On a “must see” tour of NZ, one of those must see sights is the lighthouse at Cape Reinga which sits on the far northern tip of NZ about 250 km north of where we were staying in Paihia. Given the amount of driving involved we decided to take an organized bus tour.
The bus pucks up at 7:15 and returns at around 5:45 meaning one hell of a long day.
We were picked up on time and after a tea stop about one hour in we headed onto 90 mile beach (which is actually 55 miles long but apparently named due to an inaccurate estimate by some early cattle herders). The Beach, is on the western coast of the far north of the North Island. It stretches from just west of Kaitaia towards Cape Reinga along the Aupouri Peninsula. It begins close to the headland of Reef Point, to the west of Ahipara Bay, sweeping briefly northeast before turning northwest for the majority of its length. It ends at Scott Point, 5 kilometres (3 mi) south of Cape Maria van Diemen.
In actual fact the journey along the beach is not very interesting as the only inhabitants are a small selection of seabirds, people hiking (from god knows where to go knows where – quite mad), the occasional stranded car (quite funny) and a number of (unseen) animals including wild horses. The vicious rips prevent swimming on the beach so driving on it (in a suitable vehicle) is all you can do. I would not have driven on my own as although the sand is quite hard in places (mainly near the water) th exit is quite different with many soft spots.
Shortly after turning off the beach we headed to the huge sand dunes where we stopped for some sand boarding. The stop is quite short as there is no other way up a dune other than walking up it. Given how steep and high the dunes are and how soft the sand is, three return trips is about the maximum manageable (before the sense of adventure is replaced by the reality of ageing limbs). The journey to the bottom was pretty exhilarating but with the wind, soft sand and general rolling around on the floor it’s a surefire recipe for getting sand EVERYWHERE. Not great for the rest of the day.
We then jumped (or staggered) back onto the bus for the next hour long trek to Cape Reinga. Cape Reinga is generally considered the separation marker between the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east. According to Mauri mythology, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife to leap off the headland and climb the roots of the 800 year old pohutukawa tree and descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, using the Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’. It is a really impressive site and much of the Mauri mythology is documented around the refurbished site. Views from the lighthouse the path leading up to it are impressive.
Leaving Cape Reinga we made the long Trek back to Paihia stopping briefly for lunch and to look at some historic Karri Trees along the way although after Cape Reinga everyone is so exhausted that it’s difficult to take anything else in!
The coach trip is not bad and makes the most of the very short time available although if I were coming back I would want to spend much more time in the area to enjoy some of the walking trails. But that will have to wait until the next trip!