|Well erm a bit south first to the Kawiti glowworm caves which was magical, we never did get around to visiting while we were in Paihia so we came specially.
New Zealand doesn’t have bats in their caves which would ordinarily eat the glowworms. Here they thrive and are absolutely beautiful, as the lamps go off and our eyes adjust to the gloom it is like looking up at the milky way at night. Thousands of tiny pinpricks of light make myriad patterns and in time you can see slight variations in colour from white to yellow to green. We unfortunately can’t take photos of them as they are too light sensitive. Our guide is a direct descendent of the person who discovered the caves and as a result we get a good informative tour which ends with a little ten minute bush walk back.
Now we point the bike north again, this time we are headed for Kerikeri and some of the oldest buildings in NZ. They stand side by side Kemp house is the oldest wooden house and the old stone store which is now a souvenir shop (but fitted out and decorated as it would have been).
It has now started to rain so we go food shopping in Kerikeri town when we emerge it is heavier!
With the rain stinging Kev’s legs we head on up the highway Gavin gave us a suggested route to follow taking in all the sights and good roads, we get about 10km down one and find a sneaky free camp so stop for the night. We are hopeful it will blow over however morning comes and it is still just as misty and drizzling making continuing pointless. Heading back off the penisular we hope to outrun the rain cloud on the more main route. This seems to work and we have it chasing us for a while. Beyond the town of Awanui we spot a sign for a gumdiggers open air museum. Gum digging was a boom industry here and this site was founded in the 1800′s by people of Irish descent. Gum is solidified resin from the Kauri trees that once stood here. It’s thought there was a cataclysmic event at this site such as a Tsunami or Meteor strike which flattened and eventually buried the huge Kauris at that time. The resin was buried with them and thousands of years later it was this that the gum diggers were after. When it was first discovered here in the 1800′s there was little commercial use for Kauri gum but it was later discovered it was excellent for use in varnishes and polishes which sparked a gum digging boom. Kauri gum is resin which has hardened but is under 45000 yrs old. Copal is fosilised resin which is over 45,000yrs. Amber which is harder is over 100,000yrs old they are often used for jewelery. Both Amber and Copal vary in colour from clear through several shades of amber to black (the really dark stuff is caused when it has been subjected to a forest fire). However the most popular is the middle ground especially if insects or plants have been trapped in it. The gumdiggers dug huge holes in the ground when searching for the fallen trees some you can walk around in they are so large. The Kauri trees are the 2nd largest in the world. Gum digging died out in the 1900′s when cheaper modern synthetic substitutes became available and supplies were getting scarce. But one legacy of the trade survives to this day, the long leather and subsequently rubber boots the diggers wore in the swampy conditions were called Gum boots.
Back with bike the rains have caught us up so we do the 100km or so to Cape Reigna in some wild weather stopping once to view 90mile beach which you can drive on.
Parking our bike next to two others at the Cape we meet Daniel (a fellow pom now living here) and Nikolai (a Russian now living in NZ) Nikolai is affectionately referred to as Frodo by Daniel due to fact someone has nicked his bike boots here at the cape and he will have to ride back barefoot till he can buy some more. We have a good chat and compare routes, advise on campsites and fill Nickolai in on news from Russia. Waving goodbye we walk to the lighthouse, Maoris believe this most northern point of NZ is a sacred place where their spirits leave New Zealand when they die.The cape is shrouded in mist and fog and with the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks it is a good day for the spirits to leave the island as the sky has come to meet them.
We eventually spot the lighthouse and are able to have the obligatory photos under the sign that points to many locations including London, Tokyo, Las Vegas and the South Pole. The sign says 18029km to London, it has taken us over 30000km to get here. We turn and head now for Spirits Bay down 16km of gravel road to find a campsite. Arriving at this most idylic spot at the edge of the world even the rain has stopped and we set up camp for the night. We are as far away from home now as it is possible to be.