After two days on the camping we have chilled enough and drive Oesga – our car – towards Whangarei, the last city we will visit on our way to the most Northern point of New-Zealand. Having all time on our side, we leave Highway 1 – running from Bluff, the most Southern point of the Southern Island to Cape Reinga, the most Northern point of the Northern Island- and drive past small places like Pakiri, Whangaripo, Te Arai, Mangawhai, Hakuru and Kaiwaka northwards.
As soon as we’ve passed through them the asphalt road comes to an end and we slowly crawl up the mountains over roads full of sand and big rocks. Driving down isn’t any better. If we brake to hard, the car slides away. With the road not being any wider than the car is, sliding down isn’t the nicest feeling.
The south is cold
The further we drive up north, the yellower and lower the hills become. Houses are rare in this area. Living in the north of Europe it stays a strange idea that the Northern part of this country is the warm part, whereas the South is cold. In Europe we always go South to be warm. It reminds us again that we’re not only on the other side of the world seen from the left to the right, but also top down.
Driving through the paddocks we see cows everywhere. We expected sheep. That’s the stereotype we have of New Zealand. But – as we will learn later – sheep are not worth a lot of money anymore. Cows are. Manly cow milk, so a lot of farmers are getting rid of their sheep and are filling up their fields with cows.
After an hour we see Whangarei, where we check in at Bunkdown Lodge. Peter – the owner of the lodge – is awaiting us at the door of one of the most beautiful backpackers of New Zealand. When we greet him in English, he informs where we are from. When we say The Netherlands he smiles and replies in proper Dutch: “Goedemiddag, welkom in Whangarei.” The rest of the conversation goes in English, because Peter emigrated to New Zealand as a kid of 9 years old. Just as many other Dutch people. By that time he was called Pieter, but the kiwi’s misspelled his name so often he decided to drop the i. For the same reason he changed his last name from De Zoete into Dezoete. Coming to this country as a child he doesn’t really speak Dutch, but he can still understand it. As long as we speak slow.
Peter is one of the many people with Dutch roots we’ve met on our trip and we’ve been here only for three weeks. It isn’t to strange, because New Zealand is home to 150.000 people with a Dutch passport. New immigrants, but also children from parents and grandchildren from grandparents who left The Netherlands after the second world war. Together with Canada and Australia New Zealand was one of the most popular destinations to go to. “And the Kiwis welcomed the Dutch people with open arms”, taught Kiwi Mark us at the beginning of our trip. “Because Dutch people are practical, adapt themselves easily and work hard.”
Population wise the Dutch people are number three. The former English form the biggest group, followed by the Maoris and the Dutch. Not that strange that we can’t seem to go anywhere without running into Dutch people. When we rent a surfboard at Muriwai Beach, the owner is half Dutch. Talking to the guy at the check-out in the supermarket we find out his grandfather is Dutch. Just like the owner of the Dutch Cheese shop, Bunkdown Lodge and research institute Seafriends. And guess who owns Dive!Tutukaka, New Zealand’s best (reviewed) dive company? A Dutchie, with whom we will discover the underwater world of the Poor Knight Islands. We’re not looking for them. We have enough Dutch people at home, but avoiding Dutch people in New Zealand seems impossible to do.
I wrote this story in 2008; now I'm finally taking the time to translate it into English.