Day 10: Kohukohu - Opononi - Kauri Forest
5 January 2010
850km - map

We awoke to a lovely day, clear skies and warm sunshine. By now the lake was deserted so we took a dip to freshen up in the crystal clear waters. After some breakfast we drove the few kilometers to 90 mile beach - why it should be called so in a country where everything is measured in kilometers I don't know but it's impressive nonetheless. As you approach the beach there is a speed limit sign of 100km/h which applies to anyone driving on the beach - yes it is allowed, but not for us. Hire vehicles are forbidden due to the frequency with which tourists get stuck in the sand. So we had a little walk along the beach which seemed to go on for ever into the distance with just one or two people visible within the few miles we could see. Oh for a 4x4!

This will be the northernmost point we will visit in New Zealand - it's all due south from here on!

Sarah did her first bit of driving this morning, taking the scenic and very twisty route through the mountains. We stopped for lunch at Kohukohu, a small town that has hardly changed in the last hundred years that overlooks one of the tributees of the Hokianga estuary. Further south we crossed the estuary on the small car ferry having paid for our tickets to a man from Wales who sounded an awful lot like Tom Jones. It was his first week on the job having only moved to New Zealand recently.

We followed the side of the estuary all the way to the west coast and a town called Opononi which has been making a living from a story from the 1950s of a dolphin that befriended children in the estuary. The guide book tells us that this marine mammal captured the hearts of the nation for around a month before it was found shot dead. We stopped for an ice cream and sat on the sea wall looking over the estuary to the mountainous sand dunes on the north shore with the turquoise sea in the foreground and the Tasman sea off to the west - a very beautiful place indeed.

We continued south to the Kauri forest, again along some of the twistiest roads we've ever seen taking in the largest and oldest tree first along the road. At over 2000 years old and nearlyu 14m in diameter, Tane Mahuta is a majestic sight to behold even though we didn't see it at first! Really a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees! We also visited the four sisters - a group of four Kauri trees growing in a clump next to each other but these weren't as impressive as Tane Mahuta in my opinion.

Once out of the forest the roads were much easier to drive and we made good time to Dargaville where we stocked up on beer, wine and a disposable barbeque for the lamb chops we had bought the previous day. The rest area we intended on staying at proved a little too close to the main road and not particularly sheletered so we carried on a bit further to just north of Wellsford where we found a (slightly) more sechluded spot for the night. Lamb was barbequed, beer and wine were drunk and a good night's sleep was had... except for the double-trailered cattle lorry that pulled in to the rest area at around 2am, but it was soon parked up and quiet again.

Ngatu Lake
90 Mile Beach
Opononi, Hokianga Estuary
Kauri Trees - Tane Mahuta