At the northwesternmost tip of the Aupouri Peninsula lies Cape Reinga where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean. Not too many travelers make their way around the northland, but if they do, Cape Reinga is usually the top choice.
Other than the physical lighthouse as a main point of interest, there are several hiking trails that encompass the reserve. We went on our first “hike” in New Zealand here. Trying to hit up additional destinations within the day, we only hiked parts of two trails. I was so excited that I decided to not bring my heavy DSLR and breezed through the first half of the hike. By the time we had to go uphill again, I struggled and panted as my face grew tomato red like an Asian who just drank alcohol. We encountered two backpackers cruising through with their backpacks and camp gear. They asked if we were heading to the campsite over the hill as well. I do not know why, but that question really got me thinking. It seems so intense to carry everything on your back and hike through mountains to find another sleeping spot. While it seems so exciting to have your home on your back, I am not sure if I am excited about the weight I must bare for the hours trekking under the sun. This got me a little worried about multi-day hikes. Maybe I am too out of shape and old to engage in such activities now (well hopefully not).
After Cape Reinga, we headed to the Te Paki Sand Dunes. Unfortunately, we did not get any sand boards for sand surfing and there was no cardboard or anything to make a make-shift sled. The first hill to climb over was rather steep. I felt the chills as these Japanese girls hesitated over surfing down from the top of the hill. One of them actually fell off the board and rolled down a quarter of the way. Walking on sand is challenging since there is no stable surface. After climbing over a couple of hills, there was nothing else in sight except for sand and more sand. You know what that means – selfie (or groupfie) time! Without proper gear, it took awhile to capture normal and jumping photos of four people at once. After many tries, we still failed. At some point, a couple had walked by where we were trying to take the perfects and we still did not bother to ask them. Eventually we found a caution cone to use as our tripod and called it quits afterwards. I have this long time desire to roll off a hill. Unless if it is a really steep hill, it is actually hard to build up the momentum to effortlessly push yourself down all the way. You may have already guessed it, I could not have missed the opportunity to roll down that first hill. It was scary to look down from the top of the hill because it was that steep. Contemplating for over a minute while lying on the top of the hill and peered pressured as everything being captured on video, I rolled myself over with my eyes closed. I was rolling really fast and ungracefully like a sausage while my travelmates laughed on top of the hill. I forced myself to stop a bit before reaching the bottom since I was extremely dizzy and I had the fear of rolling slanted into a hard pit. My face was covered with sand and it was impossible to get rid of everything with a long proper shower. Nonetheless, hill rolling is now checked off my bucket list!
One of the top things on my list of must-sees for the North Island is the glow worms at Waitomo caves which is located south of Auckland. We intend to visit the caves just before completing the loop of the North Island on our way back up to Auckland. One of our travelmates learned about this free glow worm cave in the northland at Waipou on her travel guide. The cave is unguided and free to all visitors. Using my iPhone as my flashlight, we went deeper into the caves to find the glow worms. Lights off and we looked above our heads to see hundreds of tiny glowing heads from the worms. It is like staring at the stars indoors. The glow worms varied in colors of white or green depending on how hungry they are. With the dim lighting, it was so hard to capture the glowing lights on camera so you will have to google it for a better idea of how it actually looks.
After spending three days in the northland, we headed back towards Auckland to drop off one of our travelmates and head to the east coast of the island. We stayed at our first Airbnb at Murray’s Bay. It was a lovely house with many windows providing generous sunshine into the house. We decided that we should plan for Airbnb as accommodations every once in a while so we can get laundry done. Laundry through hostels are so expensive – at least $8 NZD for a load including wash and dry!