When I left the hostel in Kaitaia I first spent some time lounging in the library to check some stuff on the internet. After that I had to cover quite a bit of a distance on foot to reach the end of the town, as the library lies on the opposite end of Kaitaia.
I found a reasonably good spot near the Pak'nSave, and there I put down my pack and stuck out my thumb.
As has been customary for New Zealand so far I didn't have to wait long for a ride to show up. A man named Ian pulled over and offered to drive me to Awanui, where he dropped me off at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, a place where they make sculptures out of old Kauri tree logs. Kauri trees are a native tree from New Zealand that can grow up to 50 meters in height, and are big enough the rival the Sequoia trees from California. Naturally the base of the trees can be absolutely massive in circumference. The Ancient Kauri Kingdom aptly showed that off by carving out a staircase inside one of the Kauri logs and using it to guide people upstairs to the second floor of their building.
Ian told me he often offered hitchhikers a place to stay but had a too busy weekend ahead of him to be a good host. That was fine with me, as I wanted to continue north anyway, but it was nice to get such an offer. Instead Ian gave me a can of cola and bourbon before he said goodbye and drove off to home.
After I had wandered around the Ancient Kauri Kingdom for a while and checked out some of the cool sculptures and their massive tree staircase I once again picked up my pack and moved down the road to find a spot with enough room for cars to pull over, about a 100 meters further up the road.
Outside the Ancient Kauri Kingdom
The entrance to the staircase
The top of the staircase
A look at the workshop through a window
As you can see they also made smaller works of art
I spent about 20 minutes there I think before another car pulled over. The fateful car that would lead to new friendships and a 6-week delay to reaching Cape Reinga. In the car were Mark and Sally, and though I didn't know it yet, over the next few weeks they would become my friends.
If I remember correctly they were going to take me to Houhora, but before we got there we had a quick stop at Houhora Heads to have a look at the great view down there. There's a campground or something like that down there, lying next to a river flowing out to the ocean, and a big mountain opposite of it. When we left there they told me I wouldn't be able to make it to Cape Reinga anymore that day, as it was already getting quite late in the day and the sun would be setting pretty soon. They offered me a place to stay for the night, and I accepted it.
When we got to their place I got to meet their dog Ivy, of who I was told she didn't quite get along with everybody. I have a bit of a natural affinity for dogs though, and I know how to behave and introduce myself to most of them, and so it was with Ivy too. I kneeled down and let her come to me and sniff my hand, and soon enough I was accepted, to the great enjoyment of Mark and Sally.
I also got to meet their three cats, as well as their two horses and their 51 ducks when we walked down the property to feed them. It was immediately clear they loved their animals, and I learned that both of them had done work for the SPCA. We sat outside the rest of the night talking and drinking cans of cola and bourbon as the base for a new friendship was established.
Outside the house
Another look at the house from afar
The next morning day I kind of hung around with them without any established plans of getting me out of there, and I met the owner of the property and some of the other people who lived there in caravans I met along the way of my stay there. And I also learned that they were expecting a couple to arrive and do some WWOOF'ing that first day. For those of you who don't know what that is, WWOOF stands for Willing Workers On Organic Farms, and it is a website that allows people to arrange a place to stay and eat for free in exchange for a few hours of work each day after which the helpers are free to do what they wish with the rest of their day.
A girl called Naomi arrived first, and her boyfriend Bruno arrived several days later. He wanted to do some more camping up near Cape Reinga. She was from the United States, but Bruno is from Belgium. They had met during his trip to the States, and while he had to move back to Belgium for a little while and she traveled to New Zealand ahead of him, they met back up here and traveled together for several months.
As they started their WWOOF'ing work I wanted to help out too, to repay some of the kindness Mark and Sally had showed me, and that's how I ended up working there the same as Naomi and Bruno were. It's funny because I had already been looking into WWOOF'ing myself but couldn't sign up for it without a creditcard (it costs 40 dollars to sign up, and 25 dollars yearly to renew your membership), and simply by hitchhiking I ended up doing it anyway.
I wasn't a WWOOF'er officially, and Mark and Sally told me I only had to do as much as I wanted to do, but I helped out everywhere I could. I don't like sitting on my ass while others do all the work.
In the two weeks they were there we did all kinds of jobs: we planted flax, dug up the soil of the vegetable garden, reinforced the fencing around it to protect against the roaming ducks who like a bit of vegetables too, cut down trees from among the bamboo groves and removed fallen bamboo stalks, cleaned the duck pen, removed trash from the property and took down an old chicken coop, among other things I'm currently forgetting. We even did some impromptu firefighting...
What happened was there was this hill on the property that the land-owner wanted cleared for the planting of flax. In order to do that, there was quite a bit of wood that needed to be burned first, and the official in charge had signed off for it that day, despite the day being quite dry and windy.
The fire was started, and all was ok for a while. We were sitting down by the house when one of the other property residents came running over shouting that the fire had jumped the dirt road and was spreading. We rushed to get some blankets and wetted them down so we could throw them over some of the fires without them catching fire too, and we rushed over some buckets as well.
