did not have much to offer, although the ﬁrst sight of the sea and the sand dunes of North Cape did relieve the monotony of the relatively ﬂat rolling countryside, bare of trees and dotted with patches of manuka scrub – at least I think it was manuka. It must be remembered of course that for most of the trip we viewed our surroundings through the haze of a continual drizzle. Perhaps, on a beautifully clear day the effect on the eye may be entirely different.
In due course we topped a hill and there before us was the sea, whipped up by the howling gale (that had arrived at roughly the same time as we had), and stretching endlessly into the distance. A swing to the left, through another gate – this time open – and we were parked outside the nest of buildings which, along with the three or four houses scattered along the hillside, go to make up the settlement of Cape Reinga; one of the buildings sported the imposing title of “Cape Reinga School”. However, the drizzle had now turned into a solid downpour so there was little else we could do but sit it out in the cars and eat our boxed lunch, purchased on the way through Kaitaia. As it was now 2 o’clock (it had taken just on three hours to cover the 70 miles from Kaitaia), we knew we weren‘t going to be able to “sit it out” for very long.
About a half an hour after our arrival the rain eased off and we were able to disembark and explore the area, although there wasn‘t really very much to explore. Just two or three buildings huddled up photographic gear, secreting it under ﬂapping coats to see in ﬁve minutes flat we gathered up our against the side of a hill. Having seen all there was to protect it from the ﬁne driving rain, [Just two or three buildings huddled up against the side of a hill. Having seen all there was to see in ﬁve minutes flat we gathered up our photographic gear, secreting it under ﬂapping coats to protect it from the ﬁne driving rain,] and set off down the bridle path to the lighthouse itself.
To stand at the tip of New Zealand and look down on the cauldron which is reputed to mark the spot where the Tasman and the Paciﬁc meet head on, but which I suspect is merely a near-to-the-surface reef, is quite an experience. To do so while leaning into a howling gale is even more of an experience. The discomfort caused by the forces of nature were, however, as nothing compared to the exhileration of looking out to sea with the knowledge that the whole of New Zealand was at our backs. But our exhileration was dampened somewhat when the rain again came slashing in from the north, straight into our faces, with such ferocity that we were forced into retreating behind the lighthouse, there to stay for another half an hour, all the while hoping that this was just another squall.
Miraculously, the skies cleared and, battling against the wind, Bruce was able to shoot off the film we had come to record. Even so, we knew we would be lucky to ﬁnish up with anything worthwhile as no sooner had the skies cleared than they clouded over again. In the distance we could see a black mass advancing towards us, so, after making a hurried telephone call to Napier from the Cape Reinga Post Ofﬁce, a 4-foot x 4-foot annex to the Cape Watchhouse (incidentally, it took just three minutes to get through to Napier), we piled back into the cars and headed back for Kaitaia. It was 4.30 p.m., and the approaching storm was blacking out the skies fast. (It was the next day that the distress call of the ill fated Kaitawa was picked Up.)
The journey south was not quite so exciting as the trip up had been as, now more than a little weary, the continual twisting, breaking, gear-changing, and windscreen washing, had begun to pall. Added to which, it was not long before visibility was reduced to nil. The one bright spot on the return journey was the stop at “New Zealand’s Farthest North Hotel”, at which point we arrived during a break in the rain. If any of the occupants had noticed our arrival they must have thought we were off our heads, for Bruce commenced to take photographs with a massive ﬂash unit.
At 7.30 p.m. we arrived back in camp. While the girls prepared dinner, Bruce and I set about removing the layers of accumulated mud in the light of the respective cars’ headlights. Practically, the camp facilities included an excellent car-wash set-up, an amenity which no doubt came in for plenty of use, both in winter and summer; in the summer, I imagine, the mud that we had encountered would be transformed into ﬁne dust, But make no mistake, whether it be the discomforture of mud, dust, wind or road, the pleasure and achievement of standing at Cape Reinga overrides everything else. Too, most travellers would have waited for better weather conditions before taking on the Kaitaia-Cape Reinga stretch, but we all throughly enjoyed the experience anyway. That night, after a good dinner, followed by a hot shower, we took to our beds in the comfortably warm interior of our caravan, well content with the day’s happenings, our thoughts turning to the journey back which would begin the next day.
Photo caption – The rugged coastline at Cape Reinga,
Photo caption – The two Margarets lean back into the gale under the A.A. sign atop the Cape Reinga Cliff.
NEXT MONTH – BAY OF ISLANDS.