The following morning we joined the Dune Rider tour that would take us to Cape Reinga, where the Pacific Ocean in the east meets the Tasman Sea in the west. It is the northernmost point of the North Island, which Maori believed is the departure point for spirits to make the final journey to their ancient homeland of Hawaiki. I couldn’t wait to see the lonely lighthouse that warned sailors away from its shores.
As we headed north toward Cape Reinga, our first stop was Gum Diggers Park & Ancient Buried Kauri Forest. In the old days, men would labor long and hard to dig up the resin from the kauri trees in order to make floor laminate and other products. It was a difficult process, but the wealth spurred the men on. I’d say it was comparable to the gold rush in the States or the opal mining in Oz.
Our guide took us on a short bush walk during which we saw recreations of various gum digger camps. The shelters for those first gum diggers were very simple. However, as time went on they became more elaborate. We also saw the large holes where diggers uprooted the kauri. With their simple tools and implements, it’s a wonder how they were able to cut down and dig up these gigantic trees.
After a quick look around the gift shop, we continued our journey toward Cape Reinga. As there had been a tsunami warning earlier in the morning, we were unable to drive there on 90 Mile Beach. Instead, we took the inland road, which I thought was just as nice as we passed more green hills and valleys. But the weather had turned gray and cloudy. Raindrops splattered against the windshield and whipped against the windows.
When we arrived at Cape Reinga (aka Te Rerenga Wairua), the weather was still grim but at least the rain had stopped. Alba and I quickly bundled up and hopped out of the bus. We made a dash toward the lighthouse, which turned out to be farther away than we anticipated. Even with the approaching storm (or maybe because of it), the view of the ocean was amazing. It was dark and gray like a moody lover after a quarrel. The waves crashed fiercely against the rocks far below the cliffs.
The view was simply spectacular, but we couldn’t linger any longer. Large drops started raining down upon us as we made our way back to the bus. By the time we reached the midpoint of the path, we were drenched and had to start running. As the path wove back and forth we were alternately pelted by rain from the front and the back. The wind was gusting with violent force, and for once I was thankful for my (how do I put it delicately?) extra heft? I think it’d be quite easy to be blown off the path by a rogue gust of wind.
Despite our best efforts, we were completely soaked by the time we made it back to the bus. Water dripped off of everything and got everywhere. But at least we got our photos, right? While we waited for the others to get back, we slowly unwrapped ourselves from our hats, gloves and coat and tried our best to get warm and dry.
Once everyone returned, we headed to Te Paki, where there are gigantic sand dunes, for the opportunity to go sand boarding. Despite the cold wind and rain, many of the people on our bus got out and geared up with a boogie board. After hiking what seemed like ages up this massive sand hill, they came zipping down at lightning speed. I’m sure the rain helped to slick the sand and it was easy to see how they could pick up so much speed and hydroplane at the bottom. It really did look like fun but with the weather as it was I decided to stay inside the dry bus.
On the way back to Paihia, we stopped for fish and chips but I decided to pass on them. They weren’t especially cheap either so I stuck to my backpacker budget and waited till we got back to the hostel to eat dinner.