Thirty Seven Days On North Island 12

08 February 20

Posted at 5:22

We are now staying near Cooper’s Beach in the Far North. Our Bach is well posh compared with previous ones (although we’ve loved all of them). This one is bigger as we are being joined here for a few days by friends Andrew and Debbie who live south of Auckland. We have no wifi here which is most strange and means I can get on with writing more than I usually get time for.


So I’ll go back to Bay of Islands first of all. The drive there from Hamilton was long and tiring, not what we’ve been used to. It is the first time we’ve been north of Auckland. To get to the Russell peninsular there is a 10 minute ferry ride which eliminates a long drive. We were staying a couple of kilometres outside of Russell overlooking a bay from a high bush area. There were lots of houses hidden in the area. The track to ours, Fern Tree Cottage was steep. We missed it first time and ended up at the end of the track where an extrovert looking old chap with a beard and a wide brimmed sun hat was messing about with an outboard motor outside his wood cabin. He looked at us and wandered over, when he spoke he had a German or maybe Scandinavian accent and he spoke slowly. I told him we were looking for Fern Cottage. He scratched hic chin, shook his head and repeated Fern Cottage? He looked back along the track and shook his head and looked back at me. We seemed to have reached an impasse and he didn’t appear too impressed that we were there. He then said, “you see that blue tarpaulin on the right?” “ Fern Cottage is there” “Bab’s place isn’t it?” It was as though his brain was operating in slow motion and his face gave nothing away. He seemed happy now though and so were we!

Babs had left the key in the door of the cottage which was down a really steep drive (we walked down) then a path and steps through bush to a wooden cottage built on many levels in the trees. Going in it was quirky and quaint, had multiple decks and nooks and crannies with seating areas amongst the trees. Also magnificent views down to the bay dotted with yachts. Bab’s then arrived and gave us a tour, she also had a German accent and looked like an ageing hippy. Then from the bush appeared her partner, a portly suntanned gent with a broad hat, off white singlet and sporting some extended hedge clippers which we found he spent ages pruning the various trees in the bush around our houses. He was a well jolly fellow full of anecdotes and irony. He wasn’t German. They made an amazing couple, they told us they had a yacht moored in the bay and also two kayaks and a canoe down on out little beach that we were free to use. Also down on the tiny beach was a hut and a shower. A set of old wooded steps led to the beach down a very steep path.

It is easy when staying in such unusual settings with interesting folk to just stay and chill but at each of our eight stops (well nine now counting Hamilton) there is so much to see, explore and do you have to make the effort to drag yourself away. We only have four or so days at each place and it has become abundantly clear that is nowhere near enough time.

Russell is a nice little town, not as busy as Piahia on the other side (across the ferry), the sea views are incredible, cafes restaurants and bars all good. For the first time on our travels we met quite a few Brits in Russell, youngsters working in the restaurants, others, older who have emigrated here living a bohemian lifestyle without a care in the world and of course there are the yachting set which is really what this area is all about. We met more Brits when we did the Hole in the Rock boat trip. We had a great time chatting with some lads from Dorking who are doing a six month trip covering OZ, NZ and some of Asia. They told us of their journey, by bus, which will cover most of both North and South island in a whistle stop tour. We were able to swap lots of stories and tips. One of them was so envious of the places we were staying in, he said he could wait for the night when he can go into his own room and shut the door after weeks of sleeping six, seven or more in one room, sometimes having to take turns to us the single power point they share!


So we’ve now said goodbye to the mixed bag that live and holiday in the beautiful Bay of Islands and moved a couple of hours North to Coopers Beach. Mangonui is the nearest, I suppose you could say town, a kilometre or two away. It has a very popular fish and chip shop which is ‘world famous’ as are so many things I’ve never heard of before that I have come across on this trip. Our friends have arrived to join us so I’m now getting facts about the local; area instead of having to make them up!Mangonui Chip ShopMangonui Fish and Chip Shop

Magonui PaView from Mangonui Pa


A couple of days ago week took a trip from here in a four wheel drive bus right up to the northern most point of New Zealand where the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman sea meet. It is called Cape Reinga and there is a lighthouse there and although it’s not claimed as such I’m sure it actually is world famous. The journey in total is about 120km, we were due to do part of it along a beach known as 90 mile beach which is actually 57 miles long – still a fair old beach though.Buzz's BusBuzz's Bus

The journey up there by road went through predominantly Maori owned land. Our driver, Buzz, was Maori and fiercely proud. He was great and gave us a really informative and passionate insight into Maori culture and tradition and what is happening today. About 30km form here we entered an area where as far as you could see in either direction were avocado plantations. Buzz explained a situation where positive actions/decisions taken can have some unexpected and self defeating results. An example of I’m sure similar situations around the world.

