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Bay of Islands

Day 58. Russell – Fullers Great Sights Boat trip Bay of Islands ‘Cream Trip’.

Our all day boat trip left Russell at 9.30am to blue skies and warm sun. The boat able to take up to 130 passengers was to our advantage only sailing with 30 at most, plenty of room to move around and view from all accessible areas.

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Throughout our tour on board Te Maki – The Orca, our wonderful crew provided us with an informative narrative of the islands and landmarks on our planned route as we passed them by.

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We were in luck on this trip to see a Brydes Whale – not able to capture clearly enough with a mechanical lens but our eyes provided memories enough.

However the Common and Bottlenose dolphins we encountered along the way were happy to oblige ‘the man behind the lens’ as they cut through the water at speed under and alongside our boat. Gracefully they jumped out from the water as if in slow motion as their backs curved in a perfect arc.

47F57E97-9818-4545-8F4B-498402E9857A75AFC8AB-F7C1-4260-857D-647DF74BE914185017AC-FC48-436F-8FD1-2D0569C2B9F5E60AD643-C6A3-4B01-841B-F9AFE277F04974B8370D-9C39-418E-8483-2FA29DED7DEB556F1ECC-FCD1-4D9C-B461-79F46A4D8823D65C6ABE-FA85-495B-8819-E880DCC824C96D613CA5-3B18-47E3-8D3F-72972A3F5D6AWe stopped at Motukokako – Hole in the Rock – on this occasion the sea was too choppy to permit our boat safe passage through to the other side!

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Our land stop for lunch was Otehei Bay on the Island of Urupukapuka. But first a short steep scenic loop walk up to a point overlooking the bay and islands.

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E6153620-64D1-41CB-B32F-0185261B3CE7Back down beachside, a bar and eatery was available for refreshments as well as a picnic area for packed lunches. We visited both, one for our picnic and the other for ice cold beers on the green in front of the bar lounging on giant beanbags watching the boats and helicopter arrive.

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Back on board we continued our relaxing tour – for most of us that is….. a brave dozen or so opted to get dragged forward and back within a giant boom net before we made our final few view points around the islands arriving back at Russell late afternoon.

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Our Tree still Stands!

Day 57. Mahinepua Peninsula Track 2 hour return.
Three years ago in high season, this was a very busy track but one we had both enjoyed hence our decision to revisit.

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Once again we were blessed with plenty of sunshine on this stunning scenic walk. The start from the carpark took us along a private drive before a lane up bordered by pine woods gradually opened out onto the southern ridge track with views out and as we climbed higher down to Mahinepua Bay and our parked motorhome.


1D029B49-6205-419A-8BC5-5F13829DB3BFToo late, we remembered the many steep flights of steps as glimpses appeared through the dense coastal forest, the towel was out for sweating man, ready to do battle.

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Almost always – certainly on the tracks we have walked in NZ – the extra effort is always worth the reward of incredible breathtaking views.


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The sea emerald and calm in the bays below, darker far out to sea sparkling under the suns rays.

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And unexpectedly a familiar sight, three years later the dead bleached tree still stood, not quite intact with all its branches, but most had withstood the harsh coastal conditions. We took photos, hopefully remembering the same angle to compare. Spot the difference…..

Unlike last time there had been some erosion as part of the grassy track had slipped away exposing the red earth.
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A final steep slippery climb up to the trig for more views out and up the coast to Cape Karikari and south to Cape Brett.

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4A0F019A-544B-4670-B81A-4E9A7BDD16FCWe took the northern ridge loop back, stopping to eat our lunch at the Loop end on the seat with a view. We had still not seen another soul at this point….

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5C181CFB-0D2B-44E4-8AEF-7EF0AADC8DDEAnd all the way back down we never did! 

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Rainbow Falls on the Kerikeri River – a one minute walk takes you to three viewing platforms affording stunning views of these 27m curtain falls – the water cascades over a wide edge giving the appearance of a frothy net curtain.
3D383DD0-74E1-4CAE-860D-93673753DB04Looking over the edge to the large swimming hole below…..

610BB20F-5AC9-4B42-B01B-A43603AD859BDown at the bottom, behind these pretty falls is a cave accessed by swimming the large pool below, if only that was all it involved….for me the slipperiness of the algae covered rocks climbing up from the pool and across the surface, made this a no go for the muse.

47276706-FB42-44D6-93DE-41407008C7F8Long-suffering was not going to budge on this. His alter ego ‘the man behind the lens’ needed ‘the muse’ intact for the five remaining days of our NZ road trip.

872B4AE5-967C-41E4-A9D6-DAC4F9D1E2D3Luckily for us, especially ‘the man behind the lens’, some young girls made it in one piece obliging him with some animated shots from behind the falls….

