Bus trip to Cape Reinga in the Far Far North
On Monday 28thNovember we joined Norman and Sara on a bus trip to Cape Reinga. Having reached Mangonui we decided not to take Camomile further north because there isn’t anywhere further north that’s possible to leave the boat safely. We choose the coach company Sand Safaris because Sarah, the lady who runs the company agreed to drive to Mangonui to pick the four of us up. The tour normally leaves from Kaitaia, a 20-minute drive away, which we obviously couldn’t get to. Sand Safaris also offered a very good tour. The tour started with a welcome onto a Marae for a morning Powhiri, which was the beginning of our spiritual journey to Cape Reinga.
We experienced a traditional Maori cultural performance, which told the story of The Far North. The performance only lasted about 15 minutes but was a nice start to the day. The performers were happy to pose for photos after. The men were encouraged to take up the similar stance. We got back in the bus for the 72 mile journey north. The bus driver was very amusing and told us lots of stories about the area, he pointed out a side road named Cemetery road, underneath it was another sign – no exit. The driver thought this was very amusing.
Our first stop was half way along the road where we stopped at Rarawa beach to marvel at the white silica sands of the beautiful bay. The pure quartz sand was dazzling. As we approached the little town of Waitiki the driver was busy telling us of the famous ice cream shop there but he apologised that we couldn’t stop because only the Wednesday tour stopped there. We were all instructed to wave nicely as we drove past because he didn’t want the shopkeeper upset, as we weren’t stopping today. Like idiots we did as he said whilst wishing we were stopping. Of course he pulled into the car park with a hearty laugh saying he couldn’t do that to us…. we all enjoyed our ice creams.
At the very end of the road lies Cape Reinga, legendary departing place of Maori spirits. A place of intense cultural and spiritual significance to Maori. We alighted from the bus and began to descend the path to the lighthouse. The rocky point jutting out to sea is Te Reinga, the place where the spirits enter the underworld. Clinging to the rock is the ancient Kahika tree named Te Aroha. It is said the spirits descend to the water on steps formed by the tree’s roots. They then continue on their journey to Hawaiki, their spiritual resting place. I hope you can spot the tree in the photo.
“The meeting point of Te Rerenga Wairua (cape Reinga) marks the separation of the Tasman sea from the Pacific ocean. For Maori these turbulent waters are where the male sea, Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhaki, meets the female sea, Te Tai O Whitirela. The whirlpools where the currents clash are like those that dance in the wake of a waka (canoe). They represent the coming together of male and female – and the creation of life.” As it was such a clear day it was possible to see the two seas coming together as they were slightly different colours.
We were so lucky to have such a beautiful day the views were stunning. We walked the windy path right down to the lighthouse.
This sign next to the lighthouse shows we are a long way from home.
Cape Maria van Diemen was named by Abel Tasman in honour of the Goverernor of Batavia’s wife and was the site of New Zealand’s first lighthouse. In 1941 the lighthouse was moved to Cape Reinga. The beautiful white sand beach looked magnificent.
We had an hour to explore the area then made our way back to the bus for the short journey to the picnic site at Tapotupotu Bay where the bus driver laid out our lunch. Sandwiches, biscuits and drinks were included in the price. There was time to explore the beach, which had lovely rock pools at one end, before getting back on the bus.
We travelled back down on the same road for about 10 miles before turning off towards the Te Paki sand dunes. We were met with an incredible sight of 60ft high sand dunes. The driver issued us with toboggans and, after a short instruction of use, said, “Follow me.” Climbing the sand dunes was like wading through treacle; you needed to take a dozen paces forward to get one pace up. It was one of the hardest things either Bill or I had attempted. We congratulated ourselves that we were the only ‘older’ members of the bus to try it, except for Norman but he’s very fit so doesn’t count! Eventually I made it to the top, the driver sat me down and told me to hold on and keep my feet up and gave me a good push.
I came hurterling down at an alarming pace. I was almost at the bottom when I was worried I wasn’t going to stop so put my foot down …… I was absolutely showered in sand, it was every where – hair, ears, bra, knickers, mouth, I decided not to attempt the climb a second time! Bill managed to get up a bit quicker than me but also found it very difficult, he also made the same mistake as me and put his feet down. We didn’t want to end up in the stream at the bottom. When every one had had their fun the driver performed his party piece. He ran and jumped onto a boogie board face down and hurtled down the sand dune, across the stream, right down to the door of the bus amid cheers from his audience.
The Te Paki stream flows past the sand dunes through to 90 mile beach providing a path for the buses to drive through. Throughout the day the driver had been warning us that the stream is drying up and quicksand patches are forming that the buses were getting struck in. He assured us this wouldn’t be a problem because there were several big guys on the bus that day and he had little spades for the rest of us! After the tobogganing we all got back on the bus to drive through the stream that the driver said needed to be driven fast. We came around the corner and did indeed find one of the buses stuck. The driver went to see what was happening then got back on the bus and told us to hang on tight. We thought he was joking again but he meant it. He turned the bus round and drove back a few hundred yards then turned again, he picked up speed and must have been doing 40-50mph when he hit the quicksand area. The bus slowed right down but he kept going and we got through. There were about 5 other buses that all did the same thing. They then tied all their towropes together to pull the bus that was stuck out of the quicksand.
Once all the buses were through we drove onto 90 mile beach. It’s actually only 56 miles or 90kms long and we drove along about 40 miles of it. It was an amazing journey. The sand was as flat as a motorway but a lot wider. The driver drove fairly fast slowing only for the few shallow fresh water streams that crossed the beach.
We stopped briefly to walk on the beach and dip our feet in the Tasman sea. Eventually the bus drove up a ramp back onto the road. We stopped at a service station that had a very clever bus wash to wash underneath the coaches to clear away the seawater.
Sarah was waiting there to give us a lift back to Mangonui. We had had a fantastic day in the far far North. The next day we left the harbour and headed south to Auckland for Christmas.