So one night I’m eating fresh fish of the day at a table on the bay in Russell, and the next night I’m eating a McDonald’s Kiwi Burger* in my motel room in Auckland. And what a room it is. I think the motel used to be an apartment building in the 1950s. They’ve updated the plumbing, appliances, and electrical system since then, but I’m sure the carpet is original. Furnishings are probably from about 1980. There are odd cupboards with tubing in them.
Each unit has a country or region associated with it — Italian, Mexican, Baltic, etc. I’m in the Swiss Suite. I can’t see anything Swiss about it, unless the Swiss put tubing in their cupboards.
I grossly underestimated the drive time for the Northland. In addition to sheep hazards, road maintenance, and slow logging trucks, the roads are more winding, and there are one-lane bridges and ferry crossings.
It’s 436 km from Cape Reinga to Auckland, or 271 miles. That took me a bit over seven hours. I would have been better off spending an extra day in Russell and driving straight down from there.
* I don’t think it’s made with actual kiwis, but I can’t be completely sure what’s in it.
Before leaving Waitomo Caves I did a one-hour walk through a spectacular eroded cave structure called the Rukiura Bush Walk. The path goes through natural tunnels, along cliffs, and through thick ferny foliage.
On the way out of town I stopped at the Otorohanga Kiwi House to see the kiwis they have in captivity, including a rare Great Spotted Kiwi. The kiwi has no visible wings and a very unbirdlike lumbering gait, giving it a cartoonish quality. It’s a very weird bird.
All of which means that I didn’t really get going until 11:00. I made it as far as Russell, at the Bay of Islands, where I filled up at the oldest operating gas station in New Zealand (built in 1930) and had dinner by the bay. Russell has a Caribbean quality. It’s slow-paced, semi-tropical, and has British colonial architecture from the 19th century.
No time to stay, though. I need to be in Auckland tonight and I’m starting out by going in the opposite direction.
Just returned from Ulva Island, which is supposed to be rife with birds, including about 10,000 kiwi. It probably is, but you’d never know it. I saw one kākā, two kererū, one tōrea, and a few tūī. Zero kiwi. I might as well have been looking for moa. In fact, I’d probably have an easier time with moa. They may be extinct, but at ten feet tall, they’d be a lot easier to spot.
Ulva island looks like primeval forest, but it’s a reconstructed primevality. They killed all the rats about 15 years ago, and there’s an ongoing process of reintroducing native plants and critters. Very impressively maintained, especially for a place so remote.
The ferry ticket is written on a puheretaiko leaf. The leaves are sturdy enough that they were used as postcards up to the 1970s.