Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kaitaia...In the REAL NORTH

As you can see, the welcome sign for Kaitaia is written in English, Maori and Croatian! There was a large number of Croatians who settled in this area, hence the sign!

So I was whisked away to Kaitaia, the last real town before you fall off the tip of the North Island. Cape Reinga, the last piece of land on this island, has huge meaning for Maori people. Legend goes that it is the last place that spirits leave from on their way to the "other" side.

So here I was, in a minivan traveling for about 2 hours north of Paihia with three other women, not knowing what would be in store for me. It was a lucky so many ways.

Mihi (pronounced Mehi), Moana's daughter, was waiting for us at the house and had prepared dinner. We were pretty hungry. Mihi is a chef and what a chef! I ate so well while I was there!

Pauline managed to convince Mihi to make us her famous pesto...from scratch! It was awesome. Being hot (or warm, in my perspective) in temperature, we opted for cool meals to keep everyone from sweating too much.

From bottom left and going clockwise: Pauline, friend of Moana's, Moana, Marina and Mihi (we had pesto on baguette lightly toasted in the oven with some cheese on top and a wonderful chicken salad)

We hung around that day, but decided to go out to Pauline's land in the KariKari Peninsula the next day. The Maori have a different concept of land ownership and there is a great level of respect for sharing land amongst family. So we drove up to the peninsula and what I saw was really cool. Everyone in the extended family was allocated a parcel of land and anyone who wanted to develop it, could. Pauline plans to build on her land in about 4 years, also incorporating a Mirimiri center for people to come and heal at. I would love to return, because look at the view from her land!

Karikari Peninsula

Below: Vid to show you the scope of the view from Pauline's land

We visited with some of her cousins, had some refreshing drinks and returned to Kaitaia.

On the way back, we stopped by a mineral lake that is known for it's healing qualities. The water is yellow and red and really cool. Kids were slathering mud on their skin. The mud was so black, it looked like crap, really. And interestingly enough, the name of the lake refers to crap. Forgot the name and stupidly I forgot to charge the battery on my camera before our trip so I only got a couple shots of Kari Kari. I took pictures of the lake with my phone, but I don't know how to transfer it to the computer! I know, I'm pathetic with technology, but I don't have the cord that connects the two together, so sorry guys, no pix from this place.

Anyway, I spent a couple of nights burning cds for Marina and Pauline for their return to Australia. On the Monday morning, they were to leave, but the weather proved bad and their flight was canceled.

Marina and Pauline on the morning they were supposed to leave! They're like brightly colored parrots! Gotta love the energy!

As a result, we went on a little road trip to visit Moana's husband's grave and see where her family's land is located.

On our way, we stopped at Houhora, the last village before the end...and the last tavern as well!

Old Tavern

New Tavern (I like the old one better!)

Afterwards, Mihi wanted to show me White Sands. Below a video and explanation.

We hung around there for a while. The ladies did some fishing off the rotting pier and I went for a little look-see in the area. It was low tide and I found some really cool rock formations.
During high tide, most of this rock is under water.

The rocks look almost carbonized. Strange...and beautiful.

The following day, Marina and Pauline were able to leave for Australia and Mihi decided to take me on a drive. It was kind of a crappy day, however, so we didn't go to Cape Reinga because we wouldn't have had a clear enough day for that. So we stopped off at a beach, (I'm forgetting the name) and watched some surfers turn down perfectly good waves!

Along 90 mile beach

And Mihi continued to feed me amazing food!

Green-lipped mussels cooked in butter and garlic! Delicious!

I had been talking about my extreme disappointment in the quality of food in restaurants in New Zealand and I finally had a sympathetic ear. According to Mihi and her family, the best places to eat in New Zealand, are not in restaurants, but rather in people's homes. And let me tell you, there is no greater truth than that. I've eaten great meals in the Bay of Plenty, when I ate at the Fothergills, great meals in Hastings (thanks to Shani and her father), and great meals in Kaitaia (thanks to Mihi). Apparentely, because the restaurant industry here is not very good to the chefs, they tend to leave the country and find work elsewhere. Many chefs go to Australia to work and New Zealand is left with... not much. Mihi herself stopped working in the kitchens, turned off by how things were run.

So for any of you wanting to eat really good food, and really good seafood, go to people's homes. Knock on their doors if you have to! They'll let you in and give you a feed! (kiwi expression. They use the word feed as a noun) Go up to Northland, (the real north!) because seafood is the staple. It is such a way of life that we went to 90 mile beach one evening and went "hunting" for tuatuas (clams). I'd never done that before! It was so fun to go out and get your own dinner. Just like catching the snapper, this was another one of those experiences that'll stay with me forever. And no other clam dish I've had could ever be as good as that night!90 mile beach on a stormy tuatua picking evening...don't you just love the light!

Moana, Mehi and TakiTaki hunting for tuatuas

Below: A Vid on 90 mile beach and low tides

Below: Wanna know how to find tuatuas? Watch this vid!

What we caught/found for that night's dinner!

Below: An experiment egged on by Mehi!

On my last day in Kaitaia (the day before I was to leave for Auckland and meet up with Shani who would take me back to Hastings), Mihi took me to Kauri Kingdom, a stop-off for tourists where almost everything in the giftshop is made from Kauri trees. You guys remember how incredibly big those trees were? Well look some more!

A Kauri tree trunk in the middle of the shop
From the other side! You can actually walk up it!

Below: In my excitement, I forgot that I couldn't rotate the vid and shot it sideways. Sorry!

A carving reminiscent of Lord of the Rings made from a Kauri trunk. Impressive!

So...after a week of feeling like I was a part of a family again, I left Kaitaia with an invitation to come back anytime. I would love to. And I'm grateful for being "kidnapped" by such intensely generous people. They will always be in my hearts.

My adoptive family! I'm such a lucky person!


Anonymous said...

Ok so this entry was super interesting...Looks like a super good time. Good food, (please bring me back some muscles, tuatuas and especially that pesto recipe!!) Always enjoy seeing you in front of the hopefully there's more of you to come.
The walk up the tree was cool...even sideways..LOL
Well my love, be in touch when you can. Me and my taki taki (that's imani)..LOL (means challange right?) send our love.

L said...

Thanks babe! Good to see you back. I'm taking it you're feeling much better. It was an awesome time and I will definitely ask Mehi for the pesto recipe. She ground up the nuts and everything and used cashew nuts instead of pine nuts and I know you love cashews!

I'll bring you the recipe by my own two hands, my sister, and we'll make it together!

Martine said...

It's really good to hear about you again. I just visited your blogs, and appreciate all of your marvellous trips. Your pictures are great and you're always so beautiful...

L said...

Ca ma fais plaisir de te voir ici, Martine! Merci pour tes mots. J'ai jete un coup d'oeil sur le blog de ta famille et qu'elle famille manifique! Gaetan est si grand...j'espere te revoir ici encore un jour. Gros bissous a toi et toute ta famille!


simon said...

Hi there, very interesting blogs, I need some tips !!! been at Kenepuru last few weeks, all ok if you want to leave some gear with us, fellow traveller! I'm heading up into the Tararua mountains in the school holidays, will try and see you in the hospital if not get in touch via facebook or phone, Simon. Still learning how to make a good job of this.