Day 219 – Sunday November 25, 2007- Ahipara to Dargaville, New Zealand
Upon returning to the campground on Saturday night we saw a sign posted regarding a planned power outage for the whole area on Sunday from 8am until 5pm. Since we were leaving bright and early in the morning, this didn’t seem to be very important, but it turned out to be. On Sunday morning, we headed over to the gas station to find it shut down due to the power outage. After going to several more with the same result, we began to prepare for a long day, given that we didn’t have enough gas to go anywhere else. There were seven long hours to kill before we could fuel up and hit the road.
I can think of many worse places to be stuck for the day than Ahipara. We tried to make the most of our down time, spending a good portion of the day parked near the beach, with Shawn Reece doing school work and Jasmine and I listening to our Ipods. On one occasion I ventured out onto the beach listening to my Ipod. As I was walking, loud barks suddenly started coming from behind me and I looked back to see two fierce looking pitbulls coming my way very fast. I was at least 100 feet off of their property (which was right on the beach and didn’t have a fence) but that didn’t matter, it looked like they were determined to kill me.
I have to admit, at that moment I was scared. As I started to run, a small collection of explictives along with a high pitched scream came out of my mouth, before utter silence took over as I was too scared to make any noise. I decided to run towards a group of people who were lounging on the sand a few hundred feet from me. “At worst,” I said to myself, “they could help get the dogs off of me.” Running on the sand wasn’t very easy and the dogs seemed better at it than me. It wasn’t long before they started to close the gap. At this point I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it to the other people, because I was only halfway there and the dogs were getting closer every second. Just as a pessimistic thought or two began to creep in to my mind, their owner came out from the house and called them back. That was it. The owner didn’t say anything to me nor did anyone else. To be truthful, I am not sure if the other people on the beach even noticed my situation as they were busy enjoying themselves. I cannot remember a time in my adult life when I have been so scared. Those dogs were looking to make a meal of me for sure.
After the beach incident, I stayed in the car for the rest of the day, but couldn’t wait to get out of town. We were pleased when the power came on an hour early, allowing us to gas up and get on the road around 4pm. Since it is summer in New Zealand the days are quite long, so even though it was late, we still had plenty of time to get to our destination before dark.
The first bit of our drive involved more spectacular vistas as we drove through the mountains to the small port town of Okihanga where the road ends and the only way across the bay is via ferry. Due to my diligent driving, we pulled onto the ferry just one minute before it disembarked. I swear the little old lady driving in front of us was conspiring to make us miss the boat, but it didn’t work. The ferry ride took around 10 minutes and before long, we were back on the road taking in more spectacular views.
A few minutes more down the road, the sight of gold shimmering sand dunes across the way was just to much and we had to stop to admire it for a bit. The next place we came across was the small town of Opononi where in 1955 a dolphin named Opo swam into town and started interacting with the locals. He became so famous that Kiwis from all over the country drove to the little town to see him. Unfortunately, in 1956 he was killed in a suspicious manner, but the crime was never solved. As a tribute, he was buried in the town next to a small museum.
Just before reaching Dargarville our stop for the night, we saw a sign for a ten minute bush walk to the tallest Kaori tree in New Zealand. The tree is called Lord of the Forest or Tane Mahuta and after five minutes we got our first glimpse of it. It is massive and in my opinion just as impressive as those redwoods that I love so much.
Once in Dargarville, we went to the market and picked up a couple of meat pies to stick in the oven for dinner. Monday we headed out of Northland to start our journey through the rest of New Zealand. Our first taste of New Zealand’s beauty has certainly impressed. We are chomping at the bit to see what the rest of the country has to offer.
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The Coomer Family