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A Mega Sightseeing Opportunity

VanTravel agent Mandy Page doesn’t know if she’ll be coming or going this Labour Weekend as she co-ordinates two geo-trips for New Zealand’s second Mega event. In her latest It’s Not About The Numbers post, she reveals what awaits each tour party.

“When the organisers of GC44FC9 NZ Mega Auckland 2013 asked me to consider organising a domestic geo-tour, I had to take a breath. Something overseas seemed less daunting but my second thought was ‘What fun!’ – that’s how Tours Direct’s Geo-North and Geo-South expeditions came about.

Mandy Page

Mandy Page

For both trips, my sister Tracey (GC handle: Team Welsh) and I (GC handle: PageNZ) will each commandeer a 10-seater van to show 20 guests the best scenery and caches on offer in the upper North Island. Geo North takes place just before the Auckland Mega, and Geo South immediately after.

Hotel rooms have been booked, our routes carefully planned and all special equipment (bicycles, sandboards, kayaks) organised. Along the way, we’ll also supply snacks, tips for finding the caches on our itineraries and suggestions on how best to enjoy these road trips.

Tracey and I figured we needed to offer fabulous experiences in our beautiful New Zealand but also include things which are harder to arrange if you’re not familiar with the area or roads. There will always be more caches that could be included but we’ve targeted the ones we thought could be done in a day with a group of great people.

Now I must warn that my sister and I are competitive – so you can expect a little sibling rivalry between our vans as we vie for the title of geo-champions.

Ever-green: The lush and historic kauri forest at Dargaville.

Ever-green: The lush and historic kauri forest at Dargaville.

GEO-NORTH TRIP

Tour No 1 (from October 22 to 24) combines time, travel, good caches, scenic walks and variety.

For starters, let’s visit Atiu Creek Reserve, north of Auckland, for what’s best described as a well-planned two-hour hike along a decent track in very pleasant scenery. The 35 caches on offer here just add to the experience.

A watershed moment: The picturesque Whangarei Falls stand 26.3 metres high.

A watershed moment: The picturesque Whangarei Falls stand 26.3 metres high.

We follow this up with a drive through Dargaville’s kauri forest and photo opportunities with some of the country’s largest kauri trees. There’s a few caches nearby, so we might as well pick them up as we go.

Accommodation awaits us in Opononi, providing somewhere to retreat to after an event at the local pub. Day two kicks off with a boat trip across Hokianga Harbour to the nearby sand dunes. There is a very high terrain cache here (GC2RTMP), which I’m sure we can collect in between all the sandboarding.

Pumped on adrenalin, we’ll then ditch our boards in favour of bikes on which to pedal the Twin Coast Cycle Trail and collect the 20 caches hidden there. Next comes Paihia on the East Coast; the location of our second overnight stay. Expect another event and lots of time to cache locally or across at Russell.

Our final day begins with a choice of the OC (Onerahi Chaos) puzzle trail or attempting the quieter and more beautiful cache at Whangarei Falls (GC17QPT) plus the neighbouring hides at Ruakaka Beach.

Last but not least on the return journey to Auckland is a stop at Pohuehue Viaduct (GC2ERD0), home to 17 caches along a great bushwalk.

The real Shire: Peter Jackson's Hobbiton film set on a Matamata farm is now a popular tourist attracttion.

The real Shire: Peter Jackson’s Hobbiton film set on a Matamata farm is now a popular tourist attracttion.

GEO-SOUTH TRIP

Tour No 2 (from October 29 to 30) follows Mega Auckland and has all the elements of Geo North but taking in Hamilton, Waitomo, Karapiro and Matamata.

Our first stop occurs just south of Auckland to complete The Solar System series – 11 caches starting at GC3J48E along a charming bushwalk.  We’ll follow this up with the Art of Language set (GC3NGVG to GC3P24M), showcasing an interesting walk around the Waikato’s smaller lakes.

Blooming heck: The beautiful Hamilton Gardens.

Blooming heck: The beautiful Hamilton Gardens.

After that, it’s time for a break and the chance to book into our Hamilton hotel. The afternoon is all yours; take your pick of the nearby caches or join us at Hamilton Gardens to admire a serious collection of caches in beautiful surroundings.

Hamilton’s cachers are a friendly lot and they’ve organised what sounds like a great event at the pub near our accommodation that evening.

Come the morning, it’s off to one of my personal favourite geo-spots  – the stunning Taitua Arboretum (six hides on flat terrain) – followed by a hop down to Waitomo. Rather than enter the official caves, we’ll enjoy the fascinating earthcaches and free caves on offer nearby.

Then it’s back in the van for a trip to Karapiro, where we have the opportunity to kayak or travel by power boat to nab some high terrain caches. Finally, a trip to the Waikato would be not complete without a chance to claim the Hobbiton cache (GC1HCXK) in Matamata, on the return leg to Auckland.

I think you will agree there’s plenty of variety in these caching schedules. For a full rundown of our proposed hides, download my bookmark lists ‘Geo Trip: South 2013′ and ‘Geo Trip: North 2013’ by PageNZ.

NB: I can’t provide answers to any of the puzzles mentioned but nudges are possible.”

*Book your seat for Tours Direct’s Geo-North expedition here and for the Geo-South trip here. The three-day-northern leg costs NZ$288 per person, with the two-day southern leg costing NZ$150 for each guest. Travel, equipment hire, accommodation and snacks are included in this price. And for what it’s worth, It’s Not About The Numbers’ kjwx will be present for part of the Geo-South trip.

[notice]STOP PRESS: Stay tuned for news of Tours Direct’s geo-expedition to China in April 2014. According to Mandy Page, it’s going be great![/notice]

 

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