While Kate was taking time off for a meditation retreat I decided to take the van, go fishing, and visit some places we had not covered on our first tour around the part of the North Island which is north of Auckland.
It turned out there were plenty of fish in the sea – literally speaking – and loads of good opportunities to make a catch. It was also a lot of fun to venture to some peninsulas or along the rocky shoreline, set up camp with the van and trek or climb to the ultimate fishing spot.
There are several nature reserves good for hiking. In particular I liked the walk close to Rawhiti and Mahinepua Bay, both of which also have great beaches. As the NZ holidays were coming to an end, things became much quieter, even if in general people in NZ are anyway just incredibly easy-going, helpful and non-intrusive. Sometimes I would stop at a quiet place at the roadside to make camp, and people stop – not to tell you to go away, but to ask if you needed any help. Try this in Europe.
More than two weeks have passed since we landed in Auckland. Meanwhile, our luggage has made its way from Singapore as well. During the first days we were busy working at a German couple’s home and garden in exchange for food and shelter, enjoyed for the first time in months having some muesli, yoghurt and cheese for breakfast and visited the ‘City of Sails’ itself with thousands of sailing and motor yachts filling its marinas.
Finally, we headed north with our newly bought campervan and were stunned by spectacular sceneries – green mountain ranges, colourful native birds, volcanoes, turquoise lakes and bays, limestone coasts and sandy beaches. The long and numerous beaches are suited to all aquatic sports imaginable, from snorkelling, diving, surfing to fishing. You simply are spoiled with choice, but for those used to Asian waters, the ocean here is freezing!
Northland also shelters the most impressive remnants of the ancient kauri forests that once covered the country’s north. The giant trees were logged in the 19th century for houses and ships’ masts. The remaining trees are quite a sight and one of the nation’s treasures. Tane Mahuta, meaning Lord of the Forest, is the largest known living kauri with a trunk girth of nearly 14m! The excellent Kauri Museum in Matakohe tells the story of these impressive trees – and those whose lives they influenced: farmers, sawyers and gum diggers.
In the following days we took a ride to Ninety Mile Beach, walked on sand dunes and made it to the northernmost tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, watching the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean collide. According to Maori legend, this is where the spirits of the dead depart to their ancestral homeland.
Remote gravel roads led us to the dramatic and mountainous Coromandel Peninsula that offered an easy access to splendidly isolated spots. We’ll continue south along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Bay of Plenty.
After two months it’s time to say goodbye to Indonesia. Our journey took us from the busy metropole Jakarta to funeral ceremonies on Sulawesi, to an island paradise on the Togians, to a cigarette factory and a sulfur mine, temples and volcanoes, sea cows and dolphins, and finally to a party on a beach.
We spent one week exploring Lombok and rented a motorbike to go to Kuta, surfers’ paradise. Moving on to Sumbawa proved difficult with slow and cumbersome public transport, and we once more regretted not having our own wheels.
Maluk in Sumbawa was another surfers’ dream, and that’s it. As travelling became too time-consuming to move further eastwards and explore more of Sumbawa and Flores, we decided to move back west instead. We passed some nicely quiet days on Gili Meno before celebrating New Year’s on Gili Trawangan together with many others.
As so often in places where transport was time-consuming and difficult, we were rewarded by meeting friendly locals and having some nice adventures, whereas in very touristy places near Bali we experienced only hassle and shameless crooks. This is certainly a consequence of so many visitors carelessly spraying their cash.
But overall we very much enjoyed Indonesia – especially the less frequented areas without mass tourism. The country is incredibly large, very spread out and has much to offer. We did not have enough time to visit Sumatra, Molucco and other regions, so we definitely have to come back!