What do you think of when you hear ‘Northlands’?
How about ‘The Far North’?
Believe us, it is just about as remote as it sounds. Although not quite Elephant-Graveyard-from-The-Lion-King, it’s pretty darned isolated.
Having left the sunny surfing climes of the Russell and Paihia, we moved west towards the Hokianga Harbour. Only about 2 hours drive from the tourist trap Bay of Islands, this area feels wholly different – almost as though it has evolved on it’s own, completely independent of the mainstream. The we-aint-seen-new-blood-in-here-for-years tone was set at Ngawha Hot Springs, where we drove in, freaked out at the weathered sheds and dirty, smelly, bubbling pools of natural hot water, and promptly turned around and drove out again.
*Confession*: Over-active imagination Imogen (‘It was too much like Deliverance‘) was definitely more scared than Celyn.
We perked up though. For a start, the 10-minute ferry ride from Rawene (population 440) to Kohukohu (population 190 – does that go up to 192 if we stay there?) was beautiful. Streaming rays of sun bounced off the thick, brown water of the channel (which eventually turns into the Tasman sea) and our little chugging vehicle ferry powered it’s way between the two piers. We found a place to sleep at The Tree House, a true rainforest lodge which we shared with ducks, doves and the odd Tui if we were lucky. This was a find. As the concept of time seems to have been left somewhere on the other side of the water, we inevitably ended up staying for longer than planned.
This did, however, give us a chance to explore the town of Kohukohu. Heralded as the ‘last fully-preserved Victorian village in New Zealand’, we decided to spend the night at quaint little Coke (as it is known to the locals). Nice place. Nice night. But there was one thing that we noticed about the town, which in fact echoed with our impression of Russell.
It just didn’t seem that old.
Were we disappointed? Not sure. Perhaps we, as European citizens, are spoilt by the abundance of staggeringly impressive historical buildings right on our doorstep, or maybe we are grossly uneducated about the history of NZ, but we can’t help but feel a little bit … indifferent to the late 19th-century architecture and grid-square layouts of the towns that we have come across. However, we know that we didn’t travel across the world to compare European and Oceaniac architecture, and as has already been proven, our breath has been taken away by the more than impressive natural scenery. Verdict? Let’s stop complaining, start educating ourselves, and get outdoors!
One last point about the Northlands? EVERY ONE IS EVEN NICER THAN THE NICE PEOPLE THAT WE CAME ACROSS IN AUCKLAND! Serious. There’s something in the water or something. Staying at hippy-haven we met (and were fed by) a great group of Frenchies as well as coming across Phil-from-Tredegar working on the ferry. There were also the two German hitchhikers who entertained us from the Hokianga Harbour all the way back down to Auckland. Nice NICE nice.
Chet Faker, Cigarettes and Chocolate
Courtesy of Patrick and Timon – standard German guys having an unbelievably good taste in electronic music. JAH!