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Clare’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 31 Aug 2008

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

MapWell I have just hopped off my bus back from the Northland and Cape Reinga, the most northerly point of New Zealand and thought I would write my update straight away.

I haven't got very long here in New Zealand so I've just seen Auckland and the far north, but its been quite a laugh. The first wierd thing was bumping into Bertie from the Tiger Reserve yet again, that now makes Bangkok, Sydney and Auckland where we have totally randomly met. Anyway, he was with a crowd who have been on the Kiwi Experience bus all around the South Island so I went out with him and that gang. We had a great time and got home in the early hours and the next morning I woke up to realise that I had missed my bus to go north so ran to the office in a panic... it was perhaps a bit too good a night out!

Not too much of a problem as it turned out and I was on my way on a public bus an hour or two later. Its still winter here so everything is deserted, which makes it pretty nice actually. Once we arrived in Paihia at the Bay Of Islands I got a bike from the hostel and set off to go to Waitingi Treaty Grounds. This is where the British Resident got the local Maori chiefs to officially petition the British Crown for protection and effectively is the document which formed the nation. It was quite far thinking compared to what happened in Australia in that it codified that New Zealand was made up of both Maori and European settlers and that ALL deserved protection and were equally important in the nation. Its a really peaceful place with a stunning 360 degree view over the Bay and was a nice spot to wander around for the afternoon.

The next day we all tramped onto the bus in the early hours to begin the long drive north to Cape Reinga. New Zealand is obviously really sparsely populated and the roads are all quite small and windy so its pretty nice scenery to drive through, but it just got wilder and wilder as we got closer to the Cape. The end of the land is really sacred to the Maori as they consider that all souls eventually move north to the Cape to ascend to the spirit world so there are tons of earthworks going on to move the touristy side away from the sacred parts of the land. It is however, a very beautiful spot with visibly strong riptides swirling around the base of the cliffs as the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. Its very windswept and looking south you can see the start of huge sand dunes which make up the northern end of Ninety Mile Beach. Hopefully the pictures will help to show you.

We got a bit more up close and personal with the sand dunes on the way down to the beach as we hopped out of the bus to go Sand boarding - whizzing down ridiculously steep dunes on a Body board! Lots of screaming and hilarity ensued, particularly when our bus driver (fifty-something old dude called Wally) showed us the running jump mount of the board which gave enough speed to aqua-plane across the stream bed at the bottom of the dune!

After tiring ourselves out scrambling up the face of the dune a few times for second and third attempts we continued onto the beach. Ninety mile beach is actually 64 miles long - go figure, but was a total delight. We stopped periodically to dig for clams in the surf, get out and run about, coo over the little Seal pups who were waiting for their mums to come back and chat to the long-line fishermen who dotted the beach. We had to be careful though, if we had stopped the bus on wet sand, we would have apparently sunk up to the axles very quickly, luckily Wally knew what he was doing and made it off in one piece. We did pass a few car wrecks half buried my sand who had not been so lucky though!

On the way back down we stopped to visit Kauri forest spots which still have specimens of the magnificent Kauri tree. These forests once covered Northern New Zealand but very intensive logging, both for the Kauri tree and its gum and then clearning of the land for pasture means there are only pockets of forest left. There are however still huge Kauri trees lurking in the forests, we went to see one this morning on the way back down to Auckland - its called Tane Mahuta after the Maori forest God and is the largest living Kauri. Its absolutely HUGE and is apparently over 1000 years old. There used to be bigger ones than Tane Mahuta but they've been logged out to satisfy the demands for the timber and gum (sap from the Kauri) which was used in the production process of Linoleum. The younger tree trunks were used for ships Masts as they are so tall and straight - Kauri shed their lower branches as they grow to leave a thick tall trunk and then a smallish canopy of branches right at the top of the trunk.

So we motored back to Auckland this afternoon and I'm now back here with a day and a half to fill before flying out tomorrow night. There are still a few people around who I met here before I went north and I intend to get out on the harbour in a boat at some point - Auckland is called the City of Sails after all.