Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tiki Touring to the Tasman Sea

 Nov. 18, 2012 – The Hokianga Ferry to the Tasman Sea

We spent yesterday, the 17th, mostly playing on the internet at a hotel, because it was pouring rain all day.  Spent a second night at our lovely and romantic scenic overlook, Atu te Uru, and then left Omapere and Opononi (the towns kind of run together) mid morning.  We drove through lovely hills (and dales) to Rawene, where we caught the Hokianga vehicle ferry across – crossing just about where the blue Hokianga Harbour waters merge with the very muddy Waihou River.  (This was a crazy ferry, sort of a low and flat barge that came almost up the concrete ramp, then lowered a metal ramp so everyone could drive up.)  We disembarked on the other side, at Kohukohu, although there didn’t seem to be much of anything there.

Drove along one of those roads that doesn’t seem to have a name on the maps, turned east to Mangamuka and drove north along the Mangamuka Gorge – more rugged hills, forests, and still the ever-present cattle and sheep ranches.  Finally arrived in Kaitaia, where we found a McDonald’s – NOT that we wanted to eat at McDonald’s (the only thing I like on their menu are the pancakes!) – but we had been told that all the McDonald’s have wifi, and we wanted to check in with family and friends.  Of course, THIS McD’s didn’t HAVE functioning wifi, they’re waiting for a new and updated part.  So we had a not-great lunch (here they serve lamb burgers! So that’s what I had, and it truly was McD’s mediocre) and headed southwest, to Ahipara.

Ahhhhhh, Ahipara!!!!  We’re at the sea, the Tasman Sea!!!  This town marks the beginning of Ninety Mile Beach (which is actually only 64 point something miles, or 103 kilometers – but the name Ninety Mile Beach has stuck).  Gorgeous wide and long beach, although much of the beach disappears at high tide – meaning that at low tide, there’s a huge swath of packed wet sand.  Which becomes a roadway.  Yup, people drive down roads that end at the beach, then drive onto the beach and zoom up and down the wet sand area.  Crazy, and probably horrible for the beach itself, not to mention the animals that may live or nest around here.  But at low tide, you can actually drive all 64 miles up the beach, getting on/off the beach at a variety of ramps specially built for driving access. 

We walked a bit along the beach, the wind (strong wind!) blowing dry sand in waves off the beach, the waves curling and crashing in white foam, the sea a lovely aqua blue.  The sand dunes are fenced off to allow natural restoration (I wish they’d do this to the beach, too) – but we had a nice walk in the sand, and I ran through the very shallow water, just to have touched the Tasman Sea.  Cold water, cold wind, but it was sunny and glorious, and the beach went on miles and miles and, well, almost forever from where we stood.

I found a small pile of abalone shells, which are used in Maori carvings (usually as inlay for accents) – and I collected a bunch of spirula shells, which were broken – I only found single curls, and the full shell is more of a double curl making a very flourishy S.  As Richard said, they look like some special pasta.  But I can absolutely see the shape of the shells in Maori designs – the S curl, the single curl which also looks like a fern fiddlehead or maybe a wave or maybe a feather, the interlocking spirals – it kind of makes sense, in an abstract way.
We’re staying at a campground, or holiday park as it’s called here – electricity, internet, bathrooms with hot showers, and other campers (and holiday-ers staying in cabins, or in the hostel on premises).  It’s kind of weird to have other people around, we were sort of spoiled by our isolated scenic overlook.  But it’s a beautiful spot, and we both are ready for a hot shower.  And maybe toasties for dinner – in American, that’s a grilled sandwich.

Oh, speaking of toasties – I have to add that there are some STRANGE foods here in New Zealand – I’ve seen cafés with toasties on the menu (not strange) with items like ham/cheese/pineapple toastie (strange) or cheese/pineapple/tomato/onion toastie (really strange) or my personal fave strange, a creamed corn toastie (yuck!).  

 Then there was the menu item of bacon, spaghetti, eggs, and chips (fries) – yup, doesn’t that sound like a great breakfast???  Eggs, bacon, French fries, and spaghetti????  
And then there are the crisps (potato chips) – it’s impossible to find unsalted chips.  Normal salted chips are difficult to find.  Mostly we see the cheddar cheese chips, sour cream and chive chips, chicken flavor chips (??), and in one store we actually saw lamb and mint jelly flavored potato chips!!!!!  OMG, can you imagine?????  That truly is frightening!!!

Okay, one more funny story – this morning we stopped for tea/coffee and muffins (no scones up here), and there were some other customers at the café.  One woman with an American accent ordered tea; the Maori waitress asked if she wanted milk in her tea; the woman responded, “Yes, leche.”  And I’m thinking, what the?????  Is she from southern California or Texas and assumes anyone with darker skin is Spanish speaking?  Is she so clueless that she doesn’t know people don’t speak Spanish in New Zealand??????  Oh my, no wonder we’re seen as ugly Americans!  It was funny in a very sad kind of way.

We may stay here tomorrow – or we may head north, up the cape.  I’ll sign off, and keep you updated with our travels as we can.

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