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  • Writer's pictureClaire

07/04/24 Rangiputa to Cape Reinga

This morning we were awoken by the most exquisite sunrise, the flat was alight in shades of yellow and gold. That, added to a spectacular night's sleep, was the start of a great day.  We left Rangiputa after some breakfast and delicious coffee and travelled the short distance back down the peninsula to the   Highway that would take us North.  Our journey took us briefly through the usual  hillsides with cattle, sheep and emus. Then the scenery  changed dramatically to flat plains as far as the eye could see. It was something of a surprise for us both, not to mention Ismene, who was delighted to be on some normal roads for a change! 

Cape Reinga is the point where  the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. For Maori, these turbulent waters are where the male sea Te Moana Tapokopoko a Tawhaki meets the female sea Te Tai o Whitireia.They represent the coming together of male and female, and the creation of life. 

Cape Reinga is the most spiritually significant place in New Zealand for Māori people. Just an ancient pohutukawa tree and a lonely lighthouse mark this incredibly special place. It is here that after death, all Māori spirits travel up the coast and over the wind-swept countryside 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.

When we arrived it was still a little overcast, but due to the relatively early hour the car park was more or less empty. The pathway to the lighthouse is fully sealed, and non-slip, always a bonus for Mildred, making it accessible to all. There is a small bridge to walk through from the car park which takes you into the headland and it’s there you see the first sight of Ohaua, the spit from where the Māori say their final goodbye,  The path, although sealed wasnt exactly flat, but it meandered its way gently to the lighthouse. There are carved wooden information boards  the length of the path, providing us with interesting facts and tales. As we approached the lighthouse, the coast was pure rock on one side. Where the waves crashed into them, the colour  was a clear turquoise iced blue, blending out to deep navy in the deeper waters.  The point where the two Oceans collide is marked with strong swirling pools, fighting waves with the two different currents being clearly visible. Even to my non nautical eye. 

 The other side of the pathway is lush semi tropical native plant life. The more energetic and able bodied people can walk the headland in 3-4 days, and whilst the scenery is outstanding, the area is pretty bleak in places, and it feels lonely.  The Cape Reinga lighthouse marks the end of the road in New Zealand, it’s not the Northernmost point, that honour lies with a reserve a short distance away. It is however the furthest you can actually get to. Good enough for me!  

The lighthouse was origionally placed on Motuopao Island However, by the beginning of WWII, it was decided that the light was in the wrong location, so in 1941 the glasshouse and light mechanism on top of the lighthouse were removed and re-erected at the new lighthouse settlement at Te Rerenga Wairua. The remains of the original tower can still be seen on the northern end of the offshore island.

Te Rerenga Wairua was the last watched lighthouse to be built in New Zealand. Standing  10m tall and 165m above sea level,  its last lighthouse keeper was withdrawn in 1987. Since then it has been managed remotely by computer from Wellington.The 1000-watt light bulb magnified by the lens system throws a signal of warning 49 km out to sea and is often the first light in New Zealand that sailors see. 

The return journey to the car was taken at a leisurely pace… it was considerably steeper going back up. When we got back to the car park, it had filled up dramatically. A large coach had pulled up and was spewing out passengers at a rate of knots. Definitely a good idea to get there earlier.  There was also another Spaceship parked a few cars down. When we got into Ismene, wind blown but exhilarated, Si noticed a note under the wiper. It was from a gent called Max, he was travelling around like us, but the last two campsites he’d stayed at had been empty.  He had written his contact details on the bottom. I wrote a note on the back, explaining we were coming to the end of our trip, but,  if he wanted to chat we were heading to the giant Te Paki sand dunes, where we were going to get a brew. 

Unfortunately the sand dunes had no coffee shop, although it has to be said they are colossal beasts standing around 150m high and are more or less sheer. . Debbie told us last night that body boards were available to hire if you wanted to go sand boarding. We declined that, we’ve got a lot more travelling to do and an injury to the driver wouldn’t have been ideal.someone has died on them for goodness sake. Twenty years ago you wouldn’t have kept me off them. That was when I was young and fun and do anything for a dare! Or … was it young and stupid??

