Arataki, November 16th 2017
Dear friends and family,
We hope everything is going on well.
It's nearly the end of our North tour. We left Auckland more than 2 weeks ago and discovered, on our way up north, Shakespear (no 'e' at the end) Park, its sheep and nice hills. Its rain as well. But the weather changes very quickly and it's not unusual to see the sun and a beautiful blue sky after a downpour. The contrary is also true.
We continued towards the north and stopped at Whangarei (editor's note: "Wh" in Maori is pronounced like 'F'). We were supposed to start our first volunteering work the following week but after all, our hosts wanted us to start as soon as possible so instead of continuing north, we headed west.
We stayed a week at Nik, Nicky and Shadey's place (our hosts and their dog); we weeded their garden and native trees fields (no more weeds, they didn't survive the Léontiste tornado 💪🏼), we helped with the vegetable garden and sanded some walls and ceilings (that was tough!). We helped 4 or 5 hours per day and our hosts provided the food and accommodation.
As we were off during the afternoon, we visited the area by foot, by car or by kayak and notably the dunes, the giant kauri trees forest and the cosy cafés by the river.
We also cooked one dinner and did some galettes (savory crepes from Brittany - previous volunteers left some buckwheat flour...Lucky us!) and quatre-quarts (awesome cake with no butter - joke, a quarter of this cake is butter).
Then, we continued our trip to Cape Reinga, stopping on the way at Herekino where we couldn't pay the campground (we were $8 short) but the owner was very nice and loved French people (luck!) so she invited us to stay. She even gave us 6 eggs!
We had a lovely evening there. There was a group of 11 Czech people with whom we had a drink to celebrate the birthday of one of them. We spent the evening with them, around a fire and listening to the sound of their guitar.
We made a few stops on 90-mile beach (which is not 90-mile long but 90-kilometer long) and at Henderson bay where Baptiste had his first NZ swim.
Apparently, Cape Reinga, the 2nd northernmost point of NZ, fills up with tourists quite quickly so we went there very early for the sunrise and only met a few people. On the way back, we stopped at Te Paki sand dunes - where we were alone -. They are amazing and very impressive!
Then we got stuck in a local traffic jam: a shepherd was moving his sheep (a few hundreds) from one field to another on the main road! Quite spectacular ;)
After the Far North, we went to the Bay of Islands. Very nice area. Close to Kerikeri, we did our first "nocturnal headlamp safari" seeking kiwis but we only heard them. We examined every rock and bush with our red light (red light does not harm kiwis' night vision and they continue what they're doing normally when illuminated with red light) but nothing! They hid well.
We discovered other treats of the region: wine and maori traditions.
We first stopped at Marsden Winery.
And then at Waitangi Treaty Grounds where the treaty of governance was signed in 1840 between the Brits and most of the maori tribes' chiefs.
We could witness cultural performances: 6 maoris danced, sang and fought. It was powerful and fascinating! The guided tour and the museum were also great and helped us understand a bit more the Maori culture, very present in the North of the North Island.
We continued our tour of the Bay of Islands via Paihia, small quiet town and then, just in front, Russell, which used to have a very bad reputation (200 hundreds years ago, it was mostly frequented by prostitutes) but it has changed a lot and is a lot more quiet now and seems quite chic.
Then, we went to Waipu and explored the Waipu caves. After a few minutes walking in the mud and climbing rocks, we discovered a vault covered with glowworms. AMAZING! It was a very pleasant birthday evening.
After that, we went to the Waitekere Ranges, close to Auckland, stopping at Piha (popular for its Lion rock - well, a little bit of imagination is needed here - and its mosquitos) and Karekare beach (made famous by The Piano movie). To be honest, we preferred Piha beach :)
We are now heading to Coromandel Peninsula where we'll do our 2nd volunteering work, with beekeepers this time.
See you soon! Lots of love,
Léonie and Baptiste