Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bream Head


Whangarei Heads
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When you book a New Zealand tour of Northland, chances are you’ll leave from Auckland and head for Paihia in the Bay of Islands with a short stop at Whangarei Falls. By day three, you’ll be in Opononi on the west coast for a day in the sand dunes or another bus trip into Waipoua Forest and the giant Kauri trees, then back to Auckland. You’ll see a little of Nortland. But, there’s a better, cheaper way to see more and pay less– rent or buy an auto or RV. Either way, you can wander off the main road and find beautiful country any place you wander.


If you spend the night in Whangarei– which I think is one of the best towns in New Zealand-- you might as well pack up a lunch and drive the short distance around the north side of Whangarei Harbour, past the airport, to Bream Head, a high bluff at the end of a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific Ocean. To the north, you’ll find Ocean Beach with its pounding surf and miles of isolated beach. We won’t be passing nearby Whangarei Falls yet. We’ll find them on our way to Tutukaka.



View From
Parua Bay Tavern
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Riverside Drive takes you back over the Hatea River. Beyond the airport, you’ll find the Waimahanga Walkway, an easy 45 minute walk near the mangroves– remember nothing will bite you, so don’t worry about a snake with a bad disposition or an alligator hoping lunch will pass by. If you want to get wet then enjoy your lunch, Tamaterau is a good place to swim or windsurf. The Pines Golf Course, an 18 hole course with views of the harbour is also nearby. There’s a boat launch a little farther up Whangarei Heads Road at Parua Bay. With the airlines as fussy as they are now, you probably won’t bring your own boat, but you can have a beer in the Parua Bay Tavern on the water’s edge and watch the boats. Parua Bay is a small community about 2 kms from the boat launch. McLeod Bay, another swimming/picnic area is just across from Marsden Point, that spot where we checked out the harbour on our way into Whangarei. A small wooden church built in 1858 is still used for Sunday worship.




Bream Head
tramp
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Taurikura is easy to spot. It’s a natural volcanic rock causeway that disappears into the sea. Woolshed Bay is a popular anchorage for sailboats waiting for a daylight passage into Whangarei, a weather break, or just hanging out enjoying the scenery. From the car park in Woolshed Bay, you’ll find several walkways crisscrossing the Bream Bay Scenic Reserve. You’ll be glad you packed a lunch– or two– if you decide to explore. The entrance to these walks are at Urquharts Bay back a short way (see map), or Ocean Beach– where we’re headed. Like most New Zealand walkways, they’re well signposted. If you’re in really good shape, have the time, and brought a lunch or two, take the six hour (one way) walk and enjoy the view of the offshore islands and harbour views. There’s also a shorter 3 hour hike to Peach Cove and return. This is a kiwi sanctuary, so no dogs are allowed. You can find more information on hiking trails in this area at the Department of Conservation, DOC.






Ocean Beach
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Only 35 kms from Whangarei, Ocean Beach is a nice day trip along the largest enclosed harbour in New Zealand. Along the way, you’ll have a chance to enjoy the water, do some beachcombing or maybe watch dolphin and orca glide in and out of the water. At Ocean Beach, you can beachcomb for miles to the north or poke around in the rock tide pools to the south.

However you spend your day, whether working up a blister on one of those long hikes, swimming and snoozing on the beach, or settling back in the pub with a few brews, remind yourself how glad you are you took the time to rent or buy a vehicle so you could spend a day in part of New Zealand the tour guide forgot to mention as the bus zipped past on the way to the Bay of Islands.

If you’re all worn out from all that hiking, swimming or snoozing and have a self-contained RV, there’s overnight parking at Whangarei Heads at Ocean Beach. You can also find a place to park the night at Parua Bay opposite the hotel or at Pataua South past the public toilet.

Next, we’ll be headed up the road to Tutukaka, but we’ll have to get back to Whangarei so we can get around the Parahaki Reserve.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Monday, December 8, 2008

There's a Cheaper Way





Whangarei Falls

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We probaby picked one of the cheapest ways to travel New Zealand for an extended period. We bought our RV, traveled five months a year in New Zealand, freedom camping part of the time, then stored it on a kiwi farm for $16 per month and flew home to another summer in the states. If you don’t plan to return each year but want to spend several months poking around, really getting to meet the people and finding places off the tourist track, there are cheaper ways.


Hostels are scattered throughout New Zealand– and they are not cheap, smelly, out of the way accommodations for hitch-hiking hippies. Seven YHA Hostels are located north of Auckland. In a converted villa, Whangarei YHA, a ten minute walk to the center of town, overlooks Whangarei Harbour. There’s no age limit. Double and family rooms are available at most hostels and bed linen is supplied. Most have internet access, many have ensuite rooms (attached private bathrooms), some have facilities for people with mobility problems, and all have community kitchens and lounge area to relax or watch TV.


New Zealand hostels are busy from Christmas until about the third week of January when New Zealand schools are on their holiday break. Don’t show up without a reservation during that time. YHA New Zealand is part of the international YHA. Though privately owned, they adhere to the international standards of the YHA network. Rooms are available to YHA members and nonmembers– at an additional charge. If you join Hostelling International, Guest Cards can be purchased and are valid worldwide. Membership prices are inexpensive and can be purchased on the installment plan for about $4 per night. These cards also give you discounts on transportation and activities including a discount of 50% on Air New Zealand domestic flights if you fly standby. Room reservations can be made in advance and are recommended for Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch. A free phone is available next to the information desk at the Auckland airport to check room vacancies and make transportation arrangements– that discount card covers the airport shuttle.


For another way to travel New Zealand ans spend less on a room, try a

BBH Hostel. Independently owned and operated, there are over 350 independently owned and operated BBH Hostels in New Zealand. These are smaller hostels with a variety of room sizes including ensuite. Bedding is available, but you’ll save if you bring your own. Like YHA hostels, there are no age requirements. With this unique system, you book and pay on arrival. As their purpose is to provide rooms at the lowest cost, they suggest you don’t "pre-book hundreds of dollars of transport, activities or accommodation before you arrive."





Our Whangarei Hostel
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You’ll find 35 BBH Hostels in Northland alone– four in Whangarei. Independent ratings and rates are posted on BBH. You don’t have to be a member to stay, but they offer a membership card with savings on rooms and travel, free on-line registration, and a $20 pre-paid phone card to help you book ahead. Have questions? Check into their forum and chat with someone who’s used this unique New Zealand plan.


Hostels are an inexpensive way to travel in New Zealand and meet interesting people from all over the world.


