Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Along the Kauri Coast

We’re in kauri country. We’ve traveled New Zealand’s kauri country since we turned southwest near Mangamuka Bridge and dropped into the Hokianga. Kauri, a conifer and one of the world’s largest trees, grows in this warm northern part of New Zealand. At one time, kauri spread from Northland to the Coromandel Peninsula south of Auckland. Today, the majority of kauri are in the Hokianga region.


Hokiangaa Harbour
Photo By: Bryan Goddard

Called Hokianga-nui-a Kupe– the returning place of Kupe, Maori legend says Kupe discovered Hokianga Harbour. The two headlands are Taniwha who came with Kupe. The eleven rivers that feed into Hokianga Harbour are paths made by their children. When Kupe first came to New Zealand, trees covered 80% of the land. Early Maori chewed kauri gum and mixed soot from burnt gum with oil to make moko– facial tattoos. They valued kauri for its size. At times, teams of chanting Maori pulled ropes tied to logs from the forest. The first Europeans used kauri timber for shipbuilding. Kauri’s strong straight growth made it ideal for masts. By 1900, most kauri forests had been cut down. Kauri logging ended in state forests around 1985.


Kauri Bark
Photo By: paulmcelhone

We joined Hwy 12 just after we left the ferry at Rawene. Then, we took a short drive out Signal Station Road to enjoy a view of Hokianga Harbour from South Cape. We’ll follow Hwy 12 down the Kauri Coast, visit Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, and his four sisters, then sooner or later end up in Auckland. Most tours skip this fairly remote area. The best way to explore these four protected kauri forests is by vehicle or boat. You’ll find campgrounds in Waipoua Forest and also Trounson Kauri Park– both a short distance south of Opononi. If a night in the bush isn’t your cuppa, you can stay in Opononi or Omapere and take a day trip to visit Tane Mahuta.

If you hang around with an Aussie, they’ll tell you the bush is the outback. In New Zealand, the bush is a forest– a thick forest layered with trees, shrubs, vines and ferns. You don’t want to and probably can’t get far off the path. Even though there’s no poisonous creepy crawly things in New Zealand, you might run into a weta– a large scary-looking cricket who thinks you’re large and scary-looking, or a friendly fantail. About the size of a chubby sparrow with an apricot breast and white ear patch. He’ll tag along and zip past your nose, then sit on a branch and spread open his tail for you to admire. Don’t count on a weta or fantail to lead you through the bush. Stay on the path.


Fantail
Photo By: nzkiwi

You’ll find Tane Mahuta towering above a canopy of smaller trees and vines in Waipoua Forest.
Maori say Tane is the son of Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuka, the earth mother. The living forest creatures are Tane’s children. A visit to this ancient Lord of the Forest is calming as a church sanctuary. You’ll want to stay and let the worries of the world seep away. There are several tracks and walks throughout the forest.

Te Matua Track is posted from Hwy 12. Once in the carpark, you’ll find signs for Te Matua Ngahere, Father of the Forest. A 20-minute walk from the carpark, Te Matua, the second largest living kauri in New Zealand, is believed to be over 2000 years old. All kauri have sensitive surface roots. You’ll find viewing platforms and wooden walks around kauri. From this same carpark, you can visit the Four Sisters with their evenly spaced slender trunks joined together at the base.


Morepork
Photo By: Steve Atwood

Spend an evening in the forest with the night critters. You’ll find DOC camps near the Tasman Sea or inland at Trounson Kauri Park. Trounson campsite is serviced and booked at any DOC Visitor Centre. DOC has three types of campsites. Standard and basic can’t be booked. There’s a Top 10 Holiday Park nearby. If you’re traveling by car and not camping, book a room at the Holiday Park. We’ve talked about these parks before and their discount cards. Wherever you stay, you can book a guided night walk with the Top 10 Holiday Park. They’ll take you on a night walk through the kauri where you might see weta, glow-worms, Moreporks– tiny New Zealand owls that sing through the forest once the sun goes down– or a kiwi.


Tane Mahuta
Photo By: Greenstone Girl



Spend any amount of time in a kauri forest and you’ll understand:

The Last Kauri
“Artist Rei Hamon was once manager of the Thames Sawmilling Company and had the job of supervising the felling of a large kauri above Tapu in 1961. He recalls, “When that tree fell, it had been standing there for maybe a thousand years...I went back later to where it had been standing, and there were birds fluttering around there, kaka and kereru, that had nested in that tree for generations. That was the finish. I handed in my resignation. I vowed never to fell another healthy tree.”


Quote from:
Joanna Orwin, Kauri: Witness to a Nation’s History. Auckland: New Holland, 2004, p.174


Lyn Harris

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





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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

South to Hokianga Harbour

November in New Zealand can be wet, even where we’ve been wandering around north of Auckland. Wet is not fun if you’re traveling in an RV, small van, or tent camping with an auto. Who wants to spend their day ducking wet clothes in a movan or reading three-year-old magazines in a Laundromat while waiting for the dryer to cook your sleeping bag? Even if you’re on a tour hopping from heated resort to heated resort, you’ll never see the scenery your tour director wants you to believe lurks behind the clouds. In New Zealand, December and a whole new season of summer weather is here. Each December, I was always impressed to leave California and the shortest days of the year, spend a night watching movies on the plane, then step into Auckland’s flower season and long daylight hours.


