I woke up with my internal alarm this time. Slightly beating my actual alarm! It was a grey, cold morning; it had already poured once and the clouds were threatening to open up again. I quietly thanked myself for sleeping in yesterday as today would be a much better day for a bus trip than yesterday which had been perfect for boating.
Great Sights picked me up from outside the Bay of Adventure at 7:15 sharp. My driver seeing that I was travelling alone quickly directed me to the single seat at the front of the bus. I was to be in charge of the step if anyone required it to get in and out of the bus. Despite my initial slightly sarcastic “wonderful” for being singled out at being solo as I stepped onto the bus I quickly took it back when I realised I had completely lucked out. I had captured the best seat on the bus for pictures! Especially when we drove down the 90mile beach!
Our first stop was for a much needed coffee break and leg stretch at a cafe/restaurant across from the beach on Doubtless Bay. Even in the grey dismal mist it was a beautiful beach, the mist lending to the atmosphere and helping my mocha go down a treat.
From there we were off to the 90 mile beach. The Northern Peninsula of New Zealand at one point in history a long long time ago used to be divided from the mainland. It is pretty much just one giant sand dune with a layer of soil and plants on top. As it is only 5 km across you would think that possibly the weather would be fairly consistent from one side to the next. However, with two separate oceans on either side it seems it can be night and day. I had said the weather was pretty dismal coming up the coast and getting onto and driving the 90 mile beach relies on two things. One, you need 4 hours either side of high tide to be able to get past the narrower sections. And two, the weather has to be decent so you don’t sink in the wet sand or get stuck in sand that is too loose. A fine balance. We were safe time wise and incredibly luck was on our side and the sun broke through. Frank, told us to hold onto the bottom of our seats and we took off down a sand dune lined pathway to the beach. The 90mile beach or the Spirit Road according to the Māuri runs along the Tasman Sea. They believe that this is the road in which all spirits travel to reach Te Rerenga Wairua or Cape Reinga.
The drive along the beach is wicked! It does feel a bit strange considering you are going about 60km/hr on a very long, flat and narrow beach. It is a registered road though and therefore all road rules apply. I don’t think anyone listens to them but they are there if required. To one side you have the Tasman Sea, ahead of you a road of sand as far as the eye can see and to your left sand dunes and a very old forest where about 300 wild horses call home. Sometimes you see them standing watch over the beach but I didn’t spy any that day. The wildlife we did see was mostly Oyster Catchers and Seagulls practicing their dropping skills with the local clams, a few adventurous souls who were hiking the beach and a gentleman exercising his two Great Danes as they followed behind his jeep along the beach. The best part by far though was stopping and sticking our feet in the Tasman Sea. Another sea off my check-list.
We made it down the beach, past the rocky shoal which is the problematic part and drove up the Te Paki riverbed to the Te Paki sand dunes. Te Paki means good weather in Māuri and as if on queue the weather got better and better as we neared the river. This is where my nerves jumped in and everyone else ran up the mountain of sand to get a sand boarding lesson. I did of course give it a try and had fun but I would be lying if I didn’t say that I enjoyed climbing the dune to the very top and then running down it as if I was wearing moon shoes much more.
It wasn’t much further to Cape Reinga after the boarding. The place where the two seas, the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean, collide or where the male and female seas meet. The white swirls of the clashing waters representing the creation of life. Te Rerenga Wairua was named by Kupe, the first great navigator of the Māuri people, and is considered to be one of the most spiritual places in New Zealand. After the spirits travel up the spirit road; they arrive here and climb down the roots of the ancient Pohutakwa tree that over looks the two waters and depart this world. They head to the Three King Islands to take a last wave to their loved ones before going on to their ancestral home.
The Pohutakwa tree is only one of New Zealand’s ever impressive trees. The next and probably more well known is the Kauri tree. I have always felt that if trees could talk they would be able to impart some amazing wisdom and stories. I remember wishing when I was six, standing in front of the giant oak tree in the centre of Sherwood Forest that it could tell me what Robin Hood would have been like. The Kauri tree, if it could talk, would be filled to the brim with wisdom. They can live for over 2000 years. The largest Kauri is estimated at being 1500 years old with a girth of 13.77m. It’s name is Tane Mahuta or the King of the Forest. Can you imagine the tales it could tell? Growing tall and straight, up to 50m in height, they were used first by Māuri to build waka (canoe’s) and homes. When European settlers arrived they cleared forests filled with Kauri trees to use for ship building, the building of dams and to use the land for farming. Now they and the forests where you find them are protected by the government. We visited a such forest on the way back to Paihia named Manginanguna. The trees tower over you, looking as though they reach endlessly into the sky. Just down the road from there is the Kauri museum where you can learn about them and walk up a winding staircase which had been carved out of the middle of a swamp Kauri tree! The oldest on display in the museum is estimated at being 30 million years old! There is also some delicious locally made ice cream. I would suggest the boisenberry. It tastes a bit like black raspberry cheesecake ice cream.
That was the end of our day and it had been pretty jam packed. It even included a lunch time stop for fish and chips in a tranquil cove where we got to see a few dolphins chase fish for their lunch. Despite the odds it turned out to be a gorgeous sunny day led by a great tour guide filled with knowledge about the area. After all the places I visited in New Zealand Cape Reinga or Te Rerenga Wairu is still one of my favourites. The meeting of the two seas, the views over Cape Maria Van Diemer and the importance of the place is hard to beat.