Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Far North - Cape Regina and the giant sand dunes

We have been driving north from Auckland for about a week now. Our final northern destination is Cape Regina. Its as far north as you can go (almost-technically there is another point 3km further north but not as exciting) before we'll need to head back down towards Auckland again.

Cape Regina is important/exciting for a couple reasons. Maori consider Cape Regina the jumping-off point for souls as they depart on the journey to their spiritual homeland. Its also the meeting point for the Tasman Sea (sea between NZ and Australia) and the Pacific Ocean. And to top it all off there is a lighthouse which makes for pretty pictures.

Where the two oceans collide:
If you look on the left you can see a line of waves coming towards the center and then the same thing on the right side.

The colors in the ocean always amaze me.
In New Zealand most everyone is a long way from home but Gemma was the furthest at 18,429kms.

Here is a closer look at the pohutukawa tree where the Maori believe their loved ones slide down and into the afterlife. Its the one on the right side of this rock jutting out towards the sea.

From the top you can also look out onto the beautiful Cape Maria van Diemen which is just to the left of Cape Regina when looking to the sea.

When we left we went to park at a DOC (Department of Conservation) campsite nearby. We had mostly been avoiding these campsites for the first week because we didn't want to pay to park our car somewhere when we've been finding super sweet spots all week for free. But all the areas around this sacred site are protected by the DOC and they want a little money.

We didn't use the cold showers they provide and so we thought we might try to sneak by for one night. The next morning we left and thought we were getting away with a free nights stay when the DOC officer appeared out of nowhere in his truck and followed us all the way up the hill (our van goes really slow uphill) before passing us and waiting for us at the top. It was the first and only time we've had to pay to park the van somewhere in our first three weeks. Hopefully this trend continues.

Our next adventure was only ten minutes away at the giant sand dunes. We arrived about 10am and I expected to see someone renting sand boards or to find a shack renting them. There was no one around so we decided to improvise.

We thought we'd try to go down the dunes on the plastic lids to our under the bed storage bins. The next place to rent them would be at least fifteen minutes away.

Here is me not moving an inch on the lid.

We got back in Mao (did I mention we named the van Mao? as in Maori) and drove to the nearest gas station/ice cream shop/sand dune board rental shop and were back to the dunes in a half hour. Of course now the van renting boards has pulled up. Sweet timing. We were in time to beat the crowd however and were the first two up the biggest dune we could see.

By the time I got to the top I was a mere ant on top of this giant dune. It was about the closest I've ever felt to being in the desert.

For my first run I went down sitting on the board.

By the time I neared the bottom I was really going pretty damn fast.

I didn't bite it despite the fact it appears I was heading that way. I was able to stand up and remain relatively free of sand. Now Gemma on the other hand.....

This is her at the very top.

She's coming down really fast and then starts to panic!! She digs her feet in to slow her down...

And unfortunately I didn't get picks of her falling forward and face down into the sand. She got mad at me for missing this colossal crash but as soon as I saw her starting to bite it I started worrying about her potential injuries and stopped taking pics. Next time I'll be sure to put my worries aside and capture her going down in all her glory. She was covered head to toe in sand.

The climb up the dune was exhausting. My quads were sore for about three days after. I climbed back up a couple more times and went down face first.

I thought this would be twice as exciting but for some reason it seemed I was only going at about half the speed I did when I went down on my bum.

Gemma gave it one last go down before we called it a day.

Headed back to the local ice cream/board rental place and got a double dipper. Isn't it funny when people use the name of something when trying to describe it? Like when we asked the guy working there what Hokie Pokie ice cream was he answers "Its Hokie Pokie flavored ice cream with chunks of Hokie Pokie in it." Ahhh, its all clear now!
We took a little 15 minute ferry to get to our next destination, the giant Kauri trees. Mao led the way sitting in pole position.
That night we parked by the sea and enjoyed a ridiculous sunset.

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