Thursday, July 2, 2015

"Up North" with Much to See and Do

After the Kauri forest adventures, the road continues north until you reach the Hokianga Harbour and two little drive-through towns of Omapere and Opononi. Both show accommodations in the AA Tour Book so a bed is looking hopeful!

Whoops! There is a wedding in Omapere and most of the rooms are taken. We were shown a little holiday house on a hill overlooking Opononi’s four businesses as an option. It was fine and we actually watched a little television! First time since we left the USA after Christmas – other than the Cricket World Cup that was on in every bar or restaurant in the country!

There is not much to do in these two little towns other than fish or ride or climb the sand dunes on the north shore of the harbour.  At one time, they had been a center for Kauri logging and milling. Now they are sleepy little towns.
We had a great and unusual meal at a restaurant below us. They served our steak, shrimp and chicken raw on a very hot (450 degrees) stone and it cooked right in front of us. Depending on how well done you like your meat, you cut it and cooked it to your taste. It is a concept out of Germany. We laughed about the legal liabilities in the USA of the wait staff and customers getting burned while serving and eating in this manner! (He may be retired, but he still thinks like a lawyer!)
Morning came with blue skies and sunshine so the drive up to the end of Cape Reinga was spectacular. At Omapere and Opononi, the highway turned east again and we wound our way along the numerous fissures of the Hokianga Harbour that runs inland for miles. These backwaters are very rural and tranquil making for a pleasant, but winding drive. To take a short cut, we went to Rawene and took the ferry across the upper end of the backwaters to connect up with the highway that went around the east end of it. It ran from Rawene to another Rangiora! It does get confusing here with all of these funny names showing up multiple times in different parts of the country!
Now we are on a mission to reach the end of Cape Reinga, which is on the northwestern tip of the peninsula. Cape Reinga is known in Maori as Te Rerenga Wairua: the “leaping place of the spirits.” The Maori consider this area as the jumping off point for souls as they depart on their journey to the spiritual homeland. The 800-year old pohutukawa tree, a spiritually significant tree off to the east, is where the Maori believe the souls slide down the roots. Out of respect to this sacred place, visitors are not to go near the tree and must not eat or drink in the area.

The Cape is windswept and since it was a clear day, we could see the Three Kings Islands 57 km to the north. The islands were named by Abel Tasman who first came upon them on the Eve of Epiphany in 1643. We had passed them on our way into the Bay of Islands from New Caledonia.

The most interesting sight was the turmoil of the water where the Tasman Sea meets the South Pacific Ocean. This explains a lot about the rough seas and bad weather in the area between New Zealand, Australia and New Caledonia. Been there, done that – and unfortunately, will have to do it again next November - if we come back here for cyclone season!


The Cape Reinga Lighthouse is a welcome sight from the sea and is beautiful from land, too. It is perched on the lower point. It does give you an end of the world feeling here. In stormy weather, the waves in front of the lighthouse can reach 10 meters when the two seas come crashing together. That must be a wild sight!

On the way down the Cape, we stopped at the famous 90-Mile Beach, which is really about 90 km or 50 miles long – but still very impressive. It is a huge expanse of white sand and when the tide is out it is very wide. In fact, there is an actual road on the beach and you can drive it. The safest way is to do it with a bus tour as there are places where the quick sand will swallow your vehicle. Obviously, rental cars are not allowed to drive this road! And we did not try it in our camper van. In fact, people had to help push a few vehicles that got stuck in the dry sand.
Dennis in the Tasman Sea!
We spent an hour walking the beach, wading in the Tasman Sea and collecting sea shells. So many of them had navy blue markings – something I had never seen before. Hopefully, I will make some jewelry with them some time, some place.
I was fascinated with the beautiful wave patterns left in the sand. Mother Nature has so many wonderful surprises for us if we just take time to look, listen, smell, feel and taste! Nature is so stimulating to all of our senses.

The navy blue on the shells was most unusual.
It is now late Sunday afternoon. Some young German girls asked for a ride out to the main highway so they could hitchhike a ride to Kerikeri so we agreed they could join us. Since we were heading back southeast, we would be passing near Kerikeri so we took them all the way there. Instead of stopping for the night, we decided to keep driving and get back to Gulf Harbour. So this was our first long drive in the dark!

The beach had beautiful patterns in the sand.
Apparently, since we had taken time to go to Kerikeri to drop off the girls, we missed a huge accident on the road halfway home. It had been closed for three hours, but by the time we got there, it was smooth sailing. We did not hear about the accident until Monday morning when one of our mechanics told us. He had been worried that we were caught in the traffic jam in the mountains.

So we are back at the boat and it is time to start planning and preparing for the Pacific Cruising Rally to Tonga, leaving Opua in May. We have a lot to finish up on the boat as well as provision. And then there are all of the things we have collected to help the Vanuatu victims of Cyclone Pam. Oh, my! Where will we put it all!

Pampas grass was everywhere in the north.


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