This is the first of three entries I will be making to cover our trip around the North Island. This one is about the Northland, the area north of Auckland. It covers the first five days of the trip.
The soul of a dead Maori strives to go home, to go to Hawaiki. Souls of the deceased travel along the east and the west coast until they meet up north at Cape Reinga. There grows a tree; souls slide down its roots and depart to the homelands… As if not to disturb the dead this area is sparsely populated. The next door neighbor may be living a kilometer away and everybody seems to know everybody within a radius of a far distance. While traveling here it is easy to get caught in the mysterious aura of the landscape, which at times may be even a bit haunting.
Karlien, Flo and I got an enchanting introduction to the Northland on our first night. We camped by the Mangawhai Heads south of the Bay of Islands. Sitting on the beach we watched the stars. What an incredible night; the Milky Way was clearly visible, it looked like stardust. But what was happening down by the sea was just as amazing: Waves washed brightly glowing spots by the dozen onto the shore. They looked like glowworms, only that they did not move. Whenever we shone a light onto one of them we could only see the sand.
My expectations of the Bay of Islands were not met, probably because we did not take a boat out to one of the islands. Instead we drove to Kawakawa to use the public toilets there - they were designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser!
On our fourth day we drove way up north. Fog surrounded us - the souls of the dead? We had breakfast on the Ninety Mile Beach. The name is deceptive, it isn’t that long. On the other hand, “Ninety Kilometer Beach” sounds ridiculous! Every now and then a car with four wheel drive would cruise over the beach. They just keep on driving forever and the view stays the same. What strange limbo was this? Our sight was very limited, but it was so predictable how things looked like further north and further south… everything keeps on returning in the land of the wandering souls.
At Cape Reinga the fog was even worse. We were simply staring against a white wall. Maybe we were able to hear the sea - I can’t remember. But I could see the lighthouse when I stood right in front of it. Later on we enjoyed the view from Cape Reinga by looking at postcards in a souvenir shop.
Man, this place owed us big time! And believe me, we were compensated. That afternoon we rented body boards and took them to sand dunes just south of Cape Reinga: an area of 14 km², some dunes must have been one hundred meters high (maybe that’s a fantasy of mine). We slid down the dunes on our boards. That was awesome… that was freaky! A mixture of snowboarding and surfing in the middle of what could have been a freaking desert!! That night we had a lot of sand in our campervan.
On our way back south we stopped at the Waipoua Forest. There we saw a 2.000 year old Kauri tree with a girth of 13.8 meters. Its name was Tane Mahute, God of the forest.
In Dargaville we visited the parents of Saphire, Flo’s and Karlien’s flat mate. What very friendly and chatty people they are! They enlightened us about what the mysterious washed up lights at the Mangawhai Heads where: Phosphorus, a type of mineral. We were lucky, only on four days of the year they get washed onto the shore.
i am happy to say, that we did not leave the Northland from Cape Reinga, we drove back south through Auckland instead. Our next stop was to be the Coromandel Peninsula on the east coast.