My visit to the no so winterless north included a fisrt for me. A visit to Dargaville and the Kaipara.
I found it both interesting and informative and was impressed by the enormous size of the Wairoa River that feeds into the upper Kaipara Harbour.
Dargaville, like many small country towns is facing challenges in these tough economic times but despite this there was an air of prosperity and an atmosphere of warm friendliness. Every shop we visited was staffed by cheerful, helpful people only too keen to point out to strangers the most interesting places to see and visit.
Most evident was the pride in the local people from the clock maker making beautiful clocks out of centuries old kauri logs pulled from the swamps, to the local bakery making traditional Dalmatian cakes.
The locals displayed an endearing fondness for the Dalmation settlers of old who wrested a living harvesting kauri gum from the swamps that are now lush fertile dairy plains.
On my list of things to do before the grim reaper calls is to take a cruise on the mighty Kaipara Harbour. The biggest harbour in our waterways the fleeting glimpse road travel gave me makes me keen to go back and explore it in the traditional way of old, by boat.
Every landing on the river also came equipped with a warning to marine users to notify the Coast Guard before attempting to cross the bar into the open sea, a grim reminder of all the people who have perished in times past crossing a deadly West Coast Bar.
And no visit to the Kaipara would be complete without buying a bag of kumera to take home and enjoy the harvest of the soil. The kumera is huge business in the area and we were amused to see a huge tin kumera as a roadside stall.
An entertaining place to visit and one I certainly would like to return and explore more.