Hokianga Ferry

Photo By: Greenstone Girl



We last stopped in Kaitaia. Now, we’re headed down Hwy 1. We’ll be leaving Far North and drop back into Nortland about 25 kms south of Kaitaia. If you booked a short tour to Cape Reinga, you’ll zip south on Hwy 1 past Omahuta Forest and Puketi Forest and cut back into the west side at Kawakawa a little south of Opua where we caught that ferry to Russell in the Bay of Islands. We’re taking the road less traveled as usual, so we’re going down the west side of the North Island towards Hokianga Harbour, more water, and a vehicular ferry. We’ll end up around Opononi near the entrance of Hokianga Harbour on the Tasman Sea. There’s never a lot of travel time when wandering around New Zealand. It’s not like trying to drive across Texas or across and down Florida. From Kaitaia to Kawakawa is around 100 km. Exact mileage for any driving day can be found here.




Manginangina Kauri Walk

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Photo By: cmcfall

If you came to New Zealand to hunt, mountain bike, camp, or just wander around in the bush, there are several tracks and walks in Omahuta Forest & Puketi Forest. Kauri Sanctuary Walk, a short loop that takes about 30" to walk, can be reached from Hwy 1 just a little south of Mangamuka Bridge– where we’ll be turning west. If you’re not much of a walker, the Manginangina Kauri Walk has a boardwalk built through mature kauri and a swamp forest. Omahuta Forest is managed by DOC. They recommend “high degree of skill and experience as well as route-finding abilities” on Pukatea Ridge Route.

Mountain biking is popular on old logging roads. There’s a DOC campground in Puketi if you want to mountain bike through this native forest, or think chasing down a wild pig without having him chase you down sounds like a dream vacation. Hunting permits are available from DOC. This is a dense rough area even with a map and permit. You need a guide that knows the area. I don’t hunt. I do hang around with pig hunters and have one in my family. Wild pigs are big, mean, and smelly. New Zealand’s “Captain Corkers” are feral pigs supposedly released by Captain Cook.



Wild Pigs

Photo By: f.lee42



At Mangamuka Bridge, we’ll turn south a short distance to the small village of Kohukohu, an old timber mill town, and the Hokianga Vehicular Ferry about 4 kms beyond this small town. The Kohu-Ra operates daily between The Narrows and Rawene. Crossing takes about 15 minutes. Also called Te Kohanga o TeTai Tokerau– the nest of the northern tribes– Hokianga Harbour cuts almost halfway across Northland. Surrounded at one time by kauri forests, ships maneuvered the sandbars while loggers stripped the land. It’s quiet now with few roads through the mangroves and sand dunes. Clendon House, part of New Zealand’s Historic Place Trust, is in Rawene– the third oldest European settlement in New Zealand. Built in 1860 by shipowner/trader James Reddy Clendon, this home is open to the public.


Rawene Home
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Photo By: PhillipC



Nearby Opononi is a good place to stay and explore Hokianga Harbour, sand dunes, Horeke– an old ship building town, or the Koutu boulders along the beach. One of the best and easiest ways to explore the harbour is by boat. The Information Center in Omapere can help you book a cruise. If you don’t have time for a boat trip, at least turn off Hwy12 just south of Omapere on Signal Station Road and drive to South Head for a view of the Harbour.


Horeke Road Church and Graveyard

Photo By: Tony & Leah


A little over three hours drive from Auckland, you’ll want to spend time around Opononi or its sister Omapere. If you’re RVing, camping, or backpacking and looking for something a little different, The Tree House Eco-Lodge– north of the ferry landing is suitable for small movans. No cats allowed– it’s a bird sanctuary. You’ll find many accommodations in and around Opononi and Omapere– resorts, campgrounds, B&Bs, or Farm Stays. Check here, or ask at the Information Center.

Many Maori trace their ancestry to Hokianga Harbour. If your time is limited, Hokianga Harbour is not far from Auckland. Squeeze in some time to explore this area some consider the “Birthplace of the Nation.”


Lyn Harris



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









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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Around Kaitaia


We stopped at Kaitaia when we dropped back down from Cape Reinga past Ninety Mile Beach. Kaitaia in Far North, New Zealand has more than just a motorsports track where little kids throw dirt clods at cars to help their favorite driver. We’ll be taking Hwy 1 through Omahuta Kauri Sanctuary, but first, let’s check out the area around Kaitaia.



Entrance to Walkway at Cape Reinga

Photo By: beejayge

Much of New Zealand’s early history around Kaitaia centered around kauri logging and later gum digging. In the early 1800's, most of the kauri trees were stripped from the land by timber-cutters. When a kauri tree is injured, sap dribbles down the tree then hardens into gum. Through the years, it collects at the base of the tree then petrifies under the forest debris. Kauri gum color varies from clear to almost black or dark red. Young gum is easily melted and can’t be polished. It’s called kauri gum. As it ages, it’s called kauri copal. A sub-fossilized resin hundreds to thousands of years old, kauri copal can be polished. New Zealand amber is rare. Fully fossilized, it’s considered a gemstone. For a look at New Zealand’s kauri logging and gum digging days, visit Far North Regional Museum. At Gumdigger Park, 20 minutes north of Kaitaia, you’ll find a gumdigger village display. In this old gum digging site, two ancient kauri forests are buried. You can touch logs over 100,000 years old. Kauri and kauri gum crafts are for sale in their gift shop.




Gumdigger's Huts

Photo By: beejayge

I’ve been suggesting ways to see New Zealand by RV or auto. There’s another way to see New Zealand from Cape Reinga in the north to Bluff on the bottom of South Island– if you’re in good shape and have the time. The 3000 kilometer New Zealand Walkway will be open in 2010. The walkway runs down the coast, through forests and farmland, over volcanoes and mountains, beside rivers and on green paths through seven cities. If you don’t have enough vacation time to walk 3000 kms, at least spend a little time on nearby Kaitaia Walkway. You can brag back home you walked The New Zealand Walkway.



