Northland

My friend Anil is currently in NZ having the time of his life. Last time around he was in Coromandel on a fishing expedition and now he’s in Northland. Here’s a transcript.

‘Hey dude, hope you are well and having a good summer back in Bombay. As for myself, I’m doing finer than ever. Autumn in New Zealand is indisputably the most beautiful time ever! The water’s just perfect, the people seem generally happier and the Maori’s keep laughing and rubbing noses with me wherever I go, it’s quite amusing altogether.

I’m currently up in Northland, a very pretty and culturally vibrant place. I think the ideal way to get to Northland is by car as it gives you a chance to check out the beaches. Northland has loads of places to stay at. I booked a room at Hotel Paihia [Qualmark rated, which means it’s good!]. Northland also seems to have the most amount of backpacking lodges. The town of Paihia is an ideal location to check out the island. On my first day, I took a cruise to the ‘Hole in the Rock’ at Cape Brett. Our guide said it was the best place to go swimming with dolphins, so I thought, ‘what the heck, why not! I’ve never touched a dolphin before!’ Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time as it was already close to sundown. I decided to go again the next day, but something else caught my fance back in the hotel. I met this guy at the lobby who conducts these horseback trails through the farmlands. I thought it sounded good, so the next morning I saddled up for a horse trek through the river valley! New Zealand’s a good place, it’s definitely not the kind of place you want to be doing things on your own, but I don’t have a choice and I’m not complaining, but seriously, two’s a company. Tomorrow I’m taking a ferry to Russell.’

Anil goes to Coromandel

‘Coromandel is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life,’ explains Anil with his signature childlike exuberance. Coromandel is about an hour and a half drive from Auckland airport. He strongly suggested taking the coastal Pacific Coast Highway from Auckland just for the added touch of scenery.

It’s autumn in NZ now, which is supposedly the best time to be travelling and checking out the places around. It’s quite a famous destination for the backpacking variety as its got loads of activities happening from sky diving to diving to bungy jumping.

During his travel, Anil has been collecting most of his information from the I Site visitor centres around NZ. These are essentially information centres on NZ’s travel, localities and activities in and around the city. Quite resourceful, I thought.

Coromandel has about 15 backpacker lodges and around 18 motels to pick from.

My friend, who I’m forced to call Penelope Pitstop for his delicate tastes, decided to stay at a fancy place called McGoo’s Retreat, a traditional Lockwood ranch style house with plenty of space for 5 people. He paid somewhere around $NZ 200.

‘If you’re born for the water, then Coromandel is your birthplace,’ writes Anil. ‘It’s just so unbelievably beautiful. On the first day itself, I went out on a boat trip and was hoping to do some fishing. My hotel put me in touch with Epic Adventures, which offer excellent guided fishing tours along the east coast. Coromandel is famous for its yellowtail kingfish and snapper fish. These guys at Epic fishing seriously know how to show people a good time! I got hooked up with a really cool sportslike fishing boat and even got my catch cooked! If you’re planning a trip here, you’ve got to check out Coromandel and look up Carl Muir of Epic Adventures. They’re based in Tairua. You take care dude, say hello to the wife and enjoy your dinner while I go back to eating some fresh kingfish!’

Anil’s NZ travels

My wife and I watched the film The Beach a couple of years ago and desperately wanted to go see Thailand after that. The same happened after watching Lord of the Rings; we were dying to see New Zealand. Has that happened to any of you?

My cousin Anil who has just recently moved to Auckland, NZ, went on a trip to a couple of the neighbouring towns and had quite a lot to report on.

Anil is an architect and amateur rugby player with a life mission to bungee jump off the Empire State building. I think that’s the most succinct description I can manage.

What I found interesting about Anil’s expeditions are his ‘Day in the Life’ touches of random drives, walks, etc. For instance, Anil’s first stop was a rural town called KatiKati, in the Bay of Plenty area, which is about a 30 minute drive from the town of Tauranga.

Katikati is also commonly called mural Town for its handpainted streets!

‘Katikati has a two kilometre Haiku Pathway,’ he writes, ‘which is a one of its kind in the world.’ The entire walkway is filled with boulders inscribed with haiku poetry written by local and Australian poets.

Anil stayed at the Cotswold Lodge Countrystay which boasts large kiwi fruit and avocado orchards. Cost of stay is approx $NZ 150 – 165, which is pretty reasonable he says. However, there is also a backpacker lodge in the area which is around $NZ 20 – 30.

The town is filled with murals, sculptures and paintings that depict the history of the place.

And here’s what got Anil [and me!] really kicked about the place – Matakana Island, which is one of NZ’s most popular surfing haunts. Anil hitched a ride on a boat to get to the island, which was his only option. He also visited the inner harbour side of Matakana island on a guided tour of historic sites and bbq lunch.

His next stop was Waihi, half an hour from Katikati. It’s interesting to note that Waihi has got the richest gold mine in the world producing about a million dollars worth of gold and silver every week. Apparently there’s a tour of the open pits conducted on weekdays by the mining company, which sounds quite exciting. His next stop was at Paeroa [5km] where he spent just a couple of hours at the Bullswool Farm Park which is a pretty popular picnic spot with unusual rare-breed farm animals for company!

Anil’s NZ travels to be continued.