Our first days in Kiwi-Land

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Finally, after waiting for more than a year – as it was already a year ago that we’ve bought our tickets for the group games of the AllBlacks – We departed on Thursday morning from our hometown Castricum to Schiphol Airport. Upon arrival we once again faced the truth about cheap(er) Airlines: no online check-in; way too many people in line; just a few open counters; no priority check-in. Hasan’s charms, however (and yes, it is Hasan writing this), allowed us to get exit seats! Victory #1!


We departed on time (12:00) and our first session of 12 hours flying to KL was a fact. Of course, we did try, but the AllBlacks documentary “Cup of Dreams”, an episode of TotalRugby, and Arthur denied our precious sleep. The women who was sitting next to us – with a huge passion for Malaysia – was did manage to tell her story and fall asleep directly afterwards. Quite annoying not being able to tell your story…


Anyway, finally we did arrive in Kuala Lumpur and had to wait for a couple of hours to hop onto our 777 to Auckland. All went well so far, but no exit seats for the second session of 10 hours. No victory here, but the seats were a bit better, so all swell. We did – after eating delicious microwave-plane-food twice – arrive in total about 25 hours (or more?) later in Auckland. Hooray!


We picked up our luggage, went out to wait for our shuttle to the parking lot to pick up our rental car – a Blue (Blue!! Blue!!) Toyota Camry. For the first time in our lives we did find someone who actually never ever heard of the HolidayInn hotel chain: the gentleman of the rental company / parking supervisor was of no help when we asked for directions to the HolidayInn. His supervisor, who luckily arrived at that moment, told us to go left, right, straight, right, left, blablabla… Yes, we got lost when trying to find our hotel. And with the brave decision to not take a navigation system, we had to stop at a different hotel to ask for directions again. Oh and don’t forget the fact that we got reminded a couple of times – by headlights facing us – that we had to drive of the left side, and of course to take a roundabout via the left side. Good for the adrenaline rush…


Around midnight we managed to arrive at our HolidayInn where we were going to stay overnight to take a rest and start fresh the next morning. Of course, to celebrate our arrival in New Zealand, we opened one of the bottles of Jack and made sure that our adrenaline rush calmed down.


The next morning we took a nice drive towards the northern part of the northern island. Again, with no navigation system, we took wrong exits (better said, we did not take any exit) and had to drive a little bit back. We headed first to Whangarei, then Dargaville, and then to Waipoua Kauri Forest. Here we did make a stop to take a look at Tane Mahuta. Tane – we are allowed to call him like that – is the largest Kauri tree alive. It has a 13.8m girth, is 51m high and is about 2000 years old. Quite an impressive sight, especially with the light falling right on top of it through the woods.


It was getting dark and the ones who have been here would know that driving highway 12 (it is not really an highway) during the night can be quite …. exciting (or scary, good for anoter adrenaline rush, hell, depending on how you would take the corners). After driving roughly about 300 kilometers throughout the day, we managed to arrive at our hostel in Paihia at 19:30hrs, during which we found the manager leaving and telling us that we could not stay at the hostel. Luckily, there was a small misundertanding, as she did not understand that we had a reservation. Victory #2: we were able to crash!!


Not for long though, as we booked a day-tour with the Dune Rider, who would pick us up at 07:15 in the morning. As still a little bit disoriented because of the jetlag and the entire day sitting in the car, we crashed out relatively early.


The next morning – which is the Sunday morning – we were up and ready to be picked up by the truck-coach transformer-kind-of-unit. Again, a little bit of misunderstandings occurred as we were standing on the other side of the road instead of in front of our hostel. After 5 minutes of waiting, the tour-guide believed that Bas was indeed Bas and we were allowed to hop on. Victory #3!


