After our trip down south we came back to the Cowans in Wellington to chill for a few days. During this time we celebrated Jack's (Papa's) 86th birthday...
Hiked the Stairway to Heaven track...
and celebrated Blairs 100th game for London Irish.
I also got to catch up with my cousin Kate and her husband Chris who were visiting from New York. I haven't seen them since Megan and I visited the states for the summer in 2010. It was so good to see them both.
Leaving Wellington was bittersweet. It was sad to be leaving the people who had made us feel so welcome but we were excited for the next part of our adventure.
We arrived in Auckland after a short flight from Wellington and went to collect our hire car. It was a weird little Nissan, with creamy leather interior and a radio screen/sat nav that was all in Japanese. It was pretty small too, so I got to share the front seat with the surfboard. Joy.
We headed straight to Piha on the west coast to check the surf. It was pretty good so Sam went in and I relaxed with a book on the beach. I say relaxed...but I find it hard to relax when Sam is surfing. Especially when we had been told that the rips were so dangerous there even Mick Fanning had to be rescued!
A few hours later we were back on the road and heading for Bethells Beach. Sam went in again but this time was out after 30 mins holding his board...which was in 2 halves!! He had badly creased it while we were in the Coromandel and we managed to get it repaired while we were in Wellington. Unfortunately, it didn't hold up!
Walking back to the car the sand was the hottest I have ever felt. You could only run a few steps before throwing your towel down and taking a break before making your next run for it. There was one girl who did the whole walk using her towel and an item of clothing so she didn't have to touch the sand. Later that day I looked at my feet and I had two huge blisters where I had burned my toes!
From there we headed to John and Lesley McKittrick who were kindly letting us stay with them in Warkworth. Their home was beautiful! They had chickens wandering round, a super friendly dog and a cuddly cat. I was in my element! Lesley is a wonderful cook and made some delicious dinners and desserts.
She also took us to see a beautiful 800 year old McKinney Kauri tree.
John took us on a tour around the local area which included a brewery and a vineyard. I'm not usually a beer person but the craft beers were really tasty. The vineyard was really pretty and John recommended the platter to accompany our wine tasting. The platter was huge!
John and Lesley offered us their bach for a night. Their bach is right on the water and we got there just in time before a huge storm rolled in. The thunder and lightening went on into the night and lit the bach up with every rumble. It was so cool!
The following morning Sam got up at 5am and went off for a surf at Pakiri. He said that he'd be back by 10am so that we could pack and be out of the bach in time for John's daughter to arrive at 12:30. 10am came and went...11am came and went. By this point I'm an anxious mess thinking that the stormy weather had washed Sam away. I even called my friend back in the UK wondering what I should do. She managed to calm me down slightly. 12pm came and John's daughter arrived early...at that exact moment I FINALLY received a text from Sam saying he was on his way back, the surf had been really good and he'd lost track of time....I didn't stay mad too long.
That afternoon we headed up to Whangarei to stay with Sam's old Worcester friend Cam Goodhue. He lived with a couple called Chris and Barb who had a beautiful home out in the sticks. The views were incredible! They put on a BBQ and we had a lovely evening drinking wine and chatting.
The next day Cam took us on a tour around the coast. There are some beautiful bay's and beaches. My favourite was Oke Bay where we stopped and had a swim in the crystal clear water.
That night we headed to Cam's parents farm in Kawakawa where he grew up. It was so peaceful there. We spent most of the evening on the deck looking out over the garden and farmland with Cam's brother and Dad. Many beers were skulled (downed)...it turns out Cam is a lightweight haha!
In the morning we set off towards Cape Reinga which is the very top of the North Island. It was quite a long drive but the scenery was beautiful. We stopped off at 90 mile beach (actually 55 miles long) so Sam could surf and a couple of other spots for food.
When we finally reached the Cape we walked to the lighthouse and spent a while relaxing on the grass watching the sun get lower in the sky.
At the cape you can see the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean. The waves are coming from different directions and give it a choppy look (see below photo).
Maori believe that Cape Reinga (Te Rerenga Wairua) is the point at which the departed souls leave New Zealand (Aotearoa).
We weren't too sure where we were going to sleep that night but Cam had lent us his car and tent so we had 2 options. We ended up sleeping in the back of the car next to the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes. It wasn't the best nights sleep I've had!
We spent the next day exploring more of the coast before heading back towards Cam's farm in Kawakawa.
My favourite beach (maybe in the whole of New Zealand) was Spirits Bay. Which according to Maori is the last stop for the spirits as their journey to the cape nears its end. The water was bright blue and the sand was almost pink.
After a good nights sleep back at Cam's farm we headed to Waitangi for Waitangi Day. Waitangi Day is a public holiday that commemorates the signing of the treaty by Maori and members of the British Crown. In Waitangi they celebrate it with lots of food and market stalls and stages where you can watch Kapa haka groups perform Maori haka's.
We then made our way to Hamilton where we stayed with Laurie, Deb and their beautiful, crazy twin girls for a couple of nights.
Our last few nights were spent at a bach in Raglan. Last time we were in Raglan there was a storm and all it did was rain. Unfortunately, this time was exactly the same!! It rained constantly. The bach was cosey and overlooked the ocean so it was the perfect spot to spend lazy days reading and writing.
Huge thank you to John and Leslie for putting us up, the delicious food and the wonderful wine and beer tour. Thank you to Chris and Barb for letting us stay. Massive thank you to Cam for showing us around, letting us borrow your car and putting us up at your farm. Thank you to Laurie and Deb for the super comfortable bed. And another thank you to the Cowans for EVERYTHING!
New Zealand it’s been “far out”. Next stop Peru!