As we awoke the rain crashed down noisily and we feared our day would be a washout. It eased slightly by the time we wandered a hundred metres from our hostel and joined the day coach trip with our driver Dennis and 7 others including two small children for a journey to the northern tip of the Aupori Peninsular and back along ninety mile beach. Our driver Dennis who was Maori was a bit of a wag and regaled us with tales and also some songs in Maori. After a stop at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom which is really a shop selling Kauri wood associated items we headed a few miles to the Gumdiggers park which was a surprisingly good stop. We were shown around by a wonderful guy who has preserved an interesting part of early colonial heritage. His ancestors were gum diggers - mostly of Dalmatian origin (although his were Irish). They left troubles in their homelands and journeyed to NZ and set themselves up as diggers of the gum secreted by ancient kauri trees which was then used for chemical products. The trees are unbelievably old. They were preserved in the peat and did not turn into
fossils. They have been dated in the incredible range of 100,000 to 150,000 years old. Huge fallen trees are occasionally retrieved from the bog and are in such god condition that they can be machined and carved as though they were newly grown wood. The guy running the site is very informative and witty. The park is obviously a labour of love. You can see the holes dug by the gumdiggers to retrieve the gum. As we looked in one hole a very tame fantail bird fluttered around us as we disturbed insects. Apparently the Maori word for them means warrior bird as they appear fearless with humans. As we left the park the sky cleared and it became sunny and clear. We headed for the lighthouse at the tip of the peninsular, the last twenty kilometres on winding dirt tracks. On arrival at Cape Reinga the sea mist was swirling in obscuring the views but as we walked to the lighthouse the sea mist cleared and the sunny day re-established itself. Tasty egg and cheese salad rolls were provided. We then headed to the east coast - the first part of which crazily involves the coach driving along a
Ron at cape
The mist blew in but departed quickly
river bed which has shallow flowing water. We stopped at sand-dunes, and equipped with sleds climbed a steep dune. Other coaches arrived whilst we climbed. I was first person down the slope. It was very difficult o control the sled but I managed to get most of the way down before I veered and tumbled. Jen slid down and tumbled at the base. We were joined on the slopes by a coachload of Aussie teenagers who sped down. I had two more slides down before it was time to depart. The bus carried along the river bed past the dunes to the northern end of the 90 mile beach. This was where the raison d’etre of the trip begins. The beach is designated a highway and we sped along it at good speed occasionally having to cross streams as they fed into the sea. It seemed bizarre and great fun to be travelling at great speed in a coach along and empty and seemingly endless wide beach skirting the water where the sand was firmest. We stopped for a photo shoot and sipping our feet in the sea. The beach is long (not ninety miles but actually a still impressive
sixty-four) and it takes a while to transit it. Private drivers are allowed along but strongly discouraged due to the possibility of getting stuck and being swamped by the incoming tide. (It is very remote and the emergency services distant). It had been an excellent day (and the weather had been superb after a dodgy start). The evening at the hostel was unusual. The bus driver for the Aussie youngsters performs part time as a musician in pubs and clubs and gave a quite professional performance. It was very entertaining and we got talking with the group leaders who explained that they were part of the youth wing of the Aussie RAS (equivalent of he British Legion). It was an enjoyable evening - especially as an Indian family staying offered us a very tasteful helping of the hot curry meal they had prepared.
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