Gumboot Fence

Photo By: beejayge

Just a little south of Kaitaia, you’ll find the entrance to the walkway. Called an easy bush walk through shade trees in the summer, it’s a 30 minute walk to the path junction. From there, it’s a 20-minute return climb to a kauri grove or a 15-minute return to the lookout over the forest. You won’t get your feet wet on either route. Stream and river crossings are bridged. If you plan to continue on the rest of the Kaitaia Walkway, don’t expect an easy bush walk with dry feet. The track is marked, but you’ll wade through rivers. DOC calls it, “suitable for people with above average fitness. High level back country skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills.” There are three camp sites. Maita Bay and Rarawa Beach are near Kaitaia. Raetea North Side is in Raetea Forest, a lowland coastal forest.

If you’re looking for a little night life, pack a picnic and spend an evening with the Glow worms. Eighteen kms south of Kaitaia off SH 1, Glow Worms Nocturnal Park is not as popular as the Waitomo Caves, but a fun place to get up close to a glow worm. At the Waitomo Caves, you step in a small boat with other tourists, float through the caves, then step out at the other end and get out of the way or get run over by the next boat load of tourists. In the Glow Worms Nocturnal Park, eat your picnic or wander around and wait for the glow worms to wake up. The paths are lit with fairy lights so you don’t trip and smash a worm.




Ahipara

Photo By: beejayge

Ahipara is on the Tasman Sea, a little south of Kaitaia. On the windy side of the island, you’ll find more sand dunes, a buried kauri forest, fishing, and surfing– around the reef at Tauroa Point. The information center in Kaitaia will give you exact directions to these and more places to spend time in the area. They can also help you find a place to stay. Kaitaia Hotel is down town if you’re looking for something historical. Ahipara Motor Camp is on the Tasman Sea. Kaitaia Motor Camp is where you’d expect it to be-- in Kaitaia. There are many motels and even a BBH backpacker lodge if you’re saving a few dollars for a kauri gum souvenir. The weather’s warm in this part of New Zealand. You’re surrounded by history and outdoor activities. Stay a while and enjoy yourself around Kaitaia.

All photos are by Bryan Goddard who lives in Auckland, New Zealand. Brian has more than 1,000 photos uploaded on flickr. Click back on his links and you’ll find a slideshow of 94 photos around Kaitaia and up the peninsula to Cape Reinga. On BeeJayGe, his website, you can find more photos of his New Zealand travels and a link to his blog.


Lyn Harris

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

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Zealand Motorsports


If you’re a Kiwi or a motorsports fan, you know that New Zealander Scott Dixon won the 2008 IndyCar Series Championship and also the Indianapolis 500 this May. Three races remain in the 2009 IndyCar Series. Helio Castroneves has his nose up Scott’s exhaust, but chances are Scott will capture the trophy again for the Kiwis. IndyCars for you non-motorsports fans are those open-wheel, low slung cars that whine around the track like angry hornets. Scott’s championships aren’t an accident. New Zealanders take their motorsports– all their motorsports– very seriously.

Photo By: geognerd

Training for young drivers starts early. Scott raced carts as a seven-year-old. At 13, Scott raced saloon cars– similar to American stock cars. While competing at Pukekohe Park Raceway, he rolled the car on its roof, then struggled from the car with the cushion strapped to his back– the cushion he needed so he could reach the pedals.

Just off Hwy1 about halfway between Auckland and Hamilton, Hampton Downs opened this month. Near Meremere drag strip and oval track in north Waikato, Hampton Downs is a training and testing facility as well as a fancy modern-day motorsport complex.

Photo By: jbimages


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 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.


Photo By: bishie_01


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.

Photo By: Warwick Robinson


If you like cars, boats and airplanes, or anything else that goes varoom, varoom, New Zealand is the place for you. While RVing in New Zealand, we spent a good part of our time looking for anything that went fast and made noise-- or did at one time. We found motorcycle races at Mata Mata where sidecars with feet dragging crew maneuvered around corners-- most of the time. We found midget race cars– that spent a good part of the race upside down– at Western Springs Speedway in Auckland. And, we found Destruction Derby races in Kaitai where little kids yelled, "Go Uncle Joe!" and threw dirt clods at the drivers trying to bang Uncle Joe.

Kaitais is where I dropped you in August before I wandered into skiing and motorsports. This is usually a good time of year to find a bargain on airline tickets and plan ahead for your New Zealand trip, so we’ll be dropping down the east coast of Northland, through Auckland and on to parts of the North Island you’ll want to visit.

Lyn Harris

RVinNZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Tsunami in American Samoa

Boat in Community Bingo Center


I’m jumping away from traveling in New Zealand today to American Samoa. My stepdaughter, Elizabeth worked as a midwife in American Samoa and recently returned to the states. She sent a link to a blog written by her friend Melanie Brown. Melanie tells about the “90 seconds of violent shaking followed by several aftershocks.” Then, the Samoan d.j. saying, " a huge 15-20 foot wave is coming towards the office building.”– the same office building where her husband Paul, a marine ecologist at the National Park of Americas Samoa was working.

Red Truck in Building


Both photos are by Melanie Brown. You’ll find more pictures of the tsunami devastation and Melanie’s account of what happened before, during and after the tsunami. She’ll be updating, so drop this blog in your favorites: Tropical Browns



Lyn Harris

RVinNZ: How to Spend Your Winters South in New Zealand

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ski or Snowboard New Zealand





Snowboarding
Photo By:
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September 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 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, hop on a jet to New Zealand.

New Zealand ski season is June to November. New Zealand is a volcanic area constantly moving and belching and Kiwis take their skiing seriously. When Mt Ruapehu 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.









