Taking my backpack and the rental car, I left my base in the Bay of Islands and headed far north to the very tip of New Zealand. With Radiohead’s latest album (at the time), ‘OK Computer’, as my travelling soundtrack, I followed the meandering State Highway north, as it hugged the coastline. Spectacular views flowed past me as a dreamscape. Beauty round every bend of the road.
It was a perfect summer’s day. Under an azure sky I crossed Whangaroa Harbour and continued north to Doubtless Bay, stopping off to have a picnic lunch on the white sands of Coopers Beach.
Dragging myself away, I took to the road again. The afternoon waned as I cruised past yet another breathtaking sight, the Houhora estuary. An inlet of very shallow water, crystal clear, with white sandbanks breaking the surface here and there. But nothing was to prepare me for what was to come…
Journeying ever northward, the highway, the only route north, eventually petered out at Cape Reinga, the most northerly tip of New Zealand. I parked, just one of many tourists, many of them pouring from coaches and bus tours. But despite this, the place was still remarkably unspoilt and quiet. Leaving the car, I was inextricably drawn to the famous Cape Reinga lighthouse and its signpost, a testament to just how far away New Zealand is to every other country in the world!
Taking the coastal path, I walked along the edge of what had become my beloved Aotearoa (New Zealand) and watched in awe at the mixing of the seas – a strange and beautiful phenomenon where the Tasman Sea suddenly meets the Pacific, just beyond Cape Reinga’s point.
I stood mesmerised by the sheer power and purity of nature. As the sun sank in the most gorgeous of sunsets, I found a sheltered cove just above a tiny beach and camped out beneath the stars. Just magic. Nothing but the sweet beautiful blue disturbed my sleep…
If heaven existed…this was it.
I rose early, just as the first throng of tourists arrived. To my satisfaction, I was not the only single-minded solitary traveller who had had an impromptu stay. Weary but intensely happy, these campers gave knowing smiles to each other as they filed out of the lighthouse ‘restrooms’.
I was reluctant to leave, but I knew there was one sight I could not leave without seeing for myself…the famous giant sand hills!
Studying my maps, I travelled back south a little way until I reached Te Paki, a small settlement of houses, then turning right I followed the Te Paki stream road, really no more than a rural track until I reached them.
I still cannot explain the startling sight of driving through green countryside and emerging from lush woodland to be faced with a desert landscape!
Towering sand dunes or hills surrounded by green…beautiful desolation!
I went exploring. Watching a small party of thrill seekers ‘sandsurf’ and body board was great fun, but it was solitude I sought. Suddenly I was alone walking along the ridges and shifting sands of the Sahara, the Gobi, the Kalahari…
The starkness and simplicity of nature was humbling and again, I found myself letting go of demons and dreaming of distant forgotten lands and cities of sand…
Beautiful Sophie…so blessed to be able to travel and bring your adventures to others. Loved it! 🙂
Oh, thank you Gretchen!
Yes…there is something so profoundly moving about connecting to nature and being alone in an awe-inspiring landscape. New Zealand really is such a magical and special country…the memories I made there will stay with me for a life-time. 🙂
Thanks for the window through which you look at the world. A dream trip, the skies, oceans and the sand hills in this northern part of New Zealand are inspirational.
Thank you Ashen! That’s very kind of you. i really should work for the New Zealand Tourist Board as I cannot speak highly enough of the wonderful country, landscapes and people! A truly life-changing experience. 😀
Just magical… lovely pictures too! Thanks for sharing your adventure, I’m looking forward to reading more 🙂
Ah, thank you, Lindsey! What makes me laugh, is how good my photos came out using my old manual SLR camera and yet trying to take a photo of myself, by putting the camera on the roof of the car and scouching down…was nigh on impossible! Actually quite good that’s it our of focus though! 😀
Thanks though honey…it really was the sort of adventure that you never forget! 🙂