Tearooms of State Highway 1 – Part 2

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Yeah BOI – Cape Reinga to Russell

What an interrupted night’s sleep. I had one of those had-to-get-up-early- so-I-kept-waking-up-thinking-my-alarm-had-failed-to-go-o? kinds of nights. But I did happen to be asleep when my alarm really did go o?, at 4:15am. I was actually quite awake, considering the hour. I hit the road pretty much straight away, heading for sunrise at Cape Reinga, after having my iced co?ee Up-and-Go of course (all the goodness of 2 weetbix and a glass of milk without any of the point, it doesn’t ?ll you up or make you feel like you’ve really had breakfast). On the way to Cape Reinga I passed a campervan on the side of the road. Tourist’s obviously don’t read week old papers before touring the country (2 tourists kidnapped, one raped, while staying overnight in a parking lot by Haruru Falls on their honeymoon. Go Northland!). Then when I got to Cape Reinga there was another one in the parking lot. Why, I could have had an extra hours sleep. And miss a drowsy drive across ridiculously rugged dirt roads? Not in your life. As it was I got there just in time. Not just in time for sunrise, but just in time to realise that you can’t actually see the sunrise from Cape Reinga. I did get to see the lighthouse in action. Up until now I had never seen it emitting light, and since I knew it was no one’s house, I could never truly believe it existed until this day.

After the Cape (we’re on an ambiguous partial name basis now) I headed for Te Paki sand dunes. I wasn’t after the sand dunes themselves, as much as a quick hike up and run down would have satis?ed both early morning cravings for excessive exercise AND a mouthful of sand, I was actually there for Te Paki stream. Without a moment’s hesitation, disregarding the few moments I took to put the Hilux into 4WD and take a few photos, I shot down the stream. I was having so much fun barely being able to see out the windscreen through all the water splashing up as I hurtled down the stream that I didn’t realise the truck was in low gear, and revving like a banshee. This was quickly remedied and soon I was hurtling with even more hurtle having the time of my life. When I got to the end of the stream I took it out of 4WD and used my extremely weighty arse, and by that I mean the truck’s arse, to, as the youth of my day would have said, “hook some doughies”. The smile on my face was now at maximum stretch. Thank god I ?lmed it all so I could watch it all again and even share it with my friends and family. What’s this? The camera was on full zoom? Possibly the most visually exciting part of my entire trip and all you can see are my grinning eyes? It’s times like this all you can do is laugh. Or swear profusely. I leant towards the latter. Guess I’ll have to do it again soon. What a crying shame.

At the end of the stream I headed down 90-mile beach, stopping a couple of times to let Palin run around, and taking some potentially award winning photographs featuring my glorious ‘ride’ in the morning sun. By the end of my time on 90-mile beach I had ?nally solved the puzzle of why it has such an exaggerated name. It’s simply because the exit you want to take is so indistinguishable from all the streams and sand dune alcoves, that it is far too easy to drive straight past, invoking the need to back track considerably, carry the one, and voila. 90 miles travelled on 40 kilometres of beach.

After heading back to the campground to get my money’s worth in shower and toilet usage, I made tracks for my ?rst tearooms in Awanui then up and round Karikari Peninsula. What a stunning place that is. I mean that, no sarcasm intended. Matai Bay especially. I couldn’t go down there because dogs were prohibited, but from afar it looked like New Zealand’s take on Thailand. Complete with seemingly out of place island just o? the beach. The road between the previous bay and Matai Bay is unsealed. Here’s my tip for buying investment property. Property at the end of gravel roads, especially when at the point the road becomes sealed, there is a large building pretentiously named “Carrington” with it’s own golf course, is likely to be a good investment.

From here I travelled round Doubtless Bay, containing numerous sub-bays. Each of these was probably more outstanding than the last, although I didn’t go to any so I can’t comment at this time.

