Adventure was calling me! I was so excited about my first road trip in New Zealand that I started the first one a week after I arrived in the country. It was the beginning of July in the winter but I didn’t stop me! The Northland is the area at the very north of the New Zealand, above Auckland. This part of the country is one of the Kiwi favorite place to enjoy holidays and it is easy to understand why. Long beaches, small coves, turquoise sea, scuba diving, swim with dolphins: there are a lot of amazing activities to do… during the summer! But as we were so excited to discover the countryside and we like challenges we still decided to go for this trip during the winter! Let’s take a mattress, good sleeping bags, rain coats: let’s go hit the road!
Day 1 : From Auckland to Manghawai Heads
Warkworth Kauri Park.
After 45 minutes driving we stopped for our first step: Warkworth Kauri Park where we have done a walk in the bush to see kauris, those huge trees. Indeed kauris are ones of the biggest trees in the world. They can reach up to 50 metres high and their trunks can mesure 16 metres diameter. Also these trees can live 2000 years.
Kauris are now protected by law as before we could find them everywhere in the northland but today there are just a few of them. When they arrived in New Zealand Maori People used kauri wood to build boats, houses and do carving. But Europeans are mainly responsible for kauris near extinction. When they arrived in the country our ancestors realised that kauri wood was a very good material to build and that kauri resin was also very useful. Consequently they began an important deforestation at the beginning of the 19th century which only stopped a century later. In addition researchers discovered in the 1970’s another cause to the kauri extinction: hikers. Without knowing it, hikers bring tiny living organism, called phytophagous, that eat trees. Today there is only 4% left of all original kauri forest. That is why you will often find all you need to clean your shoes at the beginning of walks.
During this walk I discovered for the first time New Zealand bush, I admired those impressive trees and I heard a lot of birds but I did not see them. I appreciated it even if it was not wheelchair accessible. I used my wheelchair during the first few metres and then I caught sight of the first steps. I got out of my wheelchair and began to walk hoping that I will rapidly end up on a flat soil. Unfortunately the pathway is mainly made of stairs so I walk and Franck carried the wheelchair. Slowly but surely!
After a challenging morning we drove to Mangawhai Heads where we hopped we could walk the “Mangawhai Cliffwalk” or at least a part of it. I quickly realised that it is impossible as walking on sand for a pretty long distance is needed. Moreover, after the sand, there seems to be a steep section leading to top of the cliffs. I was really disappointed as this walk to be one of the most beautiful in the north island. We still went for a short walk on the beach. Touching dry sand, picking shells while looking at the ocean always makes me feel good. Moreover the view from the beach is superb. Mist added a mystical atmosphere. Lovely.
And what a surprise! Something is moving above the sea… Dolphins were jumping out of the sea! We were totally amazed! We did not expect that. We did not know that we could see dolphins from there. Our camera was in the car so there is no picture of it but we really enjoyed to look at them jumping again and again. That was the first time I saw that. I still remember how I felt! These moments are truly amazing and that is why I know I made the good choice when I decided to leave to New Zealand.
For this first road trip night we slept in the car. Good news :our sleeping bags are warm enough, we did not feel cold. However as the sun ended the day a few hours ago and we did not have electricity we went to bed at 9pm. As a result we were awake at 3am and it was really hard to fall asleep again.
Day 2 : Waipu
Let’s start another good day in the Northland. This morning we want to discover Waipu cave. That is the first time I entered in a cave and that I saw glowworms! If you want to know everything about that cave I wrote a post about it there.
After this discovery we started a walk just near but we turn back almost at the beginning as the walk seems not easy (I would need to walk) and there is nothing special to see there. Therefor we drove to Whangarei and spent the night there at Bunkdown Lodge. This backpack hotel is a old wooden house. The atmosphere is really nice but the issue is that the building has almost no insulation. It was so cold! Owners have been trying to find a solution for a few months but they have not succeed yet so I would advise you not to stay there during the winter as it is freezing. Go for the summer as this place must be lovely during this season and there is a little garden.
Day 3 : Whangarei
Today we visit Whangarei, the biggest Northland city and we start directly with the Whangarei Falls. Those waterfalls reach 26 metres high. So beautiful!
There is an accessible platform, just near the parking, from where we have a good view on the falls. However to access the best view point we have to go down in the bush by taking a pathway. To do so Franck had to help me to hold the wheelchair. At the pathway end there is a bridge offering a perfect view on the falls. It easy to go on it with a wheelchair. From there starts the Hatea River Track which goes along the river to town. We did not go that far. We decided just to do the first part until AH Reed Memorial Park. The weather was sunny, the walk was very enjoyable. There are some obstacles on the walk but it’s worth it. At one point the walk crosses the river so we need to cross a bridge. There are steps at the beginning and at the end of this bridge. Further away there are a few others steps and, just after that, stepping over a barrier is needed. That is all the obstacles. The rest of the walk is easy. There are disabled toilets on the parking at the beginning and at the end of the walk, next to the AH Reed Memorial Park.
AH Reed Memorial Park is a good place to stroll and look out at kauris. Even if you are not walking the complete “Hatea River Track” it is still good to spend some time strolling in the park. I liked to observe the bush being upright. This way I had another perception of bush. There are two accessible walks in the park : Canopy walkway and Alexander walk.
The afternoon we walked the “Walk Town Bassin”. The I-Site staff advised us to stroll there as this walk is fully wheelchair accessible. Indeed it is very wheelchair friendly. No help is needed. However I found it quite boring. We just walked through restaurants, souvenirs shops and even along an industrial zone… New Zealand is so much more than that.
We still did not know yet where we were supposed to spend that night. Eventually we succeeded to find a couchsurfing and stayed at Alex’s place. That was a different couchsurfing but I had a good time. Alex is in his 70’s and lives in a caravan. It is tiny and packed with a lot a things but also clean and well organised. Alex is touching. I think he feels lonely so he uses couchsurfing to have people around. He names the peoples staying at his place “couchpotatoes” and has a golden book for everybody to write a note in it. We spoke about life, New Zealand history and culture and we watched a movie. I keep a good memory of this night.
The day after we left to discover Russel a small city further north as I l tell you in this other post about the end of our adventures in the Northland.
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