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Travel New Zealand ebook
Travel New Zealand After lots of inspiration with his Maori language course ebook, Urbi added two more to the shelf: 'Travel New Zealand', which prepares for a trip here and 'Urban's Spanish language course for beginners and travellers'. Not much use in New Zealand we're afraid, but if you happen to travel via Easter Island or Mexico...

World Championship Rally in Whangarei
Whangarei Rally The back roads behind Whangarei are a world of their own, driver comments were again full of praise about the WRC 2012 (sorry, not for rental cars - they are unsealed). Francois Loeb: 'It was the perfect rally.' Ken Block: 'These are absolutely my favourite roads in the world and this has been the most enjoyable day of my rallying career.' Hayden Paddon: 'Day two north of Auckland are the best roads in the world.'

Hundertwasser house in Whangarei
Whangarei Hundertwasser House The Whangarei Council has decided to go ahead with an original Hundertwasser plan for a Town Basin building. It will have an onion tower, grass roof, no straight lines and loads of colours! Maori art shall take most of the exhibition space. It will be Hundertwasser's last house and an important legacy in the country of his last residence and citizenship, probably also a big boost for Whangarei tourism.

New Zealand e-books After a few years of anticipation we have finally published our first exciting e-books for travellers! One is a Maori language course for travellers (Te Reo - An Introduction into Maori Language) and the other features the unique animals of New Zealand (Introduction to New Zealand animals). They feature a lot of our photos and can be read on IPADs, there are also German and other versions for Kindle, iBookstore etc. We hope there will be many more in future.

Whangarei Art Museum and sculpture trail
Whangarei Hub Located in the new HUB building at the Town Basin (with the fantastic i-SITE and a bus stop), the Whangarei Art Museum is responsible for over 200 interesting works from top New Zealand artists, among them the closest to a Rembrandt that New Zealand can offer, an original Goldie painting which alone makes a visit worthwile (see www.whangareiartmuseum.co.nz). Behind the Town Basin you'll find a new sculpture and Whangarei history trail (both Whangarei Maori and settler history explained).

Rugby World Cup
Whangarei Rugby World Cup Whangarei's two Rugby World Cup 2011 games were sold out (featuring Tonga playing Japan and Canada) and a big success with the locals dressing up for the guest teams, it was the biggest party Whangarei ever saw! We had lovely guests from Canada and Japan (team officials) in the B&B and after the last game all the Japanese players' shirts were drying on our washing line - quite an unexpected view in the morning. It couldn't get better with New Zealand winning the final.

Scenic flight Whangarei to Bay of Islands
Scenic flight Whangarei to Bay of Islands - Hole in the Rock We have arranged scenic flights for guests and were jealous and had to find out more - it was one of our best excursions ever. We flew along Whangarei Harbour to Mount Manaia and Bream Head, then along Ocean Beach to the Tutukaka Coast and all the way to the Bay of Islands, saw the Hole in the Rock and the 200+ islands before returning back over farmland and Whangarei town, we were even able to photograph our house. The best photos are now on our Whangarei Photo CD.

Only 15 mins to Africa: Whangarei's Lion Park
Whangarei Lion Park Since the Lion Man series we had many visitors from the UK visiting the park, finally we managed to see it for ourselves. These rare White Lions, White Tigers and Barbary Lions (extinct in the wild) are truly amazing and the breeding programme is important. Zion, the Barbary Lion, featured as Aslan in the Narnia films. We highly recommend a visit, if only just to help feed those incredible animals.

Tutukaka Coast 2nd best in the world
Tutukaka Coast The National Geographic Traveler magazine's experts have rated 99 of the world's great islands, coastlines and beaches for sustainability and authenticity (see here). Our Tutukaka Coast was tied for second! Maybe one day it will get famous, rightly so, but for now it still is a traveller secret and you can enjoy the amazing beaches practically on your own.

