52. A Quick Drive to Northland

The idea for the North Island was to start as far north as we could and learn what a winter in the far north feels like! So it was a very quick trip as far as Whangarei where we slowed down, and this became the start point for our sightseeing. There are two main routes north from Kawakawa (which in turn is north of Whangarei) so we headed up SH10, and plan to return via the Number 1.

When I said we made a quick trip, it took four days to reach Whangarei as we stopped to visit friends and family in Paekakariki and Palmerston North. Even after that we still caught up with more family and friends in Kaiwaka and Kerikeri – I’d forgotten we knew so many people in the North Island! Everyone is very friendly up here; it’s not difficult to strike up conversations wherever we go, and of course there are lots more people up here than in the South Island.

What can I say about the Number 1 through Auckland? It was eye-popping and took a good hour of pure driving at 100 kilomtres per hour to get from one end to the other. It’s grown vastly since Kev and I were last up this way. I managed to see a few of the volcanoes of the Auckland Volcanic Field as we drove, but mostly I was focussed on helping Kev by reading out the signs so we knew which lane to be in. We’ve had endless discussions with Northlanders since doing that drive. Some say they stay in the middle lane so they get a straight run through, but they comment that then they have trucks roaring away on both sides of them. That was too scary for us; we chose to stay as much as possible in the left lane and shift over as we needed. Most of the time drivers were respectful about letting us in; but it was pretty fraught with the speeds and amount of traffic and we were glad to be through. In fact we stopped somewhere that had a pull off with petrol and foodcourts at the northern end, and had a break. Lots of people we talked with north of Auckland don’t like the motorway, some intensely enough that they feel it actually cuts them off from the rest of New Zealand. They largely tend to follow an alternative, slower route that’s off the motorway; if I lived here I too would be learning that route!

Visiting family and friends heading north; we plan to stop for longer at these places on our way back south…
We saw this, one of many, just outside the NZMCA park up in Taupo where we stopped for a short night.
Driving past Lake Taupo – that geothermal activity on the horizon is enticing and is a place we want to visit on our return.
We bought a North Island road map book when we stopped for a break after making it through the Auckland motorway. There’s a toll to pay using the motorway; big signs tell you the website where this can be done. We tried to pay at our stop here, but their machine was down so I did it via the internet that night. It was under $2, but with the amount of traffic going through it would soon add up!
We started seeing mangrove swamps – fascinating, and we decide to have a read up later as our knowledge about these water dwelling plants is limited.
There were lots of differences around us compared to the South Island; the birds, the trees, and there are lots of flowers out! It grew warmer by the minute, we were down to t-shirts and had one of the car windows wide open.
Feeling excited and loving it! There’s going to be a lot to learn and explore up here!
Our first learning stop – at the museum in Waipu.
There’s a real Scottish thread in the community around here; this group were led in the early 1800’s by ‘The Man’ Norman McLeod from Scotland to Pictou in Nova Scotia then on to Bream Bay (where Waipu is situated) where they settled for good.

It was a great museum; I learned a lot about why these families left Scotland and about aspects of Scottish culture – like ‘frolics’ which were working bees where everyone worked and sang together to get grinding chores done. Highland Games developed here, and the Waipu Highland Games are the biggest Scottish event in New Zealand held annually (I find myself wondering if people down in Southland might disagree with this somehow; there’s a major Scottish thread down there as well).

I asked about Maori habitation; this struck me as another difference as in the South Island museums tend to be about both Maori and Pakeha (everyone else who’s not Maori) habitation, but up here, as we found with time, it much more tends to be either one or the other. Our friendly museum host said there were no Maori living at Waipu when her ancestors landed, though a prow of a waka had been found sometime back.
Uquharts are on the list! (bottom of first column) – my maternal grandmother was an Urquhart so perhaps I have very distant relations around here; in fact, the museum host, who’s name I didn’t get, said she too has Urquharts in her family tree, so perhaps we are related!
Urquharts again, in the ‘Others’ list.
Sunset in Whangarei.
Not having known anything about caravans when we were setting up to travel, we have learned that everyone – except us – knows that you don’t buy ex England ones, period. Not ones built before 2005 anyway. So here we are doing some major reinforcing to help it hold together. We did this parked up outside the local Whangarei Bunnings – which must once have been a Mitre 10 as it’s exactly the layout of a Mitre 10 – so Kev could easily get the materials he needed.
I helped Kevin and also looked around at the birds (heron above) and many flowers in bloom – still amazed at the warmer temperatures up here that enable this! Still loving it and looking forward to more! I feel irrepressible excitement, as I have since being on the ferry riding over Te Moana o Raukawa/Cook Strait.
Whangarei Heads, lovely!
Close up of surfers and a container ship in the background.
There’s heaps of pingao around! – further south the native pingao has been largely taken over by the non native marram grass, so it’s nice to see pingao taking a prevalent spot here.
African Flame Tree or African Tulip Tree with beaut big red flowers. This is regarded as an invasive species of tree in the north, but as with many non natives people love them – me too! One woman here told us it poses a dilemma for the community and while some say stamp them out others say just control them.
These rocky outcrops are typical of what we’ll see all over Northland. They seem to usually be remnants of volcanic cones. I need to have a good read up of the geology of the area to be more sure about this.
Same view from further away – you can see the sea in this one!

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