Ancient Myths And Ancient Trees: A Trip To Cape Reinga

It’s been a very long today, at least it certainly feels like it, as we travelled 3 hours to the (second) most northerly point of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. It was quite a journey to get there and so we spent quite a lot of the day in the car but the amazing views and the Maori history were definitely worth it all.

* * * * *

After waking up at 9 and having had a quick shower, we packed everything into the car and set off on our trip. As I’ve mentioned before Codie had been temporarily insured which meant that we were able to just hop in and go off exploring by ourselves. I loved that we were able to do that as I did worry a bit about going from travelling around alone to visiting places with other people but this meant that we still had some freedom. That’s not to say that I didn’t want to not go anywhere with Ben and Kelly, not at all, it’s just that i love being able to wander off and go wherever we want to. Once we were all sorted and had everything we needed, our first stop at about 10:30am was the New World shop to stock up on some things for a nice picnic for when we reached Cape Reigna. It took us ages to actually get into the shop though as Codie didn’t know how to get the key out of the ignition which was really, really funny to watch. For somebody who loves cars as much as he does, it was quite odd to see so I made sure I got some photos! 

Key stuck in the car
Key stuck in the car

Eventually, he discovered a button which released the key so we were able to go shopping. This was our first experience of a “proper” supermarket in the country and I have to say, it was pretty disappointing. Everything just seemed to be so overpriced, especially when compared to Australia, and so we grabbed the cheapest snack food we could find, paid and then left. We’d heard from a guy in Coff’s Harbour that food in NZ is rather expensive and had hoped that he was wrong so it was quite disappointing to find out that it was all true. Grrrrr. I guess we’ll be on pasta and noodles for the rest of the trip!

Now stocked up on crisps, biscuits and a bunch of bananas, our next stop was the petrol station to make sure we had enough fuel and once that was all done with, we finally set off properly. The views were stunning as we went along and I know I keep saying it but they really did remind me a lot of Scotland with their fir trees and little rivers running alongside green hills speckled with sheep. Initially, the only real difference I could make out was that there are considerably less squashed and flat possums in the UK!

Me and an old tree
Me and an old tree

About an hour and a half later, we decided to pay a quick visit to a place called ‘Ancient Kauri Kingdom’ for a stretch of our legs and a wander about. The shop/cafe/gallery sells sculptures and furniture and whilst that might not sound like the most interesting thing to go and have a look at, it’s the age and type of wood that makes it so intriguing. Ancient Kauri wood is thought to be the oldest “workable” wood in the world and fell thousands of years ago before being preserved in swamps. They lay there for 45,000 years before carefully being extracted and transformed into beautiful objects. I found it really strange to learn that being that old, the trees had been buried in swamps more than 25,000 years before the last ice age hit which made it quite weird to touch. The factory also had a huge chunk of an ancient tree which they’d hollowed out and carved steps out of through the middle which meant that you were able to walk through it to a gallery upstairs. It was carved from a 45-50, 0000 year old,  50 tonne piece of one ginormous ancient log which weight 140 tonnes. IMG_6057I was really impressed with it, more so than the gallery work, and found myself just staring at it trying to appreciate it’s age. It’s pretty hard to do that to a tree so after a little while, we wandered back down and into the shop. They were selling little blocks on ancient wood and we thought it would be great to have some but the thought of trying to get it back into Australia worried us a bit and we chose not to. It’s a shame really as it’s such a cool thing but Australian customs absolutely terrifies me and there’s not a chance I want to end up stuck in there for longer than I need to be!

