Te Hiku-o-te-Ika – The tail of the fish.

 Te Hiku-o-te-Ika – The tail of the fish.  Maori for NorthLand.

Uretiti

DOC Campground in Uretiti

Car loaded. Canned foods and pasta stocks full.  Some last minute camping supplies and we were more than ready to leave the city to start exploring the northern country side. 

We headed north on HWY 1 from Auckland, it was not long before the city traffic fell away and we found ourselves surrounded by rolling green hills and farms. It could not have been more “this IS New Zealand”, with the fields of sheep, typical trees and vibrant green lumpy landscape.

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I had randomly decided a budget of $100 was a generous daily allowance that would allow us to be stress free moneywise for a few weeks. After only 2hours into day one, fueling up (only ¾ tank) put a $120 dent in that, followed by a purchase of $32 sunscreen! I realized my comfortable allowance was not going to be so realistic. The cost of everything as we expected is very elevated here, especially food! We are sticking to no-name and discount products and even then it is difficult at times to take items of the shelf. Eating out everyday is NOT an option if you are on a budjet, two flat white coffees standard is $10. The main grocery store is Countdown however today we discovered its cheap sister store Park N’ Save!

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 The roadside roosters are starting too look more appetizing!

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Random “pet” pigs at the servo station.

We had heard a lot prior to arriving about “FREEDOM Camping”, where having a 4WD would come in handing, secluded camping spots off the beaten trail sometimes having minimal amenities available and most often free of charge. We informed ourselves while in Auckland on camping in New Zealand, and found out that the so-called Freedom Camping had been banned two years ago. Backpacking and this type of traveling was becoming increasingly popular and sadly the land was not being respected, pollution and human footprints were also on the rise. The Maori decided it was time for stricter rules to be put in place… fair enough. So now all camping on this land is controlled by the Depeartment of Conservation, a company called iSite that can be found throughout NZ list the sites which are as “rugged” and natural as possible. DOC (department of conservation) also offer mostly free information on all things nature related, hiking/cycling trails, landmarks, smaller mountain roads, road maps and guidelines to staying Green and minimizing our footprints.

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Often sites are near rivers or lakeshore.

SO far our experience with DOC campgrounds have varied, prices range from 6$-10/pp for tents/sleeper cars, rarely is there hot water, sometimes no shower (your own solar shower a must!), most have had drinkable water but its best to have some on hand as the potable quality can very depending on time of year, the state of the restrooms have ranged from “I rather squat, thank you” to very clean.  Only a couple locations have offered a shelter, and once there was even a kitchen with half working appliances. Overall we are happy and have found this time of year, which is just before high tourist season starts, great for finding quiet and peacefulness with generally only been 2-3 other campers. If you are planning a trip to NZ I think the only way to really see it is camping! Or hiring a larger camper van, there are tons of them on the same routes as us and they actually have permits to sleep in more areas than we do as having a chemical toilet is required on some DOC sites. There is simply no tourism accommodation set up in the places I think you would really want to visit.

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We have not bought a tent yet as we have been rather comfortable in the back of our 4WD, it came with a large foldable mattress that fits perfectly when the backs seats are down flat. We have our nightly routine of moving bags, hanging the curtains then preparing our meal on our little gas can stove. Retiring soon after or even before the sun goes down and waking with the crack of morning light where our first steps are dew covered.  Complete silence other than birds, waves, and wind rustling the trees.

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The North has given us amazing sights!

We first drove to Bream Bay, and stayed just North of Waipu at Uretiti beach. Absolutely stunning.Warning during peak season this is a nudist beach!

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We came across a gentlman walking back and forth laying fishing wire down along the beach in a zig zag pattern over which he pilled sand in little mounds every few steps. We asked what he was up to and learned this is a very common fishing practice. Once the line is set he fires off a torpedo with a timer into the water, the line has  intervals of hooks and bait the length of it. Once the torpedo stops the line is slowly wound in with a small motorized crank attached to his truck. Off this coast Sanpper was the catch of the day.

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We found these thinking they were footprints of some kind.

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We then came upon this lovely gentleman who was nice enough to explain what it was he was up to in the sand. 

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The line goes out as far as 2km sometimes! taking about 40 minutes.

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We then drove from Waipu across to Trounson Kauri campground which is the start of the Waipoua Kauri forest. There is not very much in the way of anything other than nature in these parts, tranquil undisturbed life.

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The Kauri tree can reach 60m in height and up to 5m in diameter. Some of the trees in this forest are 2000 yrs old!

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Sadly there were no Kiwi sightings. They appear sometime after 10pm, a red light can be used as to not scare away these little guys when out looking for them.

 We continued our drive up the West Coast on HWY 12 then to the 1 bringing us all the way up to the Northern tip stopping at Kapowairua (Spirits Bay). The day went from dense lush rain forest, to conifer forest to farmlands then back to beach with amazing white sand dunes that run the length of the coast. Polpular tourist draws that we sadly did not make time for are sand dune surfing and driving down the 90mile beach.

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Spirits Bay is a place I certainly could have stayed longer! Our DOC site was at the end on a 16km gravel road lined with tropical forest, at the end of the road it opens up onto this spectacular field with gorgeous ancient trees surrounded by tropical brush. Ocean with white sand dunes and beach to one side and the mountains of the Aupouri Peninsula to the other which have a plateau sprinkled wild horses. Perfection! This site was massive, very easy to find our own little hidden away spot.

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DUSTY road!

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 Some type of jelli  found stranded as the tide went out. Alien like beauty.

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 The soft white sand beach is blanketed in pedal like rose shells.

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We pretty much drove straight back down past Auckland afterwards, using the East coast HWY 10 then back to the 1 again. Stopping of for an afternoon and almost staying permanently for the work season in Paihia which is the main entry point to the Bay of Islands. A town and surrounding area obviously thriving on tourism but maintain that chill beach vibe, something we are both drawn to and hoping to call home on this trip for a few months. In the end we decided there was still so much to see before we settle on a place, but for now it ranks number one “go back to” place.

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 A very common sight is the forestry industry, often you pass naked hillsides and you cant help but feel sad. I remind myself it is a great industry for the country and they do practice tree planting and are aware of  proper practices as not to destroy their forests permanently. The highways have road blocks every so often as trees are being cleared near the roadside, massive tree hauling trucks roar past you and that ever so unpleasant paper pulp mill smell fills the car as you pass through some small towns.

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 Plenty of Agriculture.

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I found these massive hedges interesting, many fields and orchards are walled in by them.

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Countless bee honey harvesting spots in the area.

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And of course… SHEEP! cant get enough of these guys.

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  We passed through some wine country, seeing an advertisement for blueberry wine in one place!

The Far North of NewZealand grew on us. At first our sights were set on the South and wanted to skim over the North, see what there was to see. Now that we have left it behind we have a miss for something… the suns warmth, beachside lifestyle, abundance of untouched natural space, and an indescribable sort of charm I do not think we will find anywhere else.

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