(This is the second blog of our trip to Northland, New Zealand. For part 1 check out this link: blog post part 1)
After Russell we had an epically long driving day – 3 1/2 hours up the East side of the long spit of land to Cape Reinga at the very tip of New Zealand, and then 3 hours back. We’d considered skipping it because, well, it is a bit out of the way but I’m so happy we didn’t.
Cape Reinga is majestical, to use a Kiwi word, and just stunning. All you can see for miles around you is blue water. At the Cape is also the point where two oceans meet, which you can see in the pictures with the variation in water colors.
We spent a lot of time just sitting on one of the bluffs and admiring the view.
On the way back down the Cape, we stopped in for some sandboarding atop the famous Te Paki Dunes! Amazing to go from the ocean to the desert in just a few minutes. You rent “sandboards” in the parking lot, climb up, and go down on your belly. Pro tip: use your feet to brake, not your hands in front of you else sand flies up into your eyes, nose, teeth, shirt…everywhere. I mean everywhere.
The other big draw up here on the Cape is 90 Mile Beach which I feel compelled to point out is closer to 66 miles. The big draw on 90 Mile Beach is to drive your car along the beach or pack into a large tourist bus that drives along the beach. Honestly, I don’t get this either. Why spoil a perfectly nice beach with fume spewing machinery?
After this came my favorite part of the trip – visiting the big Kauri groves. Kauri are large, ancient trees only second in age to the Sequoia. They grow in girth, not height, making for massive squat trees. They have declined considerably as they grow straight and as they grow the lower limbs fall off, making them into long logs perfect for lumber, and were used for years in the logging industry here. They are now seen as a taonga (treasure) and protected, but still under various threats.
Our first stop before going into the forests was a quirky little puzzle shop I’d read about in the delightful “New Zealand Frenzy” guidebook, which gives you all sorts of off the beaten path trips and tricks.
After this was a hike through a muddy but quiet little Kauri grove. One thing I love about hiking here is that if you’re not on one of the major tourist hikes, you may see no one else on your hike, just enjoy a peaceful stroll through the forest.
Then came the tourist Kauri, or Tane Mahuta. Touristy or not, he is a sight to behold.
The largest living Kauri tree known alive today, Tane Mahuta is estimated to be between 1500 and 2500 years old. I can’t even wrap my brain around that! Something that was just beginning life around the time of Ancient Greece and is still alive today.
A little ways down the road is another hike to a few other large Kauri. We took the road less traveled by and found ourselves on another solitary hike up to Yakas, a huggable Kauri.
We checked into a fun Top 10 Holiday Park for a glamping night. These places are great – they have clean facilities and a fun playground for the kids (and intrepid adults)!
That night, we went for a kiwi walk in the dark kauri forest, guided by a ranger with a red flashlight. While we saw eel, weta (large cockroachy insects) and gloworms in the forest, we did not spot any kiwi! Shy little critters.
Our last stop before heading home was a visit to the quirky Kauri Museum. It goes through the life of the Kauri forests, when logging industry and later Kauri Gum (amber) was big business.
After this, was a long ride home, back to our little house near the beach, until our next adventure in Aotearoa (Maori word for New Zealand).