Road trip in the Northland – Part 2
Day 4 : From Whangarei to Russel
Today we are heading to Russel. Driving on SH1 usually takes about one hour and a half but we will not able to see landscapes. As we want to discover the countryside we will be taking the “Russel Road”. It took us about three hours to get to Russel but it was worth it. We saw beautiful landscapes: green hills everywhere with huge ferns all along the road. Those hills and ferns amazed me. It’s like in the Lord of Rings movie. I am in the shire! I couldn’t resist to listen the movie’s soundtrack! I know it is a bit cliché but that was so cool! Moreover the weather was sunny. Such a perfect morning!
We stopped randomly at Whales Bay for a lunch break. No whales but such a pleasure to picnic under the sun in front of turquoise sea. Especially as we had a awful rainy week in Auckland just before.
After lunch we continued our way to Russel and we spent the night in a cabin at Russel Top 10 Holiday Park. There are two wheelchair accessible units but those can host only three people each and you have to book at least two nights. One night costs NZ$125.
Day 5 : Russel
As we arrived yesterday at the end of the afternoon and the sun goes down at 5pm we didn’t have time to visit Russel. So today we start the day by strolling on Russel streets. During the 1900’s this small city was called “Hell Hole of the Pacific” as criminals and alcoholic sailors used to settle there. Now Russel is very different. This a quiet city. At least during winter. During summer people come here to enjoy the sun, relax, dining in a good restaurant or kayaking in the sea.
But now this is not the season to enjoy the sea so we went to see the oldest church of New Zealand which was build in 1836! That doesn’t sound so old for us as in Europe we have a lot of older buildings. New Zealand is such a young country! It is quite hard to imagine that in New Zealand schools don’t learn New Zealand history during Middle-Age! At first sight this lovely wooden church doesn’t seems to be special but when we get closer we distinguish bullets marks. These were made by muskets bullets during the battle of Kororareka on the 11th of March 1845 which opposed Maoris to the British who came in order to colonise the country.
After this cultural and historical moment we took the ferry to go to Paihia. The ferry is small. Around ten cars can fit in it. To embark in it is very easy as there is no need to get out of the car and in fifteen minutes you reach Paihia whereas it would have take 45 minutes through lands.
Once we reached Paihia we could have a peaceful afternoon at “Waitangi Treaty Ground” museum to learn more about this treaty which made New Zealand of part of the British Empire but we preferred to do a walk from Waitangi to Haruru Falls. What a mistake! Even ten months later this walk is still the worst I have done in New Zealand. It took us 4 hours to do 5 kilometres! We didn’t know that when we started it but this walk go through the bush using a tiny pathway almost not refitted at all and with a lot of rocks and roots. I spent my time getting out and back in my wheelchair. I couldn’t take anymore. I truly believed that I would have spend the night in the bush. I made a mistake when I trusted information I found on internet. Usually before going for a walk I look for information on the D.O.C (Department of Conservation) website but this walk is not handled by the D.O.C so I trusted an other source which said that it is a family walk. I though if kids and old people can do it that must be fine for a wheelchair user. In addition this walk is a one-way. Unfortunately on the side we began there is no board or sign at all whereas when we reached the other side we discovered a board explaining that this walk is a moderate one needed a good fitness. When I saw that I started to laugh nervously. But I could recover. Franck didn’t have the same chance. He has to run on his way back to get back the car before the parking closure. We didn’t plan to spend four hours to do this walk! Consequently that was hard for Franck, running after he spent a long time helping me. Fortunately his effort wasn’t useless as he arrived 5 minutes before the gate closed.
This being said I still think that this walk is a good one for people who can do it as at mid-way (in the only wheelchair friendly zone) there are mangroves, a particular kind of vegetation that we can not see everywhere.
After this tough day we drove to Kerikeri to meet Russel and spend the night at his place as couchsurfers. This evening was so invigorating. Russel and his two children are adorable. Russel is a district attorney, passionate about fishing and diving. He showed us videos of his fishing sessions with his children. That is amazing! They fish with a harpoon surrounding by dozens of fishes. In one of the video we even could see a killer whale swimming next to them! What a dream!
Day 6 : From Kerikeri to Paihia
After a harsh afternoon yesterday I didn’t feel to do a big walk so we just went for a small walk 100% accessible in Pukeki Forest at Kerikeri. Then we have been to see “Stone Store”, the oldest rock building in New Zealand. I was very disappointed. It looks like a traditional Brittany house as we can see in every village where I am from. For sure it is more rare in New Zealand, especially as houses are mainly build of wood. After that Franck went for a walk from “Stone Store” to the Rainbow Falls and I met him there to see those charming falls. There is a carpark near the falls, about 400 metres from them, and the pathway is wheelchair accessible.
To finish this road trip we spent two nights and a day at “Haka Lodge” backpack hotel in Paihia, just staying inside as outside it was a deluge of rain. The weather was not about to get better so we went back to Auckland. Even if we had a lot of motivation, visiting and walking under downpours is not enjoyable at all. We were a bit sad to end our road trip this way but I still have good memories of this week. It has been rich in discoveries, adventures and meetings. Can wait for the next road trip!
You want to travel all around New Zealand? Find many ideas of awesome destinations in north island and south island in my other articles as well as wheelchair accessibility tips.
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