Saturday, September 28, 2013

Road to the Far North: Whangarei, Bay of islands and more...

Upon arrival to Whangarei from Auckland, I just quickly visited some notable places here and found an accommodation in order to get some rest, shower and do my laundry. 

Whangarei town basin

Whangarei Heads - a waterfront park with few nice small hills and hidden beaches. I did my first NZ 'trek' here (around 1 hr)
Whangarei falls - the campsite I was staying in was located just next to them

During my second day in Whangarei it started to rain pretty heavily, so I decided to try to get the car lock repaired. I managed to find the repair shop that would do it still that day, which meant that I was forced to spend almost 8 hours in heavy rain in a town where was not much to do... Now I know Whangarei town centre almost better than Trnava ;) Anyway, the lock is repaired and the car is fully lockable now, which is really good. But I paid 10% of the price of the car for that repair! (basically for being an idiot and not checking everything properly when buying).

After arrival back to the campsite I got a new roommate - Lola - a crazy German girl coming from her 2 year stay in Australia with only her beach clothes (it was around 15 degrees that day :)). After a short conversation and finding out that Lola has no particular plans yet, we agreed to continue up North together. So I have a nice and funny company for the trip for some time now ;)

The next day the weather got a bit better (although not perfect at all), so we decided to pack our stuff and hit the road. The plan was to get to the Bay of islands with several stops. My planning got a bit more spontaneous after Lola joined me, as her approach to traveling is something like: "I don't know where I am, where I'm heading or where I want to stop". But we managed to reach the Bay of islands (not a big deal at all - it was just around 80 kms from Whangarei) even with stops on several beaches on the way:

After-lunch break at Ngunguru beach

On the next day in Paihia we got lucky to get a clear sunny day, so we decided just to have a short walk around the small town and spend the rest of the day on the beach... (and get a decent sun-burn). Paihia is a small waterfront town full of restaurants, bars and accommodation, although it is still half empty at this time as the summer season is just about to begin..

Paihia apartments 

Aussie beer with German girl on NZ beach

Lola and Francois (French guy I met in Whangarei and again in Paihia) 

Francois getting rid of the spare energy by doing front flips on the beach

After leaving Paihia further North, we had several nice stops and ended up the day in a nice old fisherman town - Mangonui (the best thing about Mangonui was that there were no other backpackers except us there - btw. 90% of backpackers I met until now in NZ are young guys (18-19 years old) from Germany doing a trip or working holiday after the high-school. So sometimes it feels like Oktoberfest in the backpackers places).

Kerikeri - town where we just stopped to get some supplies for the trip and sort out stuff like IRD (tax) numbers, Lola's NZ phone and bank accounts.. At the end there appeared to be a nice old part of the town with old houses and a quiet park and little gulf.

Matauri bay - a nice black beach hidden behind steep hills (I'm quite sure that the brakes of my car will remember this road for a long time)

Tauranga bay - lonely planet says there is "peachy pink" sand, so we had to go and see that. But we were slightly disappointed after seeing quite a regular beach with regular sand

Whangaroa harbour

Mangonui - old boat ramp

Mangonui - old man and the sea

"World famous Mangonui fish shop"

Lola in local bar having a conversation with local parrot :)

The next plan is to get to the Cape Reinga (Northernmost tip of NZ) and have a ride on Ninety mile beach, and then to turn around and head south again...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Heading up North: from Auckland to Whangarei

My plan with buying a car and getting out of Auckland until the end of last week worked out as I managed to buy a car on Saturday's Auckland car fair. It is an old Honda Orthia with more than 270,000 km history so I hope it will be nice to me and make few more with me... (although the more I drive it, the more weird sounds I hear coming out from various parts of the car - and I'm sure I didn't hear anything during the test drive :)). 

So, this is it: BUD-light-Boeing-747. Almost 20 years, more than 270k... You better be good BUDdy. 

