Northland, NZ

After seeing the awesome Kauri trees, we headed north to the northern tip of New Zealand, then drove back down to Auckland on the east side of the north cape. Here’s a little blog about our time in Northland.

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We took a little ferry across a harbour on our way north
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Our first experience with very crowded campgrounds in New Zealand! We're just south of the northern tip of the north island.
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Even though the campground was crowded, the beach was really beautiful and empty.
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We did a little hike up to a lookout from our campsite
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One of those crazy coincidences. When my dad saw their MEC tent, he asked them what part of Canada they were from. They answered "from a little town near Peterborough Ontario"! He, Brendan, was originally from Ireland, and she, Emanuelle, was French, and they live in Hastings (30 minutes from our house!) They were very nice, and we started chatting with them. Then we realized that we had some friends in common! Crazy, eh? He was a doctor, which was very helpful because my dad had an infection in his foot. My dad lay face first in the grass of the campground while Brendan cut the boil open with his swiss army knife - fixed it perfectly!
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Here we are are the north tip of the north island, Cape Reinga.
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When two oceans mix, the waves go all funny. The Pacific Ocean is on the right, and the Tasman Sea on the left.
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This lone tree (look carefully) is very special in Maori culture. They believe that that's where their spirits go when they die, before returning to the ocean.

After Cape Reinga, we headed south (not like we had any choice!). We did a 20 minute hike up to a view point called St. Paul’s Rock.

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Yeah, it was pretty steep!
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The panoramic view from the top - you really need to click on this one to see it.

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That night, we found a place on a lovely beach to camp. Our understanding was that in New Zealand, if there are no “No Camping” signs, you can stay there as long as you clean up after yourself.

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Some Maori folks came by the beach to collect cockles. Cockles are like little clams. The people were very welcoming and friendly, and even gave us a bunch of cockles! They also told us where we could find oysters. I tried a raw cockle... I would describe the taste as "it tastes the way the ocean smells"!
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We had our first fire in a long time! I much preferred the cockles cooked, they were delicious.

The next morning, before leaving camp, we visited a cemetery just up the hill that the cockle-collectors had told us about the night before. Maori people decorate their graves very nicely!
When we were just about to leave, another Maori woman came by in her truck. She was mad and told us that we were NOT allowed to camp there. She told us that the gate was supposed to be locked, and it wasn’t. We were camping on Maori land. She was worried about where we were going to the bathroom, because that beach is a food beach. When my dad explained that we were going in the woods behind, she told us that there had been a big Maori battle there many years ago, and so their ancestors bones laid there. It’s also near the Maori cemetery.
She left, and so did we. We headed into Rawhiti (pronounced Rafiti), the nearest town to fill up water. Turns out, Rawhiti wasn’t much… just a campground! Turns out, That lady was the manager of the campground! No wonder she was mad. We were camping on her sacred land, instead of paying at the Maori-run campground 2 km down the road! We apologized to her about what we did. She had a reason to be mad, although we had no way of knowing that we were doing something wrong. It’s interesting that the cockle-collectors the previous night had been so welcoming. I think it’s because they weren’t from Rawhiti, they were just visiting from other places and heard that it was a good cockle beach. This experience was our first insight into Maori culture, rights and land.

Then we drove south down towards Auckland. In Auckland, we got a new Bluetooth keyboard for blogging, because the one we bought in Peterborough started to go a bit wonky (the enter key stops working, then the shift key, then the space bar). Now it’s working a lot better, so with our two keyboards, the phone and tablet, we can “double-blog”, to try and get caught up on our blog entries!
That night we drove southeast towards a place called Rotorua. It also happened to be New Years Eve! We camped beside a very nice river, see our blog entry: https://1year1family1world.com/2014/12/31/2015-is-great-trust-us/  to see what we did.
New Years Day, we went to a blue hole to swim in. It was freezing! There were lots of people there, but not a lot of them swam! Most of them just went to see the blue hole and have a picnic.

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The blue hole was about ten minutes walk from the car park. It's in cow country- not where you would expect to see a crystal clear pool!
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It was really cold! I am writing this in Queensland Australia, during a heatwave summer (36 degrees Celsius), and the cold pool looks pretty inviting. I'm sure those of you reading this in Canada right now don't feel the same way!
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A fun New Years day. Things look good for 2015!

Kaia

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