After we picked up the last persons, we rode down to our first stop at a coastal cafe at Mangonui, which has a beautiful view over the Taipa Bay and the South Pacific Ocean. Having a cup of coffee and getting our lunchbags, we went further to 90 mile Beach (which is actually 108 kilometres). While heading to the beach we had a lot of seeing from the bus, the landscape is fantastic and keeps changing all the time: from impressive, large rocky mountains to beautiful little creeks and of course sheep… A lot of sheep…


On the beach itself the truck-coach-transformer-kind-of-thing was driving at a good pace, hoping to see some wild horses. Unfortunately, all we had were tracks marked in the sand. After driving for a little while, and being passed by a bus on the beach, we arrived at one of the large dunes where we got the opportunity to go sand boarding. Kevin, our tour guide, told us that we got the time to do this till we were exhausted. For the both of us it was going up the hill only once. The cold weather was a heavy burden on our lungs (read: too lazy to climb the hill again), but it was quite nice to go down and trying to take down as much people as possible. We missed everybody though.


After the sand boarding we went on to Cape Reinga, which is the northest point of New Zealand, and where the waters of the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meets. The holy ground of the Maori people leads towards the Light House from which the ‘Three Kings’ can be seen (three rocks in a row). A beautiful spot to take out the camera and shoot away!


The next stop was the GumDiggers Park, where we got a quick tour and learned how the people used to get the gum from trees, which were found under the ground (there are complete layers of forests under the ground of which it is guessed that they are hundreds of thousands to perhaps even millions of years old).


Our last touristic stop was the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, where they sell pricy furniture (a sofa for 55,000 NZ$, anyone?) made of the well-known Kauri trees.


After this stop, Kevin brought us to Mangonui Fish Shop where we got ourselves a delicious Fish & Chips, accompanied with a well-deserved Steinlager! With our bellies filled, and overwhelmed with the impressive sights we’ve seen all day, and with an hour drive to Paihia, we were able to get a quick nap during this last ride, occasionally rudely disturbed by Kevin pointing us out to some road killed possoms and weed growing aggressively alongside the roads.


Activity 1 completed, and yet another victory for us!


Upon arrival we took a quick nap and went to the nearest bar at around 23:00 to get a cold one, but to our surprise we found out that everything (and it is EVERYTHING) closes at 01:00. As we had some catching up to do, we ensured that we got onto the same level as the ‘local’ youth by smashing tequillas. Good choise! We ended up at some Kiran’s mom’s resort with at the Haruru Falls where we were able to finish our friend Jack Daniels together with some people we’ve met at the bar.


After annoying the hell out of some mates of Kiran who were already sleeping – who were lazy employees who apparently refused to work about 10 hours a week at the resort – we were able to wake up the taxi driver and go back to our hostel at about 04:00.


On Monday morning we planned to go to the Waitangi Treaty Grounds to welcome the Canadian National Rugby team. The historically important location was the setting for the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi between the local Maori people and the Brits. It once again was a beautiful place where we were able to take a lot of good photos.


In the afternoon we took the ferry towards the infamous place called Russel. We heard great stories about that place so we did our research and made short list of locations that we wanted to visit. As said in Turkey “hungry bears won’t dance”, we decided to hop in to a restaurant called Sally’s, as Sally was standing at the doorway and was waving at us… How can one resist such hospitality? After a couple of hours blood, sweat and tears, we fished our lunch and moved on to Russel Museum. There we found the most creapy mofo, that they called crayfish. After watching a 10 minute DVD of the history of the making of Russel, we moved on towards the rammed-earth building called Pompallier. At the entrance we found out that it was 10minutes before closure. Despite the advice of the counter lady, we decided to donate some money and rush through the tannery and printing museum. It appears that this facility pressed about 40,000 books in Maori language in the past. We even took the opportunity to press 1 page ourselves, while in the process we almost managed to break a hundred year old machine…. twice… We were out of the door just one minute before closure. As it started raining we took the ferry back to Paihia and concluded our day in the evening with a proper diner at the 35 Degrees South restaurant.


Tomorrow we will move into “The Rock“; a former vehicle ferry that’s now a floating hostel. Stories on that one will follow soon…


  1. floor says:

    Hi guys, you’ve done a lot already! nice pics and story and don’t forget: if there’s a possom on the road and you don’t kill it you will receive a fine! If you got catched by die stinkjuten obviously.


  2. Kim & Edith from Forty Winks says:

    Hey, your journeying is simply splendid! Thanks!
    p.s. Your greatest victory will be staying at Forty Winks – in the same street as the Maori King!

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