Lyn Harris


RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand











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Saturday, November 22, 2008

Whangarei

Whangarei Harbour
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Water, water, everywhere. You’ll soon find that out if you’re traveling New Zealand by RV or auto. We found so much water, I left one chapter to water adventures in my book RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand. The Port of Whangarei is at the head of Whangarei Harbour, the Hatea River winds through town and empties into that harbour, and you’ll even find a nearby waterfall. But, you can manage to stay dry if you don’t step off the dock or get caught in a rain shower.






Located in a broad valley with hills to the east and west, Whangarei is the largest town in Northland. The Town Basin is home to many international yachts. Larger ships dock at the deep-water wharf. You’ll want to spend time around that Town Basin– I mentioned in the last post where to find free over night parking there if you have a self contained van.











Whangarei Town Basin
Yacht Harbour

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In the Town Basin you’ll find: Clapham’s Clock Museum, the largest collection of clocks, time pieces and music boxes in the Southern Hemisphere, and the Museum of Fishes– a place we wandered through several times since we always liked to hang out around the sailboats, visit the unusual shops, and have lunch in one of the cafes. On the water side, you’ll find the yacht club– not very fancy, but friendly. Hang around outside for a while, figure out who’s off one of the boats and not another tourist, strike up a conversation, and you’ll probably get invited to join a pot luck. Many of these sailors are holed up for hurricane season, waiting for a good weather window. You’ll find people from all over the world wandering that area– many serious sailors. It’s a 21 day trip from Tonga to even reach Opua in the Bay of Islands. If you see someone from a sailboat flying a foreign flag– that’s a serious sailor.








Everybody Do
the
Whangarei Walk
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There’s plenty to see besides sailboats around Whangarei. At AH Reed Kauri Park, you’ll find the remains of a kauri forest and a tree-top boardwalk in the 500 year old kauri trees. At Whangarei Museum and Heritage Park on Hwy 14 on the road to Dargaville, you’ll find artifacts of Maori and European history, an 1886 kauri homestead, a chapel, and the Native Bird Recovery Centre for injured birds. New Zealand attracts many migratory birds. Some, warn out from the long trip south, can’t make it home and end up permanent residents along with the local fantails and Tui birds. This is also your change to see one of those big brown kiwi birds in the Heritage Park. The Quarry, a collection of studios and workshops near the city center is open to visitors. It’s home to an intensive summer art school and welcomes artists worldwide.



If you’re a golfer, Whangarei has seven courses. Dave and I play the Whangarei Golf Club. You need to watch that overhanging tree on the 6th tee. It’s easy to tee off and end up with the ball fifty yards behind you. If you have a self-contained RV and don’t tear up their greens, ask if you can stay overnight. It’s pavement parking, but the facilities are great– nice hot showers. If you’re a golfer, many rural golf courses will let you stay over night if you ask. Occasionally, a caretaker lives nearby, but usually everybody goes home and you’ll have the course to yourself. Some courses provide RV electrical hookups. They do this as a courtesy, not to make money, so they’re not advertised. When we play golf, we ask permission to stay and have always been welcomed. The manager asks if we need the facilities open all night. The women’s facilities have fancy flowers, fancy towels and good smelling shampoo and bath products. The women’s facilities only. Dave says it’s always ‘Bring your own soap and no flowers’ on his side.



You can drive up Memorial Drive to Mount Parihaka Lookout and look down over Whangarei and the harbour. Each night the War Memorial on the summit is lit and can be seen from the town below.



Whangarei Falls, one of the most photographed waterfalls in New Zealand, is 5km out of town. We’ll be passing nearby on our next stop– Tutakaka.






Lyn Harris



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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Bream Bay


Downwinder
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More than a month ago, on our road trip up the New Zealand coast from Wellsford to Whangarei, we cut off on a loop past Mangawhai Heads. Then, I dropped you in the parking lot behind the hotel in Waipu while I wandered off talking about Kiwi motorsports and kauri forests. Just be glad Im not your travel agent. The folks at the hotel would have politely asked you to move on. Freedom campers are usually welcome for two or three days at the most.


Now, it’s time to pack up the barbie and your dirty clothes and head on up SH1 to Whangarei. Yes. I know you could have walked from Waipu to Whangarei in a month, but I’ll tell you anyway what you might have missed along the way.


Bream Bay stretches in an arc from Langs Beach, a little below Waipu, to Marsden Point at the entrance to Whangarei Harbor. This map shows you Bream Bay and where we’re headed. About an hour and a half north of Auckland, Bream Bay is popular for its sand and surf, diving and snorkeling, big game fishing, and kite sports– traction kiting. Kite ATBing (kite-mountain boarding) is similar to kitesurfing but you surf the land instead of the water. Even newbies to kite sports can enjoy a ride in the sea breeze. Equipment is determined by weight and experience. It might be a good idea to test your skills over the water before surfing the hard stuff.



Hard Case
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The 2008 National Kite Championships were held in Ruakaka– a short distance up Bream Bay on our way to Whangarei. (Whangarei begins with the F sound for those of you who want to pretend you know something about the Maori language.) Photos and videos of the
2008 Championship might encourage you to take a dip in the surf. The 2009 National Kite Championships will be held February in Christchurch. At Ruakaka you can rent kiting equipment, explore the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge in a kayak, rent dive or snorkeling equipment to check out the reefs or the nearby Hen and Chicken Islands, or try your luck at big game fishing. This whole area of New Zealand is sub-tropical. Dive and sportshops are spread from Kaitaia down the coast to Mangawhai. Find the area you’re interested in exploring and contact a local shop. These are usually small shops that offer personal services and you’ll get a fair price. It’s pretty hard to find a Kiwi who won’t give you an honest deal. Good dive locations are mainly on the east coast where you’ll find sheltered bays, sandy beaches, and many, many reefs and offshore islands. Wreck diving can be found up the coast. Two old warships are artificial reefs off the Tutukaka Coast and the Rainbow Warrior is in the Cavalli Islands.

We’ve been talking about offshore islands as we move north from Auckland. Just east of Bream Bay, about 12 kilometers off Bream Head, Hen and Chicken Islands are prime kingfish areas in the summer and a great spot for diving and underwater photography all year round. Named by Captain James Cook in 1769, they became a scenic reserve in 1908 and a wildlife refuge in 1953.






