New Zealand - Cape Reinga and the Bay of Islands - Hitting the most northern part of NZ with a little bit of sand boarding and a chance to meet some very “special” locals.

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April 2nd 2012
Published: April 27th 2012
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New Zealand – Cape Reinga and the Bay of Islands – Hitting the most northern part of NZ with a little bit of sand boarding and a chance to meet some very “special” locals.

After a great time in Auckland it was time to head North, my bus arrived and was a beautiful, subtle shade of bright orange with a driver called Bear. I was hoping it was going to be a Bear Grills experience but as it turned out I think he got his name because he hated getting up off his arse! I guess he’s in the right job then.

As we headed out to the Bay of Islands I started to get to know my fellow passengers and the group turned out to be a cool bunch so all was going well. The drive to the Bay of Island is very picturesque and beautiful with an endless mix of sea and volcanic mountains that leave you overwhelmed by the dramatic landscapes. After a six hour drive and stopping of at a waterfall we arrived at our overnight stop called Paihia and sadly the rain had made an appearance which put a stop to the potential of taking out a Kayak or going to see the dolphins and whales on a tour boat. Undeterred and with the options limited some of us headed out for a trek to the view point and were rewarded with stunning coastal views and a glimpse of sunshine so all was looking good.

After a group BBQ a few of us decided it was time to visit one of the two bars in town for a drink and this is point when I realised I was out on a limb in a remote part of NZ, it felt like I had walked into a scene of the League of Gentlemen. As we entered the bar there was just one other person in there, who was approximately an eighty year old man who sat happily staring at the empty pole dancing prop in the corner of the bar. But things started to get more bizarre when the next person to enter the bar can only be described as the “special” village girl who was about 6f 1” tall and dressed in an interesting floral dress, she was just happy to dance away on her own in the other corner of the bar. By this point most of us were just watching these two interesting characters with some amusement. Could this get any more bizarre? As it turned out yes it could! Enter the vertically challenged/midget/dwarf I’m not sure what the PC terminology is here and I know it’s none of the above but I’m sure you get my point. This poor guy couldn’t even reach the bar to pick up his pint which looked bigger than him. So now we had three, and the last guy was playing pool on his own which I have to say was a bit of a struggle for him and a shot with the rest was clearly out of the question. As you can see things were getting good so it was time for punter number four to make an appearance, a wanna be rap star was next, honestly it was like someone was outside filming a comedy sketch and sending in all the typical stereotypes one by one, so the forth guy walks in and he’s a skinny kid with a hat on backwards, gold chains going on and the gangster leather jacket look. None of these people spoke to each other until three young girls walked in and started dancing on the pole and got the eighty year old guy involved…….. this was turning in to one strange night. After a while a few more normal people arrived mainly from our bus and we continued to have a few drinks before calling it a night. I realise that was a long story to explain a couple of pints of beer but it felt so surreal and was a side splitting experience and to top it off we would be heading even further North in the morning where it gets more isolated so I’m expecting animals dressed in human clothes to walk into the next bar.

Enough of my bar ramblings it was time to head up to Cape Reinga via the ninety mile beach. The beach is not actually ninety miles long it’s approximately sixty miles long but apparently an early settler decided it was ninety miles long based on how long it took him to walk it and therefore he named it so, what he hadn’t factored in was that he walked slower on sand, doh! It was only later when technology allowed a true measurement to be completed that it’s true length was discovered but the original name would remain which I kind of like. The beach is also a part of the public highway and was the only road until the latest tarmac alternative was installed. We were in a purpose built bus/truck that would take us along the vast majority of the beach to the very North of the country. The drive was great fun, there is something very relaxing about having the sea so close on one side and the mountains and sand dunes on the other. After about fifty miles on the beach and stopping to eat fresh Tua Tua we turned off and drove the last section towards the cape by road.

The view at the Cape was fantastic and is also the meeting point of two sea and to seem them crashing into each other in front of you was pretty special and made the long day travelling very worthwhile.

We headed back to Paihia for the night but made one final stop on the way back to a Gum tree centre. As the name would suggest these trees produce a gum used for such things a wellie boots but they are also known by a different name called Kauri. Basically complete forests containing huge trees were buried hundreds of years ago by tectonic movement and as it turns out this timber does not degrade and is incredibly hard. Some of the girths on these trees are up to 17meters and as you can imagine make amazing furniture and timber beams for houses. These hidden forests are now being unearthed for millions of dollars and the vast majority are being exported to China where they are turned into high end furniture making some NZ farmers millionaires overnight.

After returning to our hostel for the night we would set of early the following morning back to Auckland, unfortunately all the buses out of Auckland were full so I would have to wait an extra couple of days before I could begin moving south. On the way back we got to stop at a Kiwi recovery centre where I got to meet my first Kiwi. Sadly this one only had one leg and would never go back into the wild but it was still cool to see and stroke one because I never thought I would get to do it. It was a great way to end the trip and the old guy who ran the centre has devoted the last twenty years of his life for no salary to run the centre, it’s people like this that make you realise how much some people give up for their passions in life and you could see the sense of pride and reward in his face and felt enthused by his heart warming stories.

Well it’s a couple more days in Auckland for me and then I will be Hahei with it’s hot pools on the beach and Cathedral Cove. So far I have to say I’m loving New Zealand, it’s relaxed, the people are very friendly and the scenery is sensational, let’s hope it continues and I move South.

I almost forget but as you will see from the photos we stopped at a Maori Cultural centre and had to take part in a welcoming ceremony and because I was the oldest male in the group that automatically made me the chief of our group and meant I had to perform certain duties including having a spear thrust in my face several times as well as nose kissing a Maori warrior!!!! It was a fun experience if not a little strange, but I do love the way the Maori history and culture is so embraced and valued in NZ, it’s something very special in deed.

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