Mt Ruapehu
Photo By:
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If you still believe the world is flat, try some heli-sking 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.

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. 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.













Pros & Kiwis
Photo By:
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Why not call in sick and disappear for a few days? Apollo Motorhomes is one of the New Zealand campervan companies offering relocation specials– $1 per day. Just dig around their site. The day I checked, I didn’t find anything available for New Zealand, but found $1 per day specials in Australia, United States, and Canada. Privately owned, Apollo Motorhomes recently bought into the US RV rental market. They have branches in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. If you live near one of these cities, contact them for more information. In August, Apollo partnered with CanaDream. I’m not familiar with the Canadian market, but if you’re looking for a relocation special in Canada, check their site and follow the link.

If you’d like to spend the last days of summer 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.




Lyn Harris

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




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Monday, August 24, 2009

Cape Reinga/Ninety Mile Beach (Part 2)





Te Paki Stream
Photo By:
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Gumdiggers played an important part of Te Paki history. That history more or less follows the history in other parts of Northland. The Aupori tribe came to Te Paki when other tribes wanted their land and a few more slaves to work that newly acquired land. Just when things weren’t stirred up enough, the whalers and missionaries arrived to complicate history. The first European landowners were Stannus Jones and Samuel Yates, a young English lawyer. Yates married a local Maori princess and became a husband, farmer, storekeeper and gum trader. Called “King of the North” he homesteaded at Paki– now called Te Paki. Dalmation gum diggers settled just south of Te Paki and hunted for kauri gum, fossilized resin from kauri trees used in varnish. They left their coins in that money tree for good luck.






Fur Seals
Photo By:
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In 1966, the Crown bought Te Paki Station and took over management. Te Paki Farm is now much smaller and most of its grassland is returning. Part of The Farm can be seen from the road. Working dogs keep the cattle and sheep from misbehaving. Six Santa Gertrudis bulls were brought in to meet the Angus-Hereford cross cattle in hopes of producing a higher quality lean meat. Horses are used to roundup the cattle. Dogs do most of the work keeping the sheep moving in the right direction. If you’d like to visit a working farm, there are two public access tracks. Just don’t turn your back on those Santa Gertrudis bulls.

Te Paki is not just wind swept sand dunes, rocky cliffs and grassland. At one time the hills and gullies were covered with totara, rimu, and kauri trees. Those trees disappeared for some unknown reason, but some survive in the deeper valleys. A short walk takes you to a grove of kauri trees just below Te Paki trig.





Te Paki Beach
Photo By:
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If you want to explore but don’t fancy hiking and packing your own supplies– ride a horse. You can book a short half day trip or pack in and spend two or three days camping and exploring.

On your way out of Te Paki, you’ll find Rarawa, the third DOC campground I mentioned. Near Sh1 on Great Exhibition Bay, A few kms north of Ngutaki, it’s a sheltered campsite in the pines behind the beach.

Take time to visit Te Paki even if it’s only a day trip up Ninety Mile Beach to Cape Reinga– or try a dune buggy trip along the sand. Once you see Te Paki, you’ll want to return and spend more time off that tourist track.



Mad Kiwis
Photo By:
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We started in Kaitai and we’re ending in Kaitai, so I’ll suggest some low cost places to spend the night. There’s a small amount of parking at Ninety Mile Beach. Turn west at Houhora Heads into Settlers Rd then right into Hukatera Rd which runs through the pines to the beach. Houhora Heads also has an inexpensive motor camp if you need a shower. Back on the Tasman Sea side at Waipapa Kauri, The Park Top 10 Ninety Mile Beach is another inexpensive motorcamp.

If you’re looking for a motel in Kaitai, it’s easy enough to find one on your own. If you have a self-contained movan, several businesses in Kaitai allow overnight parking. Liquor King, The Warehouse, Farmers, Pak-N Save all allow overnight parking. They just don’t want you to hang around taking up space during the day– always ask first.






Ninety Mile Beach
Photo By:
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Save time on your next trip to New Zealand to explore Te Paki or another part of New Zealand off that tourist track.


Lyn Harris

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

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Cape Reinga/Ninety Mile Beach


Dune Surfers

Photo By:
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The best part about traveling on the cheap in New Zealand by RV or auto, you can wander off the tourist track and really get to know an area before moving on. Remote and rugged, Te Paki, with its hiking tracks, sand dunes, white beaches and endangered wildlife, is off that tourist track. If you have limited time, stay in Kaitaia or another nearby town then take a day trip over the sand of Ninety Mile Beach– actually about 64 miles long. This trip takes you up a running stream to Cape Reinga, You can also drive your own vehicle on Ninety Mile Beach. If you do, use a vehicle wash in Kaiataia when you return– you don’t want that salty sand rusting your vehicle bottom. If you decide to drive the entire length, make sure you brought that AAA card we talk about every once in a while. You’ll need it if you get stuck in the quicksand crossing Te Paki stream at the very end. A cell phone would be handy, too. You can stand on the roof of your campervan or auto while calling AAA. If you end up with salty sand on your bottom waiting for AAA, don’t wash off with a cool dip in the Tasman. Swimming is not recommended. There are dangerous currents on the west coast of Te Paki.






Ninety Mile Beach

Photo By:
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Kaitaia, at the southern tip of Aupouri Peninsula, where Hwy1 jogs over from the east, is the normal jumping off spot for Te Paki. Kaitaia is also a good spot for fuel and supplies– don’t forget the bug spray. Hwy1 takes a straight shot up the Aupouri Peninsula through Te Paki. At the north western end of the peninsula, you’ll find Cape Reinga and that lighthouse you see on brochures. About the same latitude as Adelaide, Cape Reinga is not as far north as you can get. It’s as far north as you’ll probably get– North Cape to the east is part of Te Paki Scientific Reserve.

