## Sunday, 6 September 2015

### farther north

Today I took a coach tour up Ninety Mile Beach (which despite its name is more like 55 miles long; still pretty impressive!), which included several other sights as well.

I was picked up from my motel at around 7:30am, onto a bus with about 30 people already on board.  We picked up another few, then drove up to the south end of the beach, with a stop for coffee along the way, arriving about 9:30.  The coach drove out onto the sand, then sped northwards along the beach, giving marvellous views of the sea.

 coach seat with a view
We saw fisher folk, birds, and seals along the way.

 “get orf my beach!”
The view out the front windscreen shows the extent of the drive, and the fact that, yes, we really were on sand (the hard wet sand between the water and the dry crumbly sand).

 Beware! No Road Markings!
After driving for about an hour (it didn’t feel anywhere near as long as that), we stopped on the beach for a paddle.

 On the beach, channelling our inner toddler.
 Yes, I’m barefoot, too
 a rival tour bus speeds off into the distance
 Yes, we really were on the sand.  The small white box by the bus door is a step: the body is very high off the ground, for some reason...
More driving along the beach, then we turned off to drive up a river, to the Te Paki Sand Dunes, for some sand dune surfing (which is basically lying face down on a very slippery small board, and zooming downhill, whilst trying to remember the way to steer that doesn’t break your wrists; some of the party managed this while filming themselves using a selfie stick).

 On the dunes, channelling our inner teenager.  I didn’t go right to the top (the sand was v loose, and the slope v steep, and it would have taken me rather more than the 5 minutes everyone else needed).  But I did surf down from the “nursery slopes” visible on the left.  Twice.
Then it was back on the bus, and off to Cape Reinga, the northernmost point, arriving about noon.  It was a short walk down from the car park to the lighthouse on the cape, where we could see the Tasman Sea meet the Pacific Ocean.

 the Tasman Sea (west)
 the Pacific Ocean (east)
Back on the bus, and off to lunch.  A further short trip, and around 3pm we stopped at "The Ancient Kauri Kingdom", which is a showroom for artefacts manufactured from “swamp Kauri” – 45,000 year old preserved wood.  There is an amazing staircase carved inside a single Kauri trunk.

 looking down the stairs
 the staircase from the outside: a massive tree trunk
There was a showroom with marvellous items (and a cafe with marvellous Boysenberry Ice Cream).  The photo above shows a table with a beautiful Kauri stand.  Handling some of the smaller items reveals the wood is surprisingly light.  There were other tables on display.

 I really really really wanted to buy this stunning 50000-year-old-Kauri-wood table (NZ$16500 + shipping!), but didn’t for two reasons: (1) nowhere to put it; (2) NZ$16500
I’d never heard of Kauri wood, or Kauri trees, before,  These are massive trees that used to cover much of the Far North of North Island, but have mostly been felled for their excellent timber.  The final stop on our tour was the Puketi Kauri Forest, to see some living Kauri trees.

 Looking up at a stunning Kauri tree.  It’s difficult to get a sense of scale.  The trunk is about five feet in diameter, and almost perfectly cylindrical (no tapering) up to where the branches appear.
 beautiful Kauri bark patterns
Then back on the bus, and back to Piahai.  There was more lovely scenery visible, but, as one of my colleagues at the earlier conference said of his own sightseeing trip: “you see stunning scenery around every bend; eventually you don’t stop to photograph it unless it’s a volcano erupting rainbows!”

The day long tour, which included an excellent commentary and the “fush and chup lunch” (fascinating NZ vowel shifts throughout), cost NZ\$145 (about £60).  Superb value for money.

 The coach trip route (approximated along Ninety Mile Beach itself).  Round trip ~440km