Voyage to the Tippity Tip Top of New Zealand

For some unknown reason it was harder to wake up today than it has been the entire trip. It could have something to do with the gloomy clouds that greeted us or the cold air that is not very welcoming. Either way, we didn’t have a choice because we were due to greet our Sand Safaris tour that would take us throughout the northern tip of New Zealand, the Aupouri Peninsula.

We chose to do a tour because we had learned that in order to visit the 90 Mile Beach, you would need a suitable car to access it and rental companies did not allow their cars to drive in the sand and salt spray. So it was either do a tour or rent a dune buggy. We would have preferred the dune buggy but it was 4x as expensive so that was out of the question.

After eating breakfast eggs a la Doug, we took a quick drive over to meet the bus at the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, a tourist hub for all of the tours heading up to the tip. When it was time, we boarded our bus and were introduced to our Maori bus driver before starting our tour. Unfortunately, I don’t remember his name – it was very long and very Maorian, so I’ll choose the complete opposite and call him Mr. Mustache because he had a silly mustache.

Mr. Mustache drove us up State Highway 1 towards Cape Reinga, the northernmost tip of New Zealand. Along the way, we stopped at a few different places where he pointed out the local sport fishing club, some tin lean-tos that had once been a dance-hall/bar/post-office/jail, and a few small churches that serve the area. Between each of these places the two of us would doze off, but would suddenly awake when Mr. Mustache would turn on his microphone and we’d once again hear the hum of the engine broadcast over the speakers before he’d begin telling another story. Mixed in with these sights he gave us some Maori history on the area with a few Maori songs thrown in, which sounds like it could have been bad but he was quite a good singer.

Maoris believe that Cape Reinga is where they go before they will depart for the afterlife, so it is a sacred place for them. But unlike Uluru, you can hike it (it’s just requested that you not eat or drink along the way). There is a paved path that takes you to the one story lighthouse that sits on Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. It only took 15 minutes to walk down to it, but we were greeted with views looking down both coasts. Doug particularly enjoyed seeing the currents of the two ocean meet and crash creating whirlpools and whitewash.

The Tasman Sea!
The Tasman Sea!
The Pacific Ocean!
The Pacific Ocean!
Cape Reinga lighthouse where they meet!
Cape Reinga lighthouse where they meet!
The oceans meet!
The oceans meet!
Just in case you need to know where to go next.
Just in case you need to know where to go next.

After a quick visit, we took off for a beach on the Bay of Tapotupotu where we would be treated to a BBQ lunch, it was their first day doing this instead of the advertised club sandwiches and we both appreciated the upgrade. We were handed plates of sausage, lamb, salad, coleslaw, and pasta salad before squatting on a sand dune overlooking the beach. Some seagulls followed us, but we managed to keep all the food to ourselves. We had some time to spare before we were due to leave so we did some beach walking, admiring the grey-speckled sand and proving to ourselves that the water’s temperature was similar to that back in Sydney. Doug also got great pleasure in quicksand he found that was slowly eating his shoe. Luckily, no one was injured in the making of this day.

Not too shabby of a lunch spot.
Not too shabby of a lunch spot.
The sand was super cool
The sand was super cool
Doug enjoyed the quicksand.
Doug enjoyed the quicksand.
The ocean wave left marks that looked like the sand was cracking.
The ocean wave left marks that looked like the sand was cracking.

The next activity was said to be intense, thrilling, and life-changing in fact. Today, we were neither falling out of a plane, nor jumping off a bridge. Today, we sand surfed. After hiking up very, very large sand dunes (assisted by skills acquired in Mongolia), we narrowly escaped death (not so narrowly) by boogie boarding down as fast as our dragging feet (dragging because that helped to slow us down and stay straight) would allow us. The walk up was exhausting. The ride down was exhilarating. Lynn stuck to dragging her feet and proceeding at a steady pace down the incline. Doug, a bit more adventurous, picked up his feet every so often for a much faster descent. Also, the sand dunes were huge and we weren’t even riding down the largest ones. Throughout the surfing process, we managed to get sandy and wet from the stream running through the base of the dune. We were also exhausted from the hikes up, so after a while we stopped along with a steady stream of others from our trip.

Up you go.
Up you go.
The fun begins!
The fun begins!

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Stop!!!
Stop!!!
Phew.
Phew.
The even bigger sand dune.
The even bigger sand dune.

The remainder of the trip took us down 90 Mile Beach where we were treated to more stories about a man who acquired the 10-mile fastest land speed record here and the Maoris who lived in the area along with a few more songs. Along the way we learned that recent years have brought more and more damage to the surrounding dunes and the Tasman Sea is now encroaching on the nearby Kauri forest (thank you, global warming). Sadly, we also saw a few deceased whales who had been washed ashore.

90 Mile Beach to the south
90 Mile Beach to the south
90 Mile Beach to the north
90 Mile Beach to the north
Our rad ride for the day
Our rad ride for the day
This was once a whale...
This was once a whale…

By 3:30 pm our tour was concluded. We took a quick detour to the grocery store for some more breakfast items before heading back to Cable Bay. We seemed to both be still be exhausted, so we took some more naps before Doug awoke to make a delicious dinner of salad, Bolognese pasta, and garlic bread.

Dinner!
Dinner!

Daily Walking Mileage: 2.5

Fun Facts:

  • Kauri trees are the largest (by volume) species of tree in New Zealand and their forests are some of the most ancient in the world. Maoris use 45 thousand year old kauri trees, reclaimed from peat bogs, for their furniture and decorative carvings.
  • Despite being called 90 Mile Beach, the beach is actually 88 kilometers (55 miles) long. It is also an official highway so anyone who wants to can drive it at their own risk.
  • Mauri are Polynesians and came from eastern Pacific islands back west. They’re language sounds like Hawaiian to the untrained ear (ours).

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