When you get to my age – you know, the age when hair starts sprouting out the top of your ears – you figure you’ve pretty much seen everything worth seeing in NZ.
Well, figure again.
The Matamata Camper‘s Waitangi weekend trip took the Barlow family north to Lake Taharoa, the largest of Northland’s three Kai Iwi Lakes.
Jean had been threatening me with a trip up there for years. She’s been a number of times – with the kids, friends, her parents – but I’ve never quite made it. It’s kind of a Waitangi tradition for her now. The last three summers the long weekend has coincided with WaiBOP United’s ASB Premiership matches. Before that…who knows.
But this Waitangi weekend I didn’t have a valid excuse. So we packed up the camper and headed north early on Saturday morning.
It was quite the hike. Six and a half hours, in fact, admittedly with a number of stops for the kids to stretch their legs. We by-passed the Harbour Bridge, figuring it would be madness on State Highway 1 north of Auckland. Instead, we bent our way out west to travel next to the Kaipara Harbour, through Helensville and along SH16 to Wellsford.
That was my first first of the weekend. It’s a road well worth taking and enjoying. Even in a camper going less than a hundred (and far less over the hills – sorry fellow travelers).
After a short burst along SH1 we shot out west again, heading through Maungaturoto, up along the poopy-looking Wairoa River, through Dargaville, eventually making it to the Promenade Point camp ground on Lake Taharoa.
The first time you see the lake, I’m guessing, is just a little bit special. It was for me, at least. Jean had certainly built it up but I guess I just wasn’t ever really paying attention. The deep blue of the lake was such a contrast to the burnt brown hills and the wide cloudless sky. I guess I just didn’t think something so tropical could exist anywhere other than the tropics.
If you’ve never been there then you’d best take a look at the pics below. It’s just so, so unexpected.
We nabbed a decent spot, right on the edge of the camping area and literally a 20 metre walk down to the lake, and basically started soaking the place up. Jean had a knowing ‘I told you so’ look for the first day or so, while I did my best to play it cool.
We’re still here as I write. To avoid all the long weekend return traffic we chose to let the kids have a day of school and took another day off work ourselves. I had a bit of a panic about it on Friday afternoon, when it started to sink how much I have to do over the next couple of weeks, but I worked my way through it and now… so relaxed. The sun, sand, beer kinda does that.
Mobile connection is very good at the camp ground. That was great news as I had an important Premier League game to follow on Sunday morning. I didn’t bother looking for a dodgy stream, instead just using the Premier League app and social media as Spurs beat Middlesbrough 1-0 thanks to a Harry Kane pen to go second again.
There seems to be something this season about staying the night in the camper and Spurs winning. They did it twice when we were at Waikawau, and then this. If the title race ever gets as close as it did last year then I think I’ll need to find a place to park when Spurs are on.
Anyway, you really could be forgiven for thinking you’re in the islands or even the Great Barrier Reef, such is the magnificence of the lake’s colour. Those are the only places I’ve seen water like this. It even dragged me in for the first swim (and more) of the summer. Yes – it was that good, although I’m not sure if the other camper’s appreciated seeing my hairy, pasty white torso. But hey, it was that good!
According to the promo literature, Lake Taharoa is the third largest dune lake in NZ and, at 38 metres deep, the deepest. There’s no known natural water inlets, so it’s fed by just the rain. The dry Northland summer seems to have taken effect, then, with the lake level down on what it normally is. The most amazing feature is the sheer drop, only a couple of metres out from the beach. The base literally drops away and disappears far beyond anywhere I could ever swim.
Clichés aside, this place is something special. It’s nice to be surprised once in a while.