Managed by the Department of Lands and Survey, Te Paki Recreation Reserve includes The Farm, Mokaikai Scenic Reserve, North Cape Scientific Reserve, and Motuopao Island Nature Reserve– off the western side of the peninsula near Cape Maria Van Dieman. The Nature Reserve has breeding colonies of fairy prion, white-faced storm petrel and black-winged petrel– which roam Te Paki campgrounds.





Cape Reinga

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kiwihugger






Two of three DOC campgrounds are on the northern tip of Aupouri Peninsula, so we’ll start at the end of Hwy1 at Cape Reinga and work our way back. Cape Reinga lighthouse, originally on Motuopao Island was moved in 1941. Surrounded by ocean, New Zealand has a sad history of shipwrecks. Since 1800, over one hundred and forty ships have sunk off the New Zealand coast– many near Cape Reinga. In 1902, the Elingamite went aground on an island in the Three Kings– a group of islands north of Cape Reinga named by Abel Tasman. Forty-five sailors lost their lives. Originally installed in 1879, the lighthouse beam on Motuopao Island could not be seen in the waters off North Cape. A lighthouse using the original lens from Motuopao was built at Cape Reinga. From the cape, you can look over the Three Kings and also see the foaming swell where the currents of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific


Ocean break over the Columbia Bank just west of Cape Reinga. At times, wild westerly winds scream in from the Tasman Sea– piling up sand dunes along Ninety Mile Beach. Hopefully you’ll visit the cape on a calm clear day when you can also see the high rocky cliffs of North Cape 24 kms to the east. From the lighthouse, the first section of the New Zealand walkway heads south to the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach. You can also drop back to the east and into the nearby DOC camp– not as easy as it sounds. It’s more climbing than walking and would keep a mountain goat panting. Te Paki is full of walking tracks.







Tapotupotu Bay

Photo By:
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Tapotupotu Bay, just easy of Cape Reinga has campsites, water, toilets, and cold showers. Occasionally tour buses stop so visitors can picnic, catch a little sun and enjoy the crescent shaped beach stretched between two high hills. A tidal stream large enough for canoes feeds in at the eastern end. The turn off is about 3 kms south of the cape. Kapowairua, a larger DOC camp, is located at Sprits Bay. If you want hot food at either camp, bring a portable stove. Fires are usually prohibited. Day visitors are always welcome. Camping is on a first come first served policy. To get to Spirits Bay, turn off at Waitiki Landing. There are two roads that fork off to the east on the way to Spirits Bay. Kerr Road goes to the edge of the Mokaikai Scenic Reserve with its historical sites. Access to the Scenic Reserve is possible, but you need permission to cross Hapua land. The money tree where gumdiggers left coins for good luck is in the Scenic Reserve.

(To be continued)

Lyn Harris

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

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Kerikeri to Karikari




Matauri Bay
*
Photo By:
titine





Leaving Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands, we’ll swing west and travel along the north end of New Zealand to Karikari Peninsula. No, my spell checker didn’t hiccup. We’re on our way to Ninety Mile Beach and Cape Reinga– on that peninsula that juts out between the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea. If we were in a hurry, we could drop back to Pahia and follow Hwy 1 we passed on our way north. It’s more or less a straight shot to Kaitaia– the usual jump-off for Cape Reinga. So far, we’ve followed the scenic route north from Auckland, dropping off to small towns or campgrounds along the Pacific. You’ll find remote bays and beaches, quaint villages, and islands. You can dive, fish, sea kayak, or explore along this route north. You’ll find more quaint villages, but don’t expect to find bays and islands on the Tasman Sea. New Zealand is totally different on the wind-swept west coast of North Island.

Heading north on Hwy 10, the next main loop drops off to Matauri Bay and the Cavalli Islands. Just 30 km north of Kerikeri, Matauri Bay with its white sand and clear water is popular with divers, surfers, and fishermen. Matauri Bay Holiday Park is an inexpensive campervan (RV) park close to the Cavalli Islands and the Rainbow Warrior– now a living reef. You can see from the photo on their site, the Holiday Park straddles the beach. A short climb up the headlands, you’ll find a memorial to the Rainbow Warrior. If you’re a diver, make arrangements at the park.





Rainbow Warrior
Memorial
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Photo By:
williwieberg



Holiday Motorcamps are Top 10 & HAPNZ. Top 10 parks are usually a little larger. They spend more on advertising and seem to pull in more tourist trade– rental vans. HAPNZ parks– some are council owned– are uncrowded and usually Mom and Pop run. Local residents often live on site in permanent caravans with their flowers, pets and kids. All motorparks are clean and friendly. We’ve had few problems other than the time Dave was showering in a rural area of Northland and a caretaker in a hurry to get out fishing, hosed him down with a fire hose. We’ve stayed at Mantauri Bay Holiday Park and always enjoyed the helpful people and relaxed atmosphere– and we’ve never been given a cold shower with a fire hose.




Lining Up for
the Slot
*
Photo By:
titine




Just off Matauri Bay, Motukawanui Island is the largest of the Cavalli Islands. DOC has a basic hut that sleeps eight on Motukawanui. Basic means basic. You’ll need your own stove and bedding. At Pekapeka Bay a little farther north in the direction we’re headed, Lane Cove Cottage, another DOC hut, sleeps 16. Access is by boat from Totara North or Whangaroa. You can also hike in– about two hours from Totara North. Lane Cove Cottage has tap water and a solar shower.

