Civilized Adventure?

Civilized Adventure….  Is such a thing possible?  If it’s civilized, is it really an adventure?

I certainly think so, because I think adventure is where you find it.  And what does civilized even mean?  Even though we often ride unpaved roads and sleep in a tent, we take every opportunity to explore the place we are visiting by enjoying good food and drink.  Adventures can be found near and far.

Anyway, we are heading off again, this time with fewer rough roads and tent nights expected.  To Europe!  The anchoring event of this trip is the Isle of Man TT — motorcycle races, for those who don’t know.  But that’s not until the end of May, so we have some exploring to do first.

The first step of this trip is to get us and our motorcycles to Vancouver via a few days visiting family in Victoria.  After enjoying some lovely spring weather in Bend, we eyed the weather forecast with increasing dismay.  Heavy rains and winds. Snow in the passes.  We’re smart enough to cheat!

Cheating. The best way to avoid 350 miles of crappy weather and heavy traffic.

Ready to load the first ferry of the trip.

Arriving in sunny Victoria.

Ferry #2 to Vancouver.

Every round of motorcycle shipping is different.  This time, the bikes are flying on the same plane as we are.  We dropped the bikes off the day before we flew and watched them get secured for flying.

Tom helping pack his bike.

Laura’s bike ready to fly.

The bikes ready for tomorrow’s flight.

Waiting on the tarmac next to the plane.

Tom’s bike loading.

Upon arrival at London Gatwick, we cleared customs and immigration, then went to the cargo terminal.  After reconnecting the batteries and loading our luggage, we were off, three hours after landing!  Easy peasy!

Ready to ride, just three hours after landing.

 

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The Map of our Trip

Because I like maps, I want to share our map with you.  And I want to try something different.  So here is the map of our trip.  Four months in New Zealand in one image.  It’s a real live Google map, so you can zoom in or switch to satellite view or whatever you want.  It’s also really our tracks, so it shows the doubling back, wandering around, etc.  I’ve associated each blog post with the track in that area, so if you click on the track at any point, you will get a link to the blog post for that area.  It’s not a perfect system–there are a few blog posts that don’t have much of a track associated with them — but I thought it would be interesting to try it out.

 

Thanks for reading.  It was a wonderful trip.  We commented regularly that we’ve never spent so much time in a place with such consistently twisty roads.  New Zealand is a wonderful place to ride motorcycles.  Or even to visit without motorcycles, I suppose.  You’ve hopefully gotten a sense from Tom’s photos how stunningly beautiful the scenery is.  Traveling there is easy and fun , and I wasn’t surprised to meet other visitors that return over and over again.  We’ve been asked a lot, “Would you go back?”  Well, certainly, we would.  But there’s a lot of other places we want to explore, too, so we’ll see.

At the end of another wonderful trip!

At the end of another wonderful trip! (Sneaking a few days in Australia on our way home)

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Avoiding the big city

Our last week in New Zealand was pretty relaxed.  We had more than enough time to get to Auckland, drop the motorcycles off for shipping, and catch our flight.  We weren’t really keen on hanging around the city, so we kept on our hunt for beautiful spots.

We went back to Utea Park, the wonderful, low-key holiday park on 90 Mile Beach.  It wasn’t hard to fill a couple of days, reading, walking on the beach, digging clams for supper, watching sunsets.

Our happy cabin with some impromptu sunshades.

Our happy cabin with some impromptu sunshades.

Tom climbed up Utea Hill to get some sunset shots. I'm watching from the beach, knee-deep in the Tasman Sea.

Tom climbed up Utea Hill to get some sunset shots.  You can see the holiday park buildings on the right.  I’m watching the sunset from the beach, knee-deep in the Tasman Sea.

The view north from Utea Hill

The view north from Utea Hill

Then we worked our way slowly towards Auckland, putting off as long as possible returning to big city life with traffic, etc.  There were lots of little places to explore on the way.

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On the ferry heading to Rawene

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Funky ferry shot.

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Hugging a big kauri tree.

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Riding through Waipoua Forest

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Kauri gum, at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe

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Part of the logging display at the Matakohe Kauri Museum.

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Baylys Beach

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Baylys Beach

 

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Gibbs Farm, a home of big sculpture. That’s Richard Serra’s Te Tuhrangi Contour on the right side. Unfortunately, Gibbs Farm is not often open to the public.

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A cave at Muriwai Beach.

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Rocks at Muriwai Beach

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Leaving Muriwai Beach.

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Posing for a picture at Cascade Kauri Park.

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There’s the big city of Auckland. We’re not ready yet! Let’s find one more beach before we brave the city.

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Piha Beach.

