We left Leigh in the early morning in search of a Flat White. That is the name of the New Zealand latte-like drink that Shaleah has become addicted to. We tracked one down at Pepper's Cafe in Mangawhai Village. It's actually quite amazing, because I didn't think there could be more coffee shops per capita than in Seattle, WA but New Zealand bests Seattle easily. These people are serious about their coffee....er...Flat White.
After Shaleah's caffeine fix we continued to drive north up the coast along the partially paved roads. The infrastructure here is very different and many of even the paved roads have bridges that are only one lane wide. This would never fly in the states because we couldn't be counted on to wait patiently for oncoming cars to cross the bridge.
We finally made it to the Mangawhai Cliffs walkway where we strolled around and enjoyed some more amazing views. It was actually quite temperate and the hike...er....tramp was not to difficult. This area of the country had some severe flooding as recently as one month prior to our visit and part of the hiking...er...tramping trail was washed out. We tramped back along the beach and were amazed at the sheer numbers of discarded shells on shore. In many places they outnumbered the rocks. It was pretty incredible.
Lunch was served overlooking the ocean despite the wind and we then packed up and drove to the city of Whangarei where we patronized the local internet cafe and ate a delicious meal at Reva's on the Waterfront. Our night was spent in a parking lot of the local information center where we dreamed of our mountain biking adventure the next day.
Alas, it was not to be. We awoke early on Day 4 to a torrential and persistent downpour which lasted most of the day and foiled our mountain biking plans. We holed up at the local coffee shop, Caffeine; Shaleah got her daily flat white, naturally, and we attempted to reconnoiter. We decided to stay at the Whangerhei Falls Backpackers hostel. After offloading our wares and getting our first shower of the trip we went hiking to the Abbey Caves. Of course, having no flashlight and tramping around in 3 inches of mud made this a less than successful excursion. However, the stop at Whangerhei Falls on our way back was very impressive. The rest of the day was spent doing laundry and relaxing. Mountain biking would have to wait for Day 5.
Muesli for breakfast resulted in a serous jaw workout. Today we bid goodbye to the hostel and set about getting a bike lock since our original didn't make the trip across the pacific. I also picked up a NZ to US power converter to charge our various electronic time wasting devices. After this short detour we actually set off towards our first mountain biking excursion. It turned out to be a short but pretty enjoyable jeep road ride that we managed to finish minutes before a torrential downpour. The bikes were stowed minutes before the countryside got a thorough drenching. We set off to our next destination and snapped a quick picture of a new rainbow.
Having been foiled in our previous cave excursion we stopped at the Waitiki glow-worm caves for a quick tour. It was actually quite impressive and a nice detour on our sojourn to the Bay of Islands. Arriving in Paihia around 6:00 pm we stopped and ate a delicious meal at Cafe No. 6 on the beachfront before retiring for the evening.
The sunrise today over the Bay of Islands was glorious. We got off to an early start today and we were at the mountain biking trail by 9:30 am. This proved fortuitous as we got lost on the trail and didn't finish until 1 pm. All in all, though, it was a very fun day. We enjoyed some biking and views of the ocean in the distance. We took several wrong turns and wound up biking a far greater distance than we had planned.
As an aside, we've become quite adept at living in a 12 ft x 6 ft space. When we return to our 3300 sq. ft. house we will be completely out of our element.
After biking we jaunted across the country to Omapere for a spectacular view across Hokianga harbor and the sand dunes of the Te Pouahi Reserve. Then on to the Waipoua forest to view Tane Mahuta (Maori God of the Forest) the largest remaining Kauri tree in New Zealand. It was impressive to behold. We then drove through the rest of the forest and down to Dargaville and Baylys Beach where we ate at the Funky Fish Cafe. Even if some of our plans get rained out there's no disputing that we've been eating like kings the entire trip. Even rain can't mess up great meals. Nighttime found us holed up in a parceled but not yet built upon housing development at the crest of a hill near Baylys Beach. It's a vagabonds life for us.
Travel day. Set out for Kai Iwi Lakes area on a rainy morning. The area was very beautiful but the trail was closed and it rained all morning so we caught up on our reading and Shaleah took a nap. We then set out south towards Auckland and drove most of the day. There are rainbows aplenty here in the New Zealand rainy season. I took pictures of several while Shaleah drove and listened to various podcasts. Our van, with 219,000 kilometers on it only has a CD player, no cassette deck.
The evening found us on the Whangaroa peninsula where we ate pizza and camped for the night. Tomorrow Shaleah and I will mountain bike at Shakespear park if the weather holds and then enjoy a well deserved hotel stay in Auckland.
The evening wound down and we viewed podcasts on my laptop. It's like television only smaller.
Last night was horrible. Apparently the parking lot we chose was the staging area for some New Zealand Army Reserve squadron or something. They showed up at midnight with their loud trucks and made noise all night long. Then they started marching and doing calisthenics at 4 am. We awoke to yet another day of intermittent showers. There was a break in the rain around 10 am long enough to take a ride through Shakespear park on the Whangaparoa peninsula north of Auckland. The ride traveled right through herds of sheep and cows and there were peacocks in abundance around the park.
The ride and the views were quite nice but the rain has caused spirits to flag so we trundled down through Auckland and got a nice hotel room with a shower at he Botany Motor Inn. Maybe it wasn't the best use of time but leisure is what vacation is about so we took a long nap in the afternoon and then watched some television.
The great thing about New Zealand tv is that while the news reporters aren't really serious journalists anymore than you local newsman they seem to realize this and they don't mind ribbing each other about it. I love watching the rugby highlights because I have no idea what's going on but everyone is obviously very excited about it. I'm sure New Zealanders feel the same about Nascar.