Driving isn’t our favourite thing but it’s a means to an end. I wanted to re-visit Cape Reinga, on the northern tip of North Island and we chose to to drive and visit some other places en route, rather then join a coach tour like Helen and I did 17 years ago!
Matauri Bay, like all the NZ beaches we’ve been to, is stunning. There were a few other people but on the whole, it was deserted.
As you can see, we really are honing our selfie-taking skills. But we’re taking plenty of time over the learning process.
The north of the island has lots of sand. Not just on the beaches and on building sites, but everywhere. There are sand dunes where you can slide down on a plastic board (or a piece of cardboard, I suppose). We decided not to take part in this activity, mainly because we didn’t want to walk back up afterwards. The tip of the island used to be separate but thousands of years of sea currents plugged the gap with more and more sand.
Again, I was surprised (but probably shouldn’t have been) by how much the area around the Cape and the light house has been developed since I was last here. There is a proper path to follow, so mostly, we keep off the fragile, and in some cases, unique, vegetation.
The wind kept us cool as we walked and it was fascinating again to see where the Tasman Sea and the Pacifc Ocean meet.
The rival currents cause plenty of eddies which bring nutrients to the surface and this can attract bigger and bigger creatures: even whales have been known to come right up to the rocks for a scratch, to get rid of their barnacles.
Lovers of the environment and of toilets will appreciate the eco-design of the public convenience here.
We visited Rarawa Beach because it has the finest, whitest, squeakiest sand in the north. It did feel really nice on our feet, and, when you get the right movement going, you can achieve quite a good squeak.
Because this beach was so nice to walk on, we did, for over a mile. We decided to give Ninety Mile Beach a miss, all thirty miles of it: we know it will still be there when we come back. Which, as we see more and more of New Zealand, becomes more and more certain.
Our second day on the road took us to see a tree. Not any old tree though, but the fourth largest in the world.
On the way, we passed through Omapere. Liesel couldn’t work out why a place in New Zealand was named after the German word for ‘grandma’ and the French word for ‘father’. No, I didn’t make her get out and walk. Of course, it’s a Māori word, four syllables, named after the local tall, plumed, native grass, mapere.
It also reminded me of my first visit to the area. The name rung a bell, but I couldn’t remember why. Maybe we just passed by on that occasion too.
The day was grey and cool and we had a few spots of rain. Mainly on the most winding of roads when you don’t really need your view obstructed by windscreen wipers!
Some of the landcape reminded us of the Lord of the Rings films, so rugged and harsh.
Some of the hills in the distance were hidden in the mist and we were glad we didn’t have to drive through the clouds, especially as the road was so twisty.
Fields are littered with rocks and you have to admire the settlers, Maori and Pakeha, for their perseverance here.
2000-year old Tāne Mahuta is the largest known kauri tree. It’s in danger, as are all kauri, from kauri dieback disease which is spread by soil movement. So we had to wash our shoes before walking the short distance to see one of the wonders of the modern world.
I’d told Liesel it was only a five or ten minute walk, and luckily my memory was correct, on this occasion.
I’m sure we’ve been able to walk up to and around Tāne Mahuta in the past, but not today. Sad for us, but good for the tree.
The Māori guide had traditional tattoos on her chin and she told us about the tree and how they’re all being looked after. Including, would you believe, giving the trees injections to protect them against the fungal disease. There are over 120 other species living in Tāne’s canopy, plant and animal, which makes me feel better about the things I have living on my skin. The guide’s accent was fascinating. We pronounce ‘kauri’ almost as ‘cow-ry’, whereas she said something more like’coe-dee’.
We try to pronounce Māori words correctly but their vowel sounds are very subtlely different to ours. I wonder whether they appreciate us making the effort? Or do they think we’re just taking the mickey?
The tree is the focal point of Waipoua Forest which we spent some time exploring. It’s a proper forest too, you can’t see the wood for the trees. The road is completely enclosed and there is no room for manoeuvre on either side.
We have no idea whether this is some kind of scarecrow or a North Island attempt at steampunk metalwork, but it was very prominent.
We saw quite a few little churches in the middle of nowhere too: white walls and red roofs that really show up against the green, green and green background. We can’t see how they can survive, each must only serve a few dozen people.
Equally, there are small cemeteries here and there. Maybe each is for one family or one tribal group, but they’re all very neat and tidy.
