This morning I depart around 08:30 in the direction of Cape Reinga, which is close to the most northern point of New Zealand. Here, the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. The landscape towards the cape gets a more hilly character met patches of trees. The soil has a red color here, comparable with that in Australia. The road north is like a racetrack, where you are allowed to drive 100. There are close to zero other cars and no there is not a single leg of straight road. Swinging from left to right while going up and down, the 100 kilometers are covered in no time.
Cape Reinga is a special place for the Maori, because this is the departure point for the spirits that travel to the homeland Hawiiki-a-nui. While I am reading this and more, meanwhile eating a sandwich, I read that no eating or drinking is allowed in this special place. That is a bit too late then. They should indicate this a bit earlier and more clear then.
One can make a lot of walks here, but they are all between 5-20 kilometers one way. I do not feel like taking one of these, especially carrying all the photogear and the fact the I am on the highest point here. All walks descend way down from here. There is a good overview of the area from here, indicating to me that one of these walks would not add much more. The lighthouse which stands on a rocky outcrop, is an easy walk from here.
A close inspection, reveals one of the ghosts…do you see it?
There is a signpost with distance indications to places around the world in all wind directions.
At sea you can clearly see the two opposing currents. Left the Pacific Ocean and right the Tasman Sea.
A closer look reveals the turmoil.
The wind is blowing quite hard here. I walk a couple of hundred yards down to find a more sheltered place. From here I shoot a large panorama of 135 photographs of Te Werahi Beach and Cape Maria van Diemen, which are west of Cape Reinga. Cape Maria van Diemen is the most western point of the North Island and was named by Abel Tasman after the wife of his patron, Anthony van Diemen, who was Governor General of Jakarta. This is one of these longer walks you can take here.
The road to the north is a single one, so there is only one way back and that is via the same racetrack. There are a couple of other things to see on the way back though. It seemed the best to start at the far north and work my way back to the south. This way, I would be very close to a motel already, in the case I do not have enough time to see everything.
Te Paki Sand Dunes
The next stop is at the Te Paki Sand Dunes. These are very high dunes. This area has it’s origin in volcanic eruptions that happened 2 million years ago. The rock has been eroded by wind and water and flushed to sea by rivers. Finally it has been washed ashore hundreds of kilometers to the north and now it forms these dunes. In the past hundreds of thousands of years this sand has gathered at other places in New Zealand as well.
One can rent sand boards here to race down the dunes on your belly. I see that you can reach high speeds doing it, but I also notice that this happens in a cloud of sand. I think you will still be eating sand, days after the event. I play with the idea for a moment to go and sit halfway the dune to make some action photographs, but I discard it. There is a lot of wind anyway and I think the risk for my equipment is a bit too high.
I do climb to the top of the dunes. This is a very heavy exercise which makes me think of Death Valley National Park. Two steps forward and gliding one step back.
There are hard winds at the top and the first 5 centimeters form a floating carpet of sand grains. I succeed to make a couple of photographs, but it is very difficult to make sure that no sand slips into anything or sticks on to it.
I got a little lollipop addiction overhere (-; After the flight I had an inconvenient feeling in my throat and wanted some sweets to keep in my mouth. But I could not find what I was looking for. The only thing close to it was three square meters of all kinds of lollies. So, I bought a bag of these. There where so many kinds that at first I could not even decide on which one to take. Luckily I discovered just in time that some of them were marked with ‘Tongue Paint’ stond. (-; All those hours in the car accompanied with some 50 lollipops looking at you from the chair on the left, does not help really. Once you got the taste you keep eating them. Now they are all gone. I took the last one this afternoon. My throat feels ok now, so I thing I am going to leave it with that.
The next stop is at Parengarenga Harbour: a tide area with lots of channels and creeks with white sand. It is all there but far from spectacular. After driving further for a while I start looking for a drowned Kauri forest of 30.000 years old. In hind sight I am confused with somethin else I have read about, because I was convinced that it is an area with petrified trunks close to sea, that is only visible at low tide. Knowing it is low tide right now I drive directly to the coast (24 kilometers) to Karikari Peninsula, without checking my notes. I notice that most Maori names are double (Kari-kari).
This road ends in a very small, tight road and a beach, where I am starting to doubt things. After a close look at my notes I discover that I have to go to Lake Ohia somewhere close to the road. Stupid. I drive back all the way but once there can not find the lake. I see it on the GPS, but I do not see a road going to it. After some driving around I find a road that is going into the right direction. There are no signs anywere. As I stop at a T junction and see a car with a couple of ladies (German it appears). When I ask them whether they know where the lake is, they tell me “you are standing next to it”. Ok, I think. Now I do understand my mistake. 30.000 years ago there has been a forest here which was then drowned. What is left of it is a kind of swamp (mud) with trunks that are surfacing. I walk around here for 5 minutes or so and then I have seen it all. Interesting as it is, there is nothing worth photographing. It is starting to rain as well. Time to go.
I continue to Kerikeri and start looking for a motel. All of them seem to be sold out, but one of them has a backpackers room. Ok that is the one I take. It is a wooden shed with 3 beds in it and without bathroom or toilet. There is a nice waterfall somewhere here and I do not feel like driving further already. It seems that during the first three days of the week, everything is sold out because of business people having conferences. This is the first day I do not have to look for a motel in the dark, nice. It is raining very hard now.
After a while it stops raining and because sunset is still forty five minutes away I might be able to photograph the waterfall before dark. Arriving at the parking lot I discover that it will be closed at sunset. This is a risk I do not want to take. The waterfall has to wait until tomorrow.
Maps, Charts & Downloads
GPS Map with color coded altitude information
Color coded distance/altitude chart
Download the original gpx file gpx file here.