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Easter Weekend Route 12E

The next day we took our time packing up our gear and headed further north and deeper into the forest. We stopped to take a short hike to see the 7th oldest Kauri tree in New Zealand and pick up a post card for my aunt. It was a pretty damned big tree. A cool thing about trees that big in New Zealand is that they literally have other plants growing off of them (not growing up the, but growing off of them).

7th Oldest Kauri Tree in NZ

After getting some photos with of big trees we pushed on North to Opononi to the famed sand dunes.  As we emerged from the jungle in our little blue go-kart the ocean opened up before us and provided an awesome view of the dunes across the bay. Not willing to miss a photo opportunity we stopped for pictures. We got the pictures, and left, unbeknownst to us we left our camera at the scenic vantage point.

After leaving the vantage point we headed down into the town, had some greasy burgers for lunch and checked out the visitors center for souvenirs to send home. While we were at the visitors center a lady accosted us frantically asking something about a photo. We didn’t know what she was talking about. Travis thought she was a well dressed homeless lady short some marbles and told her to get lost, she wasn’t going to get our money.  I had a feeling she was just deaf and confused.  Turns out we are just assholes.  She brought back her husband who spoke English, turns out she was German not homeless. He explained that they’d found our camera at the vantage point, saw Travis’s picture on the camera, put it in a plastic bag and hid it. They had then gone around town looking for our car, and ultimately the person he saw in the photo. Germany: 1, America: -14578675. Thank you awesome German couple.

We got our camera back, which was hidden, I mean by sitting on the ground completely out in the open with people walking by (and yet nobody took it). Then we went down to the docks to get a ride across the bay to the sand dunes. There’s only one old guy who shuttles people across the bay in town, and he was out shuttling when we got there. So we (not reluctantly at all) stopped at a pub for some beer and waited for him to get back.  Travis complained about the price, and then the taste before finishing his and my glass. Pricey and tasteless is still beer.

We caught our ferry to the dunes. The cost of the ferry included being lent some boogie boards to ride down the dunes on. And…we spent the next hour or two surfing on dunes. It was pretty cool. To be honest after the thrill of running up the hill and sliding down, we spent most of the time splashing in the ocean and throwing sand at each other.  Both activities much easier then climbing up a large sand hill.

After we were ferried back to our car we headed East towards the Bay of Islands. However, in between the sand dunes and the Bay of Islands we stopped at Ngawha to soak our road weary, sandy bodies in the natural hot sulfur springs.

Ginns Ngawha Spring Pools

Man, what can I saw about Ngawha Pools? If Barter Town from “Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome” had a day spa, this is what it would have looked like.  In other words, it was awesome. They had about 13 different pools varying from lukewarm to scolding hot, and the whole thing stank of dead baby farts. 15 minutes in those pools and my back ache was gone as well as the wart on Travis’s left foot. They say it’s good for arthritis too, but I’m not old enough to put that to the test.

After spending about 1 hour there we left reeking of sulfur and headed to the Bay of Island Holiday Park. True to New Zealand fashion they had all the bathing facilities we needed to rid ourselves of the pungent odors we’d collected along the way.

We set up camp next to a serene babbling brook and immediately struck up a friendship with our camp neighbors who were an American and South African couple. We spent the evening and the next morning comparing our experiences and chatting about the culture we gladly left behind.


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