Got up this morning and went down the road to Rarawa Beach—sure enough, the road went right down to the beach—white sand, lots of shells. Much better than the trail from the campground. Even tour buses could and did access the beach.
Then it was time to head north once more. This is a very narrow peninsula—about 6 km wide most of the way. Most of it is farmland—sheep, cattle, even some turkeys. We were driving up the road, when we came across a herd of cattle – in the road! – being herded by a man on a tractor/ATV and his 4 dogs. They were moving the cattle up the road to another enclosure. So we followed them. Later, coming back down the road, the same thing happened, but the herder gestured for us to go ahead, and the cows moved over to free up one lane, just ahead of us, so we drove through and past them. A new experience. Cows jog funny.
When we saw a sign for the Te Paki Sand Dunes, we turned off and drove up a gravel road for 4-5 km. There were huge dunes between us and the Tasman Sea. A vendor was renting sandboards for sliding down the dunes. There were a few people up on the dunes trying it. One tried to go down on his belly, head first. He didn’t get very far the few times we saw him. There were a couple of people up on the top of a very steep dune, who managed to come down standing on their boards (like a surfboard) for quite a ways. Of course, then they had to hike back up. I spoke to the vendor a little bit and learned that the grass with the tall plumes that I have seen everywhere (and that Larry loves to take pictures of) is called toitoi, a Maori name.
Then it was on to Cape Reinga, the northernmost end of the road in NZ. There actually is a point that is farther north, but it isn’t accessible by road. Cape Reinga is very important to the Maori. Traditionally, they believe that souls of the recently dead return to their homeland from this point. So the signs between the parking lot and the lighthouse at the actual cape alternate between information about the actual cape and about Maori beliefs and traditions.
It is an interesting place in and of itself. The Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea, and there are waves from 2 directions colliding there. Fortunately it was a beautiful day, nice and warm and sunny. The water was beautiful, too—shades of blue from turquoise to dark blue.
Eventually we headed back down the peninsula. Near the south end, we took a road over to the Ninety Mile Beach, which is really “only” about 66 miles long. It is long and relatively straight, and you can drive on the beach from one end to the other. Of course, most rental companies don’t allow it (meaning your insurance could be voided), and our campervan is totally unsuited to such a drive. But the wet sand is very firm. We just parked and walked out across the beach to the water. The tide was out a ways, and the beach is very flat, so there was a wide expanse of hard-packed damp sand. There also were a lot of very nice, intact shells.
Tonight we are at Ahipara, in a holiday park, so we have internet, power, showers, and a place to fill our water tank and empty our waste tank. (On the camper van! L)