Trip up north - Day 1 at Pukehina Beach (26th December 2007)

Today is Boxing Day, an old holiday based on the tradition of giving gifts to the less fortunate members of society and is celebrated the day after Christmas by many Commonwealth Nations. I don't know of any celebrations as such here in New Zealand - it's just another public holiday for me!

Helbert and I had decided to go on a trip together to the Northland region (also known as 'the Tail of the Fish' in Maori) located in the North Island. We've done many trips in NZ but have not yet been to this region. Northland is a sub-tropical climate zone, with warm humid summers and mild winters. Golden beaches, tranquil harbours, warm waters and spectacular forest, Northland is filled with stunning beauty - an aquatic playground and a land of unspoilt natural beauty. One of the main reasons why we are heading there is also because it has a marine reserve, The Poor Knights Islands, which is one of the world's top dive locations (yes, I'm going diving again!).

Having travelled with Helbert on many occasions, I've got used to his travelling style i.e. no plans. Yep, you heard me right - there's no itinerary whatsoever when travelling with him except the day of departure and return (you can plan all you want and get frustrated in the end because it's unlikely you'll check all the tick boxes on your list). It's a pretty exciting way to travel because you never know what you'll get up to the next day :) And I think it's also more of a holiday, as in, more relaxed not having a schedule to follow.

We left Wellington around 8am today and started making our way up north. It was a nice drive today and gorgeous weather - hmm, life is wonderful! Our friends and Helbert's former flatmates, Sonja and Erik, were spending the year-end holidays in a rented bach at Pukehina Beach and had invited us over for a BBQ this evening. Sounds like a plan! So off we headed to meet them. Made a brief stop in Rotorua to grab lunch and did some shopping for the BBQ.

Pukehina Beach is in the Bay of Plenty located approximately 3 hours drive from Auckland. A beautiful 6km long white sandy beach wonderful for swimming, boogie boarding and surfing. We arrived around 3pm and it was a coincidence to bump into Erik and Sonja on the street as we drove towards their bach. I was with the video camera recording the drive down Pukehina Parade (a long main street with lots of beach houses along the strip on both sides) and could see Erik and Sonja heading our way!

A short rest and tour of the bach later, Sonja and I changed into our bikinis and headed to the water for a splash. Urgh, it was cold!! Looked warm because the weather was sunny but at 18-19 degrees Celsius and in my bikini, I couldn't stand being in the water for too long. Getting goose bumps! I still have some fear of being in the open water even though I've started swimming lessons...

There was this inlet nearby that is filled with shellfish and Erik got everyone excited to check it out! Me, Helbert, Sonja, Erik, Rick (Sonja's and Erik's flatmate), Erik's brother and his gf all went to see what the fuss was about. Ah, turns out the inlet is shallow and has a sandy bottom with lots of shellfish like pipi and mussels inside. All you have to do was get yourself into the water till about knee-high depth and start shovelling. The catch though is there's a limit to the size and amount of shellfish you can collect in a day (yes, this is a law in NZ and you'll be penalised if found breaching the rule). But it didn't concerned us much as the size of the pipi were small so we only collected about 30-40 right-sized ones. Hmm, time to wash them and put it on the BBQ...

Have you tried BBQ eggplant? Erik's brother put some on the BBQ. Hmm, it was nice - you have to season it with some olive oil, salt and herbs and grilled them till soft. Learnt something new today!

It was nice of them to have us put up the night in their spare bedroom - thanks guys for having us over! Photos taken at Pukehina Beach:


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