Saturday morning, we got up bright and early and caught an Uber into the city to pick up our rental car; we had reserved it back in February when we were planning our trip. We would be cruising around the north island in our little red Toyota Corolla. The gal at the rental shop walked us through the ins-and-outs of the car, took my credit card and signature, and we were set to jet. Because of my blunder with the marae’s silver wagon (see previous entry), Cassie elected to drive for the trip. Honestly, she is a saint for logging all of the miles behind the wheel. Thank you Cassie.
We stopped at the grocery store for bread, meats, fruits and veggies and a quick breakfast, don’t forget the beers. We swung back to the house to grab our bags, and we were off.
As we took off in the Corolla, we drove north from Auckland. We got into the forest area where the roads are long and winding. We listened to music and I had a couple road sodas along the way. We stopped at an attraction that Cassie had been to when she was on a trip with her girlfriends. A large ancient tree called Tane Mahuta, located in the Kauri Forest is just a short walk in on a boardwalk. It’s sacred to the Mauri people and visitors are asked to be respectful of the area. We took some photos (I shot with my film camera, so we won’t see those for quite awhile) and then got back on the road. Then we were headed off to Opononi.
Cassie knew of a little restaurant that overlooks the ocean that had some amazing cajun fish tacos. We ordered some drinks and sat in the sun eating and enjoying the view.
After lunch, we walked across the road to the ocean to cool off. There was a dock that the local kids were jumping off of, and we wanted to join in the fun. Cassie stood on a pillar and did a backflip off, while I went for a poorly executed dive.
We dried off and stopped in at the mart next door to grab some dinner supplies for that night. We stashed them in the cooler and decided to lay on the beach awhile and have some beers.
We enjoyed ourselves, running around on the beach, kicking water and doing yoga.
The sun was getting low and we still needed to check in at our first AirBnb. It was a little place called the Bamboo Caravan. It was out in the sticks a good distance, and we passed the time by listening to music and sipping on soda. The landscapes are so beautiful in New Zealand that you just have to take a photo, even when you stop to go pee.
We continued down the way and stopped by the sea to stretch our legs.
We continued on our way and found our AirBnB just after dark. We were met by the host, who’s name we never actually got, and she showed us around the property. It was really quite a place. In years past the land had been used as a communal living area, and it definitely had the look of a hippy commune. There were multiple dwelling spaces that had their own themes, the kitchen was open for all guests to use and the living room was for hanging out and having conversations. One of the houses was called the ‘Hippy Hut’ and was decorated to resemble the inside of a pad from the early 70’s (shag carpeting, a guitar, lava lamp, etc.).
Our dwelling, the Bamboo Caravan, was painted with butterflies and tall grass on the outside, and the walls inside were paneled with bamboo from the crop behind the camper. It was quaint and fun. Cassie fried up some fish filets and broccoli for dinner and we ate and chatted with the other guests in the living room before heading to our hideaway for the night.
Sunday was a big day filled with fun. We started by having coffee and a quick breakfast, a shower and packing up our gear in the Corolla. We would be spending the day in a few locations all within the Cape Reinga area. We started by venturing up a winding road to the top of a hill that looks out over the ocean. We were going to a lighthouse that Cassie and her friends had gone to on their trip. I’m so glad she took me there, the view was amazing.
Cassie impressed all the surrounding folks with her skills.
We walked down the hill to get a closer look at the lighthouse. If you look closely at the following photo, you see a tree on the land below. This is an ancient pohutukawa tree.
Cassie explained that it is here that after death, all Māori spirits travel up the coast and over the wind-swept vista to the pohutukawa tree on the headland of Te Rerenga Wairua.
They descend into the underworld (reinga) by sliding down a root 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.*
We hiked back up over the hill to the car and made delicious turkey sammy’s with avocado and fended off the circling seagulls vying for a bite. Then we were off to the next adventure: the sand dunes.
This was a great activity for our vacation. We were lucky that Cassie’s boss, Tim the nan-fam dad, lent us a boogie board to use in the water and on the sand. There was a truck in the parking lot that also rented the boards so we snagged one so we could both slip down the dunes together.
We found a spot in the crowded parking lot, finished our beers, and I applied some necessary sunscreen. Then we walked the distance to the base of the mountains of sand and looked up.
Walking up the dunes is strange; with each step you take, you lose a portion of the advancement you made. The view from the top was really something. Desert landscapes are strange looking, resembling a sort of alien planet. There were several groups of people around, climbing the dunes and slip-sliding down them. Cassie and I reached the top and looked about. We approached the edge and chose our line. We went together, running and jumping onto our stomaches, gliding head-first down the steep sandy mountain.
You get going really fast going down the slope on the slick boogie boards. Part way down it got to be too much for me and I threw on the brakes and spun out. Cassie kept her head and eventually slid to a stop at the bottom. The second go, Cassie wanted to try standing up. She made it about half-way before the boogie-board slipped out from under her and she biffed it. I slid down on my stomach and was able to stay on this time. Next, I needed to stand up while cruising down. My technique was to get low, bend at the knees and just hold on. I didn’t quite make it to the bottom.
The sand was caked onto my skin because of the sunscreen I had put on in the parking lot. It was also stuck in my beard and everywhere else. I was sore after that. My sunglasses were thrown from my face, so I grabbed them and stumbled over to Cassie. After my fall, I was ready to call it quits and we made our way back to the car.
Next, we were headed to Tapotupotu campground to find our spot for the night. This would be the only night that we would end up camping during the trip. We had more nights planned for camping out, but there were several factors that played into our decision to find some AirBnB’s on the fly; more on that in later posts.
We drove around the campground, selected a place to set up camp, and got to it. Once that was done, we headed to the beach. The campground is nestled right in a bay and the beach was a 2 minute walk from our spot. It was very beautiful and picturesque. Other than a few people that came and went, we had the whole beach to ourselves.
We splashed about in the water. We waded out further and further and let the waves tackle us. Then I needed to ride the waves. Cassie went for more beers and brought the boogie board. I headed out to the waves and started working out when and where to be. Eventually I caught a few good ones. As soon as I stopped on the sand, I would pop back up and run out for more. Cassie got some photos of the fun. Thanks for sharing your pics Cass.
I enjoyed the waves for awhile longer before coming in and joining Cassie on the beach and drinking some beers in the sun. We hung out until the light started to fade.
We packed up our beach gear and headed back to camp. There were outdoor showers, which were great. We were able to wash off all of the sand left over from the dunes while we bathed under the moon that was just coming out. We made dinner and laid on a blanket and looked up at the stars. Then we crawled into our sleeping bags and turned out the lights.
To be continued in the next installment. Thanks for reading.
*Words taken from the Department of Conservations website.