We cycled to where we would reside for the next 3 weeks. No tent, no campsite, and not a cycle-touring host: we were about to embark on a new chapter of exploration courtesy of Kiwi House Sitters; time to settle for a while and time for house sitting. Our first house sat at the top of a very steep hill surrounded by a 17-acre garden of native bush; greeting us was the bellow of a big black dog called Nico, who we would be taking care of and soon grow to adore.
We decided to start house sitting as we thought it would be a good way to have a base, get to know areas of the country we may never have otherwise travelled to, and embrace normality for a little while – a year away travelling, it was great to have a sense of home. Taking the dog for walks was so much fun and, giving the bikes a rest, meant we could explore the local walking tracks. We appreciated so many of the little things, like being able to get groceries together, as one of us wouldn’t have to attend to the bikes and bags; and using an oven as opposed to a Jetboil stove to prepare meals.
We did our best to tire Nico out, which was a near impossible task. Running up and down the steep drive way and running around the garden trying to get whatever toy it was that Nico had picked up and refused to let us have. However hard we tried, she always managed to keep a firm grip of it between her teeth and just teased us to chase her and fight with her. Once we were exhausted, she still had plenty of energy so it was time to sit back, relax and just spray the water hose for her to chase instead.
A big bonus during our house sitting was being able to use a car. As we didn’t need to rely on our bikes to travel around, we vowed not to get too lazy, and instead of cycling we got the trail running shoes on and explored some of the local tracks. This meant our loci of adventure could stretch further than we were prepared to travel on a bike (though there were a couple of times when we cycled to and from a trail run to keep the legs spinning).
We ran the Matapouri Bush Track through Matariki pine forest and eucalyptus plantations, and the Whananaki Coastal Track with views of the beautiful blue sea and Poor Knights Islands – both tracks are part of the Te Araroa, a walking path from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island. We also ran the Pukenui Forest Track which followed the Mangere Stream and passed by the native, enormous kauri trees. Each track isolated us from people and cell phone reception – so no breaking any bones or spraining of ankles out here – but we felt like we were in a secret space with only the birds (and sometimes cows) to keep us company.
Diving at the Poor Knights Marine Reserve
I’ve never seen an ocean so blue, yet so clear – so tempting to dunk our heads beneath the twinkling surface to see what we could see! While in Northland, we couldn’t resist the opportunity to go diving at the Poor Knights marine reserve and after an hour or so on the boat, trying to spot whales and dolphins, we anchored up and were ready for our first cold water dive: thick 7mm wetsuits with a shark skin and a hood! Brrr.
This marine reserve is special in that a warm current, the East Australian Current, washes south from Australia to the Poor Knights Islands; these unique conditions bring an abundance and unique variety of marine life. The colour of the corals was spectacular, the sting rays glided elegantly, and the scorpion fish were stealthy. After the diving, the Dive! Tutukaka team took us to the world’s largest sea cave, Rikoriko. The whole thing was just awesome.