The Black Sand Beaches

90 mile beach isn’t the only beach here you can drive on. In fact, there are quite a few, including one near Helensville called Muriwai.

Naturally, I didn’t dare take my car out on the beach – that’s just asking to get stuck using a FWD car. 4x4s only! And even then, when out by myself I certainly wouldn’t tempt fate anyways. So, I stopped at the car park and hiked over the dunes to the beach.

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One Month

So it’s been one month to the day since I arrived here in New Zealand. Thus far, I really haven’t travelled very far – I’ve been up and down the Northland region and Auckland, but have yet to truly get into the main part of the North Island. But you know what? That’s been perfectly fine with me! I’m really enjoying the slower pace style of travelling – being able to settle in for days at a time, see things that most travellers normally would skip right over, experience life at a more relaxed pace and simply be one with the world.

Okay, that last little part was just a joke, I’m far from having an existential experience down here. But still, New Zealand has be a pleasure for 31 days, and I’m looking forward to the remaining 300+ I still have. There are so many more things to see and do while I’m here – White Water raft the largest raft-able waterfall in the world (7m!), multi-day hiking, exploring the glaciers, bungy jumping, swimming with dolphins (I WILL swim with them at some point!), hang gliding, marry a kiwi girl, car camping, rock climbing, surfing, large scale farming, thermal pools, track down a kiwi bird, take in a rugby match…learn the rules of rugby, hit the beach on a warm enough day to lounge around on one, go fishing, and I’m sure much much more. I know some of them probably won’t happen (and I was kidding about marrying a kiwi), but there certainly is a lot I’m looking forward to doing. At a very slow, unplanned pace.

Speaking of unplanned, it both has and hasn’t been a departure for me so far on this trip. I still need to plan in advance WWOOFing host stays – usually 1-2 weeks in advance. But, I’ve been taking the more ‘let others decide my route’ type approach – I’m going where hosts have invited me to stay, rather than emailing specific hosts and asking to help them for a week or so. There have been and will be exceptions (I emailed my host in Kerikeri to stay up north), but 3/4 of my hosts so far have emailed me first. That number includes my next one, quite a bit further away from where I am now, in the area called the Bay of Plenty. I’ve got a week in between my current host and my next one, so I’m going to be returning to doing more touristy things, and possibly trying a 4-6 hour hike or two. And possibly doing a little car camping, if the weather looks good enough. Either way, I hope you have enjoyed following and reading my blog so far and continue to do so! If you have any suggestions, things you’d like to see me do or have ideas for me to try, I’m always up for changing my non-existant plans to something else. 🙂

The Glow Worms of Kerikeri

Forgot to post about this little last minute adventure I had while staying in Kerikeri. Glow worms are something you’ll hear mentioned a lot here in New Zealand for a tourist activity, but I had yet to see any. They are often found in caves or the like – they need very dark locations at night to be properly seen. My hosts in Kerikeri had a short walk to get to see some glow worms, sort of on an embankment/wall near a stream. I took the opportunity to go see them on my last night.

As you can imagine, it was a dark walk. I had my flashlight (or ‘Torch’, as they are called here), but even still you really notice how nice and dark things are. I didn’t have too much issue finding the glow worms down the path.

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The long drive

I left Kerikeri this morning and started my return trip out of Kerikeri in the Northland – it was a 230km drive today, which I figured would take about 2.5 hours.

It took nearly 3.5 hours. NZ roads don’t have many straight sections. Makes for interesting and involved driving though, no nodding off at the wheel for me. But at the same time it doesn’t allow one to enjoy the scenery quite as much as I might like – you have to be focused on the upcoming turn in the road. I do think this is probably the most common street sign I’ve seen in NZ:

Thankfully my Honda is a pretty decent drive, for a station wagon. I certainly miss my Mazda 3 for these kind of drives – tons of hills and curves with nary another vehicle on the road.

I’ve actually now left the Northland region and crossed back into the Auckland region, though I’m still 50km north of Auckland. I’m going to be WWOOFing for 6 days at an exotic fruit farm – they’ve got a very nice place up in the rural area north of Helensville, on the west side of the island. Hopefully I’ll get out to the western beaches once or twice this week – they are black sand beaches. Not going to go swimming anytime soon though – a wee bit too cold for that still! BUT, they do have thermal pools in this area. That might be a better option.

I met my new hosts just after noon and got to work after having a tasty avocado sandwich for lunch (eating vegetarian for a week – I will eat healthy!). Work will be outdoors once again – I was helping to clear brush yesterday and today will be pruning raspberry bushes. I just hope the weather will stay pleasant!

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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1 step forwa….nope, just 2 steps back

Another enjoyable day here in Kerikeri. I have one more day of work and on Tuesday, I’ll start heading south again. But for today, I got to work on a slightly different computer project today:

A digital turntable! This converts your LP into mp3s. Setting it up thankfully wasn’t too difficult, and I converted the first record in about 40 minutes – you have to play the record from start to finish to record it to the computer, and then spend time editing the music into seperate songs (if you so choose), add mp3 tags, and save the files. All in all it was relatively intuitive thankfully, just time consuming.

After my work for the day was complete, I took off to nearby Aroha Island.

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I aim to please

I have to be a bit more careful with how I phrase certain things here in New Zealand. In Canada, we simply call Kiwi Fruit, Kiwis. However, down here in New Zealand, Kiwi either refers to the bird or the people. You have to use the full ‘Kiwi Fruit’ name for things to be understandable. Which led to confusion and a ‘Soylent Green is PEOPLE!’ kind of moment this evening.

Previously I had mentioned picking up Whittaker’s Chocolate Caramels (and have been enjoying them immensely…and in moderation), and that Whittaker’s had other, slight more unique flavours. One was Chocolate with Kiwi Fruit, which others have expressed curiosity in, so in the name of science, I had to experiment.

When I got home this evening with the chocolate in tow, I asked my hosts if they had tried ‘Chocolate with Kiwi’ in it before. They expressed their confusion – that didn’t sound very appealing and weren’t sure exactly what I was talking about. It could have been in the shape of a bird or something they thought. At least they didn’t assume I’d already taken to eating the kind folk of New Zealand, covered in chocolate. After clearing up for me that Kiwi and Kiwi Fruit have to be specified down here, we gave the chocolate a try. Now I understand why Whittaker’s prominently puts the FRUIT with the Kiwi name on it’s packaging – don’t want to have any potential worry of nibbling on your fellow countryman.

The consensus? Pretty good, but not great. The chocolate itself is fantastic – Whittaker’s makes GOOD stuff. The bits of kiwi fruit are quite akin to raisins – not exactly what I was expecting. I do enjoy chocolate covered raisins quite a bit, so I still enjoyed the Chocolate and Kiwi Fruit, but I know many *hate* raisins in food, so I can see it being a pretty big disappointment for some.