There is something about Northland – the combination of farmland and glittering coastal scenery, the flowing roads, the overwhelming peace, the generous and relaxed people… it’s alluring.
If it wasn’t for the Auckland blockage between there and here, we’d spent a lot more time up there.
This year, my birthday present to myself was to go to a new bit of Northland. This is harder than it seems for two reasons; Firstly, we’ve already done a lot of it, and secondly, a birthday on 15th January coincides with peak holiday season a.k.a. booked out accommodation. There is no depth to which I won’t stoop sometimes, so when I finally found some available accommodation but with a minimum two night stay for our up-and-back Saturday/Sunday trip I rolled out the hard-working-birthday-girl-just-dying-to-visit-you card and was rewarded with not only a one night booking, but also a big birthday cake that night; more on that later.
Despite everything I am about to say, this was a brilliant trip.
It’s just a shame we had to crawl in holiday traffic down to 5kph from Drury to Whangarei in temperatures hovering around 30 degrees. At Hikurangi, the holiday really started, we turned off the state highway and got onto the (sealed) back roads and the switch got flicked – we got some breeze flowing, could enjoy the scenery, ride at our own pace, I started singing… It’s lucky we don’t ride with intercoms!
We were heading for the Karikari peninsular, 13kms east of Awanui, gateway to 90 Mile Beach and the road to Cape Reinga. My research found we could walk to the pub, get fish n chips from the takeaway next door and enjoy them with our beers. We’re not flash, we just need to eat, so this suited… until we cooled down with a couple of beers and ambled next door to find – the chip shop closed at 7pm. Bugger it all, it’s Saturday night and the chippy shuts so early?!
This left us with two options; 2 minute noodles from the petrol station across the road, or a 1km walk to the Winery restaurant. With Northland’s rolling scenery, the good company of Ray, and a flimsy pair of walking jandals, we opted for the Winery, ringing ahead as we walked when we saw the sign encouraging “booking recommended.”
From a trip that started with hot and slow traffic and ended with Northlands jewels laid out before us, a promise of fish and chips and cold beer which transformed into being the lone diners in an exclusive winery, we closed the night out with passionfruit and cream birthday cake at the Karikari Lodge. As we munched, we learned about the closely related people of Northland, the delights of being young European backpackers travelling alone and the secret lives of orchardists; 7 people who barely knew each other formed a wonderful close knit group which we struggled to leave the following morning.
Coming home, I ranked SH15 south of Kaikohe up at #2 of my Roads of NZ. Nothing short of a permanent rockfall related closure will knock the Hawea to Haast road off that pedestal, but the curves of SH15 really did it for me this weekend. A closed café at Paparoa allowed us to celebrate the good riding, chatting, weather and birthday cake, over a bottle of fruit juice and a packet of Grain Waves from the dairy before we headed back into the Auckland traffic. Happy Birthday to me!!