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Published: October 18th 2008
Day 566 (15.10.08)
Opting for a tour rather than driving up ourselves as no rental cars are allowed to drive on the beach, we were picked up by our guide Senny to learn that there would only be four of us in the bus today, superb. After a quick stop in Kaitaia to pick up the post, our trip was also doubling as the local postie as well, we were headed north on our way to the most northerly tip of New Zealand. Senny gave us a traditional Maori welcome and an introduction to the day before our first scheduled stop at the Kauri Kingdom. Albeit primarily a shop selling furniture whittled out of ancient swamp Kauri wood, it was amazing to see the scale of it all, the centrepiece of which was a spiral staircase made from a single trunk and you climb up inside the log.
Further along the highway and Senny taught us about the local Kauri and gum trade that was so important to the area. The amber or gum collected from the trees buried was once so valuable for many applications that it was worth more then Gold - however the process of excavating
it from the peat bogs was less than glamorous. Our stop at the Gum Diggers Park, a preserved area plotting the history of the Gum Diggers, gave us a great insight into their life with reconstructions and mining holes painstakingly re excavated.
Driving further north we were hit with a bit of a downpour on reaching Rarawa beach, but got out to have a peek anyhow. The beach has stunning white sand which is so pure it has been mined for some of the top glass producing companies in the world - I'm sure it would look even better in the sun!
With the shower passing and blue sky once again resuming we pushed on and pulled off at gorgeous Tapotupotu beach for our picnic lunch.
Not much further north and through some heavy roadworks, where they are converting the gravel highway to a fully tarmacked road, we reached the tip of the cape. Cape Reinga holds an important place in Maori mythology. It is said that it is the place where the spirits of the dead leave New Zealand destined for the heavens. Geographically the cape is also quite unique as it is the place where
the Tasman sea and the pacific ocean meet. On occasions there can be several metres difference in the tide height causing them to visibly crash together indicating the point at which they meet. Today it was pretty calm, however you could make out the disturbance on the water showing where they came together.
Climbing up the hill to another viewpoint we got yet another great view of the coastline surrounding the cape before having to make our way back to the van.
Back along the roadworks we soon turned off for the 90 mile beach. As many will tell you, this is one of the highlights of the cape and although long, the beach only stretches 90km at best. Someone must have got their measuring wrong!
Driving along the freshwater river as we made our way through the dunes, we parked next to a monstrous example that even 'Laurence of Arabia' would have been proud of. Time for dune boarding. Senny had stowed away a couple of Boogie Boards in the back of the van and handed them out to us. It was quite a climb up the dune, with each energy sapping step ending in a
demoralizing slide back to where you started. Eventually reaching the top was a sense of achievement in itself and now we were to undo our hard work by throwing ourselves down it on the board. It was hilarious! the biggest problem we found was stopping before careering into the grasses of the stream below!
Mark only wanted to call it a day five goes later with Senny lining him up for the final attempt at crossing the stream - only managing 3/4's of it, but a respectable effort none the less!
The rest of the day was spent driving down the beach stopping off to see some of the wrecked cars that hadn't been so fortunate, an arch out to sea, locals collecting mussel spat (baby mussels they ship off to the south island mussel farms) and a beached dead whale (smelly!).
Back in the hostel after a thoroughly enjoyable day, we wanted to make the best of the stunning afternoon and drove down to the far end of the beach and took a walk around the rocks. As we walked we spotted there were hundreds of big muscles hanging to the rocks. Mark ran back to
the hostel to get a couple of bags for our haul and we managed to pull together a great seafood dinner.
Relaxing after our mussel feast, we whiled away our evening over some wine and a chat to our fellow holiday makers.
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