We were up and on the road at 7:30am this morning. It wasn't raining and we spied a few bits of blue sky so were hopeful the day wouldn't be as bad as predicted. We headed north with the goal of reaching Cape Reinga. It's 120km from Kaitaia with a travel time of 1.5 hours. The road was winding in patches but overall not too bad. Along the way we saw just about every animal: cows, sheep, pigs, horses, a rabbit, turkeys wandering along (and crossing) the road, geese, kingfishers and even two emus!
The whole way up the weather looked promising until we got about 5km away from the end and then the fog appeared. We parked the car and headed for the lighthouse and could not see a thing. If you've ever seen a photo of Cape Reinga in the sunshine you'd know why we were disappointed.
However, we continued on and found the lighthouse. Surprisingly we actually managed to spot an island or two between clouds and got a good view of the spot where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, their currents crashing together. It is also a sacred site for the Maori people and is where their spirits enter the underworld.
The wind was getting stronger and the fog heavier so we decided to head off and went back south. Along the way we stopped at the Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes. On a dry day you can board down them. We were going to go for a walk up onto them but the Te Paki River was in the way, after looking around and taking a few photos we decided not to worry and luckily too because just as we got back in the car it bucketed down. We watched a couple make the dash back down the dunes and to their car but they were soaked by the time they made it.
We continued south and turned off to go to 90 Mile Beach (which apparently is only 55 miles long). There are supposed to be wild horses around the area and we saw some horses in an unfenced area so presume that was them. We followed an unsealed road for about 10km and after being expressly told NOT to drive the hire car on the beach we suddenly found ourselves driving onto the beach. We hastily turned around and found somewhere to park then returned to the beach on foot.
Now regardless of whether the beach is technically 90 or 55 miles long, it's bloody long! It stretches off into the distance as far as the eye can see. It is bordered by big sand dunes too. Definitely worth a look!
By this time it was getting around midday and we still had a bit of a drive ahead of us. We had a Macca's lunch back at Kaitaia (finally getting some L&P) and continued south. We headed for Kohukohu and caught the car ferry from Narrows to Rawene. It was a bizarre feeling sitting in the car with the slowly passing scenery the only indication that we were moving.
Ten minutes later we drove off and continued onto Opononi where we stopped for a look at the Niua Sand Dunes at Hokianga Harbour. By this time the sun was out and there was lots of blue sky. We drove further on a little way to Omapere where there was a lookout back to the harbour and dunes and also the Tasman Sea. It was a really beautiful spot and somewhere we would’ve loved to have spent more time at. Alas, it was getting late and we still had two more "must-sees" on our list so we hit the road again.
Not much further along and we started driving through the Waipoua Forest (you go through it for about 20km). We got to our first must-see, Tane Mahuta or Lord of the Forest, the largest kauri tree but unfortunately the access path to him was closed! We were disappointed but found out that they were installing shoe cleaning stations which is great because the kauri trees are threatened by a disease that gets in their roots and it can be carried around on people's feet. We wouldn't want to kill Tane Mahuta and anyway you've always got to have a reason to come back!
A couple of kilometres down the road we came to our second must-see, Te Matua Ngahere or Father of the Forest, the oldest (and second largest) kauri tree. It was getting kind of dark but we washed our shoes and headed down the path anyway making a quick stop at the Four Sisters, a group of four huge kauri trees growing right next to each other. We continued on our way and despite some light rain soldiered on determined to see our tree.
We're so glad we did, he was absolutely magnificent with a girth of 16.41m, a trunk height of 10.21m and a total height of 29.9m. It was quite dark on the way back to the car park and we were hoping to chance upon a kiwi but no such luck.
We got back on the road and headed straight for Dargaville, our port for the night, arriving at about 7:15pm. We'll take a look around here tomorrow morning and then head further south.