We traveled through New Zealand's Northlands with as much ruckus and fun as we could. We listened to Liam Finn's fine songs, that was the only music aboard our van. Desmond was excited about the white sands and was now a motivating force to find them. We made it up to the Cape Reinga turnoff and headed up the final stretch. I had read a description of a backpacker (hostel) up towards the sands and I wished Id had one of the guides they give away for reference. We passed up the turn off to 90 mile beach, having blasted down it on a tourist bus once already. It is a 30 mile stretch of beach that one can drive up or down. The tide is key, though, and if you don't travel avoiding high tide you'll be in danger of losing your car in the surf. I find cars on the beach to be perverse not to mention what driving on the beach can do to your cars salt sensitive underparts.
We rode through countryside that changed it's look frequently. The Northland is at one moment flat and spacious and five minutes later, wooded and cozy. It's February, the equivalent of August in the Northern Hemi which means there are tomatoes for sale down peoples drives and melons and fresh corn stands often. There is some interesting history of the Gum diggers up that way. Laborors came to dig for pockets of wood sap gum from these ancient HUGE Kauri trees that were buried on their side thousands of years ago. It was used for resins (in varnish and paints), marine glue and linoleum and was a primary export of Auckland between 1850 and 1950. Maori peoples used it for fire starting, when cooked with animal fat, as a tattooing pigment and as chewing gum. The big mystery is what caused the huge tsunami that leveled the area a few thousand years ago. Maybe it was a enormous meteor or the mother of earthquakes.
Even though it is much closer to the equator , The Northland reminds me of some of the towns and outposts in rural Alaska. One white knuckle departure onto a radically crooked gravel road which we shared with logging trucks took us (finally) down to a sleepy village called Te Hapua where we ambled our van along the shoreline and found a public toilet shack(finally). We poked around at the beach and ended up checking out a fisherman. The beach that we crossed to investigate the Native man's undertaking seemed like a regular basic beach. It was flat and sandy. After we got over I realized that it had become a rock shelf and it dropped off into pretty deep water at once, with the man standing right on the edge. He had a hand held winder rig and a hook with a half a slender silver fish for bait a few inches long. He was there to catch a King fish and he could tell they were coming because their dinner, which was a school of smaller fish were parading by , actually over and over again, in big circles. I was trying to point out the drop off to the kids and Lillian went right up to the edge to see it. We learned of the king fish farm that had gone belly up there years before and gazed at the eerie yet lovely and inviting white sand dunes across the inlet. As it turns out, the only way for us to get to them is by Kayak (which was quickly ruled out by the mom.) The fisherman decided to pull in his line when "the cousins" all came to the nearby dock to swim. As we drove out there were beautiful free roaming horses running on a beach. The houses were boxy shacks with various conversations and hanging out happening in the yards. It had that dusty sleepy feel of Aleutian villages. No one in too much of a hurry. The drive out was not nearly as nerve racking, for some reason. We went on to another outer realm called Paua where there was a huge majestic old barn or warehouse in full delapitation with a big sign on it DANGER ASBESTOS HAZARD! Desmond , of course, liked it and wanted to go in. We went out to a dock where a small and varied group of people were fishing and when I encountered what they were after a boy told me 'baby Snapper" . Snapper is a different and more prized fish here in New Zealand than the bargain fish by the same name in the United States. There seemed to be some sort of private entry campground behind a gate with a sign directing interest in camping to a store some 15 kilometers away. I looked at the campground and surmised that the scene was for much more equipped campers than we were with our impromptu packing job. So we headed on southward down the Aupouri Peninsula.