Stan Thorburn with Kingfish
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These warm sub-tropical waters are popular with big game fishing enthusiasts. Bream Bay Charters can help you plan a diving/snorkeling or fishing trip in Bream Bay. If you’re really after a bragging size fish and enjoy tournaments, Lion Red Beer and Carters sponsors Beach & Boat Fishing Competition the end of February/ early March each year in Ruakaka. Over 2000 anglers compete for prizes and trophies. Before the tournament, a snapper is caught and tagged. Catch this slippery devil during the tournament and win $100,000. If you enjoy big game fishing, plan to be in Ruakaka during this tournament. Information and pictures can be found on the Beach & Boat Competition site. Even if you don’t win the $100,000 prize, you’ll enjoy three days of fun. Just be sure to book a place to stay way ahead.


The Ruakaka Reserve Motor Camp is right on the beach and close to the tournament. A family oriented camp, it’s one of the largest camp sites in New Zealand with 180 RV sites and 111 tent sites. This is a popular motor camp that’s usually booked from Christmas to mid-January when the Kiwis vacation and also during the tournament. If you’re traveling by auto, five backpacker cabins are available in the motorcamp. There are also nearby motels.






Greg Whithan
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That short loop that jogs off Hw1 to the northeast at Ruakaka takes you to Marsden Point and One Tree Point at the neck of Whangarei Harbor. Both are good places to watch the yachts thread their way through the channel on their way into Whangarei Town Basin. One Tree point is a small community. At Marsden Point on the eastern side, the
New Zealand Oil Refinery’s Visitors Center is open most days. At the Visitors Center, you’ll find a 1/33 scale model of the refinery as well as models of their pipeline from Marsden Point to South Auckland. Admission is free.


If you’ve spent your day snorkeling, kiting, fishing, or sightseeing and you’re knackered, you’ll find motels and two good motorcamps in Whangarei. If you’re traveling in a self-contained campervan, you can park for the night at the Whangarei Town Basin near WOADS down past the wharf. Free parking is also available at Marsden Point in the Harbour Board carpark.


And we finally made it to Whangarei! A good place to eat, drink and spend money.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand


















































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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Motorsports


Sidecar Racing
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If you’re a Kiwi or a motorsports fan, you know the New Zealander Scott Dixon won the 2008 IndyCar Series championship. Scott won the title in 2003, lost both the race and championship to Dario Franchitti at Chicagoland Speedway last year when he ran out of fuel near the finish, and roared back again this year, losing the race by a kiwi’s beak to Helio Castroneves, but winning his second IndyCar Series championship. IndyCars for you non-motorsports fans are those open-wheel, low-slung cars that whine around the track like angry hornets. Scotts championship wasn’t an accident. New Zealanders take their motorsports– all their motorsports very seriously.

In March, we talked about the Museum of Transport and Technology (Motat) and the nearby Western Springs Speedway in Auckland. When you’re RVing or poking along in an auto, it’s always fun to travel with a mission– play three golf courses in Northland, visit gardens in the Coromandel, or tramp a track. If you’re a sports fan of anything that makes noise and goes fast, why not make one or more motorsport events your mission?

In the North Island, the new motorsport complex, Hampton Downs, south of Auckland should be completed some time next year. Under construction near Meremere drag strip and oval track in north Waikato, Hampton Downs will be a driver training and testing facility as well as fancy modern-day motorsport complex.




Motorbikes
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Each Boxing Day (December 26) during the Cemetery Circuit, motorbikes (NZ motorcycles) race around the cemetery in downtown Wanganui. In this street race, sometimes called the Southern Hemisphere’s Isle of Man, motorcycles tear around town, zipping around corners– usually. Sidecars bang by, driver in front, feet dragging passenger in back, trying to maneuver around the turns. They’re noisy, so bring ear plugs. Paeroa hosts the race finals in February. There are six low-cost parking spots in the middle of town. When the races are in town, RVs move to the town reserve. Motorcycles often miss the turns there and you wouldn’t want a cycle in your bed. If you’re staying home for Christmas, you can watch the Cemetery Circuit race live on the internet. Just make sure to check ahead for the correct times– New Zealand is a day ahead.

Still farther south, near Feilding, you’ll find Manfeild Autocourse. (No. I didn’t spell it wrong. The town is named for Lord Feilding.) Built in 1973, the track was brought up to international standards in 1990 with its 2.8 mile road course. Manfeild park which contains the course is a busy place. On any day, you might find a horse show, a wedding, a shearing contest or an international race.




The Muddy End
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The South Island is a little shy of large towns north of Christchurch, but south of there, each February, you’ll find the Southern Festival of Speed. With three permanent circuits and one temporary circuit in Dunedin, this series for classic and historic vehicles (including motorcycles) has four venues and seven racing days. The courses are in Christchurch, Timaru, Dunedin and Invercargill almost all the way to the end of the South Island. If you plan to visit the Southern Festival of Speed, these towns are all on the eastside of the South Island along Hwy 1. Use a Mileage Calculator to figure your travel time. The Southern Festival of Speed is just one of many events. If you won’t be in the South Island in February, you’ll still find some type of motorsport if you hang around for a while.

Congratulations Scott Dixon on your second IndyCar Series championship.


Lyn Harris
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back in the Bush







Kauri Tree
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Pohutukawas, those fancy New Zealand Christmas trees, aren’t the only unusual native trees you’ll find when you RV or travel by auto north of Auckland. You’ll soon notice New Zealand’s bush– a dense indigenous forest. In Northland, with its warm climate and moderate rainfall, you’ll find conifer-broadleaf forests and many tropical shrubs and plants.

In lowland forests, rimu, a red pine and the broadleaf tree, taraire are among the forest canopy that protect the many tropical trees, shrubs and flowers. New Zealand’s palm tree lives in this protected tangle of growth as well as several kinds of tree ferns, colored fungi and ground orchids.

The swamp forests have fewer tree species and the tallest trees are kahikatea– conifers that look similar to rimu. A tall flowering tree, the pukatea has a base of thin triangle flanges to support it in the soft swampy
ground and breathing roots like mangroves to bring air to its soggy roots.


Kauri-broadleaf forests can best be seen when you return down the west side of Northland. We passed the turnoff for SH12 on the Mangawhai Heads post. SH12 swings west, comes up the coast through Dargaville and cuts into SH1 again near the Bay of Islands. If you’ve come this far, you want to visit Tane Mahuta in the Waipoua Forest north of Dargaville. Tane Mahuta– Lord of the Forest– was discovered in the 1920's when SH12 was surveyed through the Waipoua Forest. New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree, according to Maori legend, Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. It’s a short walk under a forest canopy to visit Tane. And an experience you’ll never forget.

