Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Northland Trip - Stage Three

So, with no feeling of any need to hang about in Paihia, I headed up the road to Kerikeri, where I knocked about for a couple of hours. I found a decent coffee, an interesting bookshop and even MacDonalds proved useful, by having the best internet in town. Nothing really appealed for lunch (although I was nearly tempted by the Jerusalem Restaurant). Just as well, because a mere five kilometres up the road, I was flabbergasted by Waipapa. When I left the north, it had maybe a dairy and a service station. I knew it had developed a tractor salesyard in the meantime, as a family friend worked in it for years. I'd heard rumours of a Warehouse going there recently. But nothing prepared me for the fact that Waipapa has a shopping mall! Noel Leeming, Dick Smiths, Lighting Direct - they're all there. Plus a pretty good cafe which made me mussel fritters for lunch. That's something I've not had for a while. Apparently the mall has been in Waipapa for two, maybe three, months so it is little wonder its existence had escaped my attention. As I headed north, I was struck by how pleasantly green everything was but also at how little livestock there was to be seen. I think that when I went to our old farm, I did not see an animal of any sort. I stopped in for a quick look at Matauri Bay - reputed to be the best beach in Northland, This place was notorious in the 1980's because of local Maori resistence to public access: they had the cheek to block the road and charge a fee to go to the beach. The beach! It is every Kiwi's birthright that he or she shall have unrestricted and free access to the entire coastline, so this was an affront. Of course, in the meantime, all sorts of people have bought bits of the coastline and put up the "no trespassing" signs.

There was no indication of any toll today, but funding seems to be coming from other sources
- development is underway (since being up there, I noticed an advertisement for Matauri Bay sections in the Sunday paper).

When I was a kid, I always preferred the next beach up the coast,
but I'd be hard pressed to say that even it is the "best" in Northland. Indeed, my tastes now tend more towards the Whangaroa Harbour, just a little further north: It is a very peaceful place , no beach as such, but I'm not actually a big fan of the beachThe "town" was just a pub and a general store, and my backpackers tucked up behind it all. I was a little bit worried about what I'd get for tea, so worried that I drove out to Kaeo for some emergency supplies (not that there was anything better there in terms of food suppliers) but my concerns were groundless. There were a few people drinking in and around the pub; around 7 or 7:30, there was a general movement towards its restaurant, and the guy there did us proud. He seemed to have a fairly new assistant - she can't have been much more than about 16. The chef was a little like Gordon Ramsay, in the way he was constantly talking her through her job, but completely unlike Mr Ramsay in that he was issuing instructions and giving encouragement to her the whole time, a very polite and nurturing version. It felt good, seeing this local kid being given some decent training, an opening to a potential career, right there in Whangaroa. And the food that kitchen put out was fantastic - I had a pretty humble steak, chips and eggs (the mushrooms were lost in transit), but the steak was magnificently cooked and very generously sized. Steve Braunias would do worse than go there in his hunt for a decent New Zealand steak.



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