Nic Jaspers, Kevin O’Connell and I travelled up North Island, with a brief stop in Taupo for me to marvel at the lake and watch the water skiing and kiting, to Kevin’s home in Hamilton. The next day we set off to Northland. Auckland was stunningly beautiful with its myriad islands ferries and bays. On to Warkworth and Wellsford, through Ruakaka and Whangarei. We turned off at Whakapara for Helena Bay on the east coast and headed north through stunning views of wooded hills and blue coves to Russell (Kororareka) where we parked, slurped a couple of beers and had lunch on the beachfront. Back to Kawakaw, passing mudflats with mangroves in the tidal pools to Kaikohe and Dargaville, missing the giant Kauri forests at Waipouo, unfortunately, but the views were grand, anyway.
Kevin phoned an old friend of his, one Blackie, a Maori. He was 57, still playing rugby! Used to be a boxer, too. He recommended The Central Hotel where we had a great supper. Blackie caught up with us there later. He had given up drinking, himself, but made a habit of calling around at closing time to give the drunks a lift home! What a character.
The next day we visited the Dargaville Museum, with exhibits of early settler life, kauri logging, gum digging, ship building and shipwrecks. The masts of the Rainbow Warrior, sunk at anchor by French sabotage divers, are to be found there.
Just south of there at Matakohe, Kevin had to drag me away from the Kauri Museum with its fascinating displays of a life-like kauri sawmill, complete with steam engines. I could have spent the whole day gawping.
Back to Hamilton and an evening in Kevin’s “local”, The Clyde for grub and grog.
The next day, Kevin’s girlfriend Dawn took us all to Rotorua to spend the day getting a glimpse into Maori culture and to see the steam geysers do their amazing thing. My grandmother, Effie Hulme was, as family tradition would have it, born there. Rotorua was amazing and I leave it to a few pics to tell about our wonderful visit.