Kiwis call their forest the bush. At one time when the moa, that huge flightless bird, roamed New Zealand, 80% of the land was covered with trees. The Maori arrived from the Society Islands (Hawaiiki) some time around the 14th century eager to escape food shortages and war. They cleared land, planted their kumara plants and used the kauri to make wakas-- war canoes. By the time the Pakeha arrived in the 19th century, 50% of New Zealand was still native forest. A dense tangle, the Europeans compared it to a tropical jungle and called it bush.





Kauri Forest
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Because kauri floats, it was popular for shipbuilding. The tall straight timber made excellent masts. The gum that oozes from mature trees to repair injury was used in varnish and linoleum. By 1900, most of the forests had been cut down. Today, the kauri forests are protected.

While you’re traveling through Northland, enjoy the bush. Park your RV or auto and wander around. But, stay on the track. If you just have to go bush-bashing– tramping around off the track-- take a Kiwi who knows his way around. Your Boy Scout training won’t help a bit. In the bush, the moss doesn’t grow on the north side of the tree. It grows up and down and all around. If you do catch a glimpse of the sun through that tangle of trees in the sky, it’s not in the south where it belongs. If you really want to get away from it all by yourself, carry enough food for at least a week. The load will slow you down enough you won’t wander far from the marked path. When you’re down to your last Snicker bar and still have no idea where you are, sprawl out in the ferns, gaze up the nearest tree where you’re sure the sun is hanging around up there somewhere and thank your lucky stars there’s no creepy crawly biting things in New Zealand.

Lyn Harris
























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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mangawhai Heads



Mangawhai Heads
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If you’re driving or RVing to Northland in New Zealand, you’ll probably spend at least one night in Whangarei. You can probably make Whangarei in a couple of hours if you don’t take the scenic roads or get stuck on the Nippon Clipon . Hopefully you drive faster than I write. I left you somewhere around Wellsford on July 11.


Just north of Wellsford, the road forks. SH1 heads for Whangarei. You’ll take SH1 if you want to cut across to the west side of the North Island on SH12. The scenic route to Whangarei– all good road– drops off to the right where you’ll find Mangawhai Heads. About 51 miles from Auckland, you can make it in about 90 minutes, spend the day, and continue to Whangarei 30 miles away– or stop over in Waipu or Ruakaka. Mangawhai Heads, a point break with a sandy beach, is popular with surfers. I’ve walked the beach, but never surfed– and probably never will since they remind you to "Take care of rocks and sharks." If you’re a surfer, you can find a


Surf Forecast and Surf Report. They’ll also give a snow forecast and a list of nearby ski resorts– which aren’t nearby. You’ve come to Northland for sun and surf. It’s sub-tropical.


If you didn’t come to New Zealand to make friends with a shark, take a two-hour walk along the cliffs where you’ll see offshore the nearby Hens and Chickens, a popular diving area, or the Hauraki Gulf Islands. You can also enjoy the Heads and stay dry by paragliding from the cliffs. This short DVD gives you a view of Mangawhai Heads.





Mangawhai Heads
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Around the point on the north side, Bream Bay stretches in an arc from Langs Beach to Marsden Point. Some estuaries are wildlife refuges for shorebirds and waders including the protected NZ dotterel and variable oyster catcher. You’ll see many unfamiliar birds. If you like birds, pick up Geoff Moon’s Common Birds in New Zealand mentioned in For the Birds.

Langs Beach and Waipu Cove are good spots to stop for a picnic on the beach while enjoying swimming surfing or fishing.

Bring a torch and cool off in nearby Waipu Caves. The caves are wet and slippery, so wear good shoes. The main cave is 175 meters long and you’ll find stalagmites, stalactites and glow worms. If you want to explore some of the deeper caverns, be sure you tell someone where you’re heading, or hire a guide.

Maybe caves are not your cup of tea–just too dark and cold. The Waipu Caves Walkway (signposted on Ormiston Road) climbs a ridge through farm land then wanders through a scenic reserve to the cave area.

Piroa Falls, just south of Waipu is a 10 minute walk up a steep zigzagging path to a beautiful swimming hole. Just keep your eye out for "Flying Kiwis" jumping off the top of the falls. You’ll end up with a headache if one lands on you.

Whether you take the straight shot up SH1 or the scenic route along the cliffs and beaches, you’ll end up at Waipu. Concrete parking is available for 4 $NZ (free if just overnight) at Waipu Cove Reserve Camp on Cove Road.

If you have a self-contained RV and want to spend your money on Lion Red Beer and a good dinner, you might find free parking behind the hotel in Waipu– please ask first.


Lyn Harris
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand








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Friday, July 11, 2008

Dome Forest Loop






Tuatara




When you travel the loop around Dome Forest in Northland, New Zealand, you’ll find forest hiking paths, working farms, and a marine sanctuary. At Warkworth, where we left off on our tour up SH1, take a scenic loop around Dome Forest. You’ll end up back on SH1 near Wellsford. You’re still not far from Auckland, so this makes a good day trip if you’re stuck in Auckland on business and want to see more of New Zealand than just city traffic.

In Dome Forest, you’ll find a hiking trail that leads to a viewing platform. It’s about a 20 minute, fairly easy hike to the viewing platform. Then, if you’d like to view Taranga Island of the Hens and Chickens, climb through the rocks to Dome Summit. The descent through a Kauri grove is easier. The trail crosses land sacred to local Maori, so keep on the trail.

A side road to Tawharanui Regional Park drops down to the right off this loop around Dome Forest not far from Sandspit—where the boat leaves for Kawau Island. The park road winds through farmland and ends in a gravel section. Once a private farm, the park, with its long sandy beach and grassy pohutakawa shaded areas, covers the end of the peninsula that pokes out into the Pacific Ocean just north of Kawau Island. There’s also a good walking trail that starts near a protected area of New Zealand dotterel birds, continues up the beach, then climbs across farmland to a forest. Points of interest along the trail are marked and trail guides are available for the longer trails. Tent camping sites are available, but book in advance in summer months.



Goat Island
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New Zealand’s marine reserve, Goat Island , spreads between Cape Rodney and Okakari Point. This is an excellent area to enjoy tide pools at low tide, snorkel, or dive. Although fishing is not allowed in the reserve, boats can launch in Leigh cove. There’s a five knot speed limit within 200 meters of shore or a dive flag and you’re reminded to anchor carefully so you don’t destroy the marine environment. Dive and snorkeling gear can be rented. If you’re not anxious to get wet, try a glass-bottom boat or you can explore the reserve with a PADI certified guide.

