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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Farmyard Forceleap Farm

Dad visits and Fiji

Easter done, we dragged ourselves away from the relaxation of the beach and headed up to the “big smoke” of Auckland to pick up Dad from the airport. Since our dear dog Yoma was run over a couple of years ago, I have told the boys that when we get home to England, they can have a dog each, but only if they can justify their choice of breed to me and tell me how they will look after it. This means we have spent a great deal of time discussing dog breeds, but discussions have expanded to other pets too. All the friends we have visited have found themselves closely interrogated about the pros or cons of their various pet choices! Some options have been vetoed by me, such as snakes, a husky and the latest was an octopus. Currently I think we are lined up for a black labrador and a red panda!

On the way up to Auckland, we stayed with Leanne, who I met doing Outward bound, and her family in the Bombay hills. Apart from the boys getting to know their black lab Harry, the high point of this visit, was Ash her husband, introducing them to his new Tessler. Talk about instant Godlike status! Even more cool was that he let them play inside…on their own (now that is brave!) Then he showed them the programmed “light and sound” show that it performs on demand. This involved pumping music, mirrors going in and out, windows and aerial going up and down, lights flashing and ended with the boot popping open, much to the boy’s delight.

I think Toby is seriously considering revising his pet choice to be a Tessler.

We made it up to Auckland and met up with a couple of other friends for some playdates at the park. Also got the boys to the aquarium and zoo. But a day or two later we headed out to the airport to pick Dad up.  

After a day resting in Auckland, we headed off for our jaunt around NZ with him. We certainly had a full itinerary, but I was pleased with how it played out as it was busy, but not manic!! We kicked off by heading up to the extreme North of NZ, covering much of Northland, which I love. We drove up out of Auckland and up the West coast, stopping to walk through the Kauri forests. Kauris are truly mighty trees, iconic to NZ. They can live for over 2000 years and grow to over 50m with a girth of over 16m. We saw some real whoppers, although it is so sad to see the obvious devastating effect of Kauri dieback, which is all too reminiscent of the carnage of Ash dieback at home. The biggest Kauri we saw was the “father of the forest” which was huge. There is something magical about these trees and they rather reminded me of the Ents in Lord of the rings!

That night we stayed on the West coast at Omapere in the Hokianga Harbour. Dad and I walked along the beach in the evening watching the sunset over the spectacular giant sand dunes on the opposite headland. They literally looked like cliffs of sand. The next day we really went off the beaten track and took a ferry across the harbour at Rawene. Then, rather winging it, we set off down some unmarked, unpaved roads which was rather exciting. It was not the mistake it could have been, as it was very pleasant and eventually spat us out on a more definite road. This led down into Doubtless Bay and on to Cooper Bay on the opposite East coast. We stayed there for a couple of days in a nice apartment overlooking the sea. From there we did a day-dash up to Cape Reinga. On the way we stopped at the amazing giant sand dunes, which are more like large hills of sand then a dune. They are so surreal. You know when you see a larva-flow on the news, like in Hawaii a few years back. It creeps steadily down a hill consuming everything in its path. It was rather like that, but in sand, and enormous! The boys had a lot of fun bodyboarding down them which is a unique experience. It was one hell of a workout for me, walking up and down the dunes with the boys in the stinging wind, taking photos and carrying boards, picking them up etc.

By the end we all looked like John Mills and Sylvia Simms at the end of an Ice Cold in Alex, sand literally everywhere!! After dusting ourselves down as best we could, we drove on to the Cape where there is a windswept lighthouse on the headland and a good walk down to it. You look out over a 270-degree view of the sea.

You can see the white frothing water where the Tasmin Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. You can see why the Māori consider this place to be sacred. They believe departing spirits leave New Zealand and go back to Hawaiki from there. In the very far distance, there are a small group of islands named by Abel Tasmin the Three King Islands as he arrived there on Epiphany. The Māori call the islands Manawatawhi which means “panting breath”, as it is thought a chief called Raura swam to the islands, and arrived exhausted, which is not surprising being that the islands are over 30 miles from the cape! But it is from Manawatawhi that the ancestors get their last glimpse of New Zealand on their journey home. On the information board it described all this, and it also said that the Māori had occupied the islands on and off over the centuries, largely dependent on availability of food supplies. Interestingly someone had scrubbed out the word “occupied.” I was left wondering who had done that, and why?

Coming back from the Cape, we risked it all and ventured in the car onto 90-mile beach, which although long is not actually 90 miles, more like 55miles, but it is still very impressive! The beach is a designated public highway, used as an alternative to SH1 when the road is closed due to floods, or land slips. But we were quite anxious as we drove onto the beach as we had absolutely no idea where we were going, when or if we would be able to get off the beach, or what we should do if we got stuck! Strategy = keep the sea on your right, but don’t get too close to it, keep the dry sand dunes on your left, but don’t get too close to them, and drive down the middle on the wet hard sand, keeping your eyes peeled for an exit! Luckily, the expert beach driver here (AKA Me) managed to not get stuck, and we found an exit 19km later.

The next day was not great weather, but as it was a driving day, it was not too much of an inconvenience. We headed down to Opua to visit the school the boys will be going to next term, and drove past the house we will be staying in. All looked great so we returned to Kerikeri to stay with friends. We visited the Stone House and Masons cross, which are all remnants of the early settlers and missionaries to New Zealand. Then it was back to Auckland and Dad flew on to Gisborne for a whistle stop visit to the Steeles. We stayed in Auckland for a day or two doing home schooling (we are determined to finish the books and send them home with Dad) and we also managed to catch up with friends for more playdates in the park and even do a round of mini golf. 

A day or two later, we met Dad in Rotorua, in the heart of the thermal region of NZ. Rotorua was a key place that Dad wanted to visit when we planned the trip, as he told me he wanted, “to smell Rotorua again”. Well, he certainly got his wish; it still stinks of rotten eggs! We did a tour around a thermal park, with all the bubbling mud, which really is so unique to NZ.

After that I took the boys off zip lining and monster trucking, which was extremely popular with them. Meanwhile, we sent Dad off on a lakeside walk, which we thought he would enjoy more! On the way back to Auckland, the boys went Zorbing, which they loved. I think Dad quite enjoyed watching them race down the hill in the giant inflated balls, although he looked a bit bemused by it all, as if to say, what on earth are they doing, and why?? Which is a fair point.

Dad’s trip ended last weekend and after seeing him off at the airport, we jumped on a plane to Fiji for a few days. It was a real relax after a lot of travelling and before school started. I had booked us into a family resort with a great kid’s club where they played games, made pottery, had their hair braided, watched movies, and got to hang out with an ever-increasing band of brothers from Australia, as well as eat ice cream. What’s not to like?

The biggest worry was to check for falling coconuts! Back from Fiji we headed up to Northland, where the boys are going to school for a term, but more on that later.

So, we continue our travels and have now driven nearly 10,000km so far in New Zealand. But the most exciting km so far, has certainly been the 18km down 90-mile beach. Fun!


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