We have driven over four thousand kilometres in our trusty little hire-car since we arrived in New Zealand on 3rd January, but to finally reach the top of New Zealand, we took a bus tour as rental cars are not covered by insurance to drive on Ninety Mile Beach, which was something we particularly wanted to do.
Cape Reinga (or Te Rerenga Wairua in Maori) is one of the most significant sites in New Zealand. For Maori people, this is where a person’s spirit comes after death and departs for their eternal home. The rocky point jutting out to sea (photos 12 and 13) is Te Reinga and, according to Maori legend, the place where the spirits of the newly departed enter the underworld. Clinging to the rock, there is an ancient kahika tree, named Te Aroha. The spirits descend to the water on steps formed by the tree’s roots. They then continue on their journey to Hawaiki, the spiritual home.
What a lovely idea – I like that, very much.
Te Rerenga Wairua also marks the point where the Tasman Sea collides with the Pacific Ocean and, because the weather was perfect, out to sea from the lighthouse on the Cape, we could clearly see The Three Kings. These islands were first spotted by Abel Tasman on 6th January 1643, and he so named them, as this date is known as the Feast of Epiphany in the Christian calendar, the day the Three Kings visited the baby Jesus.
On our tour, we visited secluded bays and walked on the silica white sands of Rarawa beach which cracked beneath our feet. It was almost like walking on flour, and provided a stunning contrast to the clear blue water lapping onto its shore – AMAZING!
Next up was the Te Paki quicksand stream with up to 100 metre high sand dunes towering overhead making a dramatic entrance to the northerly end of Ninety Mile Beach. The golden sands are wonderfully sculptured by the west coast winds, with easy dunes and extreme slopes for every level of sand surfing or, for the less-experienced, sand toboganning.
After all that excitement, it was time for the one hour drive along Ninety Mile Beach, back to our accommodation at Waipapakauri Ramp. The beach is very flat with compact sand and was once used as the runway for some of the earliest airmail services between Australia and New Zealand. It is still used as an alternative road to State Highway 1, though mainly for tourist reasons, or when the main road is closed due to landslides or floods.
It’s quite surreal whizzing along the beach at 100 kms per hour with sea water whooshing up from the bus wheels and seeing waves pounding the shore a few metres away. In fact, it rather amused me to see the speed limit change back to 50kms per hour as we left the beach to get back on the tarmac road!
This trip to the Far North has been the most magical part of our New Zealand trip.