You might find your best chance to see a tuatara up close in the reptile park at Ti Point.

If you’d like to spend time on an isolated working farm, ride horseback along the beach and sanddunes, or pack into high country forest for a night or two, Pakiri Beach Horse Rides is just north of Goat Island marine reserve. The first road at Pakiri goes to the beach, the next road brings you to the 2000 acre family farm of Laly and Sharley Haddon. Beach cabins and river cabins are available as well as a beach house on the dunes that sleeps eight. Rides are from one hour along the beach to several days meandering through high country, farmlands and forests with views of the Hauraki Gulf. At night guests sleep along the trail in farm and beach houses– including the ancestral house of the Ngati Wai, while learning about Maori history and legends.

The loop around Dome Forest brings you back to SH1 just 19 km north at Wellsford. The road as far as Cape Rodney is in good shape. Beyond Pakiri, it’s windy, in poor condition, and no towing is allowed. If you’re not in the mood for a windy, dirty, road, just backtrack to Warkworth– or spend the night at Pakiri Beach Holiday Park and return the next day.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Ski New Zealand


Mt Ruapehu
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June to August is a good time to avoid New Zealand travel– unless you ski or snowboard. I leave my home near a ski resort in the Cascade Mountains and visit New Zealand in their summer season because I don’t want to shovel snow, fall on my butt in the ice, or crawl under my car to pry off a chain that’s wrapped around the axle. But, if you’d like to take a holiday now and get your nose burned on a snow field instead of the beach, the price is right in New Zealand.



New Zealand ski season is June to November. August is the peak season. New Zealand is a volcanic area constantly moving and belching and Kiwis take their skiing seriously. When Mt Ruapaeha in the North Island burped out hot lava, skiers weren’t surprised, only determined they weren’t going to lose a ski season. Kiwis let the mountain go about its business throwing fiery boulders into the air. Then, they slipped down one side of the mountain on skis while lava slipped down the other. There are three main ski areas in the North Island and many in the colder South Island. If you’re a beginner or professional, you can find a New Zealand ski area and price that suits your experience level and your credit card balance. While all New Zealand ski areas cater to snowboarding, Wanaka in the South Island is the snowboarding capital. Ohau Lodge another snowboarding area in the Southern Alps is famous for its parties.



If you still believe the world is flat, try some heli-skiing in the Southern Alps. You better know a little more than how to carry a pair of skis and party with the crowd. Heli-ski companies will transport you up the mountain and you figure out how to get yourself down.



Apollo Motorhomes is offering special rates on their RVs and campervans through August 31, if you book by June 30. Most of the vans I’ve seen around Queenstown have ski racks– you might ask before you rent if you don’t want to sleep with wet skis. Apollo says it has no diesel recovery fee– New Zealand RVs have odometers on their hubs and private owners pay a small fee to the government based on odometer mileage. This is usually included in the rental cost, but with the cost of diesel going up, check first if you’re shopping around. Apollo also advertises unlimited kilometers and GST included. Kilometers on rental vehicles are usually unlimited although some roads are off limits, including one near Wanaca– which you probably couldn’t pass over even if you wanted to in their winter season. GST is very high, so if you’re comparing rental RV rates, ask if the GST is included. Apollo recently bought into the US RV rental market and has a Los Angeles branch. If you’re near California, you might contact them for more information.



If you’d like to spend your summer vacation slipping down a frozen mountain or sitting around a fire in a remote alpine lodge, consider a New Zealand vacation in snow country. If you can’t make it this year, at least dream a little. Turn on your air conditioning and watch a New Zealand ski video.


Pros & Kiwis
By:


Lyn Harris
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Kawau Island






Pohutakawa Tree

by

Jonathan



Kawau Island in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand which I posted about in the Kowai Coast is a good place to see birds up close. Catch a boat from Sandspit Wharf near Warkworth to Kawau Island. The Island has kiwi birds and also two thirds of the North Island wekas. Another chunky flightless land birds, wekas have reddish brown feathers and walk with a flicking tail. Wekas are nosey, so it’s not too hard to spot one. The wekas and birds in For the Birds are all native birds.



New Zealand has a lot of tourist over-stayers– people that like New Zealand so much they hang around after their visas expire. They also have many feathered and furred tourist over-stayers. When the Maori arrived from the Society Islands in the 14th century to escape food shortages and war, they found plenty of food, though not much good red meat. Other than two species of bat, there were no land mammals. The flightless Kiwi birds and wekas dug around on the forest floor for their dinner.



In 1862, Sir George Grey, Governor of New Zealand, bought Kawau Island and remodeled the existing mine manager’s house into the Mansion House and surrounded it with botanical gardens and a zoological park. Grey also brought in five species of wallabies. Cute little pests, they tore up the native vegetation along with the not so cute possums, another pest. The wallabies destroyed baby pohutakawa trees so there can never be any mature trees. In many areas, the ground is also often bare, leaving the birds without food or shelter. Even the surrounding marine water has silt carried across the bare ground by rainwater.



Pohutakawa Blossum

By

Webmink

Pohutakawa Trust New Zealand is an attempt by the private landowners to reverse the damage by reducing the number of wallabies and possums so more native birds can survive. Pohutakawa’s, which the trust is attempting to save on Kawau are the bright red "New Zealand Christmas Trees" you’ll see in bloom if you visit New Zealand in the holiday season.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Friday, May 30, 2008

For the Birds




Kiwi Bird
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Photo By:
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If you like birds, you’ll find plenty of birds in New Zealand. I like birds so much, one Chapter in RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand is "For the Birds." New Zealand birds seem to have a sense of humor just like the Kiwis. Don’t expect a Kiwi bird to wander into camp mooching food. They’re nocturnal. Good sized birds, bigger than a chicken, with brown bristly feather, dark legs and a long pointy beak, they poke in the dirt in search of insects or fallen fruit.

The best place to see a Kiwi bird is in a bird sanctuary. If you’re near the Waitomo Glo Worm Caves, try the Otorohanga Kiwi House. In the South Island, try DOC’s Mt Bruce National Wildlife Centre. Birds are in their native environment. You walk along the paths and climb platforms in the trees. The birds are not looking for a handout or trying to impress you.