Rugby World Cup in Whangarei
Rugby World Cup in Whangarei The 7th Rugby World Cup will be hosted by New Zealand from 9th of September until 23rd of October 2011 and Whangarei will host 2 exciting matches in its new Northland Events Centre! This is the largest sporting event ever held in New Zealand and of course we have already secured our tickets to Tonga v Canada (14.09.2011) and Tonga v Japan (21.09.2011), ready to go completely Rugby crazy with the rest of Whangarei. Check out the rugby rules here!

Speed boat racing in Whangarei
Speedboat and Whangarei Heads The Offshore Powerboat Racing Championships were back at Marsden Cove in April, we watched the speedboats race by at One Tree Point, with speeds of up to 200 kmh they looked and sounded like water jetplanes. The Whangarei Heads and Mount Manaia featured as an extremely scenic backdrop.

Waipu Cave
Waipu Cave entry South of Whangarei anyone can visit this cave system either the adventurous way with full gear or just get accustomed to the dark and find your way slowly into the second chamber, be prepared to get wet! We scrambled through the mud for an hour to find out that the thousands of glowworms at the beginning were actually the highlight for us. The Caves are 15kms of mostly unsealed road from State Highway One (near Uretiti Beach).

Penguin rescue
Little Blue Penguin On our way back to Whangarei from Auckland we explored the Long Bay Regional Park and saw a Little Blue Penguin on the beach. He seemed exhausted from the recent storm weather and coming closer we saw that his wings were stuck in the sand. We freed him but he could hardly move. We also saw dogs running around so decided to call the park ranger, packed our penguin in a jacket (do not touch with your hands!) and dropped him off, he’ll be fed back up to full strength in a week or so.

Driving on Ripiro Beach
Ripiro BeachSince we have a beach at the west coast which is even longer than the famous 90 Mile Beach we try to make the most of it, this time we rode a motorbike from just south of Glink’s Gully all the way to the 400m high Maunganui Bluff, 50 kms of lonely and fantastic adventure. Amazing colours, soft sand, gorgeous tiny settlements and an endless horizon in three directions. The closest settlement from here and a great access point is Baylys Beach, 75 kms from Whangarei.

Swimming with Dolphins
Bay of Islands dolphinWe heard stories from our guests and were getting curious about it, so we booked the beautiful ‘Cream Trip’ in the Bay of Islands and saw dolphins within the first 10 minutes. We jumped in the water and were much too excited to feel the cold, because right underneath us these big bottlenose dolphins swam past and looked at us. When they left the boat dragged us in a big net to the next encounter. Short moments, but we’ll never forget them.

New B&B decoration
B&B DecorationWe have finally decided on the decoration for our B&B ‘feature wall’, now our guests can’t avoid deciphering one of the original Maori names for Whangarei - ‘Whangarei te rerenga Paraoa”. This means ‘cherished harbour, the gathering place of the whales’, but can also be interpreted as the place where the big chiefs gathered before going to war. There are other names and interpretations, but we think this one is especially beautiful.

Rally of New Zealand
Rally of WhangareiWhangarei hosted the Rally of New Zealand and a leg of the Asia-Pacific championship which sounded pretty exciting to us, so we visited the start, two special stages and of course the finish. The curvy and hilly gravel roads south of Whangarei are ideal for racing (we can give you the stage map if you dare...). And yes, it is as noisy, fast and dusty as you imagine!

Bay of Islands P&I Show
Bay of Islands P&I ShowProbably the oldest of all New Zealand agricultural shows, this 170 year old annual event even has a different name: “Pastoral & Industrial”. There is a fantastic exhibition house competition is tough with cakes, flowers, knitting, preserves and anything else being judged, oysters for $0.50, renovated steam engine tractors, a yummy delicatessen tent (“Northland's Leading Wine & Food Festival”), wood chopping etc. and of course lots of animals competing for the elusive titles. Not your usual day trip to the Bay of Islands.

Visit to Limestone Island
Limestone Island Close to Whangarei, just opposite Onerahi, is the junior creche for local Kiwi chicks! It’s a predator free island where young Kiwi are released to ‘fatten up’ until they are strong enough to fend off stoats. They grow up under the care of a ranger until they are released into the wild at the Whangarei Heads. We also saw the ruins of an early Maori Pa and 100 year old cement works. Volunteers have planted 150’000 trees in the last 20 years, turning it from a proposed dump site into another nature paradise. We can arrange a barge if you’d like to visit the island yourself.