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Piha Beach

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Piha Beach

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Piha Beach

From there, it’s into the city.  Clean the motorcycles, deliver them to the shipping agent, and hop on a plane.  Our time in New Zealand has come to a close.

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The Tippy Top

Cape Reinga is considered the Top of New Zealand.  It’s not the absolutely most northerly point on the North Island, but it’s very close and reachable by road.  It’s where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, and often times the conflicting currents put on quite a show.

It is a Maori sacred spot — the leaping off place of the spirits.  It’s where the spirits of dead enter the underworld.  They climb the roots of the 800 year old pohutukawa tree that clings to the side of the cliff.  This tree doesn’t have the grandeur of the one we visited on the East Cape, but it is hugely significant culturally and impressive in its tenaciousness.

A breezy but beautiful day at the top of New Zealand

A breezy but beautiful day at the top of New Zealand

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The sacred pohutukawa tree

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The end of the road. It’s actually a walkway at this point.

Cape Reinga lighthouse

Cape Reinga lighthouse

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A different view of the seas and the sacred pohutukawa tree barely visible.

There are two wonderful DOC (Dept. of Conservation) campgrounds up at the top.  The first at Tapotupotu Bay was a bit busier, as it is quite close to the lighthouse.  But there is an area set aside as a walk-in area, limited to small tents.  We set up and finally decided to bring the bikes over to the tent.  It was a beautiful spot, and we could watch the waves from our camp.

After a night there, we headed down the paved road a ways before turning on the 26 km gravel road to the Spirits Bay DOC campground.  The campground was not as special, as we couldn’t see the sea, but Spirits Bay was wonderful — a long (about 5 miles) beach with no vehicular access.  We spent a couple of nights there.  We considered staying longer — in fact, I went for a day ride that included restocking food at a mini-mart — but we’d gotten enough sun and a big group of fishermen had arrived for their annual get-together.  While they were not overly obnoxious, they were certainly louder that the rest, so we decided to move on.  I guess it’s south now; we’ve run out of north.

Tapotupotu Bay

Tapotupotu Bay

Tapotupotu Bay

Tapotupotu Bay DOC campground. Busy but not crowded.

The other road to Cape Reinga. Other than 90 Mile Beach, that is.

The other road to Cape Reinga. Other than 90 Mile Beach, that is.

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

Spirits Bay

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Spirits Bay

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The creek draining into Spirits Bay.

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The Road to the Far North (Epic Roads part V)

90 Mile Beach isn’t 90 miles long, more like 90 kilometers long, but that doesn’t roll of the tongue as well.  It’s officially a highway, but it’s impassable at high tide.  Tour buses roar up and down it, and people regularly get stuck.  Almost every rental contract in NZ expressly forbids driving rental vehicles on 90 Mile Beach.  Good thing we weren’t renting!

Of course, we didn’t just blast up the beach at a million miles an hour.  We found an awesome place to stay and relaxed for a few days there in both directions.  Utea Park is sort of a holiday park but unlike any other we saw in New Zealand.  It’s off the grid, using solar for hot water and a small amount of electricity.  Guests are welcome to charge their devices, but there are no refrigerators or microwaves.  We rented a little cabin for a most reasonable donation and shared the communal kitchen and bathroom facilities.  It’s just over the first dunes from the beach, and we dug clams for several yummy dinners.  I’d link to their website, but they don’t have one.  No advertising either.  But many very loyal return guests.

Then we did blast up the beach!  If by blast, you mean explore leisurely and take lots of photos.

Our first visit to 90 Mile Beach

Our first visit to 90 Mile Beach

Sunset watching

Sunset watching

The blowing sand was cool to watch but made the surface hard to see.

The blowing sand was cool to watch but made the surface hard to see.

A local, relatively unperturbed by either the tour bus or the motorcycles.

A local, relatively unperturbed by either the tour bus or the motorcycles.

The view from the cockpit.

The view from the cockpit.

Exploring Te Wakatehaua Island after the tour bus left.

Exploring Te Wakatehaua Island after the tour bus left.

Crossing a stream

Crossing a stream

The road off the north end of 90 Mile Beach goes up the Te Paki stream

The road off the north end of 90 Mile Beach goes up the Te Paki stream

Hmmm.... Might have to stop and explore the dunes some.

Hmmm…. Might have to stop and explore the dunes some.

Looking down on "the road"

Beautiful, windblown Te Paki dunes. The road/stream is down there somewhere.

Heading upstream

Heading upstream

Approaching civilization

Approaching civilization (as defined by a gravel road).