The Moreporks are also nocturnal. These small owls have a distinct call. If you’re traveling by auto try a motel in a rural area. Open your window at night and listen to the Kiwis and Moreporks. If you’re RVing, flip open the vent over the bed, watch the stars and listen to the birds call back and forth through the bush.

My favorite bird is the Fantail. About the size of a chubby sparrow with an apricot breast and white ear patch, these show-offs, often in pairs or groups, tag along through the bush, zip past your nose, then sit on a branch and flip open their fan tail. Tell them how pretty they are and they’ll hop around so you can see the back view. It’s hard not to smile with a Fantail flashing you.

Tui birds, good singers, about the size of a crow, are dark greenish black with a metallic sheen,. They have a big white-feathery bump on their throats and white patches on their wings. These nectar stealers often hang around the motorparks, riding a big bouncing flower.

The Kea lives in the South Island high-country forests. About the size of a hawk, this olive green parrot with orange underwing is a good-looking bird– that’s a pest. Nosey and destructive, they’ll mess up anything you leave lying around. The stories told about these little buggers are funny, if it’s not your equipment they’ve destroyed.

If you like birds and want to learn more about them as you travel through New Zealand, buy Geoff Moon’s Common Birds in New Zealand. They’re inexpensive paperbacks and available at most bookstores or Visitor Information Centers. And don't be afraid to tramp through the bush with the fantails-- remember there's no creepy crawly things to bite you in New Zealand.
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Lyn Harris

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Kowhai Coast



Mansion House
on
Kawau Island

Photo By:
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In New Zealand, just a little north of Orewa on SH1, Waiwera is also a good place to stop if you’re RVing and want to relax in the mineral pools. Next door to the Wairewa Thermal Pools, a Holiday Park has campsites, chalets and cabins. If you’re traveling by auto and want to save a little on lodging, these campgrounds are ideal– remember to bring your own bedding for a reduced rate. Since you’re still fairly close to Auckland, the Thermal Resort with its 26 mineral pools and water slides is crowded in New Zealand’s summer– particularly on the weekends.


If you’re looking for something lower priced and lower paced,

Wenderholm Regional Park is nearby. Tent camping sites are available and there are a few sites for RVs. Both Orewa and Wenderholm Regional Park are on the Hauraki Gulf if you like sand and sea.


In the middle of the Kowhai Coast, Warkworth is about 1 l/2 hours north of Auckland on SH1. Warkworth is a town of a little over 3,000– not counting tourists. The Mahurangi River runs through Warkworth and drains into Mahurangi Harbour on the Gulf. The river is the home to many, many ducks. If you’re hiking along the river– watch where you step.


If you’re not rushing through the Kowhai Coast, spend a day on

Kawau Island– catch a small boat from Sandspit Wharf. The Maori lived on Kawau at one time. In the 1840's a manganese mine was established. Later copper was discovered and the partial ruins of the old copper mine are still on the island.


In 1862 Sir George Grey, one of New Zealand’s first governors, bought the island and turned the mine manager’s home into a mansion He also imported many plants and animals– including five species of wallabies. The wallabies still roam the island damaging the native vegetation. 10% of the island, including the Mansion House, are owned by the Department of Conservation (DOC). There are many native birds including wekas, bellbirds and Kiwis.


If you charter a sailboat in Auckland, you’ll probably visit the Kawau Island Yacht Club. If you’d like to spend a quiet night, bachs, holiday flats and bed and breakfast accommodations are available. Most are located on the water. The majority of the island has no roads. Book ahead in the summer season as this is a popular tourist area.


Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand


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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Around Orewa



Small Boat
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Photo by:
MN Waynus
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About 30 km’s north of Auckland, Orewa is a good place to stop if you’re driving or RVing. There’s an easy to find Visitor Information Center for maps or information on sightseeing in Orewa. On the Hibiscus Coast, Orewa has a population of around 6000 plus numerous sheep and cattle. There’s also a beach where you might find kite surfers if the wind is coming from the right direction.

If you’re looking for more salt water or wildlife, turn right off SH1 just before Orewa at Silverdale and head out to Shakespear Regional Park at the end of Whangaparoa Peninsula. Tiritiri Matangi Island, off the tip of the peninsula, has the oldest lighthouse in the Gulf. A bird sanctuary with five walking tracks, the public can visit for free. Ferry service runs from Gulf Harbour on the peninsula– the ferry also runs from Auckland. The island has steep cliffs and one sandy beach. Tiritiri Matangi means wind tossing about, so dress wisely.

There are several places to stay in Orewa or along the peninsula, and there’s a motor park in Orewa if you’re RVing. Self contained RVs can stay one night in Shakespear Park for a small fee. At one time, there was free parking for one night at Gulf Harbour– past the Marina at the public car park and boat ramp.

If you’re on your way north, stop for a while in Orewa or visit the Whangaparoa Peninsula.

If you’re planning your New Zealand trip for next season, and plan to travel by auto, you’ll need to find regular accommodations. You’d also probably like to see a little of the area before visiting. Takeabreak has regularly updated webcams around New Zealand. They also list accommodations in both islands for any budget.

Lyn Harris
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South In New Zealand

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Huraki Gulf Islands



Yacht Racing
Photo
By

From the Ferry Berth of Quay and Hobson Streets in Auckland or anywhere else along the waterfront on the east side of Auckland, you can look east to the Hauraki gulf. Auckland has more boats per person than any city in the world. If you’ve watched America’s Cup sailing in New Zealand, the yachts were in the Hauraki Gulf.

If you’d like to charter a yacht, the two best places to cruise in New Zealand are the Hauraki Gulf and the smaller Bay of Islands farther north. The Moorings has been in business many years and has a great reputation. I’ve chartered from them several times and always liked their service. Hauraki Gulf sailing is more open and challenging than the Bay of Islands. The Moorings doesn’t want you or their expensive yacht on a reef or at the bottom of the Gulf. They’ll check out your skills before turning you loose from their dock.

The Hauraki Gulf has 47 or 50 islands– depending on who’s counting. Many are reserves for day trips. Some offer snorkeling and diving sites. The inner islands are easy to reach and you can picnic, camp, or just poke around. The outer islands are mainly closed nature reserves for endangered bird species.

Great Barrier Island, 90 km northeast of Auckland is the largest island in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park. This partly forested island on the edge of the park has a population of 1100 in settlements around the coast. Residents provide their own power with generators. On Great Barrier Island you’ll find walks on good tracks, rare birds, long white surf beaches, fishing, and diving– there are two wreck dives. Port Abercrombie, Port FitzRoy, and Whangaparapara are sheltered anchorages. If you want to stay a while, there are holiday lodges, motels, camp grounds and DOC huts. Ferries depart for the island several times weekly. You can cruise the coastline or take a bus trip on a metal road from Port FitzRoy to Tryphena. You can also fly to Great barrier Island.

