To the Top of the North
To the Top of the North
The tide was low on the beach side of the Cape Reinga Peninsula when we started out so our driver lowered the vehicle down the Waipapakauri Ramp onto the beach which, apart from the NZ Highways, was flatter and smoother than many of the roads we had travelled so far.
The Ninety Mile Beach is in fact just under 90km long, but the first version sounds so much better doesn’t it. The last time we had been in a vehicle on a beach it was in Vicky, on the Oreti Beach south of Invercargill at the other end of the South Island on the 24th Feb.
The shining Tasman rollers rushed in towards us on our left and giant dunes with their wigs of sage green dune grass swayed in the breeze backed by the Aupouri Forest, a vast pine forest planted by man after the kauris had all been extracted. We stopped at Te Paki Stream to take in the atmosphere, noise and smells of the ocean. Apart from the forest the wild, windswept expanse of ocean, beach and dunes looked almost too big for it to be possible that man could spoil it.
Our driver warned us that there was a strong rip tide along the beach which over the years has claimed its share of human life so we headed his warning and just paddled in the warm shallows and then clambered up onto the dunes for a different view. I found a strange loaf like object on the beach which, when I broke it apart, looked like a loaf made of soft orange sponge. Could this possibly be ambergris, from a whale and used to fix perfume and therefore astronomically valuable. We Googled it later to find that the real stuff is hard like hardened wax, so our acquisition of fabulous wealth was again put off for another day.
Next on the agenda was a coach ride up the Paki stream with its patches of quicksand to the giant sand dunes and a touch of sand tobogganing for the intrepid amongst us. Gary and Henry decided to have a go and clambered up the steep 100 foot high mountain becoming little dots in the distance queuing up for their turn.
There was one other child, a little girl of eight with her dad but apart from her Henry was by far the youngest and we waited with baited breath for their descent. There is a technique to most activities and this one is no exception. Many of the folk hurtling down the duneside sped straight across the stream, the water of which lubricated their passage like a sheet of oil. It looked like fun but they did get a drenching. Gary applied his intelligence to the situation and dug his toes in a little to act as a brake and his descent was beautifully controlled. He stopped at the dry base of the hill. Henry is lighter, I thought, so he should stop before the stream anyway.
Positioned ready to catch them on camera I remember feeling the surge of pride as they took off downhill as it must have been more than a little daunting a prospect from way up there. Big hugs all round for our heroes of the day, Gary and Henry. I wondered if Maori children centuries ago enjoyed such fun here.
The last stop before lunch was at The Cape Reinga Lighthouse (Te Rerenga Wairua) where the spirits of deceased Maoris leave NZ and return home to Hawaiki, the eastern Pacific island from which they believe they came. We were lucky to have perfect weather to take in the 360 degree views. At the time we were there, roughly midday, the invisible join between The Tasman Sea and The South Pacific Ocean was marked by the shimmering path of silver sunlight over the crystal water.
The exposed position of the Cape had weathered many of the explanation boards so they were almost unreadable but I have included a few that tell the story of this much loved area with its fine lighthouse, a beacon of welcome to weary mariners from all over the world.
Our picnic lunch at Tapotupotu Bay overlooking the Pacific was all too short and we were soon on the road back to the Kauri Kingdom enjoying fine ocean views. We had a little longer than expected there as the gearbox on the coach had seized (all that seawater!) so we awaited a replacement coach. I took some photos of the kauri trunks and roots taken from nearby bogs to be used for carving furniture and tourist products. Ruby posed on the seat of a vast trunk located in the showroom and I bought a 43,000 year old set of salad servers, just for fun.
The next day was the last day with our family. Our final trip was local, to the Kiwi North home of the two little kiwis we had seen twice so far. Naturally they were older now and as happens when young males and females of any species grow older their little minds turn to breeding. So it was that a wall had been built across the dark indoor enclosure to separate them. The little male had taken to his box in what can only be described as an adolescent sulk, but the female was out and about.
Henry and Ruby were very good and understood the need to be very quiet and still if the female was to come anywhere near us. Their patience was rewarded when the little kiwi started to circuit the front of the enclosure really close to us. I was so pleased that at last they would be able to commit this experience to their memories. Not only had they heard kiwis but they had also seen one and this one wasn’t made of chocolate.
The showery weather cleared after lunch so we walked into Whangarei town from the marina for some shopping and then settled in The Dickens Inn for drinks before walking up to the Thai Chef Restaurant for a final supper together. We left the family to catch taxis back to camp and then the long wait for news of their safe landing back in the UK started.
The journey took 50 hours instead of 27 due to a combination of factors. They were unable to find out details of their flight as all the monitors in Dubai Airport had stopped working. Their flight did not leave Australia for some reason so their onward flight was cancelled. They spent 18 hours in the Dubai Premier Inn, which was no hardship as the temperature was 35’ and languishing in and beside the roof top swimming pool was a pleasure.
They finally arrived home around midday and Gary had to leave the house for the airport at 5.30pm the same day for his business flight to Hong Kong. When Emily asked Ruby what she remembered most about the whole trip she recalled her visit to the Smiggle Shop in Whangarei to spend her pocket money!