Joanna was all over the place
I've had an exciting few weeks doing a lot of different things in the Northland and Coromandel regions. This photo is of Cape Reinga.
After leaving Ngunguru, I headed up the coast to Oakura Bay, a lovely tiny village where my next WWOOFing hosts own the general store. I joined a couple of other WWOOFers, Mark from England and Sebastian from Germany, helping to get the store ready for the influx of merchandise at the holiday season, and then we all drove farther up the coast to a property they're developing into an ecolodge accommodation thing. The place is totally beautiful, but very very isolated; there aren't even any trails through the bush for tramping. There was a beautiful beach just a few minutes away, but it was still too cold for pleasant swimming, and the work schedule was such that there wasn't much time off for exploring. Anyway, I realized that I didn't really want to stay there, so I spent most of my non-working and eating time trying to find somewhere else to go, which was rather difficult--it seems that the island is overrun with WWOOFers!
I did finally find a host in the town of Coromandel, on the Coromandel Peninsula, but first I took a couple of days to be a tourist up in the Bay of Islands near the top of the Northland. It was really fun to stay at a hostel and see lovely things and just be totally independent for a few days. I took an excellent tour up to the very northernmost point on the island, Cape Reinga, via a beautiful grove of kauri trees (basically NZ's sequoias), Ninety Mile Beach (it's actually only about 60 miles long, and we drove on the beach itself--it is an official road) and dune boarding (fun but frightening) and a few other things. The next day, "on the way" to Coromandel (turns out I vastly underestimated the distances and was quite late getting in), I stopped to see a neat little glowworm cave and the west coast kauri forests.
My WWOOFing experience in Coromandel was a little strange. I stayed in a caravan at one woman's place, an herbal dispensery with gardens and a beautiful but nosey horse, and worked for her in the mornings. She was a bit stressful to work for. Then, for food, I worked for another guy, Dave, in the afternoon. This arrangement meant that I had very little time to do things, but luckily Dave was quite accommodating and let me work double a few times and take a couple afternoons off to do some exploring and hiking. The region is justifiably known for its beautiful hikes. I was also lucky that I came just as Dave was helping his mother, Mary, get her house ready to be let out for tourist accommodations (she was getting too old to stay there, but wanted to keep the property), so I spent most of my afternoons gardening in her absolutely gorgeous place. The house was built in the 1860's by the man who discovered gold in the region, and is one of the nicest buildings I've ever been in. I also got to hang out with Mary, which was great--she has lived in the house for 42 years, and knows everything about everyone in the town, and is also a musician and artist, and served tea in little china cups. Lovely.
I took the last day in Coromandel to do the famous Coastal Walk up at the top of the peninsula, a beautiful 5-hour hike, and stayed at a very cozy and fun hostel in town. Then it was off to Hamilton to pick Ben up from the airport. It's been great to see each other again, but it was really wonderful to travel on my own, too. I got to see lots of really cool stuff, and met scads of folks from all over the English- and German-speaking world.
We're now in Rotorua, the geothermal center of the North Island. It's a little disappointing, but the lack of things to see has given us a chance to get some things planned and taken care of. Now we're off to Tongariro National Park to camp and hike for a couple days. Hooray!