Last week was pretty special for me as I spent it tripping around the north with a long time friend who, many years ago, was much, much more than just a friend.
We set off without a plan other than Go North. We ended up as far west as the Hokianga, as far north as Kaitaia, as far east as the Bay of Islands.
Day one we stopped off to pay a visit to Tane Mahuta, New Zealand's largest living kauri tree. According to Maori mythology Tane is the son of Ranginui, the sky father and Papatuanuku, the earth mother. Tane was the child that tore his parents' parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today. All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tane’s children.
It's a magnificent tree and we were lucky to arrive at a time when there were only a couple of tourists around. Most times I've stopped to say hello to the King of the Forest in recent years there have been hordes of people and his ancient presence seems more impressive when experienced in silence.
The weather on the west coast the next day was windy and overcast, we didn't linger. Allan told me about a place, Soda Springs, on the road to Kaitaia that I didn't know about so we set off to find it. We didn't succeed, must have been too busy chatting and not noticed the sign; surely there is a sign. When we pulled off the road at this spot, we realized we were close to Kaitaia so thought we'd go to Kauri Kingdom at Awanui for lunch.
Spotted in Mangonui. Must have been a big job!
Also in Mangonui:
I don't know what was happening in Paihia but we had difficulty finding accommodation, the only time that has ever happened to me, even at the height of summer. The good side of that is that the Information Centre found us a really lovely motel that I've never been to before.
20 years ago Allan and I went to Paihia to go out into the bay to swim with the dolphins. The trip was cancelled because of bad weather back then and we never got to do it. So we rectified that and booked the full day trip around the Bay of Islands. We no longer felt up to swimming with them but we did see plenty of dolphins. They weren't as playful as they sometimes are, just my luck that the only shot I got of them close to the boat, there were two of them going in different directions.
Can you spot the dolphin? The swimmers weren't fast enough to get close and catch its attention. It and its companions just swam away.
We chose the trip known as the Cream Trip, as it follows in the path of the original cream boat which collected cream from and dropped off mail and supplies to the islands in the bay. The boat still drops off mail and supplies to various islands. For me one of the highlights was hearing Molly, the caretaker's dog, barking excitedly off in the distance as the boat approached her island. She's a real tourist attraction, racing full tilt along the jetty, skidding to a halt just when we thought she was going to end up in the drink. The tourist operators know the value of her little display and reward her with a biscuit.
Out at the Hole in the Rock, the farthest point of the trip, the water was boiling with kahawai, chased by kingfish from below, and birds from above.
Newsflash: The post card I posted to Georgia from Brasil on 24 January, arrived today.