To be honest, we weren’t particularly looking forward to the ‘tour’ to the top. But bloody hell this was the best tour I’ve ever been on. Our tour guide Alan (half Maori, half Scottish) was the perfect person to drive us to the top, not only did he grow up in the northernmost settlement here, but he was also the last person to man the lighthouse at Cape Reinga before they converted it to solar power and presumably fully automated in 2000. He was a very funny bloke, seemed to know everything about the Far North, even what all the farms were planting or how many head of livestock everyone had.
I don’t know if it’s the heat or the dehydration but these seagulls are certainly smelling fishy to me. No matter where you are there’s always two of the buggers out in front of you edging about, eyeing you up. You can never get near before they shoot off, only to be replaced a few minutes later with two identical ones further up the beach. We’ve started to think there are only two on the entire of 90 mile beach and they’re being redeployed along the length for surveillance purposes. We are clearly displaying very suspicious behavior being the only people on the beach not caning it along on a four-by-four, so I’m imagining the seagull authorities are keeping a close eyeon us should we start muscling in on their shell fish. Either that or they suspect we’re packing chips and ice-cream in our backpacks, and they are waiting to catch us off guard before they launch their attack on us…
We got chatting some some friendly kiwis who were out for a few days fishing and boozing’ together :) They were chatting about shark fishing and how there’s ‘a big one’ out there right now… Scary! :D They were a good laugh and offered us a couple of ice creams that were very welcome indeed! Cheers Pam & Nic, Murray & Shelley! Hope to bump into you again later on the trail :D
The Utea owners were lovely too and popped over with a bunch of home grown potatoes. So far we’ve found Kiwi folks to be super friendly and kind hearted, which is fantastic news for a couple of ‘homeless’ roaming Londoners like us ;)
A snap decision to follow a road to the sea for a lunch break brought us to this beautiful little cove, with turquoise waters lapping the sand and picnic bench – ripe for cheese and cracker action, and a snooze in the warm sun. Sweet!
A silver haired local beach bach owner came over to check out these strangers ;) And we got to nattering. Turns out his great grand father lived there and had come over from Scotland in the 1870’s. There were all sorts of fascinating tales told, but one was of him as a child, merrily digging up human skulls in the eroding sand near the edge of the beach – each with spike holes in the top. Blimey! Creepy stuff. But not as bone chilling as the next story… His great grand father had told of ‘the last great feast’ on the headland in front of us, that lasted for 3 weeks. He’d “heard the celebrations, and then the screams every night as the tribe took their victims from the cages, cooked and ate them! “… Well … I nearly bloody choked on my cheese and crackers I tell you!! Blimmin ‘ek what do you say when someone says that with sincerity? My mind was boggling as we walked on up the hill… Pretty gobsmacked. “Hello. Nice day isn’t it. Oh by the way, see that spot there? People used to eat each other there… Hmm.. I think it might rain later eh.”
I took these revelations with an extremely large pinch of salt of course, (!).
Some things the people you meet allude to can take us by surprise, to say the least! But in general the more of New Zealand we explore, the more we begin to glimpse some deep rooted feelings and very complex relationships between all the peoples of this beautiful country. It’s going to be a hard one to fully understand.