Wednesday, March 23, 2005

OFF TO KERIKERI

Planes, no trains-yet and automobiles:

Check out these great pics: CLICK HERE!

Auckland harbor to Auckland airport and before I could finish a flat white I was traveling by small plane to almost the most Northern part of the North Island. The plane was so small the flight attendant has the double-duty role as the copilot—or maybe that’s the other way around. For most in–country flights there is very little security and for these types of flights they only request you show up before they close the plane door and while it is not a posted rule, they seem to appreciate if you will make eye contact as confirmation you are a safe passenger and you belong on the flight (so civil!). I made it to KeriKeri airport and picked up my first rental car—here the driver sits in our passenger side and also drives on the left (this double negative does not guarantee an automatic positive). This takes an extra amount of concentration but overall I was very pleased with my confidence and actual performance. I drove north to Takou Bay area and in case you choose to travel this way—you hang right for 5 kilometers on a gravel road through absolutely beautiful countryside and views of the ocean beyond the low mountain range. This road less traveled literally ended at the Takou Bay Lodge and Magic Cottage located in an equally beautiful setting surrounded by the mountains, gardens, a historic river and bordering the ocean where hundreds of years ago some of the first Maori landed their canoes to call Aotearoa home. Anna and Ian Sizer own this amazing oasis on something like 165 acres. They are a lovely couple and have two precious young children, Harry age 2 and Lucy age 1. This home-stay was picture perfect. They have put a lot of effort and thought into creating the guest living quarters. The nearby boathouse is equipped with all the watercrafts and safety gear one needs to get out and about. Day one took us upstream to find a historic marker. In a book on KeriKeri, Lorelei Hayes writes Takou Bay as holding particular significance for Maori as this was where the “Mataatua”—one of seven migration canoes—finally came to rest. An impressive memorial and plaque beside a bend in the river marks the site where legend has it the symbolic remains of the ancestral Maori waka of the Ngatiawa, part of the Great Migration to New Zealand around 1350 AD, can been seen beneath the water. Access to this plaque is through private land and permission must be sought from the owner. We were traveling to a very special historic area where very few are privileged to enter or view. Day two took us in the other direction on the river that eventually led to the very active and roaring ocean. Prior to entering the ocean waters we beached the kayaks on the riverbank along a row of mango trees and on foot walked through very tall grass over small hills, through fields and finally reached shore. This river ride and walk confirmed for me that I want to give the show Survivor another shot. Of course this was all a lot less scary with the knowledge and understanding that New Zealand is an extremely benign island. There are no snakes, leaches, lions, tiger or bears… it has more species of birds (although I have already written about the freaky bird activities) than anything else as the government has made a very concerted effort to remove any mice, possums or other types of pesky rodents from the island. This was important knowledge to have and as important to trust as we tramped through marsh country, which anywhere else in the world would have been a land mine for snake nests and evil-doing creatures.

The ocean was rough, loud and in control—I wasn’t going anywhere near it. It was ire to stand back and think about the tsunami victims and the power of this huge body of water. The beach was isolated with only a variety of birds hanging around. The shell hunting was pretty good and I did find a bottle sans any message. A little more than an hour of beach roaming was enough sun exposure to call it a day. The sun is extremely strong here and locals seem to think the hole in the ozone layer is actually directly above New Zealand. I’m not sure about this fact versus fiction comment, but it seems logical to me the closer you are to the equator, the more intense the rays become. Or, as my dermatologist at home tells me—sun exposure is not a sport, you don’t have to be good at it.

Through the fields and over the hills to the beached kayaks we roamed. Once we located the kayaks, I was breathing a sigh of relief that high water levels had not slipped in and to my fear slipped out to sea our only transportation. The evening was spent on the porch at the Magic Cottage with James and Shelia, another wonderful couple from the UK who were spending their first of many post retirement holidays traveling abroad. New Zealand was their first choice to explore for about ten weeks. They hosted a fantastic and relaxing cocktail party with all the right nibbles that turned from appetizers to dinner. Anna, Ian and family arrived and once again I was in awe over how amazing this entire experience has been. Day three led to the Rainbow Falls. We rushed, sort of, to the airport and arrived 10 minutes before airport departure to literally toss the rental car keys to the Budget Car Rental lady and board the plane with eye contact and a smile.

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