Sep 052011

I’m always on the lookout for great travel stories, and I recently had the pleasure of reading a set of amazingly descriptive trip notes by Frank Gourley. Frank recently took the trip of a lifetime to New Zealand and Australia, and I convinced him to do a series of guest posts on Reeftraveler based on his experiences in the land of Oceania.


Too Many Miles, by Frank Gourley

Today we went to the Bay of Islands, about three and one half hours north of Auckland.  The scenery was beautiful – rolling hills, lush green fields with sheep and cows, dense forest, and occasional views of water! For part of the way there was a toll road.  To pay the toll, we had to stop at a service center that had several machines where you paid the toll and got a receipt.  (No toll-takers working 24/7!)

We decided to go out to a bird reserve to see examples of New Zealand birds.  It was a good ways out to the reserve over a winding road.  The last 5km were graveled.  On the way you could get views of the ocean, cliffs, rolling hills, fields, large trees, etc.  The reserve, itself, was fenced off from one side of the peninsula to the other.  This was to control predators.  There were traps set along the outside of the fence.  Inside the preserve we saw three types of birds – pukeko, brown teal, and one other (?).  The pukeko had a red head, purple neck, and black body.  The teal was mostly brown. (Not much of a cross-section of the bird population for such a long drive, but well worth the trip for the other aspects of  the experience).

Photo by Frank Gourley

On the way back to the main road, we stopped in the little town of Matakama for lunch at The Black Dog Cafe, a combination convenience store, market, bar, pastry shop, and restaurant.  The town was quite interesting with a small riverside-level mall, various shops and services on the main street level, a tea garden (bakery and grill), and a uniquely crafted and sculpted public restroom on the roundabout (with no parking nearby).

Matakama Restroom - Photo by Frank Gourley

From there we went back to the main road and headed north again – more spectacular views, some mountainous roads, and highway construction in several places.  One particularly scenic spot – big mountain across the ocean – had a Tourist Viewing sign on the main road.

Photo by Frank Gourley

Paihia was our destination at the Bay of Islands area.  We got there about an hour before sundown.  There were boats in the bay, several varying-sized islands in sight, various water-based businesses, a public dock and ferry service, swimmers (in wet suits), tourist-oriented shops and restaurants, and a fair-sized downtown.  I asked for information from a guy who happened to be of Maori decent.  We walked together for a couple of blocks and he talked some about the history of New Zealand and that area.

Photo by Frank Gourley

Photo by Frank Gourley

Stay tuned for Part II – Rotorua, For the Smell of it!

Frank Gourley retired in 2006 as an administrator of engineering technology education programs at the university level, and now pursues his interests in Travel, Photography, Architecture, Woodworking, Music, Singing, Guitar, Watercolor, Art, Crafts, Gardening, Railroading, Beaching, Boats, Canoeing, Outdoors & Wildlife, Construction, Alternative Health, Yoga, Maps, Cooking, Oriental Landscaping, Chronicling, and Genealogy, in addition to enjoying activities with family and friends.  He and Genene, his wife, live in Charleston, WV.

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