Six Books, a Bach and a Wizard’s Robe

Getting away to “the bach” is a Great Kiwi Tradition. A bach is a holiday home, and it’s pronounced like a batch of cookies, not like the Baroque composer.

bach

Baches range from old shacks to modern mansions, although anything too “flash” isn’t really seen as being in the spirit. It’s supposed to be about getting back to basics; enjoying the beach with your family, free from technological distractions. As such, the traditional Kiwi bach is usually quite rundown. Worn-out couches, rusty kettles and board games with missing pieces are commonly found accessories.

Ruakaka Beach

Once you’ve arrived at your bach, there’s nothing to do except go to the beach. When I was younger, I despised it. I thought: I know we’re supposed to be grateful for the little things, but if you’re grateful for this, you’re an idiot. I mean this is the pinnacle of the Kiwi dream? This? But I think I get it now. “Getting it” could be to do with, you know, growing up, but I’ve also had some more positive bach experiences in the last few years.

Ruakaka Beach

I’ve had some “How’s the serenity?” moments:

Yes, that’s an Australian film, but you know… certain attitudes are similar.

Ruakaka Beach

Sometimes, having nothing to do except go to the beach is a good thing. You get there and suddenly nothing matters except the people you’re with. Earlier this year, my partner and I went to a bach with a large group of friends – a New Year getaway. The bach was in Ruakaka, in scorching Northland. When we arrived, Tim nearly passed out from the heat. Wading into the Pacific Ocean was absolute bliss.

Waipu Cove

As nice as Ruakaka Beach is, a short drive up the road lies an even nicer beach: Waipu Cove. After a couple of days lounging around in Ruakaka, Tim and I decided to visit Waipu. We returned with six books and a wizard’s robe.

waipucove5

Our friends joked that only Tim and Abby could go to the beach and come back with books and a LARPing costume. (And if you’re thinking but there are only five books in the photograph – I got another book after it was taken.) There was a mobile library at the beach, you see, and they had a table full of old books they were giving away.

Waipu Cove

“If every beach was like this,” Tim said to me, “we’d get you outside more.” True as that may be, even I’ll admit that Waipu Cove is worth visiting irrespective of the presence of a mobile library. Even the toilet block has a lovely mural painted on it, chronicling the history of the Waipu settlement.

Waipu Cove Mural

As for the wizard’s robe, that came from a junk shop on Waipu’s main street. (Waipu has a few junk – one might hesitate to call them antique – shops.) The town was settled in the nineteenth century by a group of Scottish immigrants who’d had quite a time of it. They were led by a very dour-looking religious chap who fell out with the Presbyterians in Scotland because they weren’t dour enough. He took some members of his clan off to Canada, but the whole thing was a bloody disaster, so they built themselves a ship and sailed to Australia, but Australia was too full of prozzies and booze, so they got another ship and sailed to New Zealand. There they settled, and when the dour guy finally died they let their hair down and started having all the fun they’d been forbidden from having because, apparently, God hates fun. This particular brand fun included nostalgic celebrations of Celtic culture, and Waipu holds annual highland games to this day.

Waipu Museum

That’s what I gathered from Waipu’s rather excellent museum, anyway. It’s worth a visit if you’re up that way. Here’s the website. Apparently, the highland games are worth a visit too. Here’s that website.

For more of my adventures up north, read What to Do in Kerikeri.

What to Do in Kerikeri

Guess what? I just spent four days in Kerikeri. (House sitting with my boyfriend, so free accommodation – score!)

Kerikeri is in the far north of New Zealand. It gets really hot up there. Everywhere you look it’s orchards and vineyards.

My family passed through it years ago, when we took a campervan up to Cape Reinga, but this was my first time properly exploring it.

Kerikeri 051

Rainbow Falls

I’ll start with the town itself, which is a lot bigger than I’d expected. (It has TWO supermarkets!) The main street is really picturesque. There are a few interesting shops, especially of the art and craft variety. It’s simply pleasant. Even the New World supermarket has an old-fashioned stone frontage.

On the Sunday morning, we went to the Kerikeri Farmers Market. It had wine, cheese, nuts, bread, crepes, blueberry ice-cream, avocados – did I mention cheese? It was incredible cheese. The Art and Craft Market was right next to it. One stall had handcrafted wooden toys; another had necklaces made of fossils and crystals.

The Stone Store

The Stone Store

We took our incredible cheese and walnut-and-honey bread to Rainbow Falls for a picnic. I was expecting a small waterfall, but this was awesome – so pretty! No wonder it’s the top tourist attraction in Kerikeri. Well, apart from Kemp House and the Stone Store.

Kemp House is the oldest European house in New Zealand. It was built in 1822. (That’s old for New Zealand.) The Stone Store is New Zealand’s oldest stone house, built a decade later.

The Kemp House garden

The Kemp House garden

Kemp House has a beautiful (and very English) garden. It’s next to a river that has a lovely bridge, on the other side of which is Rewa’s Village.

Rewa’s Village is a replica Maori fishing village. If you want an idea of what the pioneering Europeans would have seen when they arrived in New Zealand, take a tour.

Other places to go in Kerikeri include Charlies Rock. It’s an interesting feature that you can jump off into a swimming hole.

Charlies Rock

Charlies Rock

The waterfall there isn’t as big as Rainbow Falls, but it’s pretty too. There’s also Aroha Island, where you can see kiwi, and the Parrot Place, which kids will love.

A somewhat less advertised attraction is the Edmonds Ruins. They’re not that impressive – you’ll only spend a few minutes there and it’s a little out of the way – but it’s nice to see the stone walls of a Victorian farmhouse in New Zealand.

Also a little out of the way is the Puketi Forest. It’s well worth going, though. The forest is full of enormous kauri trees.

Puketi Forest

Puketi Forest

I mean wow!

More Puketi Forest

More Puketi Forest

There are hardly any places to see giant kauri, as most of them were logged ages ago. The Puketi Forest has a short boardwalk that’s raised up above the undergrowth, making it the only wheelchair accessible bush walk in Northland. It’s raised up to help prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, but there’s another advantage. Being up above the undergrowth gives you a whole different perspective as you walk through the forest.

The raised boardwalk

The raised boardwalk

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a beautiful bush walk.

Kerikeri and the surrounding area is a great place to go if you’re interested in New Zealand’s history. An easy drive north, you’ve got Matauri Bay, where the Rainbow Warrior was wrecked. An easy drive south-east, you’ve got Waitangi, where the famous (or infamous) Treaty was signed. A little further south, you’ve got the town of Kawakawa, which has glowworm caves and a vintage railway.

Edmonds Ruins

Edmonds Ruins

If you’re a booklover like me, I recommend you visit Village Books in Waipapa. It’s a rather good second-hand bookshop. I went crazy in there. I had a whole pile of classics before I realised I shouldn’t spend that much money and, painfully, I reduced the pile to just three.

A place we didn’t get to see was the Wairere Boulders. I would have liked to – it looks cool – but it would have been a long drive getting there. That’s why we didn’t go to Cape Reinga either.

A car or campervan is absolutely essential if you’re visiting Kerikeri. If you’re passing through on a New Zealand campervan hire holiday, try to do so on a weekend. That way you can visit the Farmers Market on Sunday morning.

Charlies Rock again

Charlies Rock again

One last thing: drop in at the Blue River Orchard for a fresh blueberry ice-cream or frozen yoghurt. So yum!