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Karikari Peninsula

Day 55. Puheke Hill – extinct volcano rising 130m above sea level. 20 minute misty climb to top.

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This very steep walk took us up grassy slopes on a hill that splits the 12km long beach in two.

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Unfortunately thick mist obscured the beautiful azure coastal waters below. 

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However, the limited views from the top were compensated by meadow grassland brimming with wildlife. Difficult to capture tiny lavender blue butterflies flitted and danced above webs and cocoons in the rare shards of sunlight between the mist and cloud.

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Making our way down through the mist back to Aramoana Two

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Below the clearing mists a seascape appeared….

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Maitai Bay DOC Camp for the night – peaceful camp, found a quiet spot above the beautiful long curved beach.

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Long beach walks, swimming in the beautiful turquoise waters, and relaxing with a good read.

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Day 56. Two beaches walk before leaving for our next stop, rocks at the end huge, piled high, interesting shapes.

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Leaving the KariKari Peninsula behind it was on to…..

Mangonui for Sunday Fish and chips ‘the best in the North Island’. Great restaurant overlooking the harbour, large deck over the shore underneath a see through dome protecting us from the persistent seagulls without restricting the waterside views.

The resident Shag – a bird – queuing up for his daily scraps…

A walk on the promenade before our next stop…..

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Whangaroa Bay. St Paul’s Rock track, so named due to its dome like similarity to St Paul’s Cathedral.

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The very steep, narrow, winding access road had we decided to drive Aramoana Two up, would have taken approx 196 feet of climbing off the total height of St Paul’s Rock – the rock is in fact the eroded core of an ancient volcano.  

Instead with only one passing place and little in the way of parking a 7 metre long motorhome at the official start point, we decided to park along the pretty shore and walk the entire route up.

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Humid conditions meant sweating man was in overdrive before we had even got to the top of the road, I have to admit it was a real leg burner. Occasionally as we got higher a breeze would waft over us. Beautiful property and gardens with the best views out, gave us something else to focus on.

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Eventually the marked narrow steep track up started, over a stile and then almost straight up approximately 492 feet….

Loose gravel and displaced divits of grass underfoot as we climbed, sent feet slipping backwards. Looking up to the bare rock perched above the grassy slopes, Long-suffering continually repeated ‘there was no way we could get up there’ I must admit secretly I had reservations too.

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We pressed on and here the ‘fun’ really started. The final climb up rock with a few hand and footholds was challenging enough, but then we were faced with a series of chains to haul and pull our tired body’s up through a zig zag rock track.

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Still in one piece a short gravelly track led to the summit and wow, wow, wow….it was so worth it, truly the best 360 degree views over the Whangaroa Harbour and the many rock formations, remnants of ancient volcanos that erupted millions of years ago. Again another climb and not another soul in sight!

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Drone practice….

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Back down the way we came abseiling down the zigzag using the chains seemed less tricky, as for the rest it was certainly quicker and less huff and puff was needed…

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Tauranga Bay Camp – seafront pitch overlooking bay and out to Stephenson Island.

Long beach, soft golden sand with nesting sand pipits on guard in front of the roped off sand dunes – we already knew to give these dainty little birds a wide berth from other visited beaches.

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As we walked the beach, the sea had thrown up the usual shore line debris including Jellyfish and the unusual – a dead goat! What I wondered was his story, did the poor animal fall from a cliff edge into the sea, or perish in transit? We would never know!

 

 

 

 

Cape Reinga

Day 53. Two hour drive to Cape Reinga top of New Zealand, open hills and distant dunes.

DOC Tapotupotu – Northernmost campsite on the North Island. We managed to access a spot right beside the estuary leading out to sea, white sand beaches were soft underfoot as the tide receded.

Walk to Cape Reinga Lighthouse 20 minute return. Outstanding views on this family friendly pathway to this iconic Lighthouse. 

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The Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet offshore clashing white as they merge over the Columbia Bank. 

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Panoramic views from the lighthouse….

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Bathing back at the campsite….

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Drone photography…

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Cloud rolling in…

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Evening Sunset at Cape Reinga….

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Day 54. Thick mist with little prospect of any views on a planned walk made us decide to move on after a spooky walk to the lighthouse for a different image.

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Drive toTe Paki sand dunes.

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The skies above these enormous sand dunes were clearing as we arrived with hot sun beating down on us, and the many sand boarders making the steep, sliding climbs up the dunes carrying boards with them…..

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To slide back down and start the whole gruelling process again.

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We were both happy to watch others enjoy the thrills and spills….

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Drive to Whatuwhiwhi Beach Karikari Peninsula, overnight stop.

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 Practice watercolour sketch…

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Forest Giants, Lakes and Boulders

Day 51. Drive to Kauri Museum at Matakohe. Our fascination with these magnificent trees started three years previous on our first trip to the North Island.