And back to Hwy 10 and on to our next stop– Doubtless Bay. Named in 1769, when Capt. James Cook sailed past. Evidently unimpressed, he wrote in his journal “doubtless a bay”. Much more impressive than its name, Doubtless Bay sweeps from Taupo Bay in the east to Karikari Peninsula in the west. Mangonui is the largest town, but there are resorts, holiday parks and motels all around the bay. In sub-tropical New Zealand with its many beaches, game fishing, and scuba diving, Doubtless Bay also has gourmet to take-a-way quality restaurants and golf courses. Kiwis like their sports. You’ll find golf courses almost anywhere in New Zealand from the world-class 18 hole course at nearby Carrington Resort to courses in the farmer’s paddock with electric wire around the green to keep the sheep from trimming the grass. We played one of those courses. Range markers showed which direction to aim over the rolling hills. When sharing a golf course with sheep, watch where you step. White shoes are not recommended.






Doubtless Bay
*
Photo By:
newzealand09




If you’re staying around Doubtless Bay, use their Visitor’s Site to find pictures of the area and any other information you need. They even offer a free DVD to encourage you to visit. Depending on your budget and type of transportation, stay a day or two. Carrington Resort has a helicopter pad. If chartering a helicopter breaks your budget, stay at DOC’s Matai Bay campground. You’ll have the same spectacular scenery. Sorry, no world-class golf course, winery, Black Angus stud farm, or maid service. DOC offers cold water showers and you clean up after yourself, but the price is right. If you’re RVing or traveling on the cheap, try Hihi Beach Holiday Park in Mangonui– or click on that Visitor’s site and fine a motel or hotel.



Oysters
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Photo By:
hookmeupbro




Next, we’re dropping west to Hwy 1 then up that “tail of the fish” as the Maoris call the peninsula to Cape Reinga.

Lyn Harris

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

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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Around Kerikeri




Kerikeri Basin
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Photo By:



If you rented an auto or RV in New Zealand and have the time to wander, spend some of that time in the Bay of Islands and dig into early New Zealand history. The Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the treaty between Queen Victoria’s government and some Maori tribal chiefs was signed in 1840, is a popular tourist destination. Close to Pahia, it’s easy to visit if you’re short on time. But New Zealand history began before 1840, and a good deal of it happened around the Bay of Islands not only in Waitangi and Russell, but Kerikeri just north of Pahia.

After Captain Cook named the Bay of Islands in 1769, other European ships began poking around these sub-tropical waters. They soon learned to avoid campouts and Maori dinner invitations after French Captain Marion du Fresne and two dozen of his crew camped in the Bay of Islands. They were killed and eaten.

After the American Revolution, the British needed another place to dump their criminals. They started the penal colony in Australia. Trade began between Australia and New Zealand and sealers and whalers began working along the New Zealand coast. During this time, two Maori chiefs were captured by the British and taken to Sydney– not to teach convicts how to make stew, but how to make flax into fiber. An art practiced by Maori women, the Chiefs either didn’t know how to make fiber or wouldn’t admit they knew anything about women’s work, so they were brought back to New Zealand– no doubt a little angry with the British.





Mission House
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Photo By:






In 1809, after dropping off convicts in Sydney, the Boyd stopped in New Zealand for lumber. A Maori crew member had been whipped. When they reached Whangaroa, he wanted utu– revenge. The crew and most of the passengers were killed and eaten and the ship burned. And as things often go in history, white whalers wanted revenge. They attacked the Maoris and killed more than sixty of them. And here’s where Kerikeri and its mission station– Kemp House, New Zealand’s oldest European building and nearby Stone Store come into the picture.









Hongi Hika
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Photo By:





Reverend Samuel Marsden, an Englishman who came to Australia to save the souls of convicts, occasionally saw Maoris on the streets of Sydney. These Maoris from Godless New Zealand also needed their souls saved. The Maoris welcomed the missionaries and Marsden sponsored an Anglican Mission in the Bay of Islands. Three missions were established– at Rangihoua, Pahia, and Kerikeri, near a terraced pa site above the Kerikeri basin. With language problems and cultural differences, soul saving did not go well. Hongi Hika, the Maori chief at the time, threatened to send them back to Australia unless the soul savers gave them muskets. In exchange for protection of Marsden’s mission stations, the missionaries came up with muskets, hatchets and axes. Hongi Hika also visited Sydney and London. In London, he received many gifts which were very much appreciated. He traded them in on his return trip to Sydney for more muskets– to use in wars against other Maori tribes. It costs time and money to wage a war against your neighbors. The Maori didn’t have time to plant food. They were too busy cultivating flax and processing it to trade for more muskets. As they weren’t vegetarians, war prisoners helped supplement the food shortage.

During these praise the Lord and pass the ammunition days of the Musket Wars, Marsden asked the British to step in and bring some law and order to the region south of Australia so they could get back to the business of soul saving. The British had its hands full keeping a penal colony running smoothly in Australia and weren’t interested in New Zealand. Finally, under pressure from the missionaries tired of paying muskets for souls, they agreed to extend Australia’s New South Wales colony to include as much of New Zealand as could be negotiated with the Maoris. In 1840, European settlers began arriving and the Treaty of Waitangi was signed.







Stone Store
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Photo By:





Originally intended as a mission storehouse, the Stone Store, designed by missionary John Hobbs, was built at the head of the Kerikeri inlet rather than on the Bay at Pahia. The oldest Pakeha stone and timber building in New Zealand, it was later used as a theological library, a Kauri gum store, a native boy’s school and a general store. Both the Mission Station (Kemp House) and the Stone Store are open to the public. Above the Keri Keri basin, you can also visit a terraced pa site where Hongi Hika’s people lived.