As we passed by one field, we saw a cow licking a horse. This is not a euphemism. Maybe the grass is hallucinogenic or aphrodisiac.
We passed a goat that was tethered by the side of the road. When we passed by on our return journey, it had gone. From which we can only deduce that it had been taken by a dinosaur during filming of the latest Jurassic Park sequel.
The Māoris made terraces in the past, for defence purposes and, presumably to grow more produce. Those terraces are still visible on some hills and it’s obvious to even this casual observer that some terrace-builders were more skilled than others! Maybe they should have called upon the services of Hire-a-Hubby (see a previous post).
The road surface was really good but in a few places, something had happened, a landslide or some kind of sinkhole collapse maybe, because the surface was (temporarily?) covered with loose chippings.
The other main decoration on the road was carcasses. Lots of unidentifiable but definitely dead critters, some being enjoyed by the birds, some just being left to rot.
There are lots of birds around. When we’re in the woods, we can hear them but usually not see them. When we’re driving along, we can see them, and occasionally identify them. Over two days, we saw birds of prey, turkeys, emus, quails, pukekos, sparrows, ordinary seagulls and southern black-backed gulls which are about twice the size, leading me to accuse one of being an albatross. In fact, one such came by and joined us for dinner.
In the fields, we are still surprised at how many cattle we’re seeing compared with the number of sheep. We wondered whether there’s been a shift in New Zealand’s farming business over the last couple of decades. There are signs giving out a number to call if we need to report ‘wandering stock’.
These purple flowers are, amazingly, bindweed. I lost a 32-year battle against bindweed in our garden in Chessington: it kept invading from all the neighbours’ back yards. One day, it will take over the whole world, in a satanic deal with the cockroaches, probably. Horrible stuff, and just because it has pretty purple flowers here doesn’t make it any less evil.
Readers who aren’t interested in our musical entertainment while on the road can look away now and come back next time.
Thanks for staying: you will glean from where today’s title emanates!
I’ve commented previously on how ‘shuffle’ on my MP3 device seems to avoid playing some songs and even anything at all by some people. Well, hah, I had a brainwave. Play all the tracks in alphabetical order by song title. But the ASCII sort sequence puts special characters such as quotes and brackets, as well as numbers, before the actual alphabet. So before we could hear the first song beginning with the letter A, we had this sort of thing:
You’ll notice something right away. There’s a duplicate track. There are quite a few duplicates, in fact. This is due to the unique way in which downloads are handled. I, the user, have great difficulty in controlling this. But we can just press ‘skip’.
Some tracks appear four times. Twice because of the double-downloading-by-mistake issue. And twice over because the same track appears on two different albums.
We got to the numbers and heard ‘5 Years’, ’50 Words for Snow’, ‘50,000 Watts’ then ‘500 Miles’. Yes, in that order, because of the comma.
And then came the letter A. Hooray!
What a fantastic variety we have here. Well curated even if I do say so myself. Ofra Haza and The Unthanks are among those very rarely selected by so-called ‘shuffle’ mode.
The first treat was three different versions of ‘All the Young Dudes’. (For me, that is, not so much for Liesel: ‘skip’ was employed.)
By the end of the first day on the road, we had still not reached the end of the As. On the second day, the last half dozen or so A songs, were contenders to be the final one. We couldn’t wait for the As to finish.
But where else would you find ‘Aretha’,’Arienne’ and ‘Arnold Layne’ sitting next to each other?
As A ends, B begins. But lo, what is this? BBC iPlayer file tags have names beginning with ‘b’. There are quite a few, probably intermingled with actual songs, so the ‘skip’ button might be required more often for a while.
And by the end of our second day, we hadn’t reached the end of the Bs. Who knew there were so many songs about ‘Baby’ something (‘Driver’, ‘Finn’, ‘Loves that way’, ‘Better start turnin’ ’em down’ and ”s Boat’), ‘Bad’ things, ‘Beautiful’ things or ‘Blackbirds’?
Here’s a tip: on your MP3 device or in your library, look at the alphabetic track list because it’s the best way to spot duplicates. I don’t mind a ‘studio’ and a ‘live’ version of the same song but it’s a bit of a waste having exact duplicates. Not that the higher population count helped the ‘shuffle’ mechanism find and play some of those duplicated tracks!