Colin and the Chocolate Factory

Notice the middle word there – Tasting. Oh yes, there was tasting involved. I probably could have renamed this blog as ‘Colin likes Chocolate’, ‘I went to the far ends of the earth for chocolate’ or the like and it would be a pretty apt description of some of the things I’ve done so far. I swear, I’m not obsessed or addicted to the stuff. I can quit any time.

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Sunny days, sweepin’ the clouds awaaaaaaay

I’m getting used to not seeing many clouds during the day. Bright blue skies, light southerly breeze (unfortunately keeping the region a bit colder than usual), and plentiful sunshine. Today, upon the suggestion of my host, I took a bit of a drive away from the coast and headed inland. I headed to the Puketi Forest. It’s the same place that I visited the Kauri trees on my way up to Cape Reinga last week.

I headed off around 3pm and took some back roads. Along the way, there was a delay due to cow crossing. Cows have right of way on the dirt roads here. Or at least, I imagine they do.

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Stones and Rainbows

Back to my slightly longer walks today, with a bit of a twist. This time, it was a one-way only trip. I dropped my car off at the end, and my host gave me a lift to the start of my hike, at Rainbow Falls. I completed my work for the day around 2pm (all computer based, so no pretty before/after pictures this time! Unless you want to see excel spreadsheets…), and then headed into town to start my hike (about 6km, all said and done, mostly flat).

It was a beautiful day today – blue skies and about 16C. The Falls are only a short 5 minute hike.

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Wonderland

I’ve now been staying in my new WWOOFing homestay, and this was where I was responding to emails this morning:

I’m just outside of Kerikeri, which is a beautiful small town in the far north of New Zealand. It’s often a vacation spot in the summer, and during the winter is usually one of the warmest places in New Zealand. If the picture of my hosts place is any indication, you can imagine that I’m staying at QUITE the beautiful house. The family designed and built it themselves, and used many of the native woods on the land they own here – it’s absolutely *gorgeous*. High vaulted ceilings, a huge amount of windows, and a very unique design. Oh, and I get my own bedroom, bathroom and living room (though I spend my time with them in the ‘main’ living room – wonderful older couple). All in all, remarkably swank and comfy.

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The apocalypse is nigh

It snowed in Auckland yesterday. To most (including myself), that might not seem like a very interesting statement – it is winter down here after all. To talk to Kiwis however, you’d think the world might be ending. It hasn’t snowed in Auckland in 70+ years. It actually snowed almost all over New Zealand over the last couple of days – it reached 2C where I’m staying, traditionally the warmest area of New Zealand during the winter. It is COLD. The lack of proper insulation in the buildings here are especially noticeable when it gets this cold.

Still, when I got up this morning the weather looked wonderful. Blue skies, sunshine and lollipops.

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There and Back Again

I knew I was going to use that title at some point or another. For those that don’t get the reference, it’s from the Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit - it’s the name of the book Bilbo wrote about his journey in The Hobbit, and also the name of Part 2 of the upcoming Hobbit movies which are being filmed in New Zealand right now. Anyways, I figured it was about time since I probably had one of my longer all day tours today, which completed a round trip to the northernmost point in New Zealand – Cape Reinga.

The drive is quite long – about 2 hours from Paihia or so, with only a few small towns in between. So, I opted for a tour instead, given that good specials are on now. Plus, it had the added bonus of allowing me to do things I wouldn’t get to otherwise (at least easily) – driving 90 mile beach and sand boarding specifically.
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Russell in the Rain

I’m starting to learn that the weather service here in New Zealand…isn’t always the most reliable. I’ll give them a bit of slack though – I can imagine that between being surrounded by water, the rolling and mountainous terrain and the quick moving winds, forecasting here is quite a bit more difficult than in North America, where much of the area is flat land and wide open. But this makes planning anything to be a little bit tricky.

I have a 4 day stay planned for here in Paihia, then I’ll be starting my next WWOOFing experience a bit further north from here come Wednesday. During my stay here I wanted to do 2 things – get to Cape Reinga, the Northmost point in New Zealand, and take a tour of the Bay of Islands by boat. Being winter time and quiet season here, it was remarkably easy to set those two things up – a combo 2 day tour was available for the price of typically doing one. So, I went ahead and booked those two for Monday and Tuesday – apparently the best two days of weather during my stay. Today, Sunday, was supposed to be a complete washout. But, on top of the combo pricing, I also got a return ferry ticket for free to Russell, a nearby cozy town across the bay from Paihia. I had plans to check it out today, weather be damned.

Waking up, the weather was suitably gray and drab. I decided to tour this side of the bay by car for a little bit to allow the temperature to warm at least. So imagine my surprise that, 15 minutes into my drive, the skies completely cleared.

You can see the Bay of Islands in the distance there. I actually ended up spending about an hour up here (top of farmers field accessible via dirt road) simply reading my Kindle. It was a great spot.

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Continuing North to Paihia

I packed up from my hostel in Whangarei and headed further north up to a town called Paihia. Paihia is the main tourist area on the Bay of Islands – a large coastal area that is renowned for it’s fishing.

 

There are *numerous* tourist attractions here in Paihia, and I’ll be doing a few of them over the next few days. I’m taking a tour up to Cape Reinga (let someone else do the driving for a day!), the northernmost tip of New Zealand, via what is called the 90 mile beach. The tour buses actually are equipped to drive up the beach, and make stops for such activities as dune boarding. I’m looking forward to trying that! That will be Monday. Tuesday I’ll be on a boat going around the Bay of Islands, in search of dolphins and whales and stopping at an island or two. On top of that, if the conditions are right we get to swim with the pods of dolphins too…fingers crossed. Sunday I’ll probably wander the town and nearby Russell, which is a small town across the bay that I can reach via passenger ferry. As for today, the weather is grey and drizzly, so a quiet day planned for now.