Sean Mc on Skynet

Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach

At least by getting to the Bay of Islands we were getting further north than previously, now we just had to get all the way to Cape Reinga.
Originally we had hoped to drive to Cape Reinga ourselves by road and possibly drive back down on 90 mile beach. After talking to people it soon became clear that taking our van on the beach wouldn't be very clever. Our next plan was to get one of the many tour buses that base themselves in Kaitaia.
To cut a long story short we booked with one company but we were the only ones, so they cancelled and shoved us on a bus with a company called Harrisons and refunded us the difference in price.
It was definitely worth paying the price for a tour instead of just driving to Cape Reinga and looking over fences to see the countryside. The bus driver was a good tour guide, with a funny sense of humour, who gave us so much more information about the history of the area than we would've read in any 'Lonely Planet' or 'Rough Guide' book. He gave us an insight into the socio-economic history of the area and how it came to be as it is today. Of course we assume that he was telling the truth but I guess like any good tour guide the facts are stretched a little.
The highlights of the tour included getting to Cape Reinga, driving on a quicksand river bed, sand tobogganing and of course driving on the world famous 90mile beach.
Whilst we were at the cape there were some people there who had 12 months previously set off from Cape Reinga on horseback and ridden to Bluff at the very south of New Zealand to raise money for a charity helping teenagers with cancer. Canteen is the name of the charity, go to if you want to know more. The views from Cape Reinga are amazing, as you look northwards you see the Pacific Ocean on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other. What's amazing about it is how different the two bodies of water are, they are different in colour and behaviour and you can see where they meet. The day we were there was quite calm but we're told that on stormy days the two bodies of water often collide in spectacular fashion.

From the top of New Zealand we had no choice but to head in a Southerly direction, next up was driving on the bed of a quicksand river. It's not really as spectacular as it sounds but it's still strange to be driving along the bed of a river, not just crossing it from one side to the other. In all we probably drove in the river for about 500m. Along the way we pulled in at the side of the river to go sand dune tobogganing, much the same as sledging down a snow slope except it was on sand, not much more to say 'cos it is as it sounds. Good fun though. From here it was onto 90mile beach, the place that gives the tour it's name. In spite of it's name 90mile beach is not 90 miles longs, apparently it's 102km long, there are various tales about how it got it's name. It's a strange feeling to be driving along a beach for such a distance but it does get a little monotonous after a while, all you see is sand both in front and behind you, to one side you have sand dunes and to then other you've got the sea, quite a barren landscape really. We did stop on the beach just to take in the vastness of it all, and yes it is a HUGE beach. Interestingly the beach is a designated national highway.
That was most of the tour done but on the way home we stopped at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom so the bus could be washed. The Ancient Kauri Kingdom is not a magical forest or anything that the name might suggest, it is a workshop where they make furniture from kauri wood. It is the most expensive furniture I've ever seen, there was a sofa there with a price tag of $55000 (yes 55 thousand dollars!!). They did have a really spectacular staircase there, like everything else it's made from kauri wood but with a twist. The staircase is actually carved inside the trunk of a huge kauri tree, it truly is a piece of art. After this it was back home to the campsite.

The previous evening at the campsite we had got talking to a few people, it turned out they were part of a larger group who were staying the weekend for a regional meeting of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA). I mention this because they invited us to join them for dinner, suited us fine. They laid on a huge spread with some of the largest steaks I have ever seen, one of the steaks took 3 of us to eat, I don't want to think how much a restaurant would charge for it. A great bunch of people who were very helpful to us.

posted by SeanMc @ 12:28 AM,


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