Today we let the coach take the strain as we ventured to the very tip of New Zealand’s North Island; the place where the Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea. There are two ways of reaching it – by road and the route we took, which meant driving along 90km of golden beaches. It didn’t seem to bother the coach driver that the tide was coming in and in places our “road” was rather waterlogged. We then took a right turn following the course of the Te Paki stream which grooved a path through the sand. It was fun aquaplaning along this stream, racing with a couple of 4-wheel-drives who thought they would follow us. The driver had fun teasing them.
We stopped in front of a group of sand-dune hills that reminded me of a scene in one of the Carry On films where he joins the foreign legion. Toboggans were produced from the storage area in the coach and the long arduous climb up the sandy hill began. The sand was hot under foot and the easiest ascent was by climbing in someone else’s footprints else it was a case of one step forward two steps down again. From the top, it looked an awfully long way down but I sat inside the toboggan, took a deep breath and was pushed into action. “You can use your feet as brakes” the driver advised. Somehow I forgot and went hurtling at great speed, landing in the water at the bottom. Though I was covered in water and sand, it was great fun and something well worth experiencing once. I didn’t have a second go.
Next stop was lunch, in the white sandy Tapotupoto Bay. Some brave tourists donned swimming costumes and went for a quick swim in the clear blue waters. I watched their goose-pimpled entry into the sea, revlieved it wasn’t me venturing into the cold water.
After lunch we continued to Cape Reinga one of the most significant cultural sites in New Zealand. As well as where two seas meet, the Maori people believe this is the place where a person’s spirit comes to after death before departing to Hawaiki, its eternal home.
It was really refreshing to see nothing commercial at this spot other than a post box and there is obviously a conscious desire to preserve both nature and the spirituality of the place.
On the way back we took Highway One (nothing like the M1) that had been cut through the bush. No photograph can truly capture the beauty of the land, the different shades of green and mauve that seem to vary with the changing light. Some of the bushes looked like dry bones picked clean of all flesh. It amazed me how low down the growth is and how much of the mountains it covered and so different to anything I have seen before.
The sea too had a depth and intensity of colour that is hard to capture - neither blue nor green but crystal clear with layers to the colour that only the eye can capture.
There were just two more stops on the way home; the first for ice-cream and the second to the Ancient Kauri Kingdom, where we looked around the shop and had a drink while the coach was cleaned of sand and salt water.
Back home we finished the day with a relaxing soak in the spa pool and I sneaked in a bottle of lager (shhh, don’t tell anyone.)