 

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Missionaries, Treaties, and Famous Toilets

Russell was a great place to spend the better part of a week. It’s one of the larger towns in the Bay of Islands.  It also has a lot of history from the early times of the Europeans in New Zealand and is close to some other interesting spots.  It’s a very walk-able town with some nice restaurants.  All in all, a great base from which to explore and relax.

Evening stroll on the waterfront.

Evening stroll on the waterfront.

Evening stroll

Evening stroll

Evening stroll

Fig tree next to the ever popular Duke of Marlborough bar/restaurant/hotel.

Russell is a popular Bay of Islands port.

The wharf quiets down after the day trippers go home.

Watching sunset is always a good thing to do.

Sunset dining.

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The Bay of Islands — famous boating destination.

We saw the flyers up around town for the Short Ships Race, so we went down to the Russell Boating Club to see the action.  It was a nice chance to see a different side of Russell, as almost everyone there was at least a part time resident of Russell.

Getting ready to start the Russell Boating club paddle race.

Getting ready to start the Russell Boating Club’s Short Ships Race.

Not all the visiting boats are small.

Not all the boats in town are small.

Russell was one of the sites of early European settlers.  As the whalers and sealers made their way to the Bay of Islands, things got rough enough that Russell earned the nickname of “Hellhole of the Pacific.”  So, then the missionaries showed up to try to bring civilization to the whalers and sealers and to bring Christianity to the Maori who already called this area home.  Some of the buildings set up as a mission by French Catholics still remain and are now a museum.  The mission is most famous for its printing press, which printing over 30,000 books and tracts, all in the Maori language.  The guided tour shows how these books were made, and we got a chance to try some of the many steps involved in making a book.

The Pompallier Mission Museum

The Pompallier Mission Museum

The printing press.

The printing press.

Learning the leather tanning methods.

Learning the leather tanning methods.

Prepping the leather

Prepping the leather

Across the bay from Russell is the Waitangi Treaty grounds.  In 1840, representatives of the British Crown and many Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitaingi, which resulted in British sovereignty over New Zealand.  It is a founding document of the nation of New Zealand.  The treaty was written in English and translated in to Maori.  Differences in the meaning of these two versions reverberate to this day.

Te Whare Rūnanga, a carved meeting house.

Te Whare Rūnanga, a carved meeting house at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds

The Treaty House at Waitangi

The Treaty House at Waitangi

Traditional Maori performance

Traditional Maori performance

The world's largest ceremonial war canoe.

The world’s largest ceremonial war canoe.

A carving outside the Treaty Grounds.

A carving outside the Treaty Grounds.

Not far from Russell is the small town of Kawakawa, which is most widely known for its public toilets.  In New Zealand, public toilets are widely available and clearly marked, but rarely are they tourist attractions in their own right.  But the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa are famous.  Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian architect and artist who made his home in Kawakawa.  In 1998, the town needed to upgrade its public toilets, and Hundertwasser offered a design.  The toilets were built with local and recycled materials, and they opened in 1999.  Hundertwasser passed away in 2000.  The project’s influence spreads throughout the town.

Looking across the street at the famous toilets.

Looking across the street at the famous toilets.

A throne

A throne

Not your ordinary urinals

Not your ordinary urinals

 

The main street of Kawakawa

The main street of Kawakawa

 

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Heading North

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!

Beachfront caravan.

Beachfront caravan.

The tide comes in fast and shoes float away.

The tide comes in fast and shoes float away. (Don’t worry, they were rescued right after the photo was taken.)

We headed further north, up the east coast.  There were lots of stunning views!

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Traffic jam.

Traffic jam.

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Just past the traffic jam, the views resume.

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.

Our first time on the Opua Ferry but not the last. Russell to Pahia via ferry -- 15 km. Without the ferry, 45 km. Well worth the $6.

Our first time on the Opua Ferry but not the last. Russell to Pahia via ferry — 15 km. Without the ferry, 45 km. Well worth the $6.

"Yesterdays Meals on Wheels" Gotta love a septic service with a sense of humor.

“Yesterdays Meals on Wheels” Gotta love a septic service with a sense of humor.

The Stone Store --historic building near Kerikeri.

The Stone Store –historic building near Kerikeri.

Common sign.

Common sign.

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.

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Overlooking Matauri Bay

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Wainui Bay

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Tauranga Bay. This one could work.

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Exploring Tauranga Bay. Low tide only.

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Low tide.

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Looking from our campsite. The wave is breaking on the rocks where I was standing earlier.

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The view in the other direction.

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.

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Heading off to see the kauri.

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That’s a pretty big tree!

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A closeup of the bark. It sheds in splotches, which keeps too much from growing on it.

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A good viewing position.

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Big tree.

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This photo shows the change humans have wrought. This spot is less than a quarter mile from the kauri forest in the previous photos.

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