The day began at 7:45 with a bus pick up at the bottom of the lane way. We were one of the last passengers to be picked up, and two of six Canadians on board.

Our bus driver (Dune Rider) and guide was Craig, aka Kozzie (because he’s a kiwi who spent two years in Oz and picked up their twang in his accent). He pointed out various sites along the way, and one of the more interesting facts was the tin pieces wrapped around all the hydro poles. These guarantee a power supply across the islands by impeding the progress of climbing possums, which could then short out the lines.

90 Mile beach is actually 67 miles long (or 103 km).  We drove on 70 km of it. It is actually considered a highway and is the fastest way to get to the northern tip. The only problem is that car companies all explicitly state that you cannot drive down it. Along the way we passed car graveyards, and learned that you need to drive fairly close to the water and the timing is key. You need to start early enough so that you have enough time to drive its length. More specifically you need to have enough space to get past the bluff (pics to follow).

We turned off the beach at quicksand stream, heading up towards the sand dunes. Once there, Craig gave us instructions on how to boogie board. Surprisingly only one passenger declined the offer, and two younger guys made three trips down. NosyNeighbour and I made two trips each, with us alternating on who was filming. I accidentally deleted his second run later in the day.

NosyNeighbour walks up the sand dune

We climbed up and up, with the wind picking up sand and slapping it into your face. You kept hugging your boogie board so that it wouldn’t blow away. Your feet slipped in the dry sand, and your lungs gasped for air. At the top, Craig made sure I was positioned correctly on the board (stomach down, perched on your elbows, hand gripping the front to pull it up). Then you were off for the ride of your life, if you were lucky.

My first one was one of the longest runs of all passengers, and definitely the longest by a woman. I skipped over the stream and made it to the bank on the other side. It must have been the pain caused when my burnt toes sunk in the sand to steer. I figured if I just pointed it downhill it couldn’t be any worse than skiing.

Here  I am:

I was so exhausted after that first run , I wasn’t sure I could do another one. But by the time NosyNeighbour  had climbed up and gone down, I had my breath back and trekked up again.  Then NosyNeighbour took his second run.

We climbed back on the bus, and discovered that the air conditioning wasn’t working. Soaked with sweat and sand stuck to us, we settled into our seats for the next stop: Tapotupotu Bay for a swim and lunch.  Craig mentioned that the bus driver behind us was also a mechanic so he’d have him look at our bus to see if he could get the AC to work again.

After we’d taken some photos and had lunch, we headed back toward the bus. The hood was open (no surprise), but then we had a bit of surprise in that it wouldn’t restart. The mechanic bus driver was hooking up tow ropes to our bus to give it a running start. It did restart, but we still didn’t have A/C.

By the time we had reached Cape Reinga, Craig announced that another bus had been dispatched and would meet us at the Gumdiggers Park. That was about another hour and half without air conditioning.

We walked out to the lighthouse at Cape Reinga, the place where the Tasman Sea and Pacific Ocean meet. The Maori also believe it to be the place where spirits depart. We paused at the lighthouse to think about Timbit and imagined him playing with penguins. He always like to make friends with people and all kinds of animals. So as the water swirled together, I could picture him diving down into the ocean with his new penguin pals. On the way back up we met a German couple who were also on the bus. They were backpacking and convinced they wouldn’t be able to bring back any souvenirs. I showed her my merino wool Icebreaker t-shirt and said it’s  must have, if only for the ability to wear it multiple days and not wash it. I also said to look for paua jewelry. It was surprising to learn that Germans are only allowed to bring back 200 euros from vacation.

When we arrived at the gum diggers, the other bus hadn’t yet, so we all visited the museum shop for icecream and cold drinks. Our tour was quick, and I’d probably go back for the full tour. We did learn the following:

Gum is actually amber, and is used in varnish and paint (and other things) to make it harden.  This particular gum isn’t actually gum because it’s not water soluble. It comes from the kauri tree’s head and roots. On this site are petrified remains of two forests (one on top of the other).

Gumboots were what the workers wore. Originally they were made of leather, but eventually rubber. They have been called gum boots ever since then.

Our second last stop was at the Kauri Wood Workshop, which is a workshop and store selling souvenirs and really expensive furniture and bowls made for kauri logs retrieved from bogs and farm land. In the workshop in the back, there was a really cool wizard carved out of a log (pic to follow).

The last stop was a quick one in Manganui for fish and chips to go. Today’s catch was bluenose. Craig had placed our order in advance and it was all ready. We shared a two-piece and a Steinlager on the bus ride home. (It seems you can drink beer anywhere here unless it says you can’t.)

Still covered in sand, we took a dip in the motel pool, and then had a pint on our patio, chatting with the Brits to catch up on the day’s adventures.

Tomorrow is Waitangi Day and we’ll be heading over to Waitangi. Until then, I’ll keep trying to sooth my burnt toes. Forgot to mention that I dropped the metal water bottle on them in the bus. It pushed the sand into a small scratch and dent. I tried some tester manuka cream to see if it would work. Must look into its healing properties.

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