NZ: Day 11
Cape Reinga Tour
Kia Ora! We were all up before 7am for the bus to take us on the Cape Reinga Day Tour. Most of us already had the Tour included as part of our Kiwi Experience package- if not the price for day tour is $115 NZ; I’d say it was worth it- although it took a while for it to really get going.
Once again, the majority of us woke up nursing a hangover, so the early start was not appreciated.
It was also pretty cloudy and misty for the first hour, so despite Ed’s best attempts to get some bus chants going, the rest of us ignored him in favour of getting some sleep.
We reached Puteki Forest after about an hour, a sacred conservation area that is home to large Kauri trees. It was also the first time that we really had seen the famous Silver Fern that is the embellishment of New Zealand. We spent about a half hour walking around the forest, before jumping back on the bus and heading further North.
After departing the forest we travelled for another hour where we stopped off at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom- a museum/ art gallery of furnishings that were carved from the Kauri trees. We spent 30 minutes here, having a brief look around the museum and picking up some lunch for later. No-one really took any great interest in the museum, rather that it was an unnecessary distraction. We were then told that it was another hour until we reached the Cape; It’s fair to say that after more than 2 hours of travel already, with little to note, that we were all a bit miffed about the whole tour.
We were back in the bus and making slow progress towards the tip of New Zealand. The landscape had begun to show some pretty stunning glimpses, but these were quickly detracted by the mist and fog; I think the drive would have been really stunning without the all the mist.
We reached Cape Reinga just before midday- the Northern most point of New Zealand and where the Tasman and Pacific Oceans clash together.
We got out of the bus and began our 15 minute walk through the fog to the lighthouse at the end of the cape- the meeting point for the oceans.
Our driver explained how the Cape is incredibly sacred to the Maori people; It signifies the location where all the souls that have passed meet and descend through to the underworld. Therefore it was a bit of a theatrical moment that all the mist, fog and cloud was descending from the hills into the sea- as New Zealand is referred to as the land of the long white Cloud- Aoetearoa!
We spent about an hour walking down and around the lighthouse and across the cliffs. The meeting of the two Oceans was spectacular, causing large washing-machine swirls. What was more special was that the landscape was slowly revealing itself as the fog was beginning to burn off, exhibiting the extent of the New Zealand coastline. In the same way that the fog was beginning to lift, so were all of our spirits and feelings towards the tour.
We returned to the bus and were off to the sand-dunes. Only 30 minutes from the cape, it was bizarre as we went from lush, green, forest surroundings to baron, exposed, white sandy dunes. I suppose this is what makes New Zealand great; there’s so much diversity and richness in the landscapes!
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The Sand Dunes were spectacular and without doubt the highlight of the trip!! The bus pulled up at the bottom of a huge dune and we were given body boards and a bit of wax to grease it up. Then we had to trawl up the sand-dune, which was one heck of an effort! Nearer the top it really was 2 steps forward, 1 step back as the sand opposed our efforts. At the top though, we could see across the whole cape and then we collected in a line as we one by one flew down the sand dune!
We really did pick up a lot of speed and some of us managed to make it all the way into the river bank. We repeated this about 4/5 times before becoming completely worn out by the huge dune. Our confidence growing, we then decided to try and actually surf the sand. We were mostly all unsuccessful, although we did get a bit of a run going, but as the picture shows, this was short lived as the sand decided to throw us head first off the board. Still it all added to the fun.
Its fair to say that after an hour of slipping, sliding, tumbling and climbing up and across the Sand Dunes we were all pretty knackered; We boarded back on the bus, which then began to throw us about as the driver went full speed through and along the river. The bus, was kitted out more like a hummer and it flew down the river and out onto 90-mile beach (which is only 40 miles long), motoring up and down the sandy beach-front and into the sea. It was awesome!
After propelling us about the shoreline and performing flying turns across the sand, we got out and jumped in the sea to soak off.
The driver had told us that often cars get caught out by the tides and end up getting stuck in the sand. He also told us about the shellfish on the beach and that if we were quick, we would be able to catch some and eat it raw. True enough, a couple of people managed to grab one, with Jess and Ed stepping up to swallow the live shellfish- grim!
We continued further down 90 mile beach, to a small cove, where we parked up and had our late lunch picnic, by the shoreline.
Our driver whacked out his surf-board and jumped straight into the pretty aggressive waves, while we generally kicked back and soaked up some sun.
Adrenaline running high, friendship bonds made and all in all drained from the intensive day, we headed back to Paihia, but not before one last stop off; Dinner at the World’s ‘best fush and chups’. We rang in our order with the driver and it was ready to collect when we got to the small, shack that sat on stilts over the sea. It was pretty good fish and chips, but definitely not worthy of Best in the World, or New Zealand for that matter. Nonetheless, it was a nice way to end a great day!
We returned to Paihia in the late evening, where we once again repeated our evening activities: BBQ, beer, drinking games and karaoke at the hostel bar.
3 days in the Bay of Islands has been absolute bliss and just about the perfect number of days. Its been pretty full on and we’ve seen and done a lot, but there’s so much more ahead of us and now that we’ve got a good group of people that are all heading down South, we can’t wait to see what the rest of New Zealand has in store!
Cape Reinga Tour: $115 NZ / £55 ***
Sand-Dune Boarding: Free ****
Best Fush and Chups: $8/ £4 ***