Can you say “Road Trip?” Several of our friends decided it was time to go exploring. So, Thomas, Mareike and Julia (Scooter), Rokas and Simona (Starlight), and myself piled into their van to head to the north tip of the north island, Cape Reinga. Matt could not come as he decided to stay behind to babysit the window repair project.
We drive toward the west coast along Hwy 11 until we get to Waipua Forest. It is one of the best examples of the Kauri forest remaining in New Zealand. It is notable for having two of the largest living kauri trees, Tane Mahuta and Te Matua Ngahere.
We had to drive past the oldest and 2nd largest tree to get to the first largest tree Tane Mahuta. Lucky for us the park stayed open a few minutes longer so we could run in and capture some spectacular photos. Tane Mahuta is estimated to be between 1,250 and 2,500 years old and is the largest living Kauri tree. It is also called the “God of the Forest.” Tane’s trunk height is 17.7 meters and the total height is 51.5 meters. Trunk girth is 13.8 meters and trunk volume is 244.5 meters. It was breathtaking to be so close to this most ancient of trees.
We had planned to circle back to the other tree, but it was getting late and dark and we still had several hours to get to our next stop.
Kohu Ratuarua Ferry
In order to continue on toward our destination of Kaitai, we had to hop on a short car ferry in Kawene called Kohu Ratuarua.
We wanted to stop at Ka Uri Café and Museum but it was still being refurbished and was closed. But they did serve us some yummy coffee for our road trip.
Te Rerenga Wairua – Cape Reinga
We continued NW to Te Rerenga Wairua and Cape Reinga. This is the northwestern most tip of the North Island of New Zealand. For the Maori culture, Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand. An ancient lonely tree and a lighthouse mark this special place.
It is a beautiful walk down an easy path to the lighthouse. Along the way are dozens of signs that tell you of the history and culture of the Maori people.
It is here, that after death, all Maori spirits travel up the coast to Pohutukawa tree on the tip of Te Rerenga Wairua.
They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root into the sea below. The spirits then travel underwater to the Three Kings Islands where they climb out onto Ohaua, the highest point of the island and bid their last farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui. In the bottom photo you can see the tree jutting out from the dock on the upper right side.
The Cape Reinga Lighthouse
We continue on to the lighthouse which was built in 1941. It stands 10m in height and 165m above sea level. Its light can be seen over 19nm from shore and keeps weary sailors clear of the rocky cliffs. This lighthouse replaced the previous one that lit the coast from 1878 to 1940.
Lots of tourist were around and it proved to be a bit of a challenge to get shots without someone in my photo but I managed pretty well.
We do a short 4-mile hike around the hills of the lighthouse where we capture some truly beautiful views.
We left after spending an enjoyable morning at Cape Reinga. Our goal was to get to the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes shortly after lunch so we had to get a move on. We made a super quick stop at the “Hidden Table” which was just off the side of the road. It truly was hidden from view.
We arrive shortly after lunch and find a large truck full of boogie boards and a lovely couple. They quickly give us the rules for safe toboggin runs, rent us some boards, sell us some socks (the sand is hot) and send us on our way.
Wow, who would have thought that sand dunes could be so pretty? There was sand as far as the eye could see. Mostly untouched hills that were crying out for our footprints.
We started out on a bunny hill to make sure we knew how to steer, stop, and fly across the sand. You steer with your toes which was fun learning to master.
Since we had 3 boards for the 6 of us we took turns going up the hills and racing down. I am proud to say that I won two of my races and felt pretty good about that!
By the end of the day we were truly exhausted. It was hot, we were sandy, and it was really challenging walking up the hills in sand that sinks to your ankles. But we had a blast!
White Sand Beach
On our way to our hostel we stopped at two more beaches: Rarawa Beach (white sand) and the famous 90-mile beach.
Rarawa was by far my favorite stop. The sand was like powdered sugar, so soft and luxurious on your feet. It was so hard to capture its beauty on film, but trust me when I saw it was delightful!
Next, we headed to the famous 90-mile beach. This sand was hard packed and easily driven on, which most cars and buses did! It went on and on and on….
After our very long day we were finally heading back to the hostel when our car developed a horrible noise. We pulled over on the side of a small, windy, two-land road and determined it was the brakes. We called AA (their local roadside assistance) and they arrived within 45-minutes and fixed the problem. What a lovely experience with a truly kind guy named Mark!
A few more fun photos
Our road trip continues the next day when we visit an avocado farm and the Waitangi Treaty Grounds…Don’t miss our next blog.
Events from this blog occurred in late December 2022. Our blog posts run 6-8 weeks behind actual events. Did you happen to catch our flyover Marsden Cove in the last blog post?