Saturday, February 15, 2014

New Zealand Day 3: Puriri Bay to Aroha Island

It was very pleasant to wake up at the beautiful Puriri Bay campsite and not have to move anywhere to do our hike of the day!

This is a swamp hen or puheke, we saw them everywhere:

And a glimpse into the campervan life:

We had a mellow start, including a nice outside violin practice for B, and then geared up and headed out for the loop.

We started up a gravel road and along the edge of a cow pasture. We’ve been surprised that most of Northland is farm land, with this peninsula no exception. Like in the UK, it seems to be fine to walk through private land as long as you don’t leave gates open and such! B enjoyed climbing over the stiles and seeing the cows.

Then we came down by the water again...

...before curving upwards and away.

After a pretty decent uphill section we came out at a trig point with a stunning view out over the Pacific as well as back along the coast. We lingered there for quite awhile, taking photos and chatting with a Kiwi couple, and Brynna also drew a picture.

Then it was onwards along the loop, which turned out to include a lot of ups and downs—we counted 592 stairs (mostly up). B continued to hike like a champ. Counting the stairs helps, and we have a break and a drink every 100. We had some more great views, and eventually swung around and back down towards the campsite from the other side. You can see the campsite there, clustered against the water:

After lunch, we hit the road, heading northwards to the Bay of Islands. We caught a ferry from Russell to Paihia...

...and then had some deep discussions about whether to veer from our itinerary and do a dolphin watching boating trip the next morning. B and I were very pro-dolphin and convinced Alex to go along with us, so I called and booked the trip.

We did some food shopping in Karikari and then headed to our evening destination, the Aroha Island Eco Centre. I had booked our overnight there from New Hampshire, because it looked like an interesting place and because it’s one of the places that you can—if you are lucky—see a kiwi in the wild. Unfortunately, the booking confirmation did not say that they closed up shop at 5:30. We arrived around 6, let ourselves through the gate, and found a powered spot without difficulty, but since the shop was closed we were unable to obtain the special red cellophane to go over our headlamps when wandering around at night looking for kiwis. We did, however, find this wildlife:

B quickly discovered a rope swing on the beach and occupied herself there while I made dinner (rice and lentil pilaf).

After sunset (it doesn’t get dark until about 9 PM!) we headed off to try to see a kiwi. In the absence of the red cellophane, we improvised with the flashlight app on my phone, set to shine red, and with a red bandanna over a headlamp. We were seriously outclassed by a lot of people, who had proper strong red flashlights (or torches, as they call them here).

We could hear the kiwis calling as we wandered about, and every time we heard a rustling in the bushes we would freeze and shine our inferior red lights around. At one point, it sounded like the rustling was about five feet away. We stood there for quite awhile, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, and were joined by others with better lights, but we still couldn’t see anything. What a bummer! B fell asleep in our arms and so we gave up and headed back to the campervan, taunted by kiwi calls.

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