Monday, January 17, 2011
Northland New Years in a Nutshell - What Are Your Memories?
On December 28th I travelled almost the entire length of the country to get from Invercargill to Ruakaka just south of Whangarei it was a journey of just under 1300km and funnily enough it was raining the entire length of the country that day as far as I could see.
Here are some social points to come out of this trip;
1) It is easier than you would think to be the only guy on a beach holiday with seven women.
2) Guys don't like rubbing sunscreen onto other guys backs, so it is great having willing women on hand.
3) Beauty is in the eye of the beholder especially in reference to beach attire and lack thereof. You can wear what you want as long as you have confidence and most guys especially don't care while some girls who do worry, shouldn't.
4) 500 is a great card game for summer holidays, but should only be played when everyone else is doing other things like antisocial reading. Mai Time's 9 No Trumps was gutsy.
5) Guys don't mind helping out in the kitchen if you give them a chance.
6) The more the merrier as far as I am concerned, unless you are in an overcrowded hot bedroom with three other guys and no air conditioning.
7) It was great to see so many of my friends getting on so well together and even getting some of the girls involved in the "two ball game" in the water and Waboba ball action. These games make the beach more fun. I would estimate around 27 people joined me on holiday at some stage.
8) Sunburn is inevitable when going for an estimated 40 swims over three weeks.
9) Having a beach 100 metres away and a swimming pool makes for the best of both worlds.
10) Late night swimming is fun and exciting.
11) Beach walks and late night chats after people have been drinking make for some very open and informative conversations.
12) Not all sun lovers are old leathery skinned men.
13) It is great visiting somewhere new where nobody knows you and having heaps of friends to hang out with.
14) You need chiefs and indians on any trip especially if you are to go anywhere. What was cool was that people went places together (once we finally left the house). There were no "us" and "them" groups for most of the trip.
15) Now I understand the kiwi summer stereotype of beaches, BBQs, drinks, ice cream and jandals. Days at the beach end on end. Summer in Southland just doesn't allow this. I must admit that the combination of sunscreen, sand, sun and water got a it messy by the end of three weeks.
It was my first trip to Northland here are some observations
1) The weather is so hot but it was pleasantly warm and didn't get cold at night, the water is that much warmer.
2) The Maori influence is very obvious with the place names and ethnicity of the population in the small towns.
3) There was such a variety in some of these towns. The places near Auckland like Mangawai Heads and Lang's Beach were full of flash mansions. Our stay in Ruakaka was interesting, the end near the shops where we stayed there were plenty of baches and shacks from the 1980s yet the same town also had Paradise Shores where we stayed for last week with heaps of flash mansions and people with boats.
4) There isn't much in some of these towns. The shopping in a place the size of Ruakaka is disappointing. Lang's Beach doesn't even have a shop. For their size, some of these places have very limited shops. It is hard to know how busy these places are off-peak. There is 6km between Ruakaka Beach settlement and the shops, so it is spread out.
5) It is hard to know what you would do in some of the towns, especially if you lived there and if they are some distance from the beach.
6) There are so many amazing beaches, although the higher you get up the country, the more isolated these places become, while places like the Bay of Islands, it is more the scenery rather than the stunning beaches which is the attraction. You would need a boat if you stayed there. If you are going to the backblocks of Northland, you want to stay a long time because it is such a long way.
7) I didn't find the people necessarily as friendly as down south. Just personal observations. More of a stick to yourself population.
8) Night swims were great thanks to the phosphorus lights in the water whenever you made a ripple. It was also a challenge seeing waves at the last minute. The water was still warm though.
9) There were plenty of animals and insects on this trip, mainly associated with warmer climes. There were jellyfish, sharks, cockroaches, mosquitoes, spiders and cicadas among others things.
Here are some of the places I went to
Whangarei Falls - these were impressive and the walk to the Kauri canopy were awesome even though I wasn't feeling the best the day we went.
Waipu Caves - a bit disappointing given their promotion and a road sign from the road. A long way to go for very small caves.
Mangawhai Heads - the beach was a bit more crowded and smaller than Ruakaka, while there are plenty of Jafas around the village. The biggest lot of shops in the area.
Lang's Beach - stunning beach with flash houses, but a bad place to try and buy lunch, because there are no shops there.
Waipu Cove - a great surf beach and nice cafes. We saw a penguin here. I like this place.
Waipu - the Scottish settlement in Northland where most other places are Maori. They have a fun New Years, but it cost $15 to go, so we didn't bother.
Marsden Cove - a flash place with lots of boats and cafe/bars. We got the dance floor going here after the fireworks.
Marsden Point Oil Refinery - this museum was better than we thought it would be. The two big red and white pylons are 120 and 100 metres tall.
Ruakaka - the main beach has lame waves with an emphasis on families. There are flash houses down this end. 6km down the road near the small shopping mall there are more shacks and cute baches with a large Maori population. The waves are better and quieter down this end of the long Ruakaka beach.
Tutukaka Coast was worth the trip. The beaches were amazing and we had dinner somewhere that had a flash marina and restaurants.
Mangapai - we had dinner at Amy's house and swam in the pool. We also earlier on played golf on someones personal golf course. It isn't the biggest place, but has some great facilities like the Gun Club and a community hall too.
Bay of Islands - there was stunning scenery all around us on this trip. Waitangi was an interesting look at history (take some identification to prove you are a kiwi), Paihia and Russell were scenic and if you had a boat you would love it. We don't have a boat and so while the sights are breathtaking, we decided a day was enough to spend there.
Whangarei Heads/Ocean Beach
We met some of the local surfers at Ocean Beach. The surf was massive there. It was mainly about the scenery around there, rather than the long golden sandy beaches of Ruakaka. We were actually returning from Whangarei Heads and saw nice scenery in flat waters ideal for boats, and we saw golden sands across the water and it ended up that we were looking at the beach where we were staying!
I didn't end up going all the way to the top. It was tough to go everywhere given how much effort, money and time was required to make the journey to the isolated parts of the country. I also felt drawn to stay at the houses I had rented. In hindsight it would have been great to see more or stay in a different location to Ruakaka, but I still had a glorious time away. It was refreshing to get away from Wellington and now I have returned feeling refreshed after a change of scenery.
Where to next summer? Coromandel? Marlborough? Kapiti? Southland?