Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Kiwi Chronicles - The Legendary Stories: Easter Weekend, Part 2

This is a 3 part story of Easter Weekend in New Zealand. To view the first part, go here.

Also, to those who want to hear stories from my time in Korea: it has been raining for nearly 8 weeks here. Yes, for the past two months it's been cloudy and boring in Korea. Combined that with my teaching certifications and work, and you have a fairly boring two months here in Korea. Luckily, the sun came out today and my vacation starts in 5 hours, so expect more Korea stories here soon!

Note: Sorry for the formatting issues....Blogger and my Korean ISP aren't getting along at the moment :)

Day 2 of our road trip in the Northland began on a high note for us. We had found a McDonalds in the middle of nowhere, had a good night's rest (in spite of the absurd amount of alcohol we drank), and were geared up and ready to go bright and early the next day. Our car, now considerably lighter, had a new life to it. You can feel it when a car is going to have a good day...

Our first stop of the day was at Ninety Mile Beach. It is the stretch of coastline along the Western side of the Northland, and the name of the beach kinda gives it away: it's ninety miles long. If you're from the coast, you know that most beaches stretch for a 10 miles or so, then face cliffs and rugged terrain or merge into other beaches. The first thing we noticed is that, leading into the beach, there's a 100km sign. It's very oddly placed speed limit sign, and it's purpose is unclear. Is the speed limit for driving on the ramp 100km? Are you only allowed to exit this place if you're going 100km? Is this like Back to the Future, and if we drive fast enough we can travel back in time?

If we were observant, we would have seen the big sign right in front of it:
The key phrase here is "Many vehicles have been lost to the tides..." As it turns out, not only is Ninety Mile Beach a's a highway. A full fledged highway. Where you can travel 100km (around 65mph for you Americans) up and down the sand. Kiwis are crazy...

In classic fashion, we drove our car on the beach a ways and parked it in a flat area to enjoy our breakfast. As we were making sandwiches on the top of our car, I went out and started filming the awesome beauty of this beach. Most beaches are very loud, with the waves crashing and the birds chirping. For some reason, I remember this place to be oddly quiet and peaceful. You could see how turbulent the waves were out at sea. It wasn't a calm ocean. The noise seemed to be absorbed by the sheer size of this coastline. It was the one instance where I felt like the ocean was dwarfed by the landscape.

Naturally, I was in heaven. I love the beach. I love the sand between my toes and ditching my flip flops at the car. I love sitting in the surf and having the water lick my knees. I grew up in the desert, so I grew up fascinated by water. Any chance I have to play in the ocean, I take it.

I think it's a human thing too. We're so self-centered, focused on our lives and our place in society. Yet when we are staring down something as awesome and huge as the ocean, we can't help but feel small and humbled. You learn to respect your place on Earth, and how precious this place really is. was all very poetic for early in the morning. We had an agenda to meet, and so by 8am we were on our way back up the coast.

On the way here, we had seen some sand dunes in the distance. It was foreign to us because, for the past 2 months, we had lived in the Shire. We were use to seeing rolling green hills and trees...not the Sahara desert. And, since we were a car full of guys, we had to investigate.

When we arrived, what we saw was the greatest playground any guy could hope for. It was a 5 km wide and 10 km long stretch of sand dunes right along the sea. Apparently, the winds from the ocean push all precipitation away from this area, and so a small desert formed.

These dunes are famous for sand surfing, and it was an obligation of ours to give this sport a shot. You rent a body board from a little hut near the edge of the dunes and make your way to a giant hillside off in the distance. It's pretty straightforward from here: climb to the top, jump on your board, and hold on for dear life.

What I didn't realize was how much sand could hurt. You think that, just because your sandbox was friendly to you, that a giant sea of sand would be comfortable and nice. It really isn't. I suppose we did deserve it though. There were caution signs telling us that we shouldn't get a running start or that we should avoid the small cliffs that looked like naturally-made jumps.

We didn't listen, and we paid the price.

On one run, I got a running start on one of the jumps. I was in control and everything was going smooth. The sand was zipping by me like water, and as I hit the jump I lost my focus...and my board. I was going so fast that the board ditched me at the jump, as if to say "you're on your own pal." I hit the sand after falling for a couple feet and proceeded to roll down the hill. There was no blood or broken bones, but my eyes and mouth and respiratory system (as well as some other places...) were covered in sand. I was coughing up mud for the rest of the day, yet bragging about how awesome it was. Don't ask. It's a guy thing.

After taking a dunk in a stream to clear my face, we made our way up to Cape Reinga .

View Larger Map
Cape Reinga is, literally, as far North in New Zealand as you can go. The road there is a treacherous stretch of gravel going along the spine of a mountain, but in the end it is completely worth it...
The crew chilling, overlooking the cape.
You park your car in a parking lot about a kilometer away from the cape itself. It is always windy as you walk along the mountain to the cape itself. Once you hit a green field, you know you're close. We took off our shoes and walked the rest of the way barefoot. You take a couple steps over the hill, there before you, is Cape Reinga.

We all had to sit down to take in the beauty. That green field we were sitting on is about 500 feet above the oceans, with cliffs jutting all the way down. You could hear the waves crash on the rocks and see the water crash up the cliffside. Little beaches would be nestled in between different rocks. A long cape ran to the left and into the sea. 

It was the bluest ocean I had ever seen, and off in the distance I could see something people rarely get to see: the colliding of oceans. To our left was the Tasman Sea and to our right was the Pacific Ocean. Both have their own currents and ecosystems, and it was here at Cape Reinga that the two oceans collided. Out in the distance, you could see the currents as they met each other. It was a swirl of white water and, occasionally, you could see a fountain of water shoot up in the air. It was something out of Fantasia, when Mickey is conducting the water. You couldn't hear it, and  I'm sure up close it is something much more frightening (this is shark territory after all). But, from up on our cliffside, we didn't feel like we were on Earth anymore. We were just observers of something much grander than us. Naturally, we spent a couple hours on the cape just absorbing everything we could. We left there around 3pm and started to make our way south through the Northland.

This is where things started to get interesting. We hadn't planned where we were going to stay, and so we had no idea where the hostels were or where we should stop for the night. Luckily, we knew of a couple other travelers that were in the Northland right now. Our good friends Emma and Emily were hitchhiking throughout the Northland, and a couple phone calls later we had a place to stay at their hostel in a place called Mangonui. It was a small fishing town on the east coast.

That night was one of the best bar nights of my life, and that's where Part 3 will begin. 

Trust me, I know how lucky I am. Some people get to see this kind of beauty maybe once in a lifetime. There isn't a day that I don't feel grateful and blessed to see how beautiful our world can be...and how many adventures one life can have. Buy the ticket, take the ride. It's worth it every time.

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