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The Kauri tree is NZ largest native tree, a type of pine from the conifer family it only grows in the subtropical north of the North Island.

Kauri Trees had been found to die on the inside, this hollowing out of the trunk eventually led to their collapse as the outer wood failed to keep them upright.

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The museum contains an extensive collection of old working and stationery milling equipment, kept in pristine condition by the efforts of a volunteer group of engine enthusiasts.

An original Caterpillar 60 1929 used for hauling logs, taking the place of eight teams of bullocks – 112 animals!

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For anyone interested in the history of the now protected Kauri Tree I cannot recommend the museum highly enough – and photos cannot do it justice. The many rooms are packed full of extensive artefacts on its timber, gum and charts the early pioneers in New Zealand.

Baylys Beach the gateway to Ripiro Beach – New Zealand’s longest drivable Beach.

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Not for us though! There were very few places in NZ our hardy wilderness motorhome – Aramoana Two – could not tackle but this was one of them.

Even if we could have, weather had changed significantly and rain was lashing down as we arrived, strong winds only served to make the 100km long beach drive look very uninviting for driving. However we did park up and venture out for a chilly, windy, sand blast along the beach….

Beautiful scenic drive on to….

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Kai Iwi Lakes Pine Beach Camp – nestled amongst 538 hectares of recreation reserve and three white sand freshwater dune lakes, again with few other visitors we were spoilt for choice and parked up with a glimpse through to the Caribbean like splendour of Lake Taharoa.

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We arrived in light rain, not to be deterred with all the beauty around us a walk was in order. Luckily there are a number of walking tracks available. We chose to circuit the beautiful Lake Taharoa a mere 5 miles round trip.

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The track was clearly marked and took us on gravel paths through forest always within a short distance from the lakes edge.

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Weaving in an out we followed the tracks down onto the white sandy beaches and inviting jewel like emerald waters of the lake.

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At it’s deepest the lake is 38.8m and is the second biggest lake in New Zealand.

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A well deserved swim at the end, later followed by a beautiful sunset lakeside.

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Day 52. Taking advantage of the warm early sun another swim in the beautiful clear turquoise waters of Lake Taharoa before reluctantly moving on to our next stop.

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Beautiful drive through Waipere Kauri Forest and a stop to see Te Matua Ngahere – Father of the Forest. 50 minute return walk through native Kauri Forest.

First though a boot wash turnstile to help prevent spread of Kauri dieback disease.

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Wide gravel tracks wound through thick forest…

Eventually leading to long boardwalks lined by Kauri trees ageing trunks clear of branches soaring skywards ending in a mass of foliage topped dense branches. It is almost impossible to convey in an image the sheer scale of these trees in height and girth. 

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We were in awe and wonder once again as we had been three years before on other Kauri tracks.

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Suddenly at the end of the boardwalk Te Matua Ngahere ‘Father of the Forest’ stood filling the space with its huge presence. 

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It’s girth measures an incredible 16.41m Total height is 29.29m and trunk height before the first if its branches start is 10.21m. Estimated age between 2000 and 3000 years old

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The top was lost in a severe storm in 2007 therefore it is not the tallest of the Kauri, nevertheless even without its top the muse felt like Alice through the looking glass by comparison…

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Wairere Boulders – private nature reserve. A long, winding, dusty gravel road took us to this unique place for our camp for the night. 2 hour loop walk.

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Starting out from the back of the information point and cafe we followed a well marked track using a handy map for guidance, through thick native bush and young Kauri trees 250-300 years old….

Wow a bush walk with a difference as huge boulders from volcanic activity had literally exploded out and overtime dropped into this huge cavernous valley, stacking up to create a black abyss. 

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Caves had been carved out by the rain over thousands of years….

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Under and over massive boulders….

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Over bridges, rushing rivers and small swimming pools….

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An added bonus for the muse was the plant labels and information points along the way…

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Towering boulders lining the route

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Eventually after some steep climbing – when is there not a climb – we came to the lookout, a suspended platform over the valley and boulders below.

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Then back to our camp spot for the night surrounded by quiet and peaceful beauty….

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Lion, Fall & a near miss!

Day 49. Early drive out from Fletcher Bay, stop at Port Jackson for a last long stroll on  this beautiful beach. Find a rare whole Sand Dollar – Sea Urchin – all the ones previous had been broken and scattered into separate triangular pieces. Bleached white in death, it was light and delicate to the touch in our palm.

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Another beautiful scenic drive out along the winding gravel drive to the main road….

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Ohana Farm Lookout – over the Firth of Thames….