I put more diesel in my truck in Kaeo, it’s been a carbon credit hungry couple of days. I don’t have much to say about Kaeo. I don’t think anyone has much to say about Kaeo. It amazes me that the people working in the service station are so young. I guess the cost of living in Kaeo is so little, it’s the only area young people can a?ord to live. Or maybe they were brought up in Kaeo, or one of the smaller surrounding towns (commonly referred to as ‘houses’), and feel no need to move anywhere else. Home is where the heart is. There’s no place like home. Home, home on the range. Etc…

Eventually I made it to Waitangi. Home of the Waitangi Treaty Grounds (not Government funded, as the signs seemed adamant in reminding me). The very site that the Treaty was signed on. The document our country was built on. Such an important place to visit, such a signi?cant piece of our heritage, such a need for every one of NZ’s citizens to. . . $12! Such a lot of money. I didn’t go in. I breathed in some of the grandeur while I was using the toilets. Outside there’s a plaque that reads: “In 1932 this land was bought by Lord and Lady Bledisloe and gifted as a reserve to the people of New Zealand. . . ”. The Treaty is responsible for numerous land claims as Maori land was bought for what is now considered by some to be far too little, and here, the very place in which it was signed, was bought as recently as 1932 and simply gifted to the people of New Zealand, and is now used as a money-making tourist attraction. There’s irony in there somewhere, I’m sure of it, but I dare not put my ?nger on it.

Next stop was Paihia. By now the sun was literally beating down (not literally of course, that kind of thing would de?nitely make the news, but it was hot) so I decided to have my ?rst swim of the season. The water was cold, but not too cold. It was force-the-air-from-your-lungs-cold, but not prevent-the-air-from-getting-back-in cold. After that I lay on the beach for a while and since I hadn’t put sunscreen on I followed my grandma’s immortal advice and “rotated like a chicken”. It wasn’t long before I thought I better get back on the road. It was only a short drive to Opua and the car ferry that would take me to Russell. Half an hour later I was at Orongo Bay Holiday Park, just outside of Russell. You could never ?nd that sort of e?ciency in Auckland. After ?nding a spot on the desolate camping plains, in the far corner so Palin could run free without too much fair of neighbourly interaction, I put sunscreen on, a chicken can only rotate so much before it gets burned, and took a look around the campground. A pool! I swam. The water was exactly the right temperature for the amount of hot that I was. Then I went back to my site, lay on my towel and promptly dozed away after being awake and driving for 11 hours.

When I ?nally got up about an hour and a half later I decided to get out of the campground and drive to Russell. I could have walked. I wouldn’t have walked, but it was not so completely out of the question. Russell is one of New Zealand’s oldest towns, and it shows. It seems anything that hasn’t blown away in the wind or dissolved since the Europeans ?rst arrived is now part of the heritage trail. ‘This crane was used to o?-load the ships of the early settlers’. ‘This cannon, from the HMS Etcetera, was ?rst brought ashore in 1893’. ‘This shoe was left when Robert Donaldson, of Bristol, stepped on some gum during his honeymoon in 1987’. I’ve never seen a town with so many buttresses. All that aside, it is a very sweet, quaint little township. And I can’t imagine you’d ever go hungry, with what seems to be a ratio of 4 restaurants to every 1 room of accommodation. Perhaps Russell is the township that never sleeps. Most people are probably too scared to, if you’re not careful your heart-rate might drop too low and before you know stepped on some gum during his honeymoon in 1987’. I’ve never seen a town with so many buttresses. All that aside, it is a very sweet, quaint little township. And I can’t imagine you’d ever go hungry, with what seems to be a ratio of 4 restaurants to every 1 room of accommodation. Perhaps Russell is the township that never sleeps. Most people are probably too scared to, if you’re not careful your heart-rate might drop too low and before you know it you’ve become number 62 on the 50m heritage trail.     

Awanui Bakehouse & Tearooms

Awanui Bakehouse & Tearooms is de?nitely leaning more towards bakehouse than tearooms. In fact, I’m not even sure if they serve tea. I would have asked for some, but there were some intimidating truckers having their daily plate of fried food and I didn’t want to look like the out-of-towner I knew I was.

Instead I did my best to ?t in, and had a mince & cheese pie, which was very tasty if a little pricey for a smal l-town pie. $3. Lucky for me I’m travel ling on Auckland dol lars, so that translated to roughly AKL$2.80. I also had a bottle of coke, or tea of a new generation. Black iced tea, with extra, extra sugar.

As for the tearooms themselves, they weren’t even set out like a tearooms. It was set out like a bakery with a table in the corner. I would have asked the owner a bit about the history, but when I asked if I could take some photos, “because I’m visiting every tearoom in the country and might be writing a book”, she just said “Ok” and went back to stocking her pies. I could have said I was casing the joint, and planned on coming back in an hour or so with every intention of robbing her at knife-point, and the answer probably would have been “whatever, just let me stock my pies ?rst”. Asking any further questions seemed liked it would be a waste of both my time and hers. Besides, those pies won’t stock themselves. 

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