Anyway, it has carried me to Whangarei and the road up here is the purpose of this post. I took a road along the east coast and stopped on several nice places:

1) Shakespear Regional Park
A nice, big, almost untouched peninsula close to Auckland (you can even see it from here) full of sheep, cows, nice beaches and spectacular views. Perfect spot for a sunday picnic. 

I finally met my first NZ sheep! And I must say they look much better here than the sheep I remember from SK... Well, with this kind of environment they are living in, I don't even wonder they look that good :)

2) Puhoi
An old village established by settlers from Bohemia (current Czech Republic)
Local church of St. Peter and Paul

They even had welcome leaflets written in Czech in the local museum

3) Tawharanui regional park
Another coastal park with unique nature and animals living in it with the absolute highlight - Anchor bay:

Man vs. cajky. Uneven fight (as always ;))

4) Goat island marine reserve
Goat island marine reserve is a protected underwater territory where you can easily spot lots of fishes, crabs, water stars and snakes, mermaids and God knows what else.. It basically shows how would the NZ underwater life be without the touch of human. Unfortunately, I came a little late to borrow some snorkeling gear (and I anyway wouldn't go as I'm still getting off the cold I got in Auckland), so I cannot express any personal feelings about the underwater life. So here are just few pictures from the surface: Btw. two kiwi guys I met here in camp in Whangarei claimed that it is really a great experience, so maybe I will get back one day :)

4) Pakiri beach
The last stop on my road to Whangarei (well, there could have been several more, but I wanted to do this in one day and anyway it would have been just another beaches similar to the ones I visited...). Pakiri was a nice big surf beach with quite big waves at the time being.
So, I checked the sunset on Pakiri and then just finished the road to Whangarei.

Whangarei is known as the only city of Northland. Well, city... It has 50,000 inhabitants and it appeals more like a bigger village. Anyway, I'm staying here in a nice campsite and the plan is to spend here 2 or 3 nights, until I sort out the stops on my route further North and until my car gets repaired... Because of course I already found some hidden mistakes and besides having no antenna (and therefore being forced to listen to the one and only CD I have - Maori electro :)), I discovered that my rear door simply cannot be locked. So I definitely want to get this fixed so that I can leave some stuff inside the car with no worries.  

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Waiheke island: oasis of peace

Waiheke island is one of many islands in the Hauraki gulf (the one where Auckland city centre is oriented). It is just 40 minutes away by ferry from Auckland city centre. The ferry departs every hour until late night in both directions so the connection of this island with the city is pretty good. Lonely planet says that it was/still is home for artists from Auckland who decided to escape the city rush and find some peace for living on the island. Well, based on what I saw, the artists in NZ must all have 60+ years and their work must earn them pretty nice money :) But more likely is (as it is also happening anywhere else in the world), that the artists were simply pushed away from the island as they couldn't afford to live there anymore after people with thicker wallets "discovered" it. 

I picked a really nice sunny day for the trip, although when I look back, it was not the best day at all because my illness was at its peak that time and I literally felt like shit. Anyway, I departed at 9AM from Auckland and shortly before 10 the ferry arrived at Waiheke. Waiheke is known mostly for the beaches and vineyards. As I am not much a wine person, I went for the beaches. The whole island has around 8000 inhabitants, but the good thing is, that you can hardly spot a house, because most of them are very well hidden in the trees. The beaches were really magical as they were all empty at this time of the year. But I can imagine that during the summer whole Auckland is attacking these spots. I especially liked one beach - Rocky Bay - because of its atmosphere and the fact that it was on the other side of the island where apparently nobody except me was willing to go :).

I am sure that pictures will say more than 1000 words ;) 

Auckland ferry building (the old one in front) and downtown Auckland

Downtown Auckland from the ferry

After arrival to Waiheke (left hand side)

After arrival to Waiheke (right hand side)

Onetanga beach - the largest beach on Waiheke


Some places were still missing some water ;)

Local "Palm beach". Number of palms spotted: 0.

And finally Rocky Bay:
Just imagine this: you come home after work, walk down the stairs, pick the canoe/windsurf...

...and hit the waters. Hmm? :)