There was a digging machine at work too that quickly started digging a fire trench to stop it from spreading any further. And so we set to work. We got buckets full of water out of a nearby pond and rushed around putting out fires and preemptively wetting down other places.
After some time of this the fire was being controlled and was slowly dying out. We kept an eye on it for the rest of the day, but no other incidents occurred.
Part of the intended fire
The digger at work digging a fire trench.
The other side of the road. As you can see the fire was spreading through the bamboo. It burned along the bamboo groves at a really fast pace.
Eventually a firetruck showed up, and it stayed there for quite a few days.
Me sitting in the fire truck. One of the days the truck was there Bruno and me walked back from a job we were doing when I noticed a small bird had gotten stuck in the cabin. How it got there we didn't know as all the doors and windows were closed. We opened the doors so it could get out, but it kept bumping into the windows in the back of the cabin. So Bruno climbed in through in between the seats and managed to gently catch it. He handed it back to me because I was standing in the doorway, and after I took it I stepped outside and released the bird. Feel-good moment of the day!
One of the coolest things to happen while we were all there was the occurrence of a blood moon.
The night sky was perfectly clear with not a cloud in sight, and because the area we were in is some distance from any town there was no light pollution to keep the stars from sight. There were thousands of them, and in the middle of all that the moon, over which the Earth's shadow was slowly sliding and turning it red. We had a big bonfire to keep us warm as we watched this rare phenomenon, and at that moment I decided I was going to sleep out under the stars that night. I didn't end up doing it because I had the good idea of checking the weather report when I got back to the house to get my gear. I didn't like the odds of a 100% chance of rain in the early early morning, and so with a bit of disappointment I slept inside. I tried taking pictures but unfortunately the camera is no good at night and you really can't see anything.
Another time Mark and Sally took us out to a beach to look for seafood and cool shells on the shore.
The weather wasn't good and we got quite soaked as Naomi, Bruno and me sat on the back of the pick-up truck with Ivy, and I was chilled to the bone by the time we made it back to the house with buckets full of seafood and shells for the garden. That night we sat inside around a fire stove with hot tea, and I was glad we went out after all. It was a good night.
While we planted flax I also made friends with Lenny, the son of Paul, who owned the property.
A shared interest and love of videogames goes a long way, and soon we were making jokes and fucking around with eachother. We also spent an evening shooting a pellet gun with Bruno, and that was quite fun. I still have a pretty good aim, I found.
After two weeks Naomi and Bruno moved on. They were bound for Australia, which is where they are now. By that time the work also kind of dried up, but Mark, Sally and me got along really well and I kept hanging around having a good time with them.
I kept helping where I could, and one day Mark took me out to show me where he fished (he is a commercial fisherman). We set out a net which he was going to get back the following day, so it was a pretty short trip, but a nice one. I took some nice pictures of that outing too.
Mark steering the boat
The clouds were playing tricks on the water. It looked awesome, and almost as if photoshopped.
On this picture we're setting out the net. Mark has his game face on :)
On the way back we went through some cool looking groves.
By this time I also learned more about their relationship with Paul, which was deteriorating. They wanted to move to another place in the space of a week or two, and I decided to stick around to help them with moving. This was a pretty uneventful period of relaxation and hanging out.
At one point one of Mark's old friends stayed for a few days, and he was a really cool guy who got along with Ivy even quicker than I did.
Scruff, Mark and me in a picture Sally called 'the three bearded gentlemen' :-)
One day I joined Mark and Sally on a trip back to Ahipara, where the local school was holding a gala.
Sally works for Ahipara Horse Treks, and they were there to offer children a ride around on horseback. I arrived there a little later after a detour to Kaitaia with Mark, and I was just in time to catch a performance of a local group of children singing songs and performing the haka, which I captured on camera with my iPod. It was really cool to see, and I wish we had something like the haka back home. We do lame school-plays instead... give me the war dance any day haha.
The last song
In my time here I also learned to drive New Zealand style, which is on the left side of the road instead of on the right side like in Europe. The cars are also different in that the driver now sits on the right side instead of the left, and so my first instinct when I was shifting gears was to grab the door to my right instead of the stick shift to my left, but I got a hang of it and I drove Sally's car during the second day of moving.
On the last sunday there I went online on Skype for the weekly call home, and was nicely surprised when I saw my grandmother and uncle and aunt sitting there with my mom and dad. My sister joined in a bit later (sleepyhead!).
It was cool to see them again after the slightly over two months that I've now been in New Zealand, and I could tell it was especially doing my grandmother a lot of good to see me again.
I took a quick screenshot before we said goodbye and hung up :-).
After the six weeks spent with Mark and Sally it was time to move on though. They were moved to a new place, and it was a fitting moment for me to move too.
In the time I spent there I became well acquainted with everybody living on the property, and the people there told me I had become a bit like family because I fit in really well. I also got along really well with a wonderful little three-year old boy called Ray, who took advantage of every opportunity to hang around and play with me. And here I thought I lost my charm with little children haha.