Tane Moana: giant Kauri tree 
Tane MoanaThanks to a newly opened part of the Te Araroa walking trail there is now public access to the fourth biggest Kauri tree in Northland! Its girth measures over 11m, it is certainly over 1000 years old and offers a stunning sight. It stands tall on a little ridge and because it overlooks the Pacific beyond the Tutukaka Coast local Maori have named it “Tane Moana”. The walk there and back takes about an hour. The “Long Pathway” will one day stretch the whole length of New Zealand (nearly 3’000km).

New upstairs B&B accommodation
New accommodation upstairsWe have a newly renovated private guest area upstairs! The bedroom is furnished with a King bed, a TV with DVD, has direct access to the garden, its own entrance and a great walk-in shower in the private bathroom. It’s ideal accommodation for business travellers.

Joining DOC rangers to spot Kiwis
Wendy with WhitiwhitiWendy won a DOC competition at the Dargaville Field Days and we had the great privilege to join two rangers to a Kiwi sanctuary 20mins northwest from Whangarei. Their job is to fit them with transmitters, regularly change their batteries, observe any hatching eggs and how the individuals are spread around the region. We shook wings with Peekaboo and Whitiwhiti and we'll never forget it! It's amazing being face to beak with these heart-warming guys, but also very sad to know that they are endangered and most have disappeared already. It's most important to fight stoats and protect them from dog attacks and car accidents. It is good to know that the rangers are tracking them and while doing that are able to learn more about their lives, we were very glad to hear that kiwi numbers could grow again under pest free circumstances.

Learning Te Reo (Maori language)
Pou in Te Tii MaraeAfter the great marae visit we enrolled for Maori classes to understand more about New Zealand culture. It’s about more than just the language, we learnt just as much about ceremonies, prayers and songs, how to introduce ourselves in a marae and so on. The language is beautiful but complicated to learn, even if we’ll never be able to talk fluently it’s interesting and always great fun.

Marae visit:
Marae visit WhangareiAs newcomers to Whangarei we were honoured to receive an invitation by local Maori onto their marae. It was a wonderful experience and we were made to feel very welcome. We experienced the interesting formal welcome ceremony, then we helped prepare a hangi (earth oven) that cooked for 4 hours and tasted great. In the evening we were singing and dancing, the kids learnt games and we had a ‘marae idol’ competition. We all spent the night on mattresses on the floor and then had a chance for discussion in the morning with our friendly hosts. A great privilege for us, it’s very exciting to live in a place where Maori culture is still going strong.

Maori settlement discovered on the Poor Knights Islands
Poor Knights IslandsArchaeologists have discovered a 200 year old 'time capsule of Maori life’ on the Poor Knights Islands off the Tutukaka Coast. An enemy tribe invaded the village while the men were at war elsewhere and slaughtered everyone that was left, since then the islands were tapu (sacred/off limits). Most of the land was used for gardening, fish and water were also abundant. Building structures, tools and artefacts can now be analysed, as can the bodies which have laid untouched since the raid.

Sparky the Kiwi
Sparky the KiwiWe met Sparky in town, the only captive Kiwi in New Zealand who can be taken out for public events. He’s quite a celebrity (and his personality is just as complicated), this article was in the newspaper in June 2008: “His fellow kiwi can't even fly but one-legged Sparky flew to Wellington today to join the World Environment Day celebrations. The kiwi, who lives at the Northpower Bird Recovery Centre in Whangarei, got his wings on board an Air New Zealand plane and is hoping to meet Prime Minister Helen Clark today. Although Sparky's plane journey will add weight to his carbon footprint, Mr Webb said having an endangered kiwi at a world-wide event would help more people understand conservation.”

Hundertwasser Art Centre
Similar designWhangarei plans to introduce the second Hundertwasser Centre next to Vienna by following original Hundertwasser plans from 1993, to convert an existing building in the yacht harbour! The Hundertwasser Foundation cooperates, the funding of $9.5 m still needs to be raised and the opening will probably be 2010. We are already blessed with his toilets in Kawakawa - imagine what a museum would be like!

