I didn’t quite realize this before I arrived, but the Northland and North Island aren’t the same thing. The Northland is the peninsula at the north part of the North Island while the North Island is….the whole island above the South Island 😉
Auckland isn’t quite on the peninsula, but it’s close enough to be a gateway. It was a blessing after LAX which, after getting stranded there overnight, I’ve decided is my least favorite city. It’s grimy, ghetto, overdeveloped and in general gives me a bad vibe. Auckland is the opposite, it’s clean and organized with a lush helping of vegetation. It does feel more business-like and worldly compared to the other cities in NZ, it’s hard not to think of it as the capital especially compared to the actual capital–Wellington, which seemed smaller and more artsy.
But Auckland can be fun too.
Everything was a lot smaller than the US and at first I felt like I was missing something but thinking about it–what was I missing? A wide variety for my selective tastes? Come on, when do I ever shop at Walmart. I’m picky enough that I buy most of what I need online from computer parts to fun stuff.
Once out of Auckland we headed North and moments outside the city you get a hint of the Real New Zealand which is painfully gorgeous. We stopped constantly for pictures and just to take everything in. Pictures really don’t do it justice, the scenery is a spiritual experience.
It was very green and usual unspoiled…the picture below is unusual in that there are signs of life (cows!):
Everything is very well marked. We followed signs to little pathways through the forest to find a waterfall. Like this, this little patch of heaven is just right on the side of the road:
Alex told us to keep an eye out for Cafe Eutopia but we missed it on the way up to Paiha. Paiha is representative of these cities, it seemed no more than a square mile (or less) but so lovely. There is a LOT to do in the Bay of Plenty area, more than I thought there was. Lots of water sports, jungle treks, and the like. Not so much when it’s rainy though and it was. That was my biggest disappointment of the trip because we were going to sail out into the ocean to swim with wild dolphins but the sea was just too choppy for it.
We did walk on the beach some.
Then we drove around the Northland with our handydandy map (they’re everywhere, and free. Thank you, i-site!) which marked places of interest like the Four Sisters, a series of Kauri trees that grow very close together.
In our wandering, we found Sheep World but it was closed. I would have enjoyed seeing one of the Border Collie trials, especially great for an article to write for the Pet Salon.
We also found Cafe Eutopia which was delicious! Very old style fairy-tale esq, I’ve never eaten anywhere with so much character. You cross a bridge to get inside and it’s so bright. The tables are in little alcoves, not quite rooms, and people have written on them in chalk. This is my favorite restaurant in New Zealand.
We were supposed to stop in Whangerai for the Bushwhacka adventure which sounded great–abseiling, 4×4, bush whacking, Kiwi BBQ, etc…. well, my alarm didn’t go off and we we late. REALLY late. It didn’t help that it took longer to get there than we expected and we past it. Like 10 times. At least I THINK we passed it because when we did finally turn in at this little sign all we found was a house and a herd of chihauhaus. If it hadn’t been New Zealand, we would have been terrified of running into axe murderers.
The other thing of note about Whangerai is that it’s the closest to a ghetto that we found while there.
Though we did see worse graffiti. My friend said it was a cultural thing and not negative (and she loved seeing stuff that could have been in the background of The Tribe). But it just pissed me off. You’ve got this absolutely breathtaking country, cleanly cities and you want to ruin it all with graffiti? I could understand if it was something artistic, I’m a big supporter of artistic graffiti, but what we saw was just scribbles, pointless scribbles.
Our first hostel. The doors were left open at night. Some of the other hostels we stayed at had private rooms, some in better or worse condition ;p