Wednesday, 26 June 2019

NZL Travelogue: Cape Reinga, Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes and Waipoua Kauri Forest

And so, day 5 of our New Zealand road trip started off really early, before daybreak, at 5 plus in the morning as we're out to catch the sunrise at Cape Reinga Lighthouse, which opens at 6am. The drive from Tapotupotu campsite up to the lighthouse was pretty short, around 10 to 15 minutes, but extremely winding and dark, for the sun wasn't up yet and there's no man-made sources of lights at all, so do take extra care while driving if you're doing the same as us.

The car park is pretty spacious (and empty, duh it was only 6 plus in the morning) when we got there, with just another vehicle that pulled up shortly before us and another CV/motorhome parked right in the middle, which I assumed that they've stayed overnight at the carpark. The toilets here were spacious and clean, but seemingly locked up (with shutters) at specific timing and do not have electrical lights installed. If I'm not wrong, this area is not listed as a free campground, so you may end up getting evicted if the DOC guy drops by (will they?) and since the public toilets comes without light source and gets locked up after a certain time, do not attempt any (possible) illegal stays if you do not have a self-contained CV.

The actual lighthouse was a 15 minutes BRISK walk away from the entrance, so do buffer in some more time for leisure walking if you're planning to catch the sunrise or sunset. If you're viewing the sunrise, you can consider walking up the hill that's beside (or rather, before) the lighthouse, as the sun rises from the other side of the lighthouse, up from behind the cliffy area of the sea. Hence, I believe the sunset here will be much more stunning as the sun will set at the other side, which will be along the sea horizon directly behind the lighthouse.




And here's a mandatory shot with the lighthouse. HAH!

We came out of the premise/park shortly after the sun has risen, around 7 plus am, as there really isn't much left to do and the crowd is slowly pouring in, rendering photo-taking without any photo-bombers impossible. Seeing that we still have a short while to spare since our next destination is only a 20 minutes drive away and won't be "open" until 930 am, we... went back to sleep for another hour or so before getting up again to make a simple breakfast of grilled cheese sandwiches, ham & scrambled eggs and making use of the public toilet to wash up (yayy, saving our own limited water resource!) the dishes.
And after tidying up the CV (switching from night setup to day setup), we set off in the vague direction of our next destination with a unresponsive GPS (there were no signals here around Cape Reinga!) and hoping we'll just get there....

And we did. Whew!

And this is the Te Paki Giant Sand Dunes. Sandsurfing, here we come!

Various travel blogs has mentioned that there's a number of sandboard rental kiosks (opening at 930am to 1030am), and the rental fees gets cheaper and cheaper as you go further in. However, when we're there at around 10am, there's only ONE sandboard rental booth in sight, right at the "entrance" to the sand dunes and prices were $10 for a small board (more for kiddos) and $15 for a large board. The guy manning the kiosk will ask for some sort of ID from us, probably to prevent customers from running away with his boards. But since we parked our CV a distance away and we obviously kept all our valuables well locked up in the CV, we offered to hand him the keys to our CV, which he gladly accepted. (Found someone to take care of our keys, yay!)



To get to the sand dunes, you'll need to wad across a small stream of ankle deep water, so do prepare proper footwear (flip flops!) when visiting.


I love how endless the entire place feels (and looks). Like, other than a few other tourists in the far distance, there's just you, sand and sky. And while I did seem very happy and totally "ready for the gram", I have to admit that moving around on the sand dunes, especially climbing up slopes (however TINY they are, as long as it's not horizontally flat), is a total b*tch! As the sand were very soft and just slides off at the smallest disturbance, climbing up a slope is effectively just like walking on a ridiculously elevated treadmill.
I step and I step and I step and I step and I stopped and looked, and I've gotten nowhere. NOWHERE!


But since we've already rented a sandboard, let's take some posey pictures with it like I'm a total professional sand-surfer.

But the BF did make good use of the sandboard for just one time of a serious sand surfing though, and he nearly died climbing all the way up.


After we're both half dead from literally just walking around on the sand dunes, we took a quick shower in our CV (there's no public toilets nor showers nearby, so thank goodness for our self-contained Jucy Chaser!) and headed off to our pit stop destination for lunch, Kaitaia town, which is a 2 hours' non-stop drive away.

