Thursday, March 06, 2008

Northland Trip - Stage Nine (Final)

I was in Opononi just two nights before the end of the year, the place was hotting up and I had no organised place to stay. I had to keep moving, as I still had ground to cover before New Year's eve, so moved on. First stop - Rawene, just a few kilometers up the road and far too soon to think about stopping. It is not a very big placebut literally on the water's edgemeaning the cafe can give a pretty good view of the inner HokiangaTo leave, I could go back, go east to Kaikohe (not a pleasant option) or go northYep - another ferry crossing, this time to Kohukohu. This place has quite a reputation as an artists' hangout, and when we were kids, the parents would once or twice stop for a drink in the pub, leaving us to our own devices. The place always seemed interesting but when I was there, mid-afternoon on the last Sunday of the year, it was very quiet. Two people in the pub (yet it had nowhere for me to stay) and a handful in the Waterline Cafe, and that was about the only sign of life.

I am pleased by the way these small communities have embraced cafe culture, and produced quite nice venues. I was a little surprised to walk in to this particular cafe and not only find a jazz band, but one I had seen before, somewhere, Queenstown I think. Their name has disappeared into the mist, but listening to them was a very pleasant way to spend some time.

But with no place to stay, I had to move on, heading south towards Whangarei, wondering how far I'd drive. As I was nearing Okaihau, it struck me that I could camp in the forest, up Forest Road. There were indeed people getting ready to stay the night but, well I had no food, no torch; it would be a long night unless I made a mad dash to Kerikeri for supplies. It seemed a bit silly to go back down to the bottom of the forest, as I remembered in my days as a boy scout (truly - I lasted all of three weeks) there was another camping area at forest headquarters. And thus I spent my last night on the road in the Puketi Forest Conservation Campsite.

No doubt I would have looked daft to onlookers; since there were mosquitoes by the million, I had to install a deck chair inside my tent, with the zipper closed tight and a torch dangling from a hook in the ceiling, so I could get some reading done.
The forest in this picture is the Puketi Forest; the farm land is the farm I spent my teens on. Here is our house and a couple of random shots of the farm, land which had been solid bush - blackberry, gorse, fern, rubbishy trees - when we took it over:
Heading south, I struck it lucky in Kawakawa. One fellow had obviously not spent a lot of time there or, indeed, in the north, as I could see him say to himself "holy f*ck" as he drove up the main street, and encountered a view something like thisThe train only runs a couple of times a day, so it was a bit of a fluke to see it - not that it is worth going on, as it simply runs from one end of town to the other. After that little excitement, it was time to head south, for a bit more quality library time, to find my motel and to hit the town for New Year's Eve. Not a good plan, as it happened; Whangarei was not exactly going off, so it was back to the motel with Chinese takeaways (a bit of an anti-climactic end to the year but at least they were very good Chinese takeaways).

New Year's Day was spent pottering around in the car, then on the 2nd, after a nice breakfast down at the town basin (where I was served by yet another familiar face from Dunedin), it was time to drop the car off (goodbye car)
and make the long bus journey back to Auckland.



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