We were being picked up from our hostel in Paihia by the bus at 7am to make our way up to New Zealand’s most northern point – Cape Reinga. I think I still must be a bit jet lagged as I was pretty much wide awake at 5am – must be the first time in my life that an early start has been a breeze.
This bus wasn’t actually the Kiwi Experience but a local tour provider so the bus was full with people of all different ages and nationalities which made it all the more interesting. Cape Reinga is over 300km from Paihia so there was lots of different stop offs during the journey with lots of interesting things to see.
The northern region of New Zealand is of rich cultural heritage and is sacred to the Maori people still today. Our bus driver Chris was himself a native Maori and therefore was able to tell us all the amazing facts about the places as we drove through; I think I had my nose to the window glass most of the time…
Our first stop off of the day was at the Manginangina Scenic reserve where we wandered through the forest and admired the ancient kauri trees; some of which are believed to be over 1000 years old. Apparently the queen visited the forest recently and therefore a new wooden walking platform has been constructed through the forest – lucky for me as I was stupidly wearing flip flops!
Back on the bus we stopped off briefly at the town of Mangonui which really reminded me Kames, where our holiday house in Scotland is. Some of the buildings right on the sea here date back to the 1800s and look like something straight out of a country and western film (wrong continent I know!)
Today was spent mostly hopping on and hopping off the bus at different locations and ultimately felt like a school trip, but our next stop of the day was at the town of Taipa where we all grabbed coffees and admired the beautiful beach.
Back on the bus for a little while we stopped at Kaitaia for lunch at The Hub Cafe. Part of our bus ticket for the day included lunch here; the options were either Fish and Chips or Falafel. Not being a fish fan I went for the falafel and was completely robbed – safe to say I was pretty hungry the rest of the day!
Having eaten (a morsel) we hopped back on the bus and headed towards our main stop of the day – the lighthouse at Cape Reinga. This lighthouse is the most northerly point of New Zealand and marks the place where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet.
I really didn’t expect that you would be able to see the exact point where the oceans merge – but you really can! The waves crash against each other coming in from opposite directions and it creates white whirlpools which are easily visible from the cliffs above. Ancient Maori legend tells that the Tasman Sea is male, whilst the Pacific Ocean is female – the waves crashing together where the waters meet and the ripples that are created are apparently these spiritual males and females ‘dancing’. It really was a beautiful viewpoint and a great little wander.
Cape Reinga, interestingly, is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand.
It is believed that here, after dealth, all Māori spirits travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua.
The spirits, legend says, descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root of the tree 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 islands and bid their last farewell before returning to the land of their ancestors, Hawaiiki-A-Nui.
Having spent some time at the lighthouse we walked back up to the bus where we were swiftly taken to our next stop of for the day; the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes. We all grabbed our sand boards walked to the top (or, erm, ok, crawled) before getting on our fronts and speeding down the dunes – it was so much fun. We spent about 45 minutes here which was great – particularly as the sun properly came out (I’m still adamant I got a tan).
Having dusted the sand off our feet we hopped back on board the bus and headed towards 90 mile beach which was absolutely stunning. The beach is actually a public highway so the bus continued driving down the sand for nearly an hour which was a bit bizarre! We did hop out and dip our toes in the Tasman sea – all I kept thinking was ‘are there sharks here?!’
That brought the end of our trip to Cape Reinga to and end as we hopped back on board the bus and headed back to Paihia for the evening (stopping at a random little furniture workshop on the way for coffee and quiche).
I had such an interesting day in Cape Reinga and it gave me a brilliant introduction to the Māori culture. I couldn’t wait to get exploring New Zealand further and learn even more.