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.


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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