Stone Store
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Photo By:






Kerikeri has much to offer besides a glimpse at history and year-round beautiful weather. The small town atmosphere attracts artists who sell from their studios. Clothing, pottery, food, and wood carvings are all available at a reasonable price. Pick up a brochure of the Kerikeri



Art and Craft Trail from the Visitor Centre, then either find your own way around or take a tour– they’ll even pick you up in Pahia or Waitangi if you don’t have your own auto or RV.

One of the best things about Kerikeri if you’re camping or RVing– you’re close to the Bay of Islands, but in the low rent district. There’s a DOC campsite with water and toilets at the Puketi Recreational Area. Follow the signs off SH10 near Kerikeri. And don’t worry about unfriendly Maoris in your campground, even if you’re French. Everyone in New Zealand is polite and friendly even when you’re not. If you have a campervan, try the Aroha Ecological Centre just north of Kerikeri. You can stay the night for a reasonable price, hire a boat or wander the beach, then enjoy a guided kiwi night walk– kiwi birds are nocturnal. If you’re really traveling on the cheap and have a self-contained campervan, stay free at Waipapa Landing. Two km past the Stone Store, go through the roundabout and past Riverview Rd then turn right before the one-way bridge.

Whether you’re digging into New Zealand history, shopping for quality arts and crafts at an economical price or just looking for a cheap place to spend the night while exploring the Bay of Islands, stop in for a day or two at Kerikeri.

Lyn Harris

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

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Lost in the Diaper Aisle (2)






West Coast Whitefish

$6. Open Sandwich

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Photo By:








New Zealand is the land of plenty– plenty of food. The food supply is clean and safe. In New Zealand, you’re not told, "Just eat, don’ task," as you dig through your rice wondering if that strange little fellow you’re munching is the same one that scurried across your floor last night when you flipped on the light. At times, New Zealand food is boring, but boring is good if you don’t want the trots on your next day’s adventure. We talked about red meat and sea food last post. Chook– chicken-- is often for company dinner. Not long ago, it was the most expensive meat in Godzone. New Zealand is dairy country and heavy on milk and cream. Breakfast cream for cereal has the texture of unwhipped whipping cream. There’s Cream #1 and Cream #2. We finally settled on plain milk for our cereal– American cereal. If you buy New Zealand cereal, eat the box and throw away the cereal. Kiwis dump milk or cream in their coffee and tea. If you want black tea or coffee, ask before it’s served. Milk coffee is made with hot milk.








Emergency Chocolate

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Photo By:






Olivani makes a good olive oil-based margarine. American brand margarine, produced in Australia, is available. You’ll find Paul Newman Dressings, produced in Australia, and that’s one the Australians improved on. Better than you can buy in the states and at a cheaper price. If you want American cranberry juice, it’s dear.





Lemon and Paeroa, a lemon flavored mineral water, Coca Cola, Pepsi, and various sodas, and Ch’i Water, New Zealand herbal mineral water in the green bottle, is available. I go through a bottle of Ch-i water a day. Dave can’t stand it.





Beer and wine are easy to buy and reasonably priced. Cheep Liquor and Liquorland have the best price for hard liquor. Many Kiwis make their own moonshine. Home manufacture is allowed in small quantities. Moonshine kits are available in stores. The main government concern seems to be "do it right." Though the Kiwi government looks kindly on moonshiners, they turn the evil eye on pot growers. We’ve shared moonshine– some excellent, some passable, but we’ve never been offered pot. We hang around with an older crowd. If they smoke, they don’t brag.





Venison Burger
Photo By:

*

bittermelon




Pikelets are small pancakes, usually served cold with butter, jam or whipped cream. Sometimes you can find them in a pie-cart– those traveling kitchens in a caravan that serve anything fattening or fried. Bubble and squeak is vegetable hash. If you order pea, pie and pud from the menu, you’ll get a meat pie with a side order of peas and mashed potatoes– I warned about getting fat in New Zealand. Another local delicacy is marmite. Marmite and vegemite, fortified yeast extracts, are spread on bread. I was told marmite is beef flavored and vegemite vegetable flavored. Marmite is an acquired taste, but then I gave up peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at an early age.




Dirty Punk House Kitchen

Photo By:

*

roadiegirl


Unique best describes New Zealand sandwiches. They can be skinny little slices of bread with a dab of marmite spread in the middle, a slice of bread rolled around an asparagus slice, a hot dog bun filled with canned meat and a beet slice, or a hamburger with a sloppy fried egg flopped in the middle. Eat one of those with some chippies– potatochips, or chips– french fries, and you’ll be chocka in no time.


Eat, drink and get fat on your way through Godzone while enjoying that spectacular scenery and those friendly people. Worry about those extra inches around your middle when you’re home sorting through your photos. Consider them another souvenir you brought home with that sheepskin rug.

Lyn Harris

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

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Lost in the Diaper Aisle


Venison on the Menu

at

Waitomo Hotel



The first time I traveled five months in New Zealand, I stopped at a supermarket on my way out of Auckland and got lost in the diaper aisle. I needed napkins. I was sent to the diaper aisle for baby diapers. I soon learned nappies are for a baby’s bottom. Surviettes are to wipe your top when you’re a sloppy eater.


Larger towns have supermarkets with bakeries and delis. You’ll need your trolley or trundler. Smaller towns have butcheries, bakeries, dairies and milk bars. Fruits and vegges are cheap and abundant in the summer. Blackberries, raspberries, strawbs, capsicans, cougarettes, butternut, silverbeet and marrow are in season. Avocados can be found as low as five for 1$NZ at the greengrocer or on a table in someone’s yard. Just pick the ones you want and drop your money in the honesty box. Swedes are 2$NZ per bag. Dave’s a Swede in good nick, too. He won’t let me stuff him in a bag, though. Fruits and vegges are more expensive in the South Island. Hawks Bay and Northland near Kiri Kiri are good produce areas. In March, the first crop of apples from the South Island hits the markets as low as 2$NZ per bag.







