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"Northern Escape" Artists Tour: October 2010

Red Carpet Tours and Daniel Reeve embarked upon the Northern Escape Artists Tour of the beautiful Far North of New Zealand. The Far North offers the warmest climate, pristine beaches in remote areas and forests that boast the largest and oldest native trees in the country. It is also the site of the birthplace of European civilization in New Zealand and of spiritual significance to the indigenous Maori people.

October 3rd - We met at the Spencer on Byron Hotel on Auckland's North Shore, kicking off the tour with dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Mangawhai Heads Whangarei buildings

October 4th - Travelled north to the Bay of Islands, with stops along the way at beautiful Mangawhai Heads and Whangarei for sketching and photos. A ferry trip from Paihia to Russell, where everyone painted and drew, most choosing as a subject the church, New Zealand's oldest.

Church at Russell - watercolour

Painting at Russell

Waka at Waitangi Waka stern post Shells (pencil)

October 5th - We visited the Waitangi grounds, site of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the founding document of the nation as we know it today. People chose various subjects to sketch - I chose this tailpiece of the large waka, using drawing chalk. Then we boarded our vessel "Ipiripiri" for an overnight cruise in the Bay of Islands. After a quick blast in a sea kayak I painted the view from where we were anchored. This was painted very quickly, the Captain waiting as long as possible before raising the anchor, to give me time to finish! In the evening we had a group session while at anchor in a quiet bay, most people drawing shells that had been collected during our kayaking and walking excursions.

Bay of Islands - watercolour

October 6th - A close encounter with dolphins was a highlight as we cruised back to Opua. Coffee and muffins at Kerikeri, then on to Mangonui - fresh fish and chips at the world famous fish shop. Good painting session here, followed up by a swim at Taipa Bay, where we stayed for this night and the next.

October 7th - A day trip to the top of New Zealand - Cape Reinga. We saw the famous lighthouse, the Tasman Sea shaking hands with the Pacific Ocean and the Pohutukawa tree where Maori people believe that at life's end, their spirits leap off on their journey to 'Hawaiiki' , the homeland of their ancestors. Return trip via the 90 Mile Beach, after sand-sliding on the dunes. We pitched in and cooked our own meal this evening, thanks to the culinary expertise of some of the group. Another watercolour painting session in the evening, and oil painting at midnight!

October 8th - After a side excursion to the stunning Maitai Bay for another swim, we travelled south through majestic native forests, catching the vehicle ferry from Kohukohu to Rawene, then on to historic Opononi near the entrance of the Hokianga.

This evening Maori Guides took us into the Waipoua Forest to see the 4000 year old kauri tree "Te Matua Ngahere" - The Father of the Forest - and the world's largest kauri, 2000 year old "Tane Mahuta" - Lord of the Forest - and to experience the sights and sounds of the forest, and to learn more of the Maori culture. This was a very special experience.

October 9th - We stopped again at Tane Mahuta for sketching and photos, then continued our journey south, stopping at the Matakohe Kauri Museum to soak up some more of the history of the north. Then at last back to Auckland for a final art session and a last dinner together.

October 10th - After breakfast we each headed our separate ways; minds, sketchpads and cameras filled with images of beautiful Aotearoa.