Only 35 minutes by ferry from Auckland, Waiheke, the second largest island in the Hauraki Gulf has a population of 7000. Waiheke means cascading waters. There are waterfalls in the Whakanewha Regional Park near Rocky Bay. From the "Stony Batter" where a maze of tunnels and concrete gun emplacements were built for defense by the army during World War II, you have a view of the southern end of the Hauraki Gulf. Waiheka has 22 vineyards, swimming beaches, and restaurants. You’ll also find sea kayaking, golf, diving, a large sea cave on Gannet Rock, a museum and a Forest and Bird reserve at Onetangi. If you’re staying over, you’ll find a variety of accommodations from resorts to backpackers lodging.

Rangitoto, a circular island visible from most parts of the mainland, appeared around 700 years ago during a series of volcanic eruptions. Connected to Motutapu Island by a causeway, Rangitoto has many species of plants and trees including the largest pohutukawa forest in the world. There are no overnight accommodations on Rangitoto. Adjoining Motutapu is a farmed reserve in the Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park.

There are many more islands south off the Coromandel and also north as we travel up the east coast into Northland. Hauraki Gulf Islands provides a good map of the Gulf and more island information.

Lyn Harris
RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

New Zealand's Electrical Power






New Zealand
Movan



We'll get to the tiki tour of New Zealand's Northland yet. You probably learned more than you really wanted to know about toilets in a previous post, but if you're RVing or traveling by auto, you won't be snoozing while the driver and tour guide worry about getting you to your next fancy hotel. And, you'll want to take photos.

New Zealand electrical power is 230 volt, 50 cycle. If you rent an RV, a certified official has checked the switches, hot points, mains and anything else electrical in the movan. Hot points have switches, but they're reversed. ON points downward...because we're below the equator? Most cameras and other electronic toys use power chargers with built-in dual-volt compatibility for 110 and 220 volts. Check first before you plug your toy in and fry either it or yourself. You'll need a plug adaptor which can be bought at most New Zealand chemist shops or hardware stores. I've always carried a dual-volt hair dryer purchased on a US military base. It folds up and runs normally in the states then runs like that striped ape when I'm in New Zealand. Military bases, truck stops, and AAA travel stores are good places to shop for travel electronics and outlet adapters. Amazon.com also carries universal outlet adapters and voltage converters.

On a Northland tour you won't be traveling far each day. While planning your trip, use Mitsubishi Motor's driving distance calculator to figure driving distances-- not just in Northland, but anywhere in New Zealand.

Any questions? If not, let's head north to Orewa and start that tiki tour.

Lyn Harris

RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Meet a Kiwi



Check
the
Wool






Often our best travel memories are about the people we meet along the way. That's why I like to travel by auto or RV when I'm in New Zealand. The best way to spend time with Kiwis is to stay in campgrounds or motorparks. You share kitchen and lounging facilities in motorparks. Eat in your own rig if you want, then hang around and visit. Youth hostels and backpacker accommodations are located throughout New Zealand, or you can plan a pub stay-- you're only limited by your imagination.


If you'd like to contact a Kiwi ahead of time, maybe find someone going your way you can share travel costs with, or meet someone who can show you the local sights, join the Hospitality Club, an international online hospitality organization. Membership is free and there is no obligation. Their aim is to:


"Bring people together - hosts and guests, travelers and locals. Thousands of Hospitality Club members around the world help each other when they are traveling - be it with a roof for the night or a guided tour through town. Joining is free, takes just a minute and everyone is welcome. Members can look at each other's profiles, send messages and post comments about their experiences on the website.


The club is supported by volunteers who believe in one idea: by bringing travelers in touch with people in the place they visit, and by giving "locals" a chance to meet people from other cultures we can increase intercultural understanding and strengthen the peace on our planet."


If you're young, a fulltime undergraduate student, have some free time this summer, and still have a lot of bounce in your butt, Roadtrip Nation and Tourism New Zealand will be sending teams of two or three people on a New Zealand roadtrip to interview Kiwis. Teams will book interviews, plan their trip, and film and blog along the way. If you can pull a team together in a hurry, give it a go. Deadline for applications is April 30, 2008.


Remember-- you're only limited by your imagination.


Lyn Harris


RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Friday, April 4, 2008

Freedom Camping





The Cassette Toilet


Slides Out






In RV in NZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand, I spent a chapter on freedom and low cost camping. I also covered Park Over Properties (POPs) which can be anything from a farm on the beach to a parking spot in someone's back yard. While RVing in New Zealand, we often stayed in or near the top tourist spots free or almost free. But, we had a self-contained movan. It's very unlikely anyone will invite you to stay if they think you'll be using their potato patch for a sewer.


In the South Island, which is often less strict than the North Island, local governments have voted for a system that will require motorcaravans to have a sticker registration to freedom camp:


1) Green stickers for movans with both toilet and kitchen/shower waste water in holding tanks...self-contained movans. These campervans can stay overnight anywhere freedom parking is allowed.


2) Orange stickers for movans with only kitchen/shower waste holding tanks. These campervans can stay overnight only in areas with toilet facilities.


3) Red stickers for "sleeping vans" with no waste facilities. These vehicles will be required to stay in campgrounds with full cooking, shower and toilet facilities.


If you're planning to rent an RV and freedom camp, be sure you read the vehicle specs and understand what you're paying for. The first year we rented a motorcaravan, I was afraid to ask, "Why the bucket?" It wasn't as bad as I thought. The toilets are cassette type. It's the grey water that can be a problem. Shower and sink water drains into a bucket that you haul to the nearest drain. Most rentals are self-contained now, but there are still "bucket vans" around.


If you're tall, check the bed specs, too. Rentals are pricey and we wanted to save money on a smaller vehicle, but the bed was 5' 10". Dave is 6' 1". There was no way two of us would fit in that bed.


Freedom camping saves money. Just plan ahead. You don't want to get nicked and end up in the nick.