After we moved the last of Mark and Sally's stuff I got a ride back up to Houhora with Maya, Ray's mother. I camped outside of her caravan for the night because it was already dark by the time we got back. The next morning she drove me up to the store in Houhora, where she dropped me off to resume my journey.
In closing this chapter of my story I want to take this opportunity to thank Mark and Sally.
As I wrote in the guest-book, I loved staying with you. You always made me feel welcome and included in every conversation, and for that I will always consider you my friends. Thank you for your kind hearts. Meeting people like you is why I fell in love with hitchhiking.
After I said goodbye to Maya and Ray that morning at the store I almost immediately got offered a ride who could only take me a few kilometers to some spot in the middle of nowhere. I thanked him but declined, waiting for a longer ride. I got one about 15 minutes later from Jayson, who happened to go all the way to Cape Reinga on a fishing trip, and with that was the only ride of the day.
We had a pleasant conversation in which I did most of the talking, mostly about where I was from and the Frisian stories and legends like Koning Radboud and Grutte Pier, which he found interesting.
When we eventually made it to the cape Jayson had a look around from the parking lot but didn't feel like walking down to the lighthouse which I found a bit confusing as he had never been up there before, but he offered to wait for me as I had a look around. I thought he was trustworthy so I let my pack stay in his car as I went off for the walk down the Cape, which is about a 5-minute walk from the parking lot. I spent some time looking around and taking pictures, and having seen what I wanted to see I walked back to the parking lot.
The view from near the parking lot.
The lighthouse of Cape Reinga
The coolest thing about Cape Reinga in my opinion is that it's the meeting point of two oceans.
You've got the Tasman Sea to west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. The whirlpool you can see in the picture above is where the oceans meet. The waves are moving towards eachother, creating the whirlpool. The Maori refer to this place as the meeting of Te Moana-a-Rehua, 'the sea of Rehua' with Te Tai-o-Whitirea, 'the sea of Whitirea', Rehua and Whitirea being a male and a female respectively.
They represent the coming together of male and female, and thus the creation of life.
Me at the cape
There is more Maori mythology associated with Cape Reinga.
According to this mythology the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife to leap off the headland and climb the roots of the 800-year old pohutukawa tree and descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, using Te Ara Wairua, 'the Spirit's Pathway'. At Cape Reinga they depart the mainland. They turn briefly at the Three Kings Islands for one last look back towards the land, and then continue on their journey.
When I got back I did some reading before deciding to make dinner, which consisted of the traditional two packs of noodles. Unfortunately my lighter didn't work anymore. Two new cars had shown up though, and I walked over to them to borrow a match. After I returned the pack of matches I invited the new people to the picknick table I was sitting at. There wasn't any other one around and they were making food too, so I figured they could use a place to sit to eat other than their cars.
And so after they were done preparing their food they walked on over and sat down with me. Jayson was still out fishing and didn't come back untill much later, well after the sun had gone down.
The 6 new people were all around my age and consisted of a couple from Belgium, two girls from Malaysia and two girls from Taiwan. We spent the night talking about our travels and the things we had done and seen so far in New Zealand, and we had a great time. We had a lot of laughs. At around 11:00 they said goodnight and retreated to sleep in their cars.
Sunset at the Spirits Bay camping grounds
When I woke up, Jayson had already left, and so had the couple from Belgium and the other girls in their car. I was alone in the middle of nowhere, and the weather had turned to shit. A new car had arrived early in the morning but nobody was around. The fog was hanging thick and low, my tent covered wet from all the dew, and I felt pretty shit after sleeping so poorly and after that quick look-around in the morning. I decided to go back inside the tent and lied there for awhile, just spending some time thinking and looking at a new swarm of mosquitoes trying to breach the inner tent. After a while I did some reading, as I still couldn't sleep.
After a few hours I heard somebody coming back to the car and I talked to the guy for some time. I learned that he wasn't alone, but he had taken his young nephew out to fish. He just got something from the car and went back to the fishing. Some time later he and his nephew returned, having given up on catching any fish that day.
I asked them if they were willing to give me a ride back up, as the camping grounds was about 15 kilometers away from the main road, and even further away from everything else. I was in luck, as they were going back to Kaitaia and the man was willing take me along.
It was a long ride but I had an interesting conversation with the man about all kinds of things, eventually ending up at politics. He became quite vocal then, telling me about his hatred for the government. He was living by himself off the grid, not wanting to have anything to do with the government or most other people, and he had spent most of his life being nomadic, always moving around to new places all over New Zealand, always getting bored pretty quick of his current location.
He was thinking about traveling abroad, maybe to Asia, but more likely to Europe to look at the old castles and places like that. I told him he should and that he would have a great time.
He dropped me off in front of the Hike and Bike Hostel in Kaitaia, and there I had my first shower in 4 days in which I sweated quite a lot. The shower was quite welcome indeed, though it restarted all the itches from all the mosquito bites all over again.
And that's where I am again right now: sitting in the Kaitaia library, nearly 7 weeks after I last sat here writing my last post. The next goal will be the Bay of Islands, either tomorrow or the day after.
Until next time!