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As the Wellington’s annual premature cold kicks in, the hashtag tbt increases sevenfold and we all begin to get moody at the thought of the imminent mould sure to resurface in the coming months. I was fortunate enough to grab at least a week of sunshine and happiness in the early New Year, while exploring Northland with a few friends.
The goal? Make it to the top.
Evening swims. Ruakaka, Whangarei.
As much as it’s hard to admit, “it’s who you know, not what you know” becomes more relevant and true as you get older. In terms of travel, who you know is more important than having Google Maps. On this roadie, we most certainly would have had a different, but just as incredible, trip without aid. However this time around we were fortunate enough to be able to take for granted some wonderful friends who acted as our tour guides and hosts. As students, free stuff is never turned down.
Private Paradise. Whale Bay, Tutakaka Coast.
After exploring the lower east-side of Northland, visiting historical sites like Parihaka, and spending a few nights in Ruakaka and Whangarei, Laura and I cruised it up towards Tutakaka and Matapouri and beach-hopped our day away. Unfortunately, we had underestimated the natural beauty of this coastline and found far too many hidden gems to be able to fully appreciate this part of Northland in one day. Certain locations have been pinpointed, however, and we will be back to cliff-jump and trek our way through the ragged land.
Mermaid Pools, Matapouri.
Our next stop was the Bay of Islands. Lucy, our host/tour-guide for the greatest leg of our adventure, had grown up with Northland as her backyard. She was a treasure trove of knowledge in terms of places to go further north. Our next few days were spent exploring lost-in-time Russell (which is by no means still the “hell-hole of NZ”), getting our history fix by visiting the Waitangi Treaty grounds, and eating at all the local joints in Paihia (Tito’s has great live music, cheap drinks, and the best veggie burgers).
Homemade pizza: made by us, eaten by us. Paihia, Bay of Islands.
Our tight schedule meant that the west coast of Northland and good old Tāne Mahuta was going to have to be scouted out in depth on another adventure, but we did manage a quick dash and dance on 90 Mile Beach. The winds there rivalled Welly’s ones: they picked you up and threw you with no mercy. They drilled adrenaline and freedom through you. It’s a place that simultaneously makes you feel insignificant and alive.
The Wild West. Ninety Mile Beach, West Coast.
Our plans to be a typical tourist and sand surf down the giant dunes was thwarted by rain but it didn’t deter from the wonder of them. Northland feels like another country, and here in the Te Paki sand dunes it’s like a mirage founded upon your imagination. Standing in the midst of these golden barren hills, it’s hard to imagine any civilisation close by let alone a large water source, yet directly to the east is lush bushland.
Forever and onwards. Te Paki Sand Dunes.
The weather cleared up as we headed off towards our most important destination: Cape Reinga. It’s the most anticipated and highest point of the trip, and it doesn’t disappoint. Words cannot describe this wild wonder. It’s a meeting place of two seas, the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, and you can see exactly where they clash and bang heads and merge. Te Reinga means “the leaping place of spirits (souls)” and is where spirits descend to the underworld from the roots of a lonely pōhutukawa.
Having never been further north than Auckland, this roadie was, as I mentioned above, like exploring a new country. Northland is wild and unruly and quaint and pristine all at once. It’s simultaneously frantic and calming. It has this subtle hum of moving steadily on without rush. It sits firmly, but modestly, upon the pedestal of one of the greatest places I have ever seen — and it’s right here in our own backyard.
The Precipice. Cape Reinga.
Note: all photos were taken on a 35mm Canon 500 camera.