Friday, May 30, 2008

For the Birds

Kiwi Bird
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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.
Lyn Harris

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Kowhai Coast

Mansion House
Kawau Island

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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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MN Waynus
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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