The Land of Green

We left the USA on February 5th and crossed the Pacific Ocean and the International Date Line (what happened to February 6th?!), arriving in Auckland, New Zealand on the 7th.  We arrived tired but very excited to start our adventure.  One of the first things we noticed was how green everything was…hello summer!  Dan was especially excited to learn about all the new flora around him.

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One of a bazilllion ferns in the New Zealand bush.

Our first stop on the North Island, was the Waipoua Forest.  The Waipoua Forest is home to most of the largest living kauri trees in New Zealand. The largest kauri tree, Tane Mahuta (“Lord of the Forest”), is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old and is 168 ft tall with a girth of 45.2 ft.

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Kate takes a close look at the 7th-largest Kauri tree in the world.

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A close up view of a tree fern – these plants can be huge – we saw some today that were 30 feet tall!

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Kate and Dan in front of the largest Kauri tree in the world, Tane Mahuta. The impressive mass of this tree is difficult to comprehend. In the photo we are about 100 feet away from the tree…it’s 45 feet wide!

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A fiddlehead on a black tree fern – the spiral is about the size of a softball.

We headed northward to the ocean town of Opononi and camped at a holiday park.  Each campsite had its own goat tethered to a post, assigned to trimming the lawn.  We were also surprised by a late night visitor – a hedgehog!  While we were surprised to see him, we later found out the hedgehogs are quite common in New Zealand and are actually considered pests because they eat native birds’ eggs (and the occasional endangered snail).

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A view of Hokianga Harbour and the town of Opononi.

We headed to one of the beaches near Opononi where we observed oystercatchers and cormorants and spotted a crab (see video below) chowing down on some dinner.  Speaking of dinner, we had our first awesome experience with locals when a couple offered us Green-Lipped Mussels they had just harvested at the beach.  We went immediately to the campsite and steamed them for dinner.  Tasty!

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A delicious dinner of steamed New Zealand Green-Lipped Mussels! We ran into a couple of locals who had just collected these on the beach and they gave us a bunch of them!

We continued our journey northward and headed to Cape Reinga.  From the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, we watched waves from the Pacific Ocean collide with waves from the Tasman Sea. We camped on a beach east of the lighthouse and took our first refreshing, but slightly chilly swim in the ocean.

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A Cabbage Palm and the view towards the Tasman Sea near Cape Reinga.

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The lighthouse at Cape Reinga – this overlooks where the Pacific Ocean crashes into the Tasman Sea.

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An island off of Cape Maria van DIemen.

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The sunset view from Cape Reinga over the Tasman Sea.

The following morning we hiked from our tent to the lighthouse and then down to a deserted beach to the south of the lighthouse.  After a sweaty 13 mile hike, we stripped down and jumped into the Tasman Sea.

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A deserted beach south of Cape Reinga (aka Skinny Dip Beach)

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Hiking back to our campsite along the Te Paki Coastal Track – Kate is the little blue dot on the left side of the photo.

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A classic countryside view on the North Island.

Leaving the tip of the North Island, we headed south and stopped in the city of Kawakawa. Here Dan’s favorite artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, had designed a public toilet. This was the second building we have visited that was designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser. The first was the Quixote Winery in Napa, CA, with our great friends from WI. Most of his other buildings are in Europe which we can’t wait to see later this year!

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The famed Hundertwasser Toilets of Kawakawa! Friedensreich Hundertwasser was an Austrian painter and architect that spent the latter part of his life living in New Zealand – he is also one of Dan’s favorite artists!

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The outside of the Hundertwasser Toilets in Kawakawa. Hundertwasser was an eclectic architect that designed buildings as far ranging as power plants, gas stations, apartment buildings, wineries, and…toilets. He used bold colors and hated straight lines and was known for incorporating plants and trees into his buildings – notice the tree growing through the middle and the grass on the roof. This is his only structure in the southern hemisphere.

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Part of a Hundertwasser-inspired mural in Kawakawa that was painted by schoolchildren.

We continued south to camp on the beach (again 🙂 ) in Whananaki.  We took a day hike up to coastal open space and again encountered beautiful deserted beaches and spectacular scenery.

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Believe it or not, the colors in this picture are real – this was in a coastal open space area near Whananaki.

We headed to the Coromandel Peninsula yesterday (February 13th) and went on our first overnight trek to the Pinnacles Hut.  The hike up to pinnacles was pretty grueling.  It seemed like we climbed over thousand steps carved in stone straight up a mountain, but the view was an incredible 360 degrees of the Peninsula.  We stayed in the hut at the top and made the trek down today. Ouch our knees hurt!  We have settled in for the night at yet another beach campsite in Hahei.  Off to Rotorua tomorrow!

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Kate crossing the swinging bridge on the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail on the Coromandel Peninsula.

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Kate climbing the final stretch of The Pinnacles on the Kauaeranga Kauri Trail.

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A Kauri dam in the Coromandel Forest Park. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s these dams were constructed to hold water and giant Kauri logs until there were enough to open the floodgates, sending water and logs down to the valley bottom.

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Kate hiking along the tramline on the Billy Goat Track in Coromandel Forest Park. This line was used to transport Kauri logs down the mountain.

8 thoughts on “The Land of Green

    • Hi Joe – the further south we go the more like the PNW it will become – the north is semi-tropical. We’re watching the Cricket World Cup right now at a bar in Auckland….we don’t understand any of it 🙂

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  1. Dan, once again you proof that you should make money making photos. I think the picture of the sunset at Cape Reinga could sell fro at least a baziilion.
    In any case thanks for your updates, looking forward to the next ones. Save travels!

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    • Hi Nettie, there are so many weird huge trees here that have names that are really hard to pronounce and remember. The Kauri trees were unbelievably huge. We’re headed to the South Island tonight – sea kayaking this week!!

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