Everything in the far North of New Zealand is named something incredibly strange, unfamiliar, and nearly impossible to remember. Cities, streets, buildings, beaches…they are all called something which is an elaborate concoction of traditional Mauri and modern pronunciation. I personally think that this was an ingenious defense mechanism used by the native people of this area thousands of years ago; if someone was going to invade, they would never be able to plan and carry out a successful plan of attack because they would never know where exactly they were supposed to go or how to pronounce their next battle location.
“Ok, so we’re going to take over Ahipara next.”
“So that was Paihia, right?”
“What about Whangerei?”
“I thought it was Vangerei.”
“Oh, screw it. Let’s go back to England.”
I’m almost positive a scenario exactly like that played out more than once.
After the Cape Reinga tour day, we left Ahipara and made our way to Kerikeri, where we had booked a night at the Farm Hostel located right outside the city. Before this trip I had a VERY different idea as to what hostels were all about than what I have actually encountered. Every place that I’ve stayed has been located in a large house that’s comfortable, cozy, pleasant and unique in its own way. The kitchens are stocked with staples (spices, oils, noodles, etc) so that you don’t have to carry a big supply of basics with you everywhere you go. Some have book exchanges, where you leave yours and pick up another. Others have movie rooms, a huge collection of board games, musical instruments, and always pets. All of this is typically between $25-$30 a night (the most I’ve paid so far is $35 and the least $23). It’s really been a great experience, and I think that in the future on a different trip I would choose to stay in a hostel over a hotel any day. Anyways, back to the Farm Hostel in Kerikeri. This place was my favorite so far-by far-and will be extremely difficult to beat as I travel. It was a big log cabin farmhouse of sorts, located on an organic orange, mandarin, apple, and fig orchard. As soon as I stepped out of the car, my new friend, a one-year-old chocolate lab named Nika, greeted me. I had barely set my stuff down inside before we engaged in an intense game of fetch (which was more like me chasing her all around the farm because she didn’t quite grasp the concept). When we drove up the driveway to Farm Hostel and I saw all of the fresh fruit trees, I had immediately started planning a midnight harvest session; I would hide the ripe fruits inside my backpack and no one would suspect a thing. Much to my delight, though, I never had to carry out my devious plan-one of the first things the young German guy running the place showed us was two bowls of fresh oranges and mandarins sitting on the table with instructions to help ourselves. Naturally I had two huge glasses of fresh squeezed juice the next morning. Oh, and did I mention they had free internet-basically as much as you wanted? That’s unheard of here, and worth the minutes in gold.
After a night spent smashing the competition in Scrabble (they called in beginners luck but I know it’s more along the lines of raw talent), we woke to a sunny day and decided to spend it wine tasting. Ok, I decided to spend it wine tasting and was lucky enough to have some company. 😉 Kerikeri is gaining notoriety as an up-and-coming gastro region of NZ and while it is no Napa, there are about 5 wineries all clustered in the same area along the “Northland Wine Trail”. Up here, they are known for their Chardonnays, and I did taste some great ones. What I was most impressed with, however, were the reds. At Marsden Estate, I picked up a bottle of their 2010 Reserve Pinotage (the signature red variety out of South Africa, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut) for $28; it’s AWESOME. They also had an incredible Rose, a great Syrah, and a Port that had a palate that went from coffee to caramel to distinct butter popcorn. Actually, all their wines were good. Unfortunately they only sell locally, so I’ll have to figure out a way to sneak a stash into the U.S…or you could come to the land of strange names and try to find your own path down wine lane. 🙂