Saturday, 17 March 2012

Where two oceans meet: Cape Reinga

The drive up to the top of NZ is like the Pennines with palms and then you turn the corner and it’s barren and dry, like a piece of Mongolia (I haven't been there by the way). It’s New Zealand of the 1970s: all sheep and salty Anchor butter.

Over coffee this morning with a local woman, she told us about a friend who caught a white pointer shark off the 3 kings islands and then dragged it along the east coast back to Aruni. They got the local wood yard’s crane to haul it up, and as they did, a 12ft baby came out! She’s looking after a friends wild pigs near Spritis Bay. She also told us about giant white pointer they see regularly off the top who they call "Brutus". He leaves giant fish heads floating in the sea.

Cape Reinga, the meeting of 2 oceans: the Tasman Sea and the Pacific, where waves go in 2 directions. The warm current comes down from Tonga in the north and the cold current comes up from Antartica in the south. There is a definite blue line where the 2 currents meet. It's this cold current that brings the nutrients for krill, crayfish etc which the marlin and massive friends feed on. DOC rangers are working in orange boiler-suits on the hillside trying to weed out non native plants,. Today, agapanthus is on their hit list. I wouldn't mind a sack of agapanthus weeds.

One of the DOC chaps I spoke to said that when he was a boy there used to be skulls lying around on Spirits Bay, as the Maoris belived if they made the journey north, they would have a shorter jouney into the afterlife. He also told us about a local boy who, when he was 18 years old, held a séance in the tomb at Spirits Bay that holds the remains of ancient Maoris and the run of bad luck this had brough on his family! Similarly we used to jump over the gate at Berry Pomeroy castle, our local haunted castle, after the pub on a Friday night.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dune surfing

If you like sledging a 90 foot hill with the thrill of possibly falling off your board and doing some damage and defintely getting sand in every orrifice - it will come out over the following week - then dune surfing is perhaps your sport? The biggest dune at the top of 90 mile beach has a near vertical decent for the first half and once you are on, you are committed, there's no baling out. Loved it.

A lunch time pit stop at Houhora Heads

This one is for you Shaun! We pulled over at this place for a break from driving and saw some locals with their catch. One had caught this massive snapper off his kayak. Wish I'd seen him sweating as he reeled it in.

Houhora Heads at the bottom of 90 mile beach.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Beautiful Matai Bay

Matai Bay is a DOC (Department of Conservation) Site and consists of 2 horse shoe bays, back to back. We body surfed and fished. Digs caught a tasty Kahwai for our supper one night. It's near where Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior sank, which is now a dive site.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Ali, Stu, Spike and the Alpacas at Helena Bay

A roadside Maori farm shop with tasy purple spuds.

Spike munching on some spare mussels.

We pulled up at Helena Bay. The kids played for 4 hours, making a driftwood raft and playing Bear Grylls. It ended suddenly with Bear losing Raz’s prized Leatherman penknife in the lagoon, as it had been floating across on a pair of shorts. The shorts are still at the bottom of the lagoon as well. 
Meanwhile, Digs had met Stu and Spike, a black lab that has had a spinal operation about 4 weeks ago and has to take it easy, and been invited to park the camper on his lawn overlooking the lagoon.

The kids spent one afternoon getting to know the alpacas that live in the field next door and belong to a neighbour, Mercedes, Jackson etc. Having never been very close to one before they look like a cross between a camel, a deer and a goat. with huge dark brown eyes. Some of them happily fed from the kids hands. Ali told us about the 3 that had died recently, including a one year old, Olly that had died a few weeks ago, the same day that Spike got ill with his back problem.

Raz woke Stu at 7am and they went out fishing on the kayaks just after first light. They came back a few hours later with some snapper and some khaiwai – great for putting in the smoker. Later we went to a nearby bay to collect mussels and tuatuas (like pipis) for supper. Bear and Magi made an upside down pineapple cake for pud. Stu showed the kids a card trick and later taught it to Magi. Spike munched on mussels.
Thanks, Ally, Stu and Spike for a fabulous weekend.

An early morning fish with Stu and Raz caught this snapper.

Collecting Tuatuas.

Top: Elliot's Beach

Kahwai on the smoker.

The Wonderful World of The Waipu Pizza Barn

Magi with the owner, Ale

Since Auckland, whenever we have mentioned that we'd be heading up the east coast to Lang's Beach, the first thing people said was that we should visit the Waipu Pizza Barn. It turned out that the owners of the house where we were staying, had got their own wood fired pizza oven because of their next door neighbours, who own the Waipu Pizza Barn! We invited one of the owners, Ale and her son Tomo over for some of our second rate pizzas one night. The next day we headed to their incredible palace to pizzas.

Ale (short for Alejandra) used to work in film, as a make up artist, and lots of the furniture and props; battered leather suitcases, gramophones, photos of highland cattle and deer heads, have come from films over the years. Because Waipu still has a large Scottish population, they even have the highland games here every New Year's Day, Geoff and Ale have installed a whisky bar at the back of the place. The pizzas were on another level - heavily loaded, but still with an incredible crisp base. Bear also tried the Fejoya (a bit citrusy - a taste of its own) Smoothie. Ale gave the kids some black t shirts with a tartan cow on the back, a tour around the kitchen and some pudding pizzas with butterscotch sauce. Digs and I came away wishing they had one near us in Devon. 

Pudding Pizza to share: banana, caramel, choc sauce and ice cream.

The Highland Whisky Bar.


Sunday, 4 March 2012

Lang's Beach is near Waipu and Uretiti

We want one of these!

We spent 10 days around Lang's Beach, looking out to the Hen and Chicken islands across Bream Bay (another one of Cap'n Cook's names that has stuck) and...

trying out the owner's wood fired pizza oven
testing the local chocolates at Bennett Chocolates
swinging on tree swings over Waipu Cove
playing pool and raz getting very good
Bear being taught how to do a handstand and the beginning of a cart wheel by Arle
getting into Twilight and watching the first 3 films with warm buttery popcorn
enjoying the owner's gorgeous veggie garden with fantastic tomatoes that you could pick a handful of every day, fresh lettuce and handfuls of basil, mint and chives. The tree tomatoes aren't quite ripe yet.,
enjoying our Sunday house roast of lamb with the trimmings
the kids climbing and monkeying around on the pohutukawa trees that hang over the edge of the beach
me being able to say pohutukawa trees at last

Sandy Bay

Zippy's Coffees and Ice Creams from the Flavourama machine at Lang's Beach. Boysenberry yoghurt fresh made in the van was the best.