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Buenos Noches,

Meet my travel companions: Karlien from Maastricht and Flo from Freiburg.

And meet the splendid countryside of the Mangawhai Heads in the Northlands.

The semester is halfway over and we got two weeks of recess.  So we joined together to rent a campervan and to tour a bit around the North Island, from which we just returned yesterday.   

I’ll blog more about this trip at a later point, as I am quite busy at the moment preparing for an exam I’m writing the coming week.

Best to all of ye ;-P

5.9.09 15:03


5.9.09 15:05

The Northland: 23.08. - 27.08.

This is the first of three entries I will be making to cover our trip around the North Island. This one is about the Northland, the area north of Auckland. It covers the first five days of the trip.

The soul of a dead Maori strives to go home, to go to Hawaiki. Souls of the deceased travel along the east and the west coast until they meet up north at Cape Reinga. There grows a tree; souls slide down its roots and depart to the homelands… As if not to disturb the dead this area is sparsely populated. The next door neighbor may be living a kilometer away and everybody seems to know everybody within a radius of a far distance. While traveling here it is easy to get caught in the mysterious aura of the landscape, which at times may be even a bit haunting.

Karlien, Flo and I got an enchanting introduction to the Northland on our first night. We camped by the Mangawhai Heads south of the Bay of Islands. Sitting on the beach we watched the stars. What an incredible night; the Milky Way was clearly visible, it looked like stardust. But what was happening down by the sea was just as amazing: Waves washed brightly glowing spots by the dozen onto the shore. They looked like glowworms, only that they did not move. Whenever we shone a light onto one of them we could only see the sand.

My expectations of the Bay of Islands were not met, probably because we did not take a boat out to one of the islands.  Instead we drove to Kawakawa to use the public toilets there - they were designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser!

On our fourth day we drove way up north. Fog surrounded us - the souls of the dead? We had breakfast on the Ninety Mile Beach. The name is deceptive, it isn’t that long. On the other hand, “Ninety Kilometer Beach” sounds ridiculous! Every now and then a car with four wheel drive would cruise over the beach. They just keep on driving forever and the view stays the same. What strange limbo was this? Our sight was very limited, but it was so predictable how things looked like further north and further south… everything keeps on returning in the land of the wandering souls.

At Cape Reinga the fog was even worse. We were simply staring against a white wall. Maybe we were able to hear the sea - I can’t remember. But I could see the lighthouse when I stood right in front of it. Later on we enjoyed the view from Cape Reinga by looking at postcards in a souvenir shop.

Man, this place owed us big time! And believe me, we were compensated. That afternoon we rented body boards and took them to sand dunes just south of Cape Reinga: an area of 14 km², some dunes must have been one hundred meters high (maybe that’s a fantasy of mine). We slid down the dunes on our boards. That was awesome… that was freaky! A mixture of snowboarding and surfing in the middle of what could have been a freaking desert!! That night we had a lot of sand in our campervan.

On our way back south we stopped at the Waipoua Forest. There we saw a 2.000 year old Kauri tree with a girth of 13.8 meters. Its name was Tane Mahute, God of the forest.

In Dargaville we visited the parents of Saphire, Flo’s and Karlien’s flat mate. What very friendly and chatty people they are! They enlightened us about what the mysterious washed up lights at the Mangawhai Heads where: Phosphorus, a type of mineral. We were lucky, only on four days of the year they get washed onto the shore.

i am happy to say, that we did not leave the Northland from Cape Reinga, we drove back south through Auckland instead. Our next stop was to be the Coromandel Peninsula on the east coast.

9.9.09 11:06

9.9.09 11:12

The East Coast: 28.08 - 01.09.


After having been pumped up with adrenaline because somebody knocked on our window at three o’clock in the morning (and people told us to be careful of robberies when camping up in the Northland), we drove the night through to the Coromandel Peninsula… and arrived just in time for sunrise! And a beautiful sunrise it was.

The Coromandel Peninsula is an attractive spot: There are mountains running along the middle of the peninsula, and idyllic beaches and coves along the shore. There use to be many Kauri trees here; none of them were spared from industrial processing. AND GOLD WAS FOUND, leading to two major gold rushes in this area from the 1850s to the 1880s, overriding the local Maori tribe… so what’s new?

Still this place seems untouched and unspoiled, probably due to government schemes. It feels isolated and the few towns (originally founded by gold-seekers) are small.

We drove along the Bay of Plenty. Worldwide every fourth kiwi fruit comes from here. We skipped the drive around the East Cape due to bad weather, something I‘d love to catch up on with Caroline. What I got to see of this area appealed to me; the combination of woods, rivers, and sea reminded me of the southern part of Sweden. Next we crossed the Gisborne area, where ‘Whale Rider’ was filmed.

Welcome to Napier! Ill-faith has befallen this city on the 3rd of February in 1931: A 7.9 earthquake destroyed it completely and killed 258 people. The phoenix which grew out of the cities ashes was stylish and familiar with the trend of its time: the complete city was rebuild in Art-Deco style, making it to one of the worlds most homogenous Art-Deco cities. Today the people appear easy going, hanging out in arty cafes. A lady on the street gave us tangerines because it was “Act-of-random-kindness-day”.  

13.9.09 03:59

13.9.09 04:20

Tongariro National Park: 02.09 & 03.09.

Sometimes one drives through New Zealand and wonders where the village is which according to the map should be right at the spot were one is - and if one is lucky one sees a house somewhere. Yeah, Kiwis seem to identify strongly with rural ways of living. We were on our way from Napier towards Taupo and we reckoned that there would be many villages coming up… but they didn’t. Which was no problem, only that we started running out of diesel. We basically let the van role down the mountains into Taupo and still made it to the petrol station.

Our next and last stop of the trip was going to be the Tongariro National Park, smack in the middle of the North Island. If you are a fan of the Lord of the Rings movies think of the mountains representing  Mordor. On the top right picture you can see Mt. Ngauruhoe, a perfect volcanic cone, which you might remember as being Mt. Doom.

Here we spend the last two days of our trip hiking, and they turned out being the trips  absolute highlight. We couldn’t do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, as we weren’t equipped for hiking through snow… another exciting thing to do with Clina in November; it is supposedly “the best one-day walk in NZ” (Lonely Planet). Instead we did two other spectacular hikes starting from Whakapapa. Weather conditions can change rapidly here, but we were lucky.
By the way, Whakapapa actually mean genealogy and is an important element of Maori culture.
17.9.09 09:07

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