Monday, March 27, 2017

Road trip in North Island - Day 6

28 December 2016

The morning was extremely quiet. I pulled out myself from the tent for a short walk around the campsite. The nature around was still sleepy, the fog around the mountains, the morning dew still falling on the leaves, chilling stream of water flowing down. It was absolutely fantastic to be there at that moment. Every time I see the pictures of the stream, I relive those moments and it is just as enriching as it was when I was there. It was indeed a very special morning, I was very grateful that I could spend a night in such a pristine place.

Pristine it is
Today when I’m writing about it and recalling those moments, I feel I should have stayed in for another day in the camp, I’m not sure why I dint consider doing that. I wasn’t interested in driving north again to visit those busy beaches of coromandel, instead after having a muesli breakfast, I drove towards Karangahake gorge. I was there 3 weeks ago too, when I visited Auckland for a friend’s wedding. Well, the reason I wanted to stop here was to revisit a spot which had stayed with me during my previous visit and also, to enjoy wood fried pizza at Falls retreat. The pizzas are a must try.

That wood fried pizza man!!!

I reached Karangahape Gorge around 12 PM. I was already hungry, thinking about pizza and also the The Falls Retreat cafe is always quiet busy. I was at cafe around 1230 PM, I was attended after 45 mins (of course they clearly mentioned that the order will be taken only after 40 mins) and when I finally got my pizza it was 2 PM. I was starving by then and in no time I had hogged all except 3 slices. Not willing to push any further, I got that packed for the night.

This spot for some reason stayed with me
After this, I visited the spot I captured on my last visit, it was not more than a 10 mins walk. Who would want to walk after a heavy meal of this sort, atleast not me. I just wanted to find a cozy spot, get comfortable and take a nap. Just then, a random thought came in and like an adamant kid, refused to leave. I wanted to sit in a place where there is shade, the water flowing and there are birds around. Above this, I dint want to walk too long. I just kept walking ahead and came across a sign board for a waterfall in 700 mts. It seemed doable and it lead me to this remote corner, a steep section and I reached a small waterfall, hardly any water but a perfect shady place to rest. I sat there, searching for birds and after a while, one small bird flew right in front of my eyes as if it was there only for me. I now felt silly, for those stupid things I ask for. I sat there looking at the water and the bird occasionally, which were the only two things that were moving around me. I couldn’t gather courage to meditate here.

There was this water fall, enough shade and a small bird
After sitting there long enough, I returned to my car. It was around 5 PM now, too early to reach the campsite which is not too far off. I thought let me go early anyway, as there was nothing else to do. I reached Dickey Flat campsite in next 30 mins. The most crowded campsite, and what was wise planning again to reach early. There was hardly any space available to pitch a tent. Not what I expected, but no complaints, I found a small corner, next to the tree, pitched my tent. There was a stream running behind the camp, I got into my togs and took a dip. Washed myself and lazed around for a while. And I locked myself in the tent for the rest of the evening. It was so noisy, but I was busy with my books so nothing mattered.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Road Trip in North Island - Day 5

27 December 2017

I got my laundry done at a near by laundromart before heading down south. It would be a long day in the car as I was driving all the way to Coromandel. I started early so that I could visit a couple of places in Coromandel before calling it a day. The drive from Paihia to Whangarei was stunning. There was bit of congestion closer to Auckland was mostly on the State Highway. SH2 towards Coromandel was mostly long stretches of roads, where I could blindly drive without needing to apply breaks for very long stretches. I sat back and stretched myself as I drove and listened to music on my iPod, driving on long straight roads can be boring but a good idea to stretch. The last bit of the roads were windy and kept me on my toes, as always I enjoyed driving this bit.

I had some kichdi packed for lunch from yesterday’s night. I pulled over at a nice lookout point for lunch and a good stretch. It was around 5:30 pm when I reached Coromandel. With long day light, there was still lot of sun and I drove towards Cathedral Cove and Hot water beach. Both the beaches are on the eastern coast and not too far away from each other. From my research, I was told that these places will be very busy, and the hot water beaches has a narrow window of time during which only you can enjoy the hot pools. I dint want to miss Cathedral Cove, so drove there first, and looking at the time I dint have time to visit both the beaches the same day. 

Parking for Cathedral Cove was almost a couple of kilometres away but I tried my luck to find one at the smaller parking lot and drove all the way to the top and to my surprise there was one last parking space available. Life is made so easy for you. The view was stunning from here, the walk to the beach down there to the cove was about 40 mins walk. It was an extremely hot day, but the walk was inside the bush which made it easy. There were heaps of people all along the walk and by the time I reached the cove the sky was dark navy blue sky the sun stayed on the opposite side of the beach. The water was cold with high tides. 

