Daisy drove up from Auckland on Friday, about 9 hours door to door. Mallory flew in that evening, and we picked Noel up from the airport just before midnight. Three extra people is a lot for my little apartment, but nobody got stepped on overnight. We hit the road early Saturday morning. First stop was a market in Matakana, almost an hour out of Auckland. I got my usual apricot pastry at Pukeko Bakery (yup, they're here too), an arancini from the Sicilian stand, and a Thai sausage and pork satay for lunch in the forest later, and we split a sourdough and a kumara loaf (from Pukeko), a bag of apples, some brie, and a bottle of Lothlorian Vineyards sparkling feijoa wine for later. Kumara is a local sweet potato, and the bread was fantastic, baked with pumpkin seeds and a little manuka honey. Feijoa is a little green fruit that's popular around here and tastes kind of like guava. Then Noel and I took way too long buying carved bone earrings from another stall.
|Tane Matua Ngahere|
|Add that to my CV.|
And then I got to play archaeologist for a day. Ten minutes' drive from the hostel is the Kororipo pa, a Maori earthworks on a hilltop. As part of her project Mallory had to take some measurements and gps readings around the pa, so the four of us were climbing in and out of muddy ditches with tape measures and string. Luckily it didn't start raining again until we were done.
|My favorite marae carving.|
Another hour southwest we stopped by Whangerei, where the guidebook said there were some good glowworm caves and rock formations. So we hiked through the rain, downhill, past and then through some sheep pastures and into a forest. We found the caves (I think?), but by then is was nearly dusk and it looked like you'd need some serious equipment to get through there in one piece, so we headed into the rock forest instead. The rocks were indeed pretty cool, big boulders with all sorts of rivulets and things carved into them, ostensibly by aeons of water running over them. The whole scene looked like a collection of modern art sculptures scattered through the forest and covered in lichen. Bit of a slip 'n' slide walking around though, and by the time we made it out we were all wet to the knees and covered in mud. The car rental company must hate us for the tracks I'm sure we left. We stopped by a pub in downtown Whangerei for a cup of tea and some cheddar-bacon potato wedges and then hit the road for the two hours back to Auckland.