Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Far North

Today we drove up far north. Our first stop was Mangonui for some world famous fish and chips. The village itself was very cute. It could definitely be a site for a television series - very scenic main street, one or two beautiful dressed waterfront buildings, but living here in real life would probably be boring.

I imagine the fish and chips were made world famous somehow a self-proclamation that was subsequently perpetuated by iSite staff. Probably not unlike Japadog in Vancouver: a hot dog stand that managed to land in the Lonely Planet but a hot dog stand nonetheless. I mean, how can you do fish and chips in any other way than how it's always done? We ordered a shrimp and mussel dish as well as the fish and chips. They were like all other such platters I've had as expected.

Further north took us to the gift shop featuring a staircase carved into the trunk of an ancient kauri tree. An interesting specimen, but we didn't need any kauri furniture at the moment.

I find it strange the further north one gets, the more desolate it becomes. I would have thought it'd be the opposite since going north here should mean warmer as one approaches the equator. But like Canada, as you drive north, the highways become less busy and you definitely feel more alone.

The southern end of 90 mile beach was like that. It went on forever, merging into the mists beyond. It was also very flat giving the appearance that one could walk into the ocean and its waves disappearing into the sea. A few cars ventured north on the beach and some other tourists were having a look around, but the emptiness of the scene and fierce winds of the roaring 40s gave it an alien feel, like we were on another planet, in some ways hospitable, in others hostile.

A long miserable drive north took us to Cape Reinga.

Anyways, Cape Reinga was just as windy and felt like the end of the world. Looking off out into the sea, where the Pacific Ocean met Tasman Sea, I get the sense once again of how small I am and how easily the ocean could swallow me up, disappearing without a second thought in lapping waves that have struck this coast for thousands of years. A lighthouse sits on the Cape and I wondered how many exhausted sailors breathed a sigh of relief when they saw this northernmost point (close enough) of New Zealand.

I took over driving from this point and we made a stop at the sand dunes. We rented some boogie boards and surfed down the sand dunes. They were crazy steep, but definitely manageable once we got the hang of it. An hour was just the right amount of time as its the climbing up part that got the best out of you.

We made it down to Kaitia where we found a hotel that was clean but in need of a face lift. Better than a hostel though, so can't really complain too much. We drove out to Ahipara to enjoy the sunset, got some Chinese take out, and back to the hotel.

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