After an involuntary break of one week, I am now back in New Zealand, to proceed with our journey around the world. The flight back from Jutland, Denmark, door to door, was a total of 36 hours, just as the flight to get there. And even though I normally sleep quite well on airplanes, it is not an easy thing to find some peace and quiet, when you are struggling to find room for your long legs, and a few kids are expressing their dissatisfaction loudly and extensively in the next row. Every time I return from a long flight I always have to fight the urge to write to the airline and suggest that they start to ask the passengers, when they book their tickets, about their height, in order to make the longer flights as comfortable for everyone as possible. When booking an itinerary consisting of 2x12 hour flights and 1x1 hour PLUS transit and waiting, it is really no luxury to be able to sit down and stretch your legs. It doesn’t really help my crappy mood when I look at the seats by the emergency exits, where I could have just a few more inches of room. They are oftentimes occupied by small (but fast) men who can barely touch the floor with their feet... Well, I guess the airlines do not really care at all, as long as all seats are sold. And removing a few rows to give everyone an extra inch is probably also out of the question...
I made the journey to Denmark and back, and the first day here in New Zealand I simply had to just relax a bit. Just to get over the worst jet-lag. But it disappeared quite fast and we simply spent the first afternoon just strolling through downtown Auckland. A few hours in the shopping area is not nearly enough for me to get a proper impression, so we will try to get back there again for some more sightseeing. I am certain we have some good things awaiting us there!
Instead we drove much longer north, and are currently staying in Ahipara, a small town on the westcoast, about 100 kilometers south of the very northern tip of New Zealand, Cape Reinga. From here we took a guided tour to the cape. We had to do it this way in order to be able to drive along the “Ninety Mile Beach”, because this has to be done in a vehicle that is properly fit for the task. The trip went from Ahipara along the “inland road” all the way up to Cape Reinga, including a picnic on a deserted beach with plenty of raw nature and crystal clear, blue water, and back to Ahipara again along the “beach road” on Ninety Mile Beach.
At Cape Reinga there is an old lighthouse, towering high above the cliffs. From here you have a 250 degree view of the Tasman and Pacific Oceans. They actually meet and collide just below the lighthouse, which is a stunning sight. It reminds me of Grenen in Denmark, where Skagerrak (The North Sea) meets Kattegat (The Baltic Sea). In Denmark you can actually stand with one foot in each ocean, which is a unique experience. Here in New Zealand this is not possible, because of all the dangerous rocks. We did stand for some time beside the lighthouse, to just take in the magnificent view... The light, the colors and all the pure, raw nature. We were lucky to visit on a quiet day. Our guide told us that it is mostly quite windy there, and although there were some wind when we were there, it was not nearly what you would expect on such a spot.
As already mentioned, we took the Ninety Mile Beach back to Ahipara and drove on the sandy, stretchy beach for a couple of hours. Before we came all the way out to the actual coast line, we passed by some gigantic sand dunes. And I mean really huge! The biggest ones I have yet seen. We stopped here and from the trunk of the bus our guide hauled out some sandboards and a toboggan for Anton. The sandboards are pretty much identical to smaller waterboards, albeit with a special coating underneath. The toboggan is the same type as Anton has in Munich, for use in snow during the winter. Aha! This can also be used in sand! Interesting! It was an absolutely thrilling experience! The speed takes some getting used to, when you are lying flat on your belly, head first and concentrating hard not to collide with anything on your way down, or to fall off. The guide had told us that we could brake with our feet, but still... After a while though, we all enjoyed it very much and no accidents happened.
The Ninety Mile Beach is actually only 55 miles long (88 kilometers) so the name might be slightly misleading. It is the fourth longest beach in the world. The longest beach is Praia de Cassino in Brazil, with its 132 miles (212 kilometers). Legend says that Ninety Mile Beach got its name from the early missionaries who used to ride along the beach. They needed a good 3 days for the entire stretch, and as their horses could usually manage about 30 miles a day, it was named Ninety Mile Beach. Nobody has changed the name since.
It was a fantastic experience to be able to cruise along the beach at 90 kilometers per hour. Only when we crossed some of the small rivers running across the beach from the inland we had to slow down. On these spots there is a risk of quicksand and even though our guide had been driving this beach almost everyday of his entire life, he had to concentrate and pay extra attention. We enjoyed our entire trip in beautiful sunshine and calm weather, but it is not uncommon for the weather to change within just a few minutes. Therefore the day was planned very strict, so that we would not get any delays and get surprised by the tide.
Anton was totally excited and very tired as we returned to our campervan that evening. It was a day that we will not soon forget.
We will stay up here in the very northern part of New Zealand for another couple of days, before starting our trip towards the south.
You can see some highlights from the first weeks of our New Zealand adventures by clicking here!