ADVENTURE in the far north

Go Travel New Zealand - - Northland - by Patti Brown

A com­fort­able bus tour tak­ing in the renowned 90 Mile Beach and Cape Reinga? Def­i­nitely. Fling­ing my­self down a steep sand dune on a boo­gie board? No way! Well, those were my ini­tial thoughts when I looked at things to do on a re­cent stay in New Zealand’s Far North.

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Dune Rider came highly rec­om­mended by their happy cus­tomers, so I booked my­self in for their 8-hour all-in­clu­sive tour and ac­tiv­ity day. Talk about tak­ing the stress out of en­ter­tain­ing friends and fam­ily; we were picked up at our ac­com­mo­da­tion in Kaitaia by shut­tle cour­tesy of Dune Rider and dropped off at the “An­cient Kauri King­dom”- the start­ing point of the day’s ac­tiv­i­ties. “An­cient” in­deed; as I wan­dered around tak­ing in the beauty of the unique carv­ings and art­work all steeped in the his­tory of the land, I learned that Kauri has been car­bon dated at more than 45,000 years of age and is known to be the old­est work­able wood in the world. There is no wastage of this valu­able wood at Kauri King­dom where they craft items from as small as egg cups to large pieces of fur­ni­ture. Even the off-cuts are fin­ished and sold as sou­venirs. All too soon it was time to board our coach and for the real jour­ney to begin: we were off to 90 Mile Beach. It was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence to be pro­pelled along the spec­tac­u­lar seem­ingly never-end­ing stretch of sand at low tide. The sand glis­tened and beau­ti­fully re­flected the sky. Ev­ery­one turned their heads to take in the sur­round­ing views that were breath­tak­ing in all di­rec­tions. Our driver, Wendy was a real story-teller, and her com­men­tary was full of New Zealand his­tory and knowl­edge of lo­cal points of in­ter­est.

There was a brief stop that I ap­pre­ci­ated as a chance to stretch my legs and take a few pho­tos. The tim­ing was spot-on as we caught a rare glimpse of the Te Aupouri wild horses thanks to Wendy’s lo­cal knowl­edge and keen eye. Back on board the coach and we were off to ride the Te Paki sand dunes! I was still of two minds as to whether I was go­ing to have a go, but ev­ery­one else was so en­thu­si­as­tic I got caught up in the mo­ment. The boards and in­struc­tion are all part of the tour, so why not? First it was a thigh-burning work­out to as­cend the dunes. The re­ward was in the to­tal ex­hil­a­rat­ing rush I ex­pe­ri­enced fly­ing back down the steep slope. Once at the bot­tom it was time to take some mem­o­rable pho­tos of my friends’ rapid de­scents! Next stop: Cape Reinga the tip top of New Zealand and a place I had al­ways wanted to see. The Cape is the lo­ca­tion of the iconic light­house and in­ter­na­tional sign post that ev­ery Kiwi is familiar with. I was soon to dis­cover that it was a very spe­cial place. On ar­rival, I was ea­ger to get out and walk along the wind­ing track to the light­house. Our driver, Wendy told us that Maori be­lieve the spir­its of their loved ones (who have passed) de­part from Cape Reinga. As I walked slowly along the path tak­ing in the view of the bright blue of the Tas­man Sea and the dark of the Pa­cific Ocean merg­ing into one, I could feel a pal­pa­ble spir­i­tual en­ergy. Although I did get my iconic pho­tos of the light­house and sign­post, the view of the sea and ocean and the feel­ing of some­thing mag­i­cal hap­pen­ing is what I took away with me. Af­ter ex­plor­ing the Cape, I was ready to wind down on the coach as we headed to

lunch at Waitiki Land­ing. Lunch is all part of the pack­age, and it was a treat af­ter such a stim­u­lat­ing few hours to sit down and chat about what we had seen and ex­pe­ri­enced. My friends were still buzzing about the dune ride and we ex­cit­edly com­pared pho­tos we had taken. Af­ter a hearty and sat­is­fy­ing lunch, it was time to head to our fi­nal stop of the day at Gumdig­gers Park. The his­toric Gumdig­gers Park is an au­then­tic gum field over 100 years old. I took the op­por­tu­nity to walk in the foot­steps of the early set­tlers of New Zealand; it was plain to see how tough life would have been for them as they prospected Kauri gum. What a hardy peo­ple they must have been to sur­vive and thrive! The high­light for me was see­ing and touch­ing Kauri trees over 100,000 years old. The trees were likely felled by some pre-his­toric cat­a­clysmic event and re­mained buried at the Gumdig­gers site un­til they were un­earthed by the gum prospec­tors. At the end of the day, I was very sat­is­fied and pleas­antly tired, so it was great just to sit back and be trans­ported to our start­ing point. The win­ter­less Far North is an op­ti­mal hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion, and there is no bet­ter way to ex­plore it than on an air-con­di­tioned and su­per com­fort­able Dune Rider Kaitaia coach. The tour was an op­por­tu­nity to take in sandy beaches, na­tive flora and fauna, see lo­cal at­trac­tions and ex­pe­ri­ence first­hand some iconic land­marks while be­ing looked af­ter all day by the Pet­rice­vich team who took the stress out of plan­ning a group out­ing. When can we go again?

Dune rid­ing at 90 Mile Beach, North­land

North­land Kauri for­est

An­cient Kauri, Gumdig­gers Park

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