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The landscape slowly transposes into another era along the road from Bay of Islands to Hokianga. Dotted with little white churches (which are characteristic of the north), and picturesque old buildings tenanted only by the horses grazing in the quiet countryside. Driving past young local kids, sometimes three a horse and riding bareback, my visitor asked if I knew them, with the excited waving that followed. Nope, that’s just what Northlanders’ are like.
Entering the first coastal Hokianga township, you can’t prepare for the ‘out of this world’ view. With 500 metre high golden sand dunes, seriously you wonder where this oasis appeared from.
First stop is a boat to the sand dunes. Pete and his crew (Hokianga Express) will take you over starting from 10am, going pretty much every hour after that. Don’t miss the last boat back, as a boogie board and a wet towel is not much to keep you warm at night. Pretty hard to hear the spiel over the roar of the engine, but basically they are saying the sand is rock hard in some areas; therefore you really need to “stay between the flags!” With water up to my knees, I videoed the shrill laughter and piercing screams as one by one they flew past and levelled off into the water at the bottom.
Back at the Opononi wharf the kids love jumping and diving off from quite a height. Do they need adult supervision? Obviously not. They were scrambling up the pylons and flipping backwards with a big ‘kadoosh into the water!’ Serious fun, and if I wasn’t so worried about looking awkward I would have joined in. Snapper & chips and a caramel milkshake topped off that afternoon! Off to meet Tane tonight...
The usual “what is your name, and where do you come from” introduction usually brings a slight tremble as it leads onto my turn. Tāwhiri though, was SUCH a character he had us in fits of laughter the whole way to the Waipoua Forest. Booked to do the ’Twilight Encounter', it was getting rather exciting as nightfall set in. Following a windy mesh covered wooden path into the forest, Tāwhiri, in his dark green hooded cloak and staff, started looking more like he was out of ‘Lord of the Rings’...hence the name Tā Frodo emerged.
The head lamps were all turned off as we shuffled along the path. The coloured lights at the base of the tree lit up, I have to tell you I had a moment...Tane Mahuta (The Lord of the Forest), one of the largest trees in the world (oldest Kauri in New Zealand) was of colossal proportion in both girth and height! Off went the lamps, and tears welled in my eyes as Tāwhiri sang a waiata (sacred chant) to greet the trees. This experience has been described as a ‘spiritual awakening’ that is unable to be put into words, and photos will not do it justice... Sitting in the forest in the middle of the night drinking hot chocolate and marshmallows was magical. Don’t miss this one.
There is also: Horse trekking, craft trail, carving, a boulder valley, bush walks, sand dunes, fishing, boating, swimming and golf. Plus there is a museum and great eating establishments. Or you can just take it easy in the wonderfully relaxed atmosphere.
Just a wee bit famous: "What lucky people we are - we loved it all; thank you Koro & Joe"
- Bette Midler, actress & singer, USA - May 2005. (Twilight Encounter)
Hokianga: Just over 3 hours drive from Auckland, on New Zealand's West Coast
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