 

707A4246-2C0E-45E7-8233-DC15BDDDB763Miranda Holiday Park – after four days non-powered Aramoana Two needed a top up of essentials and after a couple of weeks we needed some clean clothes and linen. As a  bonus this park also had a thermal pool to soothe our aching muscles after weeks of daily walks.

Day 50. Drive to Piha Beach. Lion Rock Tramp – shaped like a reclining lion seen from the south beach – this huge rock divides the beach. 

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A short steep stepped track took us up the lions back….

Carved rock shapes, spaces between providing lookouts over the south beach. 

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A perfectly placed seat at the stopping point, thankfully not all the way up this time – a rockfall had made further ascent too dangerous. A Carved Pou stood sentinel attributed to a Maki ancestress who once loved the spot.

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The North Beach….

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Kitekite Falls – 90m fall 1 hour return.

A walk taking us through native Kauri forest walking a track often over boardwalks to protect the shallow feeding roots of these protected statuesque trees…

We followed and crossed the winding river over bridges…..

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and wet rocky crossings…..

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Steep steps took us up to the top of the falls and swimming holes, thankfully the muse was not needed to stand precariously on the edge….

 

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Back into forest, steps down and out to a spectacular three tiered falls into a rocky turquoise pool below, a photographers dream…..

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Perils of a forest walk, dead and dying plant matter from a canopy way above just missed falling on our heads. The crashing sound of a huge, heavy frond falling through the dense layers sent the muse surging forward almost knocking long-suffering over in the process!

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Glorious Coromandel

Day 46. Early drive to Port Jackson DOC Camp on the Coromandel Coast. 3.5 hour drive turned out to be 6 hours, but worth every minute.

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Waiau Falls – a stop on the way along a winding gravel road – 10 minute return. Almost in the middle of nowhere through thick bush, but what a gem. Very pretty Falls and considering the washboard gravel road to get there, quite busy.

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Port Jackson….Beautiful 1.5 Km long white sandy beach, this DOC camp can hold up to 500 people at their busiest time, our two night stay here was shared with only 8 other camper vans. We parked Aramoana Two side on, just back from the shore to make the most of this stunning location.

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Day 47. Muriwai Hilltop Walk – 2 hour Loop track 6km

We started this walk from our beach walking to the end to access the well marked track. An early start – 8am – we were hoping to beat the heat. All the best laid plans….

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A pod of Dolphins just out from the shore line as the tide was on its way in, were swimming from one side of the bay to the other, herding fish nearer and nearer to shore.

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Nine o’clock came and went as we watched enthralled, as the pod worked together, eventually the fish seemed to have been trapped between rocks, shore and dolphins. Slapping tails on the surface the fish feast began.

Two hours later we finally continued our beach walk to the start of our track up and over rolling green hills

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Along the ridge looking out to sea and rugged coastline…

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Through forest of natural arches…

Back out in the open, views looking back to Port Jackson and down over the edge to rocky drops below sending Long-sufferings legs aquiver.

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And then looking down we spied our pod of dolphins along the coast before they disappeared out into the darker waters of the open sea…

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Rolling pasture land and a dusty gravel road back to finish..

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Followed by a refreshing swim in the sea to cool off…

Barbecue and sunset…

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Day 48. Early morning 3km walk along the beach, before our 5km dusty gravel road drive round the corner to Fletcher Bay DOC Camp, dipping our tyres through the ford along the way.

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A picture perfect quiet spot all on our own…

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Coromandel Walkway 4 hour return to our camp including lookout via Poley Bay.

Beautiful walk starting out from Fletcher bay, steps over stock fence taking us up overlooking our camp and bay below then away over rolling pasture looking out to the Pacific Ocean and rugged coastline.

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A lone tree in the landscape rising up from a bed of green, vivid against the forest surrounding it.

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Forty minutes in the orange sand tracks past cows grazing on open pasture changed suddenly into thick forest enclosing us within, steep, narrow and rocky. Sheer drops to the barely visible emerald sea below kept us moving as far from the edge as possible.

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And then we dropped right down, crossing a rocky stream looking down to Poley Bay a rocky deserted beach.

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As with all our walks what goes down must return upwards! The narrow track was steep and rocky, but oh our reward as we popped out to an open ridge was plenty payback. Stunning panoramic views and a seat set back from the track and its vertical drop to choppy sea below was a welcome spot for a snack stop.

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Then it was back into thick shady forest, picnic lunch stop noted….

before our final five minute rock climb up to the lookout – hot sun and zero shade. Stunning panoramic views over the Hauaraki Gulf. Quick photo stop before a sliding exit down the loose gravel, our feet going off in all directions as they slid into the deep channels carved out over time by heavy rain.

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Lunch in the shade, before the ninety minute trek back to base revisiting the glorious views in the opposite direction.

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Evening stroll on the beach…..

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