotel was owned by Johnny’s’ family  until  1878 and the current owners (2 couples) bought it from a Frenchman (Arnould Kindt) who had renovated the accommodation areas significantly and lifted its star rating. The current owners are continuing to not only improve the hotel, but also integrating it into the community.

The menu, designed by their award-winning chef, focuses on fresh seasonal produce – and my fish meal was wonderful.

Seems Jayne and the other 3 owners fell in love with the Duke and the area while they were holidaying from Otago University and they’re now living their dream in Northland – they recently celebrated their first two years at “The Duke”. (May 2012)

Another big ‘thumbs-up’ I would give this place is for their ‘no surcharge’ policy on public holidays: well done.

See some of my photos of the Duke (below) and check out their website for more information. They are also on Facebook and Twitter (@DukeofM) if you want to get in touch with them via social media.

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You may like to check out a little more of the history of ‘the treaty’ mentioned earlier in this YouTube clip I was sent on Twitter

yet more photos

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Maori tour ‘tour of a lifetime’ says National Geographic Traveler

Hone Mihaka, of Taia­mai Tours says, “To classify ourselves as New Zealanders denies our cultural identity as Maori. Being Maori is our point of difference.”

Hone, of the Ngapuhi iwi (tribe) is given a lot of “mana” ( respect and prestige) and I was happy to be hosted at his marae in February  as I checked out  what the National Geographic Traveler named as one the 50 Tours of  Lifetime 2011 –pretty  good for a new venture!

Their interactive Waka experience is a unique insight into ancient customs, rituals and traditions: and once a year visitors from around the world not only learn how to paddle the ceremonial waka tau (war canoe) but also become part of the annual national commemorations that acknowledge ( and sometimes protest about) the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi – NZ’s founding document – on the 6th February 1840.

“Great – now let’s try that again then we will head for Pihia and our waka”‘ says Hone

This year there were guests from the USA, France, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany staying with the  extended Mihaka family at their traditional home near Lake Omapare, and I watched as they went through the last of their training in paddle techniques, waka manoeuvres, chants and haka in preparation for the next days’ celebration – out on the bay with all the other waka.  These photos show some of the day, with more stories to come after they feature in print media.

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As Hone says “I’m Ngapuhi, and I offer my world. Only in Tai Tokerau can you get a unique, authentic Ngapuhi experience.”

Tai Tokerau stretches from the Bay of Islands on Northlands’ east coast over to Hokianga on the west coast – which is where my Ngapuhi husband came from: Ngapuhi is New Zealand’s largest indigenous tribe of 100,000 – made up of over 100 smaller independent Hapu (clans).

If you are unable to take part in the Waitangi Day events, you are still able to paddle a waka with them – up to Haruru Falls .. see their website or find Taiamai Tours on Facebook

In Lonely Planets‘ book “Happy” on  page 105 it says ” Be Proud of your Roots. Embrace your heritage to better understand yourself.” The page is about Maori and their haka and Taiamai Tours embody this ‘secret to happiness’ and offer it to others.

As traveller, I believe  learning about other cultures helps us understand and embrace our own no matter where we’re from.

“This edited extract is from Happy: Secrets to Happiness from the Cultures of the World © Lonely Planet 2011. RRP: $25. lonelyplanet.com.”