Exploring Northland, New Zealand – part 1

Monday morning we did the laundry first thing. Afterwards we pulled the new radar data cable through all the way from under the mast to the plotter at the binnacle in preparation for Tuesday when Hans was coming by to swap the radar domes over and commission the entire new system. I was struggling with my back so after that I rested up while Richard continued to tie wrap all the new cables throughout the boat. Both pretty tired we had a quiet night on board.

Tuesday morning Hans and Rob (the rigger) turned up to pull the cables through the mast. Rob climbed up like a monkey with very little assistance from Richard who just kept the halyard taut.

Rob unscrewed the old Garmin unit and replaced it with the new Raymarine unit. Then he pushed – whilst Hans pulled – the replacement Raymarine data and power cables through the mast. They got stuck a few times in the mast so they were at it for a while. All done! Yay….

Unfortunately we couldn’t connect the cables under the mast as we needed special connectors which hadn’t arrived yet. This would mean that all cables could be unattached easily if the mast ever needed to be taken down.

Later on we headed to the Cruisers Lounge to catch up on line….and have hot showers…by the time we had finished it was late so we headed to the Cruisers Club for dinner before returning to Morphie for the night.

Wednesday morning and John. from Seapower turned up. We weren’t expecting him so were still in bed LOL. He came back an hour later when he realised. By that time we were at least dressed and had cleared the aft cabin for him to check the remaining hoses for the hot water tank reinstallation. He just wanted to make sure they had the appropriate hoses in store for when our new hot water tank turned up. About that, we had finally got customs clearance and had paid them their NZ $50 for opening the package….and it was now cleared for delivery. Woo hoo!

We then did a photo shoot in preparation for the sale of our redundant electronic equipment…although there was a glitch with our opening a TradeMe account (New Zealand’s answer to eBay and Amazon (neither of which are very big here). We aren’t allowed to trade without being NZ residents apparently. Oh well….never mind….it was a nice idea! eBay it will be then – we’ll just have to make sure that the purchasers know the cost of shipping from here and price our stuff accordingly.

The rest of the day we spent cleaning the boat as we had Hugh and Annie on board (SV Vega) for sundowners. We had a really nice evening and learnt a lot of useful information about their adventures down in South Island which we plan to visit early next year when it will be a bit warmer.

Thursday morning and Hans turned up. He did all the intricate welding of the connectors and we were ready. So we turned the radar on and, nothing! So we thought it might be a software update so did that…and turned it on again and, nothing! So we decided to take the physical data cable out of the loop and turn on the radar wirelessly as it has a wifi capability….and nothing! So the damn thing wasn’t working. Sigh…. Hans talked to Raymarine and they decided we had a dodgy unit. So they agreed to swap it out and pay for the re-installation time. So glad we decided to engage Hans for the commissioning as this would have been much more difficult on our own. Later on Brent turned up….we hoisted him up the mast….the radar got removed….the new cables got covered in a plastic bag….and the Raydome was returned to Auckland. A bit disappointed but never mind….it will be all sorted next week!

In the afternoon Richard worked out how to raise our new dink onto the arch….and we installed that along with security chains (now carefully enclosed in plastic piping to avoid damage to our new dinghy) and we lifted him up. We also informed our boat insurance company of the change of dinghy and our new electronic equipment for our policy.

In the meantime I re-activated our Iridium Go! unit. And, of course, it didn’t work straight away as the activation people sent the wrong e-mail (they are useless). They also charged me US$200 more than I expected. Very unhappy! I found out later, from the PredictWind support team (who are amazing and got me back on line relatively quickly), that SatPhone Store actually charge $50 for activating a new SIM but $250 for re-activating an original one. There is nothing to this effect on their website so I have concluded that SatPhone Store (Miami) are just plain sharks!!!!  It would only have cost us $95 for a new activated SIM so that’s the answer for next time I de-activate the unit. I’m determined not to let them get away with it and have sent an e-mail querying the situation but they are choosing to ignore me at the minute (the time difference makes it very difficult to talk to them in their business hours). It is a shame that PredictWind are in bed with such an awful company. If we had a choice for our airtime plan we would go elsewhere…. Rant over….   Anyway, we are back on line, so the tracker is working again so you can keep an eye on us when we leave the marina.  

Friday morning and we rented another Rent-a-Dent car from Wayne. Of course, he was 10 minutes late, but we were expecting that. What we didn’t expect was our Yellow Peril little Honda Fit LOL.

First stop was Paihia where we visited the Information Centre expecting good local advice on things to see. Hmm….not impressed. So we visited the book store and purchased a good NZ road atlas and headed out – using our Bad Elf bluetoothed to the iPad for our sat nav.

First stop was the Stone House (near Kerikeri) which established in 1819 as one of the first places in New Zealand where the Maori invited visitors to live amongst them. This was originally a Mission Society warehouse used as a trading post, library, barracks, boys’ school and also served as a general store.