Lyn Harris

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Monday, March 24, 2008

North to Northland



The Nippon Clipon
Photo by:



If you're heading north from Auckland by auto or RVing, plan your trip to avoid commuter traffic. The motorway cuts through downtown Auckland, then jams all the traffic across a narrow bridge into Northcote. Like most metropolitan areas, road construction often adds to the confusion. The Nippon Clipon, Auckland's bridge, was once four lanes-- now it's eight. The extra four were built in Japan, towed to Auckland and clipped to the existing bridge. From the Auckland Harbor Bridge, you'll have a beautiful view of the Westhaven Marina, WaitemataHarbour and Fishermans Wharf with all the sailboats bouncing in the bay or anchored along the shoreline-- which you'll probably never see if it's your first time driving on the left side of the road in a strange vehicle while you're trying to keep your fenders along for the trip.


The kiwis are polite and friendly-- until they get in a small vehicle. Then watch out! It helps to have a 3500 kg RV with a roo bar. Truck drivers and other movaners stay on their fair share of the road, but watch out for those snappy little sports cars and SUVs. It helps to remind yourself as you're clutching the steering wheel afraid to change lanes and trying to keep yourself lined up in the lane you belong in that New Zealand has no-fault insurance. And, you'll make it across the Northcote and Birkenhead sooner or later, I promise. And when you do, there's a very nice Holiday Park on Northcote Road just over the bridge if you're driving or RVing.


We always like to spend at least a month north of Auckland. Pick up the Jasons Twin Coast Discovery Highway map (free) some where along the line. Northland is rich in history, there's plenty to do, and it's warmer-- remember the sun's in the north. The South Island is beautiful and we usually spend at least a month there, too but our home is in the Cascade Mountains and the South Island is much like home.


You've made it across that bridge. So pull into a motel or campground then find a pub or snap open a brew of your own and toast that Nippon Clipon you conquered and your next adventure in the Northland.


We'll be taking a tiki tour counter clockwise through the Northland. Any questions?


Lyn Harris

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Zealand with Limited Mobility(Part2)





Maui Rental Van
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When visiting New Zealand, getting around means more than renting a car or RV and picking up a guide book and a good map if you have mobility problems. You need wheelchair accessible transportation and accommodations. With a little advanced planning, wheelchair users can drive themselves or travel with a tour guide companion.

I hope you're thinking of trying Lake Waikaremoana. If so, you need to start planning now for next season. Accommodations are limited in the summer season. If you're planning to stay at the Lake Whakamarino Lodge, Accessible New Zealand has rental cars with hand controls. Galaxy Motors specializes in rental vehicles for people with disabilities. They also offer tour guide/companions and specialized tours to fit your travel plans.

If you want to rent a motorcaravan and try RVing, check out Mobility Motorhomes. Designed for wheelchair users, their units are fitted with hand controls and detachable steering wheel knobs. They're also fitted with a self-operating electric wheelchair lift which folds under the entrance door. Bathrooms have double doors for easy access.

If you're not interested in driving a car or RVing, the Intercity Bus runs through the park from Wairoa to Rotarua and return three days per week. Buses have fold down ramps for wheelchairs. A shuttle service can also be arranged from Wairoa.

Lake Waikaremoana in English means more or less-- Old man who fell asleep by the fire and roasted his private parts. I think I like the Maori version better. If you're visiting the "Land of the Mist," expect to get wet. Fog hangs around in the morning and settles in late evening-- and that's in the summer. Bring enough clothes to stay warm and dry. You don't want to get cold and fall asleep by a fire and get roasted.

Since you're planning for next season, you have time to contact Kiwis about their travels. If you're planning to spend time in Auckland, Red Nicholson, a Kiwi, can offer some advice. He's not a travel agent, just another Kiwi traveler. According to Red, "Most hotels/motels, and even backpackers have wheelchair access. It is a very common feature here." Check out Red's site Walking is Overrated.

New Zealand on Wheels is a wheelchair travel guide with reviews by Kiwis who have been there and done that. A recent review on the Wellington Botanic Gardens offers suggestions for getting around-- the gardens are not flat. Check the tourist sites they've reviewed and if you can't find what you're looking for-- ask. The Kiwi people are kind and generous. The tourism industry always promotes the scenery, but seldom mentions their greatest asset-- their friendly people.

Lyn Harris








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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Zealand with Limited Mobility




New Zealand
Sign
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Photo by:
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Once out of Auckland, much of New Zealand is rugged, remote, and best seen by car or RVing. Even with limited mobility, you can visit many off the beaten track locations with wheelchair accessible vehicles.
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Department of Conservation camps, Te Papa Atawhai, (DOC) camps are government reserves. If you really want to get back into untouched country, try a DOC camp. There are restrictions on maximum length of stay and type of vehicle-- RVs, buses, and other vehicles designed to sleep people are acceptable. Cars are not.
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Five thousand people per year visit Lake Waikaremoana. Many come to fish for brown and rainbow trout, kayak, or tramp the Lake Waikaremoana Track. Managed by DOC, this 46 km three to four day tramp which follows the lakeshore is part of the Great Walks.
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Te Urewera is the largest National Park in the North Island. Often called "Land of the Mist" it's a rain-forest with many native birds including Kiwi birds. Some of the comments from AA's Travel New Zealand site are:
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"It's amazing, quiet, untouched...well worth the drive over the dodgy roads!!!"
"The road trip is a bit shocking but once you are there, it is a must to stay a night or two."
"Thank goodness the roads in are aweful as it keeps it one of New Zealand's most beautiful but isolated areas."
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We thought so, too-- the beautiful and isolated part. The road didn't seem that much of a problem. We had a fairly large-- for New Zealand-- RV and usually dropped most of the water from our tanks before leaving Wairoa hoping we'd have a little more get up and go to get up the hill. We spent four to five months each year in our RV and carried more heavy stuff than the average visitor, but still worried about too much water.
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The road from Wairoa is mainly sealed. It seemed pretty tame compared to some we found in the South Island. We usually camped in one of the campgrounds along Hwy 38 which runs through the center of the park, or stayed in the HAPNZ Motorcamp. On the lake near the Aniwaniwa Visitor Centre, the Motorcamp is wheelchair friendly as are the lake side family cabins which sleep four or five people.
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If you're looking for a little more comfort, you might like the Lake Whakamarino Lodge on one of the smaller nearby lakes. While in the park, you can cruise the bays and inlets of Lake Waikaremoana in a charter boat, try you luck at trout fishing-- a 28.6 lb brown trout was caught recently-- or take a guided Eco-tour.
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AA Traveling New Zealand has more comments about Te Urewera and some nice photos of Lake Waikaremoana. If you've read the archives about AA, you know your U.S. AAA card is good for discounts in New Zealand.
(To be continued)
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Lyn Harris

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