I was deciding between The Gecko Cafe or The Wild Belle, both of which has pretty good reviews online, and decided on Gecko in the end for the reviews of their coffee was all pretty good.

Unfortunately, luck wasn't really on our side, for their kitchen was closed for the day and we were left with just a small selection of cabinet food for our lunch. 

And so we got a potato-mushroom (??) salad and a quiche to share. And their coffee didn't disappoint though! 

And the quiche was pretty decent too!

And so, after a quick lunch, it was another 3 hours drive (143 km) down to Waipoua Kauri Forest. 


 But we did have a pit stop in the middle (totally had no idea where were we) for the BF take a short rest.

And after a grueling 3 hours' drive, we managed to arrive at around 5pm. The entrance to the walking trail/park is right at the roadside, so you won't be able to miss it (even though the GPS actually pointed us further in when we set the location to "Waipoua Kauri Forest").

This forest is the home of Tane Mahuta, the country's largest kauri tree, which is approximately 2,000 years old and still growing. Nearly 18 metres to the first branch and 4.4 metres in diameter, Tane Mahuta is rightly called 'The Lord of the Forest'. Another significant tree in Waipoua Forest is Te Matua Ngahere – 'Father of the Forest' – which is estimated to be between 2,500 and 3,000 years old. There are 4 walking trails you can take, namely the Tane Mahuta Walk, Te Matua Ngahere Walk, Four Sisters Walk and Yakas Walk.
As we're really pressed for time that day, we just took the 5 minutes Tane Mahuta walk to see the Tane Mahuta tree.

If you're taking the Te Matua Ngahere walk, it will be a 20 minutes walking trail to see the 'Father of the Forest', which has a trunk over five metres in diameter, possessing the widest girth of any surviving kauri tree. Close by are the Four Sisters, a graceful collection of four tall trees in close proximity. From the same access road you can follow a half-hour walking track (Yakas Walk) to the Yakas Tree, the eighth largest kauri in New Zealand.
Unfortunately, as of June 2019, all of the walks are currently closed for either maintenance or due to discovery of pathogen causing kauri dieback.
Do check out their website for their current status if you're planning to make a visit!

And after bidding our goodbyes to the short encounter with the majestic kauri tree, it was another grueling 4+ (nearly 5?) hours' drive for the BF to get us back to Auckland City for the night.

We were also running low on petrol (yikes!) and if you've been to NZ, you'll know that most petrol station DO NOT open till late. Thank goodness I've CamperMate app downloaded on my phone and with better signals here and there along the way (VERY unstable signals), we managed to find one that closes at 6pm instead of the usual 5pm and made it just in time as they were closing (we reached at around 5:55pm).

And this petrol station definitely has the best scenic view, ever. 

And it's also at this petrol station when I found Barista Bros Coffee Milk. YUMS!

And of course, a road trip in NZ means randomly stopping by the roadside to take however many pictures you want.

By the time we reach Auckland City, it was already nearing 10pm. Was still hoping to be able to meet up with Ron and his wife again for a quick dinner, but everywhere is closed by then. :(

Anyway, our "campground" for the night is Maverick's Yard, a private yard that you can book on CamperMate App. It's just like airbnb, but for only CVs. Charging merely $20 NZD per vehicle per night, the house is a little rundown but still acceptable for the budget pricing. Bathroom is really big but floors were quite wet (probably due to others who has showered before us) and there's no accessories for you to hang your clothes/towels, and the windows won't shut properly. The toilet is dry and clean, but without any toilet paper inside so you got to bring your own. There's extra charges for usage of kitchen, which is in a very bad shape so we're better off cooking in our own CV.
We're also not able to refill freshwater nor dump waste water here, and there's no hookups to CV power, but we're able to use their household power to charge our devices, though not exactly very convenient because you have to leave them charging in the house.


And here's a shot of our humble CV dinner for the night. Scrambled eggs with green peppers and tomatoes, mushroom soup, toasts and hotdogs! 

Till then,
Mia Foo

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