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Saturday, April 23, 2016

NZ's Northernmost Point: Stunning Cape Reinga

Cape Reinga's trails are both beautiful and easy.
Cape Reinga technically isn't New Zealand's Northernmost point; by a scoch North Cape's Surville Cliffs is, but Cape Reinga's stunning views are more than reason enough to attract 120,000 visitors annually.  

Besides, we'd already visited the Long White Cloud (aka New Zealand)'s kinda sorta Southernmost town, Bluff.  Seemed as we near our farewell to this beautiful country we sailed 10,000 miles to see, we needed to complete the circuit.

View gazing down the Tasman side off Cape Reinga, New Zealand.
Truly, the day was epic.  

Incredible fall weather cast its magical spell, from when we left Whangarei, all along our drive across Ninety Mile Beach (which is really 55 miles), up Te Paki Stream, then on to Cape Reinga, finally spending the night camping in nearby Spirits Bay (aka Kapowairua).  

Directional sign marking Cape Reinga mentioned Vancouver.
Vancouver Washington?  Err, maybe not, but it made me smile.
Considering we didn't even leave the Whangarei area until 10 am, it's amazing just how much phenomenal and varied scenery we saw in one day.  

New Zealand's heavily tourism focused South Island, with its huge national parks, picturesque cities, adrenaline-junkie activities gets more accolades.  But other than maybe when we were in the Mt. Cook area, North Island wins our award for scenic wow factor in fewer miles (or kilometers as the case may be).  Maybe if it hadn't been so wet when we tried to spend more time in Milford Sound my impression of South Island would be more favorable.  And did I mention South Island's sand flies?

Promontory on the Pacific side of Cape Reinga.  If you can make out
he pohutukawa tree on it, the Maori legends note those headed
to the great beyond climb its roots to get there.
Cape Reinga (aka Te Rerenga Wairua) is a site of dramatic transitions.  

At the cape, the tumultuous Tasman Sea collides with the vast greatest ocean of the earth, the Pacific, visibly frothing up waves where they intersect.


Tapotupotu Bay, viewed from Cape Reinga's ridge,
is the closest campsite to the cape.
Cape Reinga's lighthouse, built in 1941, offers a picturesque focal point.  Sadly, it's not set up for visitor viewing from the inside, though can walk up to and all around it.

The panoramic vistas along Cape Reinga's point are spectacular.  Birds twitter and swoop. Undulating pohutukawas and spiky cabbage trees grace the verdant cliffs with their strong sculptural branches.  Ephemeral alabaster-colored pampas-like grassy toetoe light up the hillsides with their swaying blossoms.  Words are insufficient to describe this hauntingly beautiful place.

Where the water goes white, it's roiling with
the violent meeting of the Tasman Sea and
he Pacific ocean off Cape Reinga.
I had a hard time tearing myself away.


Common sense and Wayne prevailed.  To avoid setting up camp in the dark, we promptly made way for Spirits Bay for the night.  A mere $6/person was an incredible bargain for a sweet spot to pitch our tent on the grass, under a pohutukawa tree.  A stone's throw away, nesting shags (cormorants) swayed over the river leading to the beach.  


Nesting shag (cormorant) near our Spirits Bay campsite.
As we were setting up our tent, a nice family camped nearby offered us some of the fish they caught that day and cooked.  Given it was nearly dusk and we're generally hopeless at fishing - when we actually drop a line - it was much appreciated.  I tossed it into an avocado-tomato salad and returned the pan clean.  I wish we'd had something to give in return besides a cleaned pan, though the gifting family seemed happy with just their pan.

Dusk descended rapidly at our Spirit Bay campsite
near Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand.
This was our view looking to the left from our tent.
We ambled off to the beach, which then was growing dusky.  After raucous Reinga, we were surprised to see two boats anchored offshore, though Spirit Bay was certainly calmer than Cape Reinga.  One was a sailboat, which definitely rolled a bit.  The other was a motor boat, anchored what for us would've been far too close to a reef.  Still, we wished we were parked there; it was perfect weather and a great jump off to Brisbane, Australia.  Of course, we're headed elsewhere, first!

We were grateful that while our Department of Conservation (DOCNorth Island campsite guidebook warned about the need for insect repellent, Spirit Bay was nearly bug free that night.  There were just a few hardy mosquitoes about, but it was cool enough there wasn't anything bite-worthy exposed.  Still, here North is warmer, so at this more northerly spot, we were basking in the unseasonably nice fall "heat" compared to Whangarei.


This was our view looking to the right from our tent at dawn,
Spirits Bay, near Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand.
We slept blissfully well and awoke to as beautiful a dawn as the previous night's dusk.  Once again, as exploration-worthy as Spirits Bay is -- including a coastline trail that connects to an overnight hut --  more adventure and a trip back to our boat in Whangarei moved us to tarry only long enough to drink our coffee and break camp.

We feel grateful for these last incredible autumn days in Northland New Zealand.  It begs revisiting.


Whangarei Town Basin, vibrant on a crisp, cool fall morning,
Friday April 22, 2016.
Location Location
We're back on a pole mooring in Whangarei’s Town Basin Marina (S35.43.412 E174.19.539), just returned from our brief road trip up to Cape Reinga, the Northernmost point of New Zealand's North Island and another to see Tane Mahuta, NZ's stately, ancient kauri tree.  Likely we'll leave Whangarei as early as April 27, 2016, with a test run to Opua, then checkout.

Sailing by the Numbers
Last year, between December 2014 and November 2015 we sailed from Florida USA to New Zealand, over 10,000 miles. Current plan's to resume cruising this May.  First stop's Fiji, ~1170 nm.  We plan to sell our boat in Australia, likely around February and return to work - somewhere.