Thursday, November 3, 2011


This wayback post goes... really far back. To Easter, and a four day weekend.

We had decided to combine two trips into one based on our route. Part one was to head to Cape Reinga, the northern tip of the North Island. Part two was to swing through the Bay of Islands, and take the Cream Cruise, which is a historical route used to take mail and supplies to little islands. It's also an excuse to spend a day on a boat and swim with dolphins. Leading up to the trip, the weather was looking dubious for all but Friday, but we actually got lucky with some great weather until Monday morning.

An early departure Friday and a wise selection of route meant that we never really had serious traffic problems on the way north. We did our usual thing, meandering and stopping when it suited us or when something caught our eye.

The goal for the day kept shifting, but in the end, we opted to try to make it all the way to the Cape in case the weather turned. In the end, we managed to turn a sixish hour drive into ten, which is about par for us since we've been doing the "abroad road trip" thing.

Once getting onto the peninsula, we had a stop at 90 mile beach (which I think is more like 90 km beach). It's a popular stretch to drive on, as access is easy, and the sand is pretty firm. They even take buses on it. I think we could have gone for a cruise up the beach, as we saw 2wd's pulling it off, but we opted not to, as it was fairly busy out there (as beaches go) and it is tide dependent. Really pretty, and I bet if you get away from the accesses, quite desolate at times.

We made a Quick stop at Rawawa beach. This is up near the (claimed) purest deposits of silica sand in the world. I don't know for sure, but it's pretty shockingly white sand even across from the exact spot.

Then we made a break to the Cape.


This sign has a matched pair at the south end of the South Island. See upcoming post.

It didn't capture all that well, but in the shot below, see how there is a wave coming from low/mid left to upper right, and a wave going from sort of upper left to low/mid right? That's the Tasman clashing with the Pacific. You can actually see it churning about. Pretty powerful stuff.

We got there with about an hour to spare for sunset, so we really got to take it in. Lovely spot. As NZ goes, it was packed with tourists, but it's not like it was really that busy. I guess the distance marker is a real destination, as all the backpackers wanted their photo taken with it.

I was more interested in getting the sunset, which turned out to be a bit anticlimactic due to the clouds. But that's how it goes sometimes. I did put together an extremely brief, incomplete time lapse of the event.

After a night camping at a reasonable, but somewhat uninspired DOC campsite (the most northern in NZ, mind you), we headed to the giant Te Paki sand dunes. This is the place where you can go sand boarding. Pretty easy idea - take a boogie board and slide down a sandy hill.

We got there pretty early, but didn't expect we would beat the guys who rent boards. We were wrong, but that turned out to be great. The place was desolate. We spent a long time hiking through the dunes. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen. I imagine this is what it's like in the middle of the desert in the Middle East. Truly beautiful. Watching the wind shape the dunes (and cover our footprints) was fascinating, if you could avoid getting sandblasted in the process. And running down the dunes was a ton of fun! Far more than going up them, which was really hard. I was sinking in to mid-shin on what we estimate is about a 30 degree slope.

We decided to leave, get a board, and come back. I'll be the first to admit that I thought it sounded pretty pedestrian, but I was sorely mistaken. It turned out to be a hell of a lot of fun!

Next time, we'll know to go early and prepared. By the time we left, the place was getting pretty crowded, and the vendors had showed up. But early in the morning - lovely.

This was the big event of the day. It was followed by lazy lunches on the water, checking out the local oddities, a stop at NZ's most northern pub (a bit of a dive, I must say), and some hit or miss weather for camping.

Sunday was a cruise in mixed weather Paihia to catch the Cream Cruise on Monday. We went through some nice countryside, but nothing particularly of note. We would up in Paihia only to realize its a tourist trap for backpackers. A very uninspired little place. So we took the ferry to Russell, across the bay, which was a lovely, historic little town. We saw a massive ray (sting? manta? other?), but unfortunately got no photos, as it was nearly pitch dark.

Monday morning came, and we awoke to torrential rain. Luckily, we hadn't yet booked the cruise, as we knew it wasn't looking so great. Turns out, I also woke up sick, so it's just as well, really. Really sick. As in, the sickest I've been in a decade. I took two legitimate, consecutive sick days. Ouch.

So we'll be back for the Cream Cruise in the spring or summer. And I hope back to the Cape, too.


Shannon said...

Love it! That was an excellent trip and sandboarding the dunes was so much fun!

Dairygal said...

First.. LOVE the picture of the tractor. Thank you. I'll take that as a sign you still think of your American friends. Second, there are sand dunes in Idaho, not far from here. I hear it's fun, though I choose just to go sledding in the snow (which it did today). Third, I'm glad you two are having an amazing time and getting to see places. Keep posting. Miss you lots (both of you).