A lonely lighthouse and a gnarled, twisted pohutukawa tree on a windswept cliff top on the northern tip of New Zealand have a special place in the Kiwi psyche.
Like Land’s End in Britain, this ultimate extremity of our dramatic landscape holds great historic and spiritual significance. The venerated pohutukawa is the Reinga, “the place of leaping” in Maori mythology, where the spirits of the dead leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800 year old tree, and descend into the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki.
Scenic tours run daily to Cape Reinga from Paihia and Kaitaia and include an exhilarating ride along the vast expanse of 90 Mile Beach, plus a hair-raising trip over the shifting sands of Te Paki Stream. The tours also offer adrenaline-pumping slides down the massive west coast sand dunes.
From the Cape Reinga carpark climb to the lookout point and revel in the liberating sense of freedom and space. Cape Maria Van Diemen dominates the west and the North Cape is a black smudge to the east.
Standing there you feel the fresh sea breeze and marvel at the bright light which shimmers off the ocean crests. The seabirds wheeling and screaming over the agitated sea catch the eye and you suddenly realise you are witnessing the immense power of two mighty oceans merging together. To the west an endless succession of Tasman Sea rollers advance towards the Cape while an opposing force powers in from the Pacific. The resulting collision is a maelstrom of churning ten metre waves erupting in explosions of spray and spume. It is fascinating to try and predict the collision points and to wonder at the energy released by this violent clash.
From the carpark you can join part of the New Zealand Walkway System. A track leads down to Werahi Beach and continues on to Te Paki Stream. A track above the carpark winds around the coast to the Department of Conservation campsites at Tapotupotu Bay and Spirits Bay. Walking the Cape Reinga hills with a sea breeze, bright sunlight, pure air and wide vistas is a sheer delight.