Northlanders keen to explore one of the region's largest remaining native forests while contributing to its ongoing conservation have a chance to do just that this weekend.
The Puketi Forest Trust is holding its annual Kauri Challenge this Saturday, January 23. Participants can choose between a 21km tramp or a shorter 12km option.
Both routes pass through some of the most spectacular parts of the forest, including mature kauri forest, an optional section through a river, and an abandoned road once intended to link Kaeo with the Hokianga.
The challenge ends with a picnic at Forest Pools, a popular swimming spot off State Highway 1. Those opting for the shorter tramp will be transported 9km in four-wheel-drive vehicles along an old logging road.
The walk starts at Puketi Forest headquarters on Waiare Rd at 7.30am; participants need to wear suitable footwear and carry a raincoat, warm top, sufficient food and snacks, at least two litres of water and togs. A good level of fitness and tramping experience is required.
The $50 entry fee goes towards the trust's efforts to remove introduced pests and reintroduce native birds and other vanished wildlife. It includes a year's membership of the trust. Those taking part in the shorter tramp pay $10 more to cover the 4WD trip; a shuttle bus from Forest Pools back to Puketi Forest HQ is another $10.
To book or for more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (09) 407 8661 (work hours) or (09) 401 9313 (evening). For more information about the trust's work go to www.puketi.org.nz. Puketi Forest cloaks the hills between the Bay of Islands and Hokianga.
An annual celebration of the environment, music, art, dance and drama is being held at Matauri Bay this weekend.
Described as a cross between a festival, a gathering and a creative camp, Unite Festival will take place at Peace of Paradise, the property of Liz and Jonathan Russell, from Friday to Sunday.
A huge and varied programme includes folk, reggae and medieval music, creative dance, drama, environmental discussions, pecha kucha, creative writing, belly dancing, rainbow light poi making, movies and DJs.
Workshops will cover everything from bamboo bending and stilt making to building with rammed earth; a healing nook will feature a variety of alternative health practitioners and the moon will usher in night-time drumming and dancing. Saturday has a full day's programme of children's activities.
The event has a strong ethos of caring for the environment, creativity and sharing, so be ready to pitch in. Entry is by koha of $20 a day for adults. For more information and the full programme see the Unite Festival 2016 event page on Facebook. Unite is now in its fourth year.
Kings Theatre Creative's raumati (summer) programme is in full swing at in the old cinema in Kawakawa.
Maori graphic artist Shane Hansen's Aotearoa colouring book and community art project runs until January 29, along with a a summer showcase by Te Tai Tokerau artists called He Kete Aronui.
A school holiday programme, Tamariki Toi, features sessions in the stage studio with guest artists exploring visual arts, mixed media, drama and storytelling. Bookings essential.
Kings Theatre Creative is open Wednesday to Sunday. Phone 021 024 57571 for more information.
Novice carvers on show
The results of a three-month beginners' carving course are on show at Art in Kerikeri, in the former Poppies Bookshop, until February 1.
The course was led by Rawene master carver Nopera Pikari, whose works are also on show. His students are a mix of Maori and Pakeha, ages and backgrounds.
The gallery is also hosting a summer show by a cooperative of Bay of Islands artists. Art in Kerikeri is open 10am-4pm Monday to Friday and 10am-1pm Saturday and Sunday.
Sailors across the North are gearing up for the region's most eagerly anticipated regatta, Bay of Islands Sailing Week.
This year's event, based at Opua Wharf, runs from January 26-29 and includes both the IRC Nationals and the New Zealand Millennium Cup for superyachts.
Also part of this year's on-water action will be a three-way naval challenge involving teams of 12 sailors from the British, Australian and New Zealand navies racing Chico 40 training yachts from Auckland to the Bay of Islands.
It will be a chance for the Kiwis to wrest back the trophy lost to the Royal Navy in their last race in 2008.
Opua's Amazing Race
Bay of Islands Gymnastics Club in Opua is holding a three-day summer holiday programme with an Amazing Race theme. Activities, from January 25-27, will include gymnastics, games, art and crafts, and team challenges.
Email email@example.com to sign up the kids or check out the club website at sportsground.co.nz/boigymclub. The cost is $30 a day, $55 for two days or $80 for all three. Suitable for 5-10 year olds.
Alcoholics Anonymous is holding a public information meeting at the Copthorne Hotel's Waitaha Room in Waitangi on January 23. The meeting, from 8-9.30pm will be followed by a chance to speak with AA members.
Shelter for Opua kids
Opua is the latest town to get a bus shelter as part of TotalSpan's Undercover Kids programme. The shelter will be installed on the northbound side of State Highway 11 where Transit and the Far North District Council have already widened the shoulder.
Community group Love Opua, which applied for the shelter last year, says it will give local kids a safer and more visible place to wait for the school bus in any weather.
Cloud 9 for Kiwi blokes
A new vessel which incorporates almost everything Northland blokes love about summer has been turning heads in the Bay of Islands.
Party barge Cloud 9 was built by Auckland accountant Mark Withers, who traded his Lake Tarawera bach for a holiday home at Rangitane in the Kerikeri Inlet.
"Everything out of the sea tastes better than everything out of the lake," he explained.
It was inspired by a holiday in Fiji when Mr Withers and a few mates visited a pontoon called Cloud 9 moored off Musket Cove featuring a bar and wood-fired pizza oven.
Upon his return to New Zealand he built his own using an aluminium frame, polyethylene barrels and a plywood deck. A ladder gives access to the sun bridge, used for lounging and bombing. The deck is equipped with a gas-fired barbecue and picnic table.
The vessel is powered by an 8hp motor giving a cruising speed of 5 knots. The aft section can be enclosed for overnight cruising.
"We specifically designed her to operate within the 5 knot speed limit of the inlet. We felt getting her up on the plane would be a step too far."
A typical day on the water involved a barbecue and plenty of laughter, partying and swimming. Going back to the office in Auckland would be even harder than usual this year, Mr Withers said.
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