Capsicum

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Photo By

Yun-Shan




Meat is fresh and cheap. Most cuts are the same as US cuts, but watch the T-bones– the butcher steals the fillet. Hungry for a hamburger on that new barbe? Better ask for steak mince or you might end up with beetroot in that patty. Or try a banger– good with onions. Of course not as good as Wisconsin bangers my traveling Wisconsin food expert tells me. Watch the hogget, too. It’s one-year-old lamb, not pork. The beef seems a little gamier– possibly fresher. Deer and elk raised for export is available in some areas– as well as on the menu in upscale restaurants. When camping in elk farm country, never spend the night across the river from a lonely bull elk. And never share a campground with a hippie and his bongo drum.


If you like sea food, try tuna, snapper mahi mahi or salmon. Dig your own tua tua or pipi or find some paua– a little smaller than California abalone. Supermarkets carry good supplies of sea food if you don’t want to get your toes sandy. To catch your own fish– salmon, trout or a bill fish, you’d probably have better luck with a guide or charter company. And, that’s a topic for another post.





Hangi to Go

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Photo By:




New Zealand is very careful about agricultural disease. When clearing customs, you are asked if you’ve been on a farm or golf course in the last thirty days. Golf shoes need to be disinfected. New Zealand’s economy would be devastated if any of the European or Asian diseases got into the country. New Zealand is very clean. You don’t have to worry about the safety of the food supply. You do have to worry about the safety of your pants– remember to bring those elastic pants.


(To be continued)


Lyn Harris


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



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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eat, Drink and Get Fat





American Pie
&
Kiwi Coffee
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Photo By:




When traveling on the cheap in New Zealand by RV or auto, you’ll probably prepare most of your own meals. If you want to travel through New Zealand fast and fancy, find a tour guide or rent a vehicle then graze your way through New Zealand at any restaurant that suits your fancy. You can find Indian, Thai and Chinese restaurants– just about any type of restaurant you find at home. New Zealand is short on Mexican restaurants, but they can be found. There’s a Mexican restaurant in Rotorua and another in central Auckland opposite the Sky Tower. KFC, McDonalds and Burger King taste pretty much like home, but pizza has lost something in the translation. Every try canned spaghetti on pizza? Me neither. There’s a Denny’s behind the large cinema in Manukau City– near the Auckland airport. In Auckland 1 I talked about finding a place to settle in for your first day.


There are delis, bakeries and espresso cafes in any town. A Kiwi favorite is meat pie, a flaky, high calorie meatpie. Beware unless you brought elastic pants. A pie-cart is a traveling kitchen in a caravan with a flip down side. Enjoy fish and chips, anything fattening and fried, or a raspberry bun– a hotdog bun covered with raspberry frosting. If you’re looking for a snack, try a milkbar– a mom and pop store that sells ice cream, milkshakes, magazines and newspapers. Supper is a late night snack– not dinner. Tea can be a tea or coffee break or the evening meal. The first time we were invited to tea, we ate a sandwich since we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Big mistake. It was a full course meal ending with fruit and cream. English buffets are often loaded with mutton, cream, and fancy pastries. You’ll find venison– very tasty venison– on the menu in upscale restaurants. Pav or Pavlova is the national dessert. Aussies claim they, not the Kiwis, invented this concoction of meringue, whipped cream, strawberries and passion fruit. I can’t see what all the fuss is about.











Wedding Pavlova

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Photo By:







A private hotel usually has a more homelike atmosphere and serves food but not alcohol. Some private hotels will let you bring your own wine and charge a corkage fee. Just ask ahead. Beer and wine are sold in supermarkets. Try Cheep Liquor or Liquorland for hard liquor. A licensed hotel is a hotel with a liquor license. In rural areas, if you’re looking to relax, meet the locals, and enjoy a few beers, find the hotel. A booze barn is a large open room for drinking– not a friendly neighborhood tavern. A boozer is just another name for a bar that’s usually part of a hotel. Most licensed hotels have not only a bar, but a liquor store.








Hangi


in


The Bay of Islands





You’ll want to try a traditional New Zealand hangi at least once during your visit. Stones are placed in a lighted fire pit. Then lamb, pork or chicken, and kamara and vegges wrapped in muslin are wedged into wire frames and lowered over the hot stones. The meal gets more than a dash of water– they use buckets. This steaming pile is covered with fresh dirt. Your hangi takes a while to cook, so there’s time for a long happy hour. Enjoy hangi along with Maori singing and dancing at Rotorua (NI). During an RV rally in the Bay of Plenty, we had hangi with chicken and wild pig. East Cape is known for its wild pig hunting. (If you’re a REAL pig hunter, you don’t use a gun– you chase them down with a knife.)


It’s said Kiwis love rugby, racing and beer. Beer is often served in jugs– pitchers. Kiwis don’t like foamy beer– if you pay for a full glass of beer, you should get a full glass of beer. There’s several regional brands available. Move on to the next town down the road and try a new one. You probably can’t keep up with a Kiwi beer drinker. If you give it a good try, you might get pissed– not the same as pissed off, which means the same as it does in the states.


And yes, Alcoholics Anonymous is in New Zealand. But, AA refers to their Automobile Association. If you’re a member of AAA in the US, bring your card. All privileges are reciprocal. You’ll get discounts on motels and entertainment and best of all free maps not available to the public that show the back roads. You’ll need these if you skip the tour guide and fancy food and head into the wop-wops for the New Zealand beyond the tourist trail.


Lyn Harris


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






















































































































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