There is and has been a tension between Maoris and the NZ government about returning land to Maori tribes that is rightfully theirs. This is achieved through years of debate negotiation and treaty making. On a positive note more and more government owned land is slowly being returned to its rightful owners. The area we were driving through, which is vast, was such land. Massive swathes of it had some years ago been given back to some local tribes. The term tribe refers to cultural heritage, the people are 21st century folk not what the imagination might conjure up with the word tribe. Any once title of the lands was restored the owners naturally wish to prosper economically form their ownership. So far so good. Throughout the world there are moves to address climate change and the impact the human race are having on the planet. One currently popular theory is that consumption of meat is a massive contributor to climate change so there is an drive to vegetarian even vegan diets. Personally I have an issue with this as the methane produce through farming can easily be 100% eliminated but currently I haven’t got my point across! So there is now a massive demand globally for the production of vegetarian essential products. Avocado is one such product, its even popular with those on a balanced diet and avocados need a semi tropical environment. There are simply not enough avocado plantations available so while in South America they destroy rain forests to grow avocados here in the Far North New Zealand the Maoris were tempted with untold riches to lease their newly acquired land on long contracts to global avocado producers and they did, thousands of hectares of it. On the face of it all is well, the veggies in Islington get their avocados and fairness is restored to the Maoris. Ironically climate change means there is a lot less rain in the far North that there once was. Avocados require a hell of a lot more water that pasture land or natural bush. So today the avocado plantations, which are still expanding are using up massive amounts of scarce water. According to some this has gone past the point of no return and the whole area could become a barren, uninhabitable desert. Some Maoris, who are descendants of tribes living here for centuries are up in arms and protesting others in the age old tradition can only think of making a buck today. The outcome of all this is of course unclear at present but it showed to me that there are unforeseen consequences of what appear to be fair and positive decisions.

Coopers Beach 290 Mile Beach


Anyway off the politics and world issues and back to travelling round North Island. Having got to Cape Reinga and experienced, and indeed photographed, the awesome views there, learnt about how after death all Maori souls travel to this point to then return to their origin and dwelt on that belief we departed to drive along 90 mile beach. On arrival at the North End of it there are some massive sand dunes. In fact there would be moving sand dunes for miles but parallel with the beach there are 5 or so kilometre deep tree plantations which serve to stop the erosion but at the top point the dunes are allowed to form and move. The massive dunes provide a brilliant environment for dune surfing. So long as your legs and lungs are strong enough to climb the dunes in the first place surfing down is an exhilarating experience, even if occasionally you fall off!Dune SurfingI fell off but I went back up again

Cape Reinga 1

Cape ReingaCape Reinga 2Cape Reinga

A drive along 90 mile beach is an experience, you see surf casters, torpedo fishing and others enjoying the thrill of driving along a never ending beach. 90 mile beach was so called because in times gone by it was said a horse would travel 30 miles in a day and it took three days to travel end to end along the beach. Well it’s 57 miles long so somewhere along the way someone got things wrong. It is though a great experience and there is far more to see and understand than is immediately obvious.


Since then we have spent two days with our friends visiting just a few of the often deserted beaches and bays in this area, Enjoying the local cafes and bars and enjoying chillin in our Bach. As ever we don’t have enough time here, tomorrow we go south to Puhoi. Despite it being at the extreme top of New Zealand I’m sure if we are lucky enough to spend time in NZ again we will make sure this area is on our itinery.

Puheke BeachPuheke Beach (drone photo)

Sunset from the BachSunset from Cooper's Beach Bach - Bay View Retreat (drone photo)




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