Then we headed north towards Matauri Bay with absolutely stunning views along the way. This is farming country….with lots of cows, sheep and the occasional turkey on the road.

Then we visited Whangaroa which was all about oysters and boats on a serene waterway scene.

We carried on to Gumdiggers Park. This is the sight of an ancient Kauri forest. For some unknown natural disaster the trees all died and what was left was gum. Not sure about who came up with the idea, but the gum was highly sought after and was used in linoleum, glue and, in its solid state, carved into jewellery. This was the equivalent of a gold rush and many Europeans – particularly Croatians – flocked here to share in the riches. The living was difficult and basic…..

But at least they were joined by some cute rare green lizards…..

We then headed to 90 Mile Beach. We were warned by the signs that this was unsuitable for any vehicles other than 4X4…so we didn’t drive onto the beach. The place is amazing and we were very jealous of the vehicle that went driving past us onto the sand LOL.

Continuing north we visited the oldest tavern in New Zealand which was closed for a private function….never mind.

We returned back down the single highway to Pukenui where we took the last room in the motel for the night. Was a basic one-bedroomed unit but the views from the lovely gardens were pretty amazing.

We had a nice evening in the bar across the road with a fish and chip supper washed down by local sauvignon. We are pretty fed up with chips but there is very little else on the menu and we are seriously starting to hanker after fresh vegetables.

Saturday morning we headed north early after a very good breakfast.  We followed the single lane highway No 1 to the top of the island towards Cape Reinga. Was a great drive through some diverse landscape with red soil and sandy pastures covered in lots of sheep, horses and cows.

At Cape Reinga we enjoyed the views down to the lighthouse and the coming together of the South Pacific and the Tasman Sea – creating whirl pools and a confused sea state. This is also a spiritual place called Pohutukawa. Which means the place of the departing spirits in Maori culture. Just simply beautiful and amazing.

We walked to the lighthouse and took selfies along the way…..

Walking back it seemed much longer than the way down for sure LOL. Cape Reinga is the top of New Zealand’s North Island and is considered to be the Top of the Bottom of the World. Not many people we know can claim to have been there.

Back in our yellow peril we drove a short way across unmade roads to Te Paki to see the large sand dunes. We parked in the car park and rented a sand board. Richard manfully climbed – and it was huge – to the top of the dune and then surfed down…..twice! I found it difficult enough, with my dodgy legs and painful back, just to get to the bottom. Apparently he was only doing this for inclusion in the blog….I think he just had fun LOL.

Moving on we drove back down Highway 1 and then took another route through Kaitaia. This was our proposed overnight stopping place. But we found the area pretty industrial, the motels looked really shoddy and seedy, and the whole place was really rundown. So we carried on going.

We followed the highway towards Mangamuka Gorge in the Raetea Forest. Well we drove up and up….following tight chicane-style roads….and kept looking for the gorge to be signposted. Hmmmm….well picnic areas were….but nothing to see. OK…well maybe the walkway will be signposted (we think it is a wooden bridge across the gorge) but nothing. So we carried on and then realised we were heading down the mountain again. Oh well…never mind….

We continued and reprogrammed the sat nav to take us to Kohukohu. This was on the north side of the Hokiaenga harbour area. We knew there were places to stay on either side – but the ferry left on the hour every hour. And our arrival time was 3.10 pm. So Richard put himself into racing driving mode (again!) and continued to chip away at our arrival time, scaring me to death in the meantime! We arrived, finally, into Kohukohu at 2.58 and with no obvious place to stay overnight – we drove onto the ferry.

The ferry took us across to Rawene. There are a few places to stay here….so we parked the car and went for a walk. We visited the Masonic Hotel and Bar. They had no en-suite rooms available but they did have rooms….for only NZ $80 (about £42)….but with shared bathrooms…. Having had a look at the shoddy and dirty common areas we decided that this wasn’t really for us. We walked back down the hill and came across the Postmasters B&B. Well, it was an old building surrounded by foliage, and we rang the doorbell, and were met by John, the 78 year-old owner. We asked about a room – at $130 (UK £70) and were shown all he had available. OMG they are fantastic – quirky but just lovely!

We quickly signed on the dotted line and chose our room…. We then went to the supermarket and got some wine – put it in the residents fridge – and headed over to the fish and chip takeaway for a late lunch / early dinner. All the cafes and restaurants shut around 4pm and this was the last eatery open. We were very lucky we didn’t end up with a supermarket pie! Richard’s mullet and chips were really fresh and huge. Trying to avoid the chips I just had a lamb burger which was a bit disappointing. We really need to find some more fresh vegetables or salad! They are trying to kill us with fries with everything….

Back in our B&B we spent the evening with John (who is of Dutch origin) listening to classical music streaming from Vienna. swapping stories and drinking wine out on the deck. A really lovely, and unexpected, end to our day.

Sunday we are heading down the west coast and am looking forward to continuing our exploration of this beautiful country.

Bye for now