Dune Ride to Cape Reinga

After spending a few rainy days inside it was time for an adventure! Our days here in Paihia are quickly coming to an end and we still have a couple of things we have to check off. We booked a dune rider trip through Explore here in Paihia (http://www.exploregroup.co.nz/en/unique-experiences/dune-rider-cape-reinga/). The trip included a bus ride up through the Northland to Cape Reinga which is the northern most point in NZ, and where the first settlers came from Polynesia. The trip took the entire day with plenty of stops along the way. Our first was at a little cafe and gift shop selling 45,000 year old Kauri trees that had been dug up in the surrounding area. The Kauri tree is very special to NZ as well as the Maori culture. It is the oldest and largest tree here in NZ, as well as the second largest species of tree in the world. We continued our journey north with our driver filling us up with NZ and Maori knowledge along the way.

We arrived at the 90 mile beach and that’s when things got interesting. As we made our way onto the beach our driver stressed that recent rains have packed down the sand which made driving easier. This was after he acknowledged the signs you pass as you enter with pictures of cars and busses stuck on the beach. We cruised along at about 70 mph with the waves of the Tasman crashing on one side and the dunes whipping in the wind on the other. As we made our way down the beach our driver Paul instructed us that towards the end of the beach is where everyone has been getting stuck recently. There’s a river that feeds into the Tasman and cars and busses had been getting stuck there recently. When we got to the river Paul exited the bus to look ahead and gauge the path. After a good look he decided it was ok to pass. He backed the bus up as far as he could and slammed on the gas. We cruised along the sandy river with the back of the bus fish tailing as we rounded each corner. Once up the river a bit he parked us between giant hills of sand dunes, it was time to ride the dunes.

We all exited the bus and were each handed boogie boards. We crossed a stream barefooted with pants rolled up and began to ascend the enormous sand dune. At the peak of the dune the sand was whipping hard, not a great feeling on bare skin. The driver instructed us on how to ride the dune with our boogie boards: weight in the back, hands on the front, feet as breaks. Feet as breaks was the most important instruction seeing as at the foot of the dune was a pretty wide stream. You only had a couple feet to stop before you got soaked. After a few runs down the dune, sand everywhere you didn’t want it, and a couple of rowdy boys soaked to their briefs it was time to make our way to the tip of NZ.
We arrived at Cape Reinga with a storm on the horizon but our spirits high. The beauty of this place can not be put into words so I will post as many pictures as I can. The northern most tip has a tiny little lighthouse overlooking the line where the Tasman and the Pacific Ocean meet. This is where, not too many years ago, 7 ships docked after a long ride from Polynesia. Here is where a tree clings to the rocks that the Maori believe is where all souls come after they exit the body. The wind was hitting us as hard as it could, the rain felt like bb’s against our face, but nothing could’ve taken the beauty from that place.

Before we started our trip back down to Paihia we still had our BBQ to go to! We stopped at a rugby club with a feast waiting for us. Everyone was quiet as they ate, reflecting on everything they saw, and exhausted from scaling the sand dunes. We made our way back onto the bus and enjoyed the view as we drove south.
This was our first paid trip since arriving in NZ. We’ve been reluctant to take one of these trips for a few reason: price, the chance it’s too commercial, or just too touristy. But this did not disappoint. The driver Paul really added to the experience, his knowledge of the land and it’s significance really added to the experience. His accent was also very endearing. The trip was only NZ$129 each, so you can’t beat it!

Ethan M.

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