8 February 2014
From Piha Beach via
Helensville and Whangarei
to Russell (Bay Of Islands)
After it has been raining quite a lot in the night it is dry when we get out of bed. The first full day in New Zealand at a campsite near the already famous beach of Piha Beach. Famous for us because we've seen that beach often on television. It is almost 10 o'clock in the morning and we have to leave the camp site before 10 o'clock otherwise you have to pay for an extra day. However, there appears to be a power failure, so the lever at the entrance of the Holiday Park cannot be opened. They removed a chain between two poles and with 5 cm space on each side I wring the Campervan - with the help of Karin - through that gate. We succeeded and I park the Campervan on a public lawn near the beach. First over a pedestrian bridge and then over the dunes and there we are on the black volcanic beach of Piha Beach and we see the impressive Lion Rock on our right hand. He does not seem so big until we are at the beach and we see he is really big, and indeed has the shape of a reclining lion.
Video Piha Beach with Lion Rock
Right in the middle of the beach are the two dinghies to pluck up and the well-known flags are placed on the beach to tell all that bathing and swimming must be between those flags. The weather forecast was not very favourable, so it will not become a busy day at Piha Beach near Auckland. We walk towards the two dinghies. Strange, if you've already seen them in two series of 10 parts on TV, and now you're standing next to them. Two lifeguards are driving in their special vehicle towards a few people who want to launch a boat into the sea, they get out of their car and they help push and pull till the boat is at the right spot.
The beach at Piha Beach is and remains a strange beach for Dutch people. The beach is in fact volcanic black and if you want to sit (on the upper section) then it's difficult to get the black dirt out of your clothes. The part where the tide has its influence the beach is lighter and the normal sand it dominates the beach ... (almost). We walk on a lovely beach were gradually the sky clears and the sun comes through the clouds.
On the way back we walk along the beach post of the Piha Beach Rescue Unit. I see that there are placed two cameras on the beach post. I walk to it and make a little chat. There is also a cameraman who tells us that they are now working on the filming of season 11 for the New Zealand television. I told him that we have seen only two seasons on Dutch Television. He also told me his boss, the director, is a Dutchman. Funny. After one last look, we leave the "famous" beach and walk back through a dune changeover to the motorhome. Again we are spontaneously approached by a couple of New Zealanders who talk with us about my All Blacks Shirt, our cameras and our campervan. Nice, cosy, this is how it goes in New Zealand. Almost everyone greets everyone kindly and sincere. Back at the Campervan, we see that we have spent a lovely 1.5 hours in the open air.
It's 12 o'clock and we are leaving Piha Beach for a long drive to Russell in the Bay Of Islands. Again driving the same narrow road up the mountain ... we see behind us now Piha Beach beautiful in the sun but there are so many hairpins and always bushes at wrong places that it is impossible to get a good picture of it. Too bad, but we are not taking risks and bring other drivers in danger by irresponsible actions. Back at Waiatarua we take the Twin Coast Discovery Highway; The name already implies, sometimes you can see the West Coast and sometimes the East Coast. Between Taupaki and Kumeu we suddenly see Auckland in all its glory, complete with Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower and Rangitoto Island. Unfortunately, it is a bit hazy, so I could not make great photos from this spot.
The road we drive today from Piha Beach via Helensville and the Kaipara Harbour to Wellsford is also a part of the Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
At a viewpoint at the Kaipara Forest we can look out over Kaipara Harbour. We make coffee and enjoy a small pause. If we arrive at Wellsford we take Highway 1 we become in a familiar territory. The route to Wellsford is much more beautiful and more diverse than we had thought. In short, you are losing time, but it's definitely worth it. In Wellsford we just made a short stop in which Karin bought something to eat for lunch.
On Highway 1 we drive towards Whangarei and halfway we make a stop at a parking lot near Urititi Beach that has a campsite. It's a lovely view from this parking lot at campsite, beach and magnificent blue ocean. Then you'll already pretty smooth near Whangarei, where you have a beautiful view of Whangarei Harbour during the last descent to Whangarei. Whangarei is a fairly expansive city. The beauty of New Zealand is that you always go through every town and village instead - as in Netherlands - around it. Advantage is a lovely relaxing way to travel and see continuously villages and towns with almost all detached houses and little high rise. So you will always pass most of the supermarkets. A few kilometres after we left Whangarei, we see, at the last moment, a branch of Fonterra New Zealand. A dairy scattered through many parts of New Zealand and they are building a new branch in Heerenveen, along the A7 towards Drachten. It will become a huge complex when its ready.
An hour later, we take near Kawakawa Highway 11 and at 17:30 we take the exit to Opua Harbour and drive without any problems as the last car on the ferry who leaves immediately. Beautiful weather, plenty of sunshine and pleasant temperatures. Unfortunately, the crossing takes only a minute or 7-8 and then we can get to the other side of the peninsula on which Russell, today's final destination is located.
After fifteen minutes we drive into the village of Russell and we go first to the largest of the two supermarkets in Russell, but even that one is very small. Russell was the city of the first permanent European settlement in New Zealand. In the early 19th century, traders and whalers came ashore at Russell because is has an ideal natural harbour and Russell became the first commercial centre of New Zealand. It grew rapidly and in 1840 it was briefly the capital of New Zealand.
Video Ferry Opua - Russel
Then we drive to the Russell Top 10 Holiday Park where we have already been in 2011 and where I, already a few weeks earlier, booked a power site with bay-view. It's more expensive the a normal power site but it's more than worth it, looking from your campervan over the Bay of Islands. I was in the office to check in while Karin was invited by the owner of the Holiday Park for a cup of coffee in the home behind the office. After checking in, I'm joining Karin and the owner for a coffee and we have a nice chat with the owner who has a real Maori Paddle and he explained that he had the paddle in his possession as the eldest of his family. After the coffee and saying goodbye we went to our site and Karin cooked our meal in the always cosy shared kitchen. A meeting place where everyone can cook their own meals. After dinner to bed, tomorrow morning at 6 am the alarm clock goes, yes yes it's the holidays. We take a bus to the utmost north of New Zealand; Cape Reinga.
Video view from Holiday Park at Bay Of Islands