Kerikeri, NZ

Day 2

Kerikeri has a strange layout. The historic foundation is to the east, at the mouth of the Kerikeri Inlet (a branch of the Bay of Islands). But the modern center is entirely separate, on higher ground a mile or two west, but still a few miles east of the SH10 highway. Our AirBNB is between the two centers, near the lone bridge that crosses the Kerikeri River gorge. Yesterday we walked down to the Inlet along the road, but today we would return that way by exploring a trail that follows the banks of the gorge (staying quite high above the river before finally diving down!) We could pick up the trail just by continuing down our dead-end street until it ran into the gorge.

Autumn leaves in May, in Kerikeri.
A grove of some of the tallest, smoothest, whitest eucalyptus trees we’ve ever seen welcomed us to the river trail.
Rett surrounded by towering eucalyptii.
Rett surrounded by towering eucalyptii.
These orange flowers were growing all along the upper reaches of the Kerikeri River Trail.
Yesterday we saw a sign warning to keep an eye out for invasive ginger plants. Today, bewitched by the soft but strong smell of this flower, I took a photo so Google could identify it for me. Whoops, that’s the invasive ginger they don’t like here!
Bamboo is another foreign introduction, though (despite this super-dense, super-tall black forest), it seems to stay relatively-contained here.
St. James Anglican Church, a descendant of one of the first Christian establishments in New Zealand (this 1878 version is built from kauri).
The garden pathway down from St. James.

Yesterday we saw the outside of The Stone Store, but today we got a peek inside (it’s a gift shop/museum now). It’s the oldest stone building in New Zealand (1836), and the walls inside are just as roughly stout as they are on the outside. Next door is the oldest still-standing wooden building, the Mission House (1822). As Americans, it’s a bit surprising to find a country whose oldest European artifacts are even younger than our own, but it’s interesting to learn an extra layer to the story of that culture’s center-of-gravity in New Zealand. I thought I was smarter than most by knowing that Auckland and the dominance of the North is a relatively new shift, with the now-hinterlanded South Island (Christchurch and Dunedin) being able to claim the cultural mantle for at least a century between 1850-1950. But the buildings here reveal that the northern shift of the last 75 years is actually a return of that center-of-gravity back to the north, even if Auckland’s weight is unlikely to ever push into this now-remote Far North region. But never say never!

Rett taking the ADA-accessible (NZDA-accessible?) route into the Stone Store (they sure were forward-thinking in 1836!)

We then returned to Plough & Feather to get more of Kainui Brewing’s excellent beer that they serve, especially their Hell Hole Red IPA. Multiple servers couldn’t believe that we not only liked it, but had returned for a second round! The brewer’s description heavily underplays the smokiness, and overplays the IPAness, so they clearly recognize how challenging it is to find an audience for such a beer, and thus, credit to them for continuing to put it out there (“a blood red malt background is met with hints of manuka, American oak, sea salt and a heavy hand of tropical hops. All of these components culminate in a rampant frenzy of debauchery lust.”)

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure any beer would taste excellent on such a perfect autumn afternoon.
Northern Hemisphere autumn leaves mix with a historic Maori settlement that had never seen such things.
A guy stealing Cousin Ron’s tourist-toting idea from Dunedin (the old stone building could even be in Dunedin!), except Ron’s trike was like 10x cooler than this much-bigger, but smaller-tired, and non-elevated version.

I lied about there being only one bridge over the river. There is a pedestrian bridge at the historic buildings (and even a rough rock “bridge” that could theoretically be hopped across)! We took that to the northern bank for the hike back, which turned out to be equally as good as the south bank trail.

#FindRett in a giant park tree on the north bank of the Kerikeri River.
Most definitely not the smooth bark of a kauri tree! (though there still were some kauri specimens in this forest!)
The Scarlet Letter, not in scarlet, and inside a hollow tree.
One of several waterfalls in the Kerikeri gorge.

We then took the big road bridge back to the south side of the river, and continued on into the modern town center to do a bit of thrift shopping, though limited open hours unfortunately made that a bit of a bust for Rett.

But more-broadly, Kerikeri was the opposite of a bust. The only reason we had come here at all is because this is where the bus back to Auckland begins its route. So I had assumed that it would be a purely utilitarian transport stop. We had no idea that it would turn out to be one of our favorite towns in all of New Zealand, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that this country managed to save some of the best for last.


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