There is something familiar about all of this. I have been in New Zealand 6 days and, well it's all rather like home. I mean they drive on the right side by which of course I mean the left; you can buy cheese a fact which has made Daniel very happy, along with Cornflakes, cherios and ketchup; they speak the same language (mainly) and the weather has even made us feel at home, dull dreary days, interspersed with sun and clouds which result in you taking your clothes on and off more than the average lady (or man) of the night.
Everywhere we go we hear British accents, we went to the tourist information and the girl was from Manchester, then to a cool cafe on a boat, again Manchester as for Kiwi's well I think they are all hibernating. All this goes toward kidding your senses that you are in Britain but then you take a path away from the towns and English (or German) accents and you are suddenly face to face with exotic plants like a giant fern tree,whilst weaving your way through the bush (Kiwi speak for forest) it dawn's on you that you are somewhere very different indeed. The vegetation in these parts is nothing short of magnificent if a little prehistoric in character. I can't tell you what anything is so will have to give them my own names, there is the giant toilet brush tree, and the mop tree, along with some beautiful bushes that have bright purple bottle scrubbers on (are you starting to form a picture yet?). Exotic aromas wrap themselves around you, the bird noises are as unrecognizable as the birds. One I swear was wearing one of those fluorescent jackets one wears when cycling.
So far we have had to stay on the board walks as the Kauri tree is threatened by disease and it is not the only one as there are signs everywhere about he ever elusive kiwi (the bird not the human). I'm not convinced it actually exists, are we sure it is not some elaborate marketing ploy? Some of the tracks we have been on we have had to scrub and spray our boots can you imagine that in Britain people would scream about civil liberties or some other such nonsense.
Daniel and I went for a walk at dusk in our quest to see a real live Kiwi. His uncle Martin had bet him a whole bag of sweets that he couldn't photograph one. Thanks Martin! Kiwi are not only nocturnal so you would have to trip over one before you saw one but are small, very elusive and dingy brown coloured so we had about as much chance of finding one as meeting a Martian. We did however have a very atmospheric walk in the dark along with all the night creatures that squawked and gobbled at us. I can tell you I was putting a very brave show for my eight year old son as the huge shadows of kauri trees, and twisty windy things pretending to be monsters towered darkly above us. As dusk turned to very spooky night I was only too happy to comply with his suggestion to give up and go to bed.
Northland is'nt all bush infact much of it has been 'tamed' and is home to a great deal of cattle. Inland it is hicksville with tumbled down buildings all weatherboard and with the obligatory verandah and decking. Many of the inland properties were piled high with scrap metal, dead tractors and all manner of other twisted metal.
There are some stunning beaches on the East reminiscent of Scottish Islands, white sand, often empty and when we were there as cold as a Scottish Island.
Up in the Bay of Islands there are funnily enough a lot of islands, 100 to be precise. We spent a cracking afternoon going on a ferry over to a place called Russell which is ridiculously picturesque in a weatherboarding and veranda kind of way and then boarding a tall ship the Tucker Thompson and sailing back. What an experience. There were only about 8 of us on board. We hauled up the sails climbed the rigging and balanced out on the bow sprit ...yes the kids too. What a feeling hanging on the rigging, boat over at an angle with the wind ripping you along all at about 30 foot above the deck. Eat your heart out Captain Jack Sparrow, yeehah!
So we say goodbye to Northland now not altogether sadly as it has involved a lot of driving and it is time to stop for a few days, regroup and find some internet!