Posted by: Carol | January 13, 2009

Whangarei

PHOTO GALLERIES
2009 New Zealand

cbpphoto_d3_20090111_tutukaka-014Our schedule included nearly an entire week in the town of Whangarei where Circa Marine is located and where our FPB64 is under construction. The main purpose of our trip to New Zealand is to check into the boatyard and show some hands-on interest in the progress of the boat-building project. So early Thursday morning, taking our time and enjoying the scenery, we drove some 3-4 hours from Auckland north to Whangarei where we checked into Lodge Bordeaux, our home for the next six nights.

Friday morning we dropped into Circa Marine just to say hello and get a quick first look at the new FPB under construction in the warehouse. It was great fun to climb aboard and walk through the interior spaces, envisioning the finished product even though it is currently at the raw aluminum shell stage and still close to a year away from completion. Our in-depth discussions with Circa were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday, so we kept this visit short and after lunch found a nearby walking track connecting two separate waterfalls where we spent the afternoon. I took along a lot of camera gear and got immersed in the photography – Mike got bored waiting on me so hiked on alone to Whangarei Falls where I caught up with him an hour or so later.

One of the things we like best about New Zealand is what an outdoorsy country it is. With a land area approximately the size of California and a population of only about 4 million (not counting the 30-40 million sheep), about a third of the country is dedicated parkland. Everywhere we travel there are walking tracks to explore, ranging from world famous trails like the Milford Track or the Tongariro Crossing (which Mike and I did on Valentine’s Day a few years ago) to the multitude of inviting local paths skirting the edge of nearly every city and farm community. They are beautifully laid out and well-maintained, in many cases enhanced with boardwalks and bridges to ford the many streams, or steps carved into steep hillsides to ease the climb. To set foot on a track is to immediately escape into nature, often deep forest and meandering streams, other times coastal walkways bordered on one side by rolling livestock pastures and on the other by dramatic coastal views looking out to sea from hilltops or descending to beaches and rocky coastlines at sea level.

Rain was forecast for the weekend but we lucked out. It poured Friday night and Saturday dawned cloudy and grey, but dry nevertheless, so we decided to make a circle driving tour to the west coast, visiting the kauri forest parklands and getting a look at the Tasman Sea. The kauri trees are New Zealand’s equivalent to California’s redwoods – massive, long-lived trees – the largest kauri reaching more than 165 feet tall with a trunk girth in excess of 50 feet, having sprouted from seed as long as 2,000 years ago. Kauri forests were severely depleted by early European exploitation – the tall straight trunks were ideal for ships masts and spars and produced sawn timber of superior quality for early settlers clearing land for farming and needing good building material. The remaining kauri forests are now protected – the Waipoua Kauri Forest being the largest. There we saw both of the two oldest kauri in existence – named Tane Mahuta and Te Mahua Nagere – impressively massive and majestic, dwarfing the population of mature trees in the forest.

Saturday evening we connected with an American friend living in Whangarei. Amy Bankoff grew up in Phoenix and as a talented junior rider she showed horses for me in Arizona on the horse show circuit. She grew up, went to college, and after graduation struck off around the world – but got no further than New Zealand when she fell in love with the country and made up her mind to stay. She is now married, with two young children, and she and her husband Daniel have created The Revolution Centre, a natural medical health care facility in Whangarei. We saw Amy here some four years ago and took her out aboard Raven for a day’s sail; this trip was a chance to say hello again and meet her expanding family. We had a lovely dinner out at a well-known restaurant named ‘a Deco, specializing in local New Zealand cuisine in a charming venue, originally an old art deco styled home.

Sunday morning we visited with Amy and Daniel again, this time at their home in the countryside, located on 15 beautiful acres of rolling pasture and forest, with herb and veggie gardens, fruit trees ranging from apples and oranges to avocados and bananas, chickens laying eggs, dogs, cats, and kids – an idyllic country lifestyle! Amy and Daniel gave us a nice welcome and tour of the property and even surprised Mike with a homemade chocolate birthday cake!

From there we continued on to the Tutukaka Coast on the eastern shore – first stopping to watch some kite surfing action, and then taking Amy’s recommendation for a walking track from Matapouri to Whale Bay. It was a beautiful hike, invigorating but not too strenuous, taking up most of the afternoon as there were lots of pauses for scenic photo ops. At the end we followed signs indicating a side path to Mermaid Pools and Hole in the Rock and found a small surging bay just begging to be photographed!

That was the end of our recreational opportunities in Whangarei – Monday and Tuesday were devoted full-time to visiting Circa Marine. More about that in the next blog!

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