We slipped through Auckland on a Saturday afternoon, heading for the Northland. We may be out of the height of summer, but weekends are still busy. We opted for a holiday park where we rented a caravan right along the water’s edge. Actually, it was sand when we arrived. When the tide came in, it came in fast!
We headed further north, up the east coast. There were lots of stunning views!
We were scouting for a place to stay for a few days. We found both the town (Russell) and the lodging, but they had no vacancies for two more nights, so we headed off some more, knowing that we had a place to settle in to when we returned to Russell.
We headed to the Aroha Island Eco Centre. This is a small island connected to the mainland by a causeway. Lots of work is ongoing to keep the island safe for the native species, including the rare North Island Brown Kiwi. We set up camp there in hopes of seeing or hearing a kiwi. They gave us red cellophane for our headlamps, and we waited until full dark before setting out on our walk, moving slowly and pausing often to listen for the birds. The caretakers claim a 50% chance of spotting kiwis, so we were disappointed but not surprised that we didn’t see any. It was a very bright full moon, which may have contributed to our failure. Talking with the caretaker in the morning, we learned that no one had spotted any kiwis in the night until he spotted one just before sunrise. He was quite excited because it was not one of the regulars. Despite not seeing any kiwis, it was a fun and interesting night.
We still had one more night before our reservation back in Russell, so we went hunting for a good beach.
We took an inland route back to Russell the next day to go through Puketi Forest and see some kauri trees. This is one of largest remaining chunks of contiguous forest in Northland. Kauri are huge coniferous trees, once widespread in the north of New Zealand. The trees are massive — not insanely tall, just very tall, but very broad. They were a very valuable lumber source, so only a tiny fraction of the trees remain. I remember reading somewhere that only 3% of the original kauri forests still exist today.