Whangarei A&P Show
Sheep shearing athe the Whangarei A&P showAgricultural and Pastoral shows are a must for every visitor who wants to see the real New Zealand. Complete with animal prizes, horse events, vintage machinery, farmyard nursery, sheep shearing, wood chopping, food and wine marquee (mussel fritters) and more. We walked around in gumboots and got a ride on the 4x4 offroad dirt field, just as much fun as watching teenagers doing special tasks like transporting eels with bare hands or building fence gates! Next dates: 5th to 7th December 2008.

Fishing at the Whangarei Heads
Fishing at the Whangarei HeadsEveryone goes fishing here and when we received an invitation there was no way we wanted miss it. What a fantastic trip that was! Gorgeous just being out on the water, sway in the gentle swell, taking in the incredible colours, the thrill of riding the waves and dropping the hook, the beautiful coast of the Whangarei Heads (facing Bream Head) was just as amazing as the Poor Knights. We saw a lazy penguin floating on the water, chased the Red Snapper, Kahawai and Kingfish schools with GPS and radar/depth sounder. We proudly caught seven Snapper but just one was big enough to be a keeper min 27cm. We invited and ate him for dinner!

Northland Agricultural Field Days
Dargaville Field DaysThe annual Field Days in Dargaville are just 60km from Whangarei. They are a typical New Zealand countryside event, this one is huge with over 550 exhibitors and loads of fun activities attracting over 25’000 visitors. Thousands of farmers have a ball with the newest agricultural products on sale, there are also dog trials, cutting horses, tractor pulling competitions, lawnmower racing, wood chopping shows and even gumboot throwing. We love it and whenever people mistake Urbi for a NZ farmer he’s extremely proud. Next dates: 26th-28th February 2009.

Waitangi Day (always on Feb 6)
Waitangi WakaWe had an excellent day in the Bay of Islands celebrating the birthday of New Zealand. As not many Pakehas were to be seen, it felt like going back to the Polynesian roots of our country and it was great to see that Maori took the lead in the celebrations. We saw politicians, TV presenters and New Zealand celebs and had the honour to witness a Powhiri (Marae welcome) for a Tuhoe delegation. We saw the wakas (canoes) in the Bay and how they tugged them back under the roof. The Kapa Haka groups were singing and dancing and swinging their poi. We were even given smoked eel, kumara and maori bread for free. We had such a good time that we enrolled for a Maori language course.

Highland Games Waipu
Highland Games Waipu - Sheaf TossingIf you think that Maori culture is exotic then you should go to the annual Highland Games in Waipu on 1st of January. We saw the clan parade, some caber and sheaf tossing, piping competition, toddlers in tartan, very interesting clan stands, a sword dance and the really bizarre sailor dancing competition. In 2011 the famous Games will celebrate their 140 year anniversary. Waipu and the Whangarei Heads were the destination of early Scottish settlers who arrived here on an adventurous odyssey via Nova Scotia and Australia. The Waipu Museum tells their interesting story.

Rare garden creatures
Giraffe WeevilOver the last year we had some lovely creatures visit our garden. We found an enormous brown Stick Insect on the flax plants (also one lime green one in the apartment under the coffee table!). As they move slowly we’re also happy when we see an impressive Weta, they are very peculiar and protected, one species is the heaviest insect in the world. Leif Vein Slugs are as cute as can be, they like to climb through the window and up the wall. The strange Flat Worms hang out under stones, they can cuddle into a flat ball or stretch into long threads. Praying Mantis are very common and fascinate us with their clever behaviour (they catch flies and even wasps). The Sleeping Bag Caterpillars crawl to the highest point dragging their bag with them, seal up and then turn into a moth. The funniest insects however are definitely the Giraffe Weevils with their long snouts, they’re surprisingly good at flying.

Sleeping Bag Moth Leifvein Slug Flat Worm Weta Insect on Wendy Praying Mantis baby - few minutes old Stick Insect

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