Glorious Day off to report to you all. I have so many great memories out of my long bus trip. I dragged the GPS along again, but I’ve appropriately labeled it as being a Bus Trip, not bike ride. Of course, if you thought I’d actually covered over 450km in a day, you’d be crazy anyway, but I did want to show where I went. Essentially, I’ve capped off my Northern New Zealand adventuring by taking the bus tour. I’ve seen Cape Reinga, 90 Mile Beach, another Kauri Forest, and a few other cool sights. I body surfed in the Pacific Ocean, and reflected upon where the Maori spirits leap off into the ocean, to complete their journey into the afterlife. Read on for a little more about the whole thing if you care to. I’ll try not to make you all jealous 🙂
The day started exceptionally early for me, with my alarm going off at 6:15am. The bus was picking me up an hour after that, and I wanted time for a quick little snack, and time to throw my things together for the day. THe night before wasn’t too late for me. I had a quart of NZ Steinlager on the beach with a few people from the hostel, and marvelled at a glorious sunset, and the prospect of a beautiful day. As it would turn out, it was the only nice day they’ve had here in about 3 weeks, so everyone was quite excited about that.
The bus was only a few minutes late, and when I boarded, it was fairly empty. However, as it turned out, there were only 15 people on our tour anyway, which was great for all of our stops. Also, we were on a pretty much brand new bus, so there were no worries about it breaking down at any point in the day. Our driver doubled as our guide as well, but let me tell you, he was fantastic. He had just the right amount of chatter, and just the right amount of peace to enjoy the sights. He was extremely well versed on many of the legends, and filled us in on as many of the stories of the land and the people as he could. It was a welcome change from my biking days, when I see things, but have no idea about their significance. I definitely learned a lot today. This only further cemented my decision to try to bike to central places, then take in local tours and local sights with groups. I think I’ll get more out of it this way.
We started our day by visiting another Kauri forest. It held some big trees, but not as big as the one I saw a couple days ago. Still an impressive sight for sure. The roads to get to this one were twisty, steep, and gravel, so I definitely wouldn’t have done it on my own. After the forest, we winded along the coast, checking out several bays and harbours along the way until Tea time. This was our chance to pick up some food, as there would be no other amenities for the next 5 hours. We were told that for the last house on the north tip, it’s a 1.5hour drive each way to the closest grocery store. So, at the cafe, I picked up a sandwich and a cookie for lunch. I actually still had some other food in my bag, so that should do me.
After Tea, we headed directly to 90 mile beach (which is actually 90km, there are several stories about the name), as it was low tide. The funny thing about this “beach” is that it is officially a highway in NZ, with posted speed limits and everything. As it is made of sand, it has the distinction of being the oldest highway in the world. Also, since each tide change causes it to be ‘resurfaced’, it is also the newest highway in the world. Pretty cool, eh? There are some precautions to be taken on it though, as if you get stuck, and the tide comes up, your car will actually be swallowed up by the sand, which happens every year I think. Also, you really shouldn’t take any vehicles except for 4 wheel drives on it. As it happened, our ‘bus’ was a converted truck, and had no problems whatsoever, even crossing the little rivers and the quicksand.
The destination here was to get us to the giant dunes for sandboarding. Sweet as. It was my first time doing this, and I got the hang of it very quickly. I even won the International Sandboarding Championship while there. My prize, other than Canadian glory, was a special shell which had been picked up from the beach earlier. There are a couple pictures of me boarding, but I couldn’t take any on the trip, as it is far too sandy for cameras! It was definitely a memorable and fun stop.
From the boarding, it was off to the main attraction, Cape Reinga. This is the furthest point in NZ. Note, it is not the Northernmost point, but the furthest point by road (and easy walking path). Cape North is the actual furthest point north. However, only marginally. Anyway, Cape Reinga is said to be the final destination for Maori spirits. They travel the length of NZ in order to cast themselves off into Spirits Bay. The legend says that if they have been good, when they jump off the cliff, they sprout wings and fly to their heaven. If they have been judged bad, they simply glide a little bit until crashing into the ocean. Powerful thought indeed. The land is joint owned between Gov’t and Maori, another long story, and we had to respect certain things up there. One being no food is to be eaten on the path, for fear it may distract the hungry spirits heading to the jumping point.
We spent about 45 minutes there, which gave me a little time to explore, but not much, as there are many trails up there, inlcuding a nice 8 hour trek. I wasn’t disappointed with my time up there though, as the weather was absolutely perfect. The guide said there is basically no way we could have had better weather, and it was tons better than anything they’ve had in the past 3 weeks. What luck I had, eh? I certainly think so. I’ll chock it up to being a little reward for my hard biking in the past week.
After Reinga, it was off to body surfing in the Pacific, then to afternoon tea (and bus wash) at a Kauri shop. The surfing reminded me a lot of Tofino, in that it was the Pacific, and we had to watch for riptides. We only had 30 minutes there, but it was enough to have some good fun. The Kauri shop was also a lot of fun, with some amazing wood furniture on display. There were pieces there ranging in price from hundreds of dollars up to 36,000 USD! Needless to say, I only bought an ice cream for 2.50, and a brownie. At least they won’t weigh me down for the next couple months.
The last stop was fresh fish and chips, of which I obviously didn’t partake, but the fish was essentially straight from the water, gutted, then put into the fryer. The other tour go-ers all agreed it was fabulous. I did at least treat myself to the chips, and they were certainly tasty. Oh, yeah, that and I had a little beer I picked up at a grocery store to wrap up the day. All in all, a splendid experience. I got back to the hostel, and everyone else was also gushing about their various adventures of the day. They’re all just having some supper while I type this up. Then, I’ll give a quick slide show, and we’ll probably head down to the beach. Not even the murder that happened in town last night can hamper the mood! Oh, did I not mention that? Yeah, I guess it was some locals, and there was a stabbing. No worries, it wasn’t violence directed at tourists. Lucky for that, because Paihia is essentially nothing by hotels and hostels!
Well, that’s it for me today, this 20th day of December. If you’re reading these posts, don’t hesitate to drop a comment. It always makes my day when I check in and see some words from you guys. Cheerio till later.