With no tea on offer at the Dunes we continued on our way back down the highway and Si was getting a bit hungry. We pulled over to Honey Bees pie shop. Freshly made pies and sausage rolls with the lightest flakiest pastry known to man. Everything was baked in the shop, which was a converted container unit. Just next to it was another container, which had crafts and goodies for sale.  With our steak and oyster pie and sausage rolls, we sat in the sunshine and had a lovely half hour, the place was really busy, and at one point the Que was 15 people deep. Its reputation obviously preceded it! That and maybe the fact that it was Sunday and there wasn’t much open maybe! I think they’d get a good trade from tourists anyway, having a large car park and the smell of pies wafting in through open windows is enough to entice anyone in

Nicely full we carried on until I spotted a sign for 90 mile beach. You can drive the length of it in a 4 wheel drive, or take a bus tour on a specially built bus up the length of it. Rental vehicles aren’t allowed in the sand which we already knew, but we wanted to see it. Turning off the main road, it was signposted as being 10km. The first 2km went marvellously, a sealed road which then changed abruptly to very much unsealed with potholes, loose stones and deeply lacking in smoothness. Probably not my best suggestion to date, but when we finally arrived after driving at a snail's pace, it was more than worth it. The longest flattest stretch of hard compacted sand with people playing on motorbikes, quads and driving 4x4 flat out. What I would have given to have had a quad to play on! After taking the obligatory photos and drinking it all in, we made our way back to the main road. It was quite the experience being overtaken at speed by trucks and trailers, throwing up dust and stones as they passed by. 

Nearing the sealed road there was an enormous hedge trimmer on the side of the road cutting back the hedges. Pines, conifers and bamboo are planted as windbreaks to protect the fruit trees in the orchards we were driving through. The hedge trimmer was massive , it must have had a cutting head that was 12 foot in length. I’m thinking we could get one for our hedges, one swipe and we’re done! 

On a sealed road again we were keeping our eyes open for a public toilet, and Si spotted a pub. Pulling in and parking up we went inside. It wasn’t quite one of those places where the locals stop talking and stare at you, they merely gave us a cursory glance and carried on. Behind the bar was a huge bear of a man, quite possibly the biggest man  I have ever seen. I was not expecting him to be so softly spoken when he welcomed us in and asked what we’d like to drink. He radiated gentleness and had a really beautiful pure energy around him.  The pub had a fantastic photo the length of the bar, showing fishermen fishing in 90 mile beach in the annual competition. Alongside the fishing memorabilia were rugby photos, and just about every other sport, and lots of historical photos from yesteryears. Something interesting everywhere we looked. One of the locals had a little dog with him who came over for a load of fussing, and Reiki. We found out later that the poor little thing had bad ears and has to have drops every day to relieve them, which explains why it was pulling the reiki through.  The toilets were an eye opener, they were spotless, in fact they were clean enough to eat your dinner off. Unfortunately we were full of pie and sausage rolls and didn’t have room even though the menu looked good! From the outside, it wasn’t much to look at, in need of some TLC and appeared a bit run down which is a shame because it was amazing inside.  Using the toilet before leaving, we headed for home. As we turned into the peninsula we decided we’d explore it as we were there and it was still quite early. It didn’t take long, and some of the roads were unsealed. Lots of campsites, including a top ten which we would have stayed at had we not booked into Debbie and Dave’s ‘Wander Inn’ (isn’t that the best name?) 

Up on one of the roads we found ourself driving alongside olive groves, which was pretty awesome. Had we had a bit longer on the road trip we would have got some oil, but we didn’t think we would be able to drink a litre bottle in a few days. Even with Si  drinking it like squash..  

All adventured out we set towards home, via the little shop for some bread for egg sandwiches for tea. Rock and roll or what!  

We’d finished tea and I was typing this up when Debbie and Dave popped their heads around the door and asked if everything was ok and if we’d had a nice day, which was really nice of them. Dave invited Si to taste some of his home brew, which he couldn’t refuse, who can blame him? He’s been driving a neurotic wife around for months!  When he came back, (the home brew was good) he’d had a great time chatting,  it transpired that Dave is former uk police, from up North, and transferred out to New Zealand 15 years ago. They got to talking about guns and taser, and crime and all job type things, as is normal in these circumstances! He is back in duty in the morning and his colleague, who has been on call all weekend, will be bringing the truck over for him to take to work and Dave will drop him back home. I suspect Si very much enjoyed “man talk”

Much love


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