On the way
On the way

Once we’d enjoyed the tree factory, we decided it was time to carry on with our trip and enjoy a chocolate digestive or two. I haven’t had any for ages even when we were in the UK so it was a lovely biscuity treat and we even managed to salvage a little bit more energy. The next hour and a half pretty much flew by as I watched the countryside flying past the window and it wasn’t long until we arrived at Cape Reigna. It seemed as though a lot of people had had the same idea as us and had also turned up which meant that we had to park a bit further away in car park two. I wasn’t too bothered by this as I don’t mind a walk but Codie seemed quite put out as we made our way down the hill to join everybody else walking up to the top of another hill. Luckily for us, it was quite an overcast day and so we didn’t overheat too quickly; I’d imagine it’d get quite difficult if the sun was beating down on you.

The viewWhen we reached the top, we had the most incredible view of the Tasman Sea meeting the Pacific Ocean. As the two tides crashed against each other, they created a kind of white, frothy zig zag pattern right in front of where we were standing and tiny little spots of white, gannets, swooped around, presumably targeting that area for confused shoals of fish. We stayed there for a little while just watching it all and making the most of the sounds of the sea crashing against the shore. It was really, really peaceful even with so many people wandering around. Everybody seemed to be doing that same thing, listening, and so it was only every now and again that you’d hear somebody shouting. It really was very nice. It was also really interesting to learn about the Maori mythology in the area and it added a dash of mystery to an already quite creepily beautiful place. They believe that the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga to leave the headland, climb down the roots of the 800 year old pohutukawa tree to descend to their afterworld using the “spirit’s pathway”. It gave it all a bit of an odd feel as I imagined it.

Codie and the lighthouse
Codie and the lighthouse

After spending a bit of time on the hill and recording a short time-lapse for our New Zealand video, we decided to have a little wander down to the lighthouse point and see what we could see from there. The view was even better here as we were able to see the rocky outcrop with the old tree sticking out of it and out to the Three Kings islands in the distance. It was so nice that we had another little sit down and spend more time just gazing out to sea. It’s lovely to be able to getaway from the noise of the towns and the cities sometimes and there’s no better place than here. I want to say “here, the northernmost point of New Zealand” but after doing a bit of research when we got back, I discovered that it’s mistakenly thought of as being so and that title actually belongs to some cliffs down the road. Hmmmm. Not quite what we thought we’d gone to see but it was still an incredible place to visit and I’m really glad that we did. A little while later and it was time for us to head back to the car and make our way back. Due to the area being a sacred Maori ground you aren’t allowed to eat anything around there and so we were both now starving. We already knew that we couldn’t eat anything before we went, so it wasn’t like we were totally surprised, but we were really, really, really hungry by the time we were done. So much so that the crisps, biscuits and bananas were completely demolished when we reached a little mountain lookout. Yum. They were delicious.

Snacks munched, views gazed at and skin beginning to burn, we set off back to Kerikeri, ready for the long journey back. Just like on the way, we were able to see lots of nice scenery and even more wildlife which was really nice to see though perhaps not for the birds we saw. One hawk type of thing was trying to pick up a dead possum as we drove past and ended up slamming it into the barrier and dropping it. Another tried to swoop down onto an unsuspecting sparrow but missed it completely and ended up just head butting the floor. Poor birds. I bet that sparrow was happy though!

On the way back
On the way back

As we got closer to the Bay of Islands we realised that we weren’t going to make it back in time for tea at 6pm and so pulled into to Mangonui for fish and chips. It was really, really tasty and we had so many chips we just didn’t know what to do with them all so ended up feeding the seagulls who had gathered outside. They seemed very appreciative, if not a little bit loud, though I’m not sure whether some of the people around were as we got a few strange looks. I know that many people think seagulls are pests and so we made sure not to cause havoc when anyone was around but they need food too!

way homeIt was about 7pm when we finally made it back to the house, now absolutely shattered and really ready for bed. The day had been full of different sights and sounds and I’d loved visiting somewhere, like Kerikeri, I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about visiting. It might not be the northernmost point but it was a really interesting place to visit with it’s singing toilet roof and amazing views and I’m so glad we had the opportunity to go. I just hope that the rest of the trip will be as captivating as this day has been and if it is, then I cannot wait.

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