Today is our first official family road trip.
Ruth, John and I pack up the car and head north for the 2-hour drive to the very northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. John skillfully and successfully drives one of the cars on the left-hand side of the road for the entire day. This will be good driving practice for our 8-day campervan trip in Australia. (Even I have to admit that John is a very accomplished left lane driver.) We stop for a quick look at 90 Mile Beach. Brash and windy, with lots of crashing waves, Ruth says “ahhhh, typical west coast beach…beautiful”. Interestingly enough, this beach, which you can drive on, is considered part of New Zealand’s main highway, Number 1
A “Tapu” on Bays
I had read in the community newspaper about a drowning in one of the area’s lakes. Bruce, a local Maori, has been helping Ruth replace the roof on the house. Over a tasty roasted Chinese Chicken dinner, Bruce tells us about the Maori custom of placing a “Tapu” on bays or lakes or other water where someone has drowned. No one is allowed to swim in this water until the Tapu is lifted. In this particular case, there is a five day “rahui”, or ban from swimming. The Tapu makes this place sacred and allows the spirit of the person to pass from the place where they have died. On our way north, we pass this very lake and I silently remember those who have passed before me.
We continue north and stop for a quick tour of a gum diggers’ camp. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, diggers would make their fortunes by digging hardened sap from the roots of the Kauri tree and selling it to market. When this gum has petrified and is polished, it is a form of amber. These people had a very tough life. To judge from the photos at the site, it was very similar in many ways to our Klondike Goldrush, and brought numerous immigrants to New Zealand. As we drive through the day, we pass many places named after people whose names we recognize from some of the photos at the exhibit.
The north continues to beckon as we stop further up the coast for a quick swim at a lovely isolated beach of beautiful white sand and glistening blue and green waters at Rangaunu Harbour. After we dry off and change, we grab a quick lunch in Pukenui and continue our journey to the very northern end of New Zealand.
Cape Reinga: The Very North of the North Island
Cape Reinga is a special and very spiritual part of New Zealand. This sacred place is where the Maori would bring the spirits of those who died in the past year to the tip of the island and ceremonially send them on their spiritual journey from the island. Needless to say, it is a very beautiful and remote place. Cape Reinga is also where the Tasman and South Pacific oceans meet. The place where the waters join is very turbulent, and as cold water from the deep of both oceans is forced up to the surface, there is plenty of seafood to attract many sea animals to the area. In Spirits Bay, just east of the Cape, it is not uncommon to swim with dolphins.
The sun is beginning to sit low in the sky and it is truly at a special place to be. A warm sea breeze is gently blowing in from the east. In the distance, you can see the “Three Kings” islands. These were so named by Captain Cook when he discovered them on Boxing Day, December 26th. The whimsical directional signpost is the Cape’s nod to the many daily tourists who make the trip up to the Cape in their buses and camper vans.
Cape Reinga is quiet today for tourists. But we don’t feel like tourists. Rather, like true Kiwi’s, out for a pleasant day with our family.
World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Dad to Sophia, Ariel, and Hastings three of the best cats in the world.