Transsexual aliens and sideways waterfalls

Spectacular sunset New Zealand

After nearly two months of exploring New Zealand’s south island, the time has finally come for us to return to the north island.

We’ve already visited quite a few of the major attractions here, including the Tongariro National Park, the East Cape, Mount Taranaki and Rotorua, but there were a few places that we missed last time round.

Most notable of these was Northland – home to massive sand dunes and the spiritual Cape Reinga – which is the subject of this post. There were, however, a few things that we still wanted to see, dotted around the north island, that we decided to take in this time round. In a vague south to north order, these were:

See a Kiwi

After nearly a year in New Zealand, it has become somewhat of an embarrassment not to have seen the national symbol of the country. The bird this is, not the fruit. Or indeed, the people. Ruminations as to what came first: the bird or the fruit, aside, our quest to see an actual real life Kiwi has been hampered by the fact that they are rare, nocturnal, and incredibly shy. Factors which do not add up to an easy sighting experience.

The only way to guarantee a Kiwi sighting therefore is to find one that is captive. There are a number of places where Kiwi breeding programmes are underway, and for a small fee, you can wander in and see the Kiwis wandering around and looking all furry and cute. The fee also goes towards saving these birds – a noble effort to prevent this iconic species becoming extinct as a result, naturally, of mans awesome ability to mess up an environment. Largely, in this case, as a result of introduced predators.

Kea Alpine Parrot - Not a Kiwi

So we found a Kiwi house, where the night / day cycle is reversed, and got up close and personal with a male and female Kiwi. Kiwi are, it has to be said, very cute, with a giant bill and fluffy feathers.

I would have some photos to share, but it being a nocturnal environment, I have none. Imagine a long billed creature with furry feathers wandering around inquisitively, and you’ve pretty much got the picture. As it is, a picture of the Kea, New Zealand’s endangered, and deadly to automobile trim, alpine parrot, will have to do.

Visit the Huka Falls

Despite the Huka falls being practically on our doorstep for nearly eight months, we somewhat failed to visit them. It’s always the way. As they were on our route this time, we made the effort to stop off and see them.

Huka Falls New Zealand

Unlike your standard waterfall, which mostly impresses as a result of height, the Huka Falls are famous for their volume. Water is channelled down a narrow gorge, before bursting down a chasm as a raging torrent to the river below.

Whilst the drop itself, at eleven metres, isn’t much to write home about, the sheer amount of water (220,000 litres a second)flying over the waterfall is mightily impressive, particular given the bizarre shade of blue that it is. One to see. Even if it’s raining.

Inspect Richard O’Brien’s statue

Sometimes, quite frankly, New Zealand is a deeply odd place. To my mind, Richard O’Brien was a chap who hosted a TV show in the UK called the Crystal Maze, which was very popular in the eighties, and involved putting contestants through a number of exciting challenges in a very elaborate studio.

Richard o brien statue hamilton

It turns out that he was also responsible for penning a little play called the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which I have been led to understand is fairly popular.

All of this still largely fails to explain, to my mind at least, why there is a life sized statue of him in the town of Hamilton. I know Hamilton doesn’t really make it onto the tourist map of New Zealand, and the guide books aren’t totally full of praise for the place, but I’m not sure that a statue of Richard O’Brien is going to help change this. Having said that, it was the only reason we visited the place, so maybe it is working.

As it is, Vera was very excited by the whole thing, being more of an aficionado of the subject than I. Mountains and scenery be damned, this bronzed statue of a transsexual alien was the highlight of her time in New Zealand. Moving on…

Raglan and surrounds

If you are a surfer, then the town of Raglan is the sort of place that you talk of in hushed whispers. There is a beach here which is supposedly home to the longest left hand break in the world. I read this verbatim from the guide book, as despite meeting many surfer type folk in my travels, the lingo continues to mean very little to me.

Waterfall from top

If you’re not a surfer, then the town of Raglan is a relaxed place to hang out and be confused by a lot of surfer talk, whilst wondering why the beach is so far out of town that you have to drive there.

We did drive there, and watched a whole lot of surfers having fun in what, admittedly, did look to be some pretty awesome waves. Awesome, cold, waves. It’s Winter here. The sea isn’t too warm.

The Raglan area is also home to a whole world of caves and waterfalls, some of which we popped in to see. These have impressive names, and even more impressive vistas, and as I’m a sucker for a decent waterfall, we took in quite a few. Marvellous.

Waterfall

Hot Water at Kawhia

If you are in the Raglan area, then a visit to the town of Kawhia is highly recommended. As well as being somewhat more on the sleepy, less surfer filled, side, it also comes with its own version of the Hot Water Beach that you can find up on the Coromandel Peninsula. Only, this one happens to be deserted, and backed by huge black sand dunes. To make your own private spa bath you’ll need a shovel, and low tide. Neither of which we had. Plus it was raining. Ah, Winter.

Beach storm girl wood sky

And that was that for our trip between Wellington and Auckland. The last part of our New Zealand road trip is the trip around the very far north – which, happily, is also the warmest place to spend a New Zealand winter. More on that soon!




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