I dint have any idea where I was staying for the night. All I knew was that there are 4 campsites on the northern tip of Coromandel Peninsula and I wanted to stay in one of those. I also knew that they need prior booking as it was a busy time. These thoughts occupied me as I was returning to the car. I waited until I reached the car to find out how far these campsite were. It was easily couple of hours drive to any of these campsites, thanks to the windy roads. Also there was some uncertainty on the availability, so I rang the i-site to find out. No answer. I was slightly disappointed and searched for other campsites down south closer to where I was. Broken Hills campsite was 47 mins drive from Cathedral Cove, I was not very convinced but there wasn’t any option left. 

I drove south west, pretty much the same way I had come. After a point I had to turn right into Puketi Valley, one of the finest and most pristine places on this trip. It was gravel road with beautiful landscape in all directions. The tall mountains on the far end of the east, the rivers, the bridges, the farms, everything on the way convinced me that it was not a very idea coming here. At some stage, it almost felt like I was lost and wouldn’t make to the camp before dark. I could recall a similar ride to Turtuk few years back. I finally made it to the camp around 8:30 PM and there was still daylight at the camp as it was on the western side of the peninsula. Before I could pitch my tent and settle in, I found myself staring at the tall mountain and realised that I always dreamt of staying in a place like this, in a forest amidst mountains. At this point, once again, I was left dumbstruck at the way the nature understands every small dreams and fulfils them for you. I was filled with gratefulness.

Broken Hills campsite
There were not too many people at the camp. I cooked my dinner and made some warm milk before I hooked onto the books inside my tent. After staying in a busy city, a long and adventurous drive, a long walk up and down the cove, this was the best thing that could happen to me. I felt so peaceful sleeping in the tent that night.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Road Trip in North Island - Day 4

26 December 2016

After paying for the campgrounds at the local grocery stores, I drove down towards KeriKeri. I was so looking forward to this place for some unknown reason. It was an amazing drive once I was off SH1. This small town of KeriKeri has a rich history and you are bound to fall in love with its beauty. I drove to Rainbow falls around 11 am. I was curiously looking for a way to head to the back of the falls. As I got near the falls, there was this board with couple of walks and I imagined one of them would lead me to the back of the falls, though, they headed in the opposite direction. I started walking hoping that at some point there would be a bridge to cross the stream to walk back towards the falls. As I walked past no such bridges for a while, I was not very sure if I was on the right track. A passer by said yes it would, while the second one I asked said no. Instead, she said that this path would take me to Stone store. It was a 4 hour walk return. And I had not come prepared for this, however I had by now walked almost half way. So I searched for Stone store images on google and the images encouraged me to continue walking.

Stone store was originally built to store and sell produces from the farms. And till today, they have preserved those huge storages for displaying. Some of them, like the rice storage racks, were similar to what I remember seeing in Kavi Mane in KuppaLi. Quiet possible, as both countries were British colonies, at some stage. The architecture of this stone store was stunning. And the day was so sunny and gorgeous that it was worth the walk.

It was 2 pm when I returned to the falls. And this time, I saw few people who had ventured to the back of the falls, but I was too tired to walk any longer. I returned to my car, had some trail food, almost giving up the idea to visit the falls. At that moment, I recalled one of my experiences of walking to the top of Onake Abbi falls in Agumbe, it was hard to miss another such opportunity. I got back to the falls and by then these people were returning. As expected, I had to cross the stream. With my hiking boots on, I ventured in and walked up the trees to reach the falls, the soil was moist making it quiet slippery. At some places I had crawl on all fours as there was not much clearing to stand upright. I clicked enough pictures and for a moment, I was standing there watching the water fall right in front of me. It was once again a magical experience watching every drop of water falling down and your eyes trying to race with the water as it drops.

After spending about 15 mins, I was back at my car with soaking wet boots. I drove into the town, hoping to grab a good lunch. The city was deserted because of Boxing day and not a single resturaunt was open. I managed to grab a subway bar and drove to Bay of Islands. I reached the Treaty of Waitangi grounds around 4 pm. This is where the British and Maori signed the Treaty and eventually the government was formed. Most interesting section in the museum is the movie which enacts the treaty and its developments. Also during Summer, there are Hangi & Concert which gives an insight into the Maori culture and you get to watch the Haka performance.

The treaty ground is huge and has amazing bush walks along the coast. As I was passing by a bush, I was greeted with a small family of birds (I couldn't recognise the bird), two adults and 5-6 yong ones. I had never seen anything like this before. The only little ones I had seen in the past were chicken, reared chickens. Seeing young ones in their habitat was a rare sight and I was so fascinated watching them run behind the adults. I stood watching them as long as they were in sight.

Bay of Islands is a busy city. After staying at quiet campsites for last few days, coming to the town din't seem good. The city was buzzing with tourists and ironically, I felt bored for the first time on this trip.  However, for the fact that I needed a hot shower and had to do my laundry, I preferred staying in the city. I checked into YHA and enjoyed a hot shower. And took a stroll to the beach in the evening, returned to my room right away not liking the vibe. I cooked some dinner and mostly stayed in my bed for the rest of the evening reading and meditating.