The Tip-Top of New Zealand

Written on December 27, 2013

A trip up to Cape Reinga, the northernmost (and highest point) of NZ! Annie was gracious enough to drive me (over 8 hours roundtrip) to see this, since she knew I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity do so. Even though there wasn’t much to do once we got there (aside from take photos by the landmark lighthouse), it was well worth the drive, especially for a tourist/foreigner like myself.
We passed many suburbs, such as Mangonui, Coopers Beach, Taipa (to name a few). The drive further up north was pretty dry and desolate, with an occasional farmhouse or property along the way. It was much aligned with everything I heard about NZ, how you’ll drive for 30 min. bordered by nothing but cattle/farmland/sheep, then come across a very tiny town where you could gas up and eat some food from a mini mart, then keep driving and driving again on the one-laned motorway (well, it’s one way going one direction and one way going the other).
I was quite excited to see my first LARGE clumps of sheep, since I only saw about 20 or so in two different groupings on the bus ride over. They were scattered about during the drive, but they looked nothing like how I imagined… most were beige and quite dirty, and not nearly as fat as you’d expect (probably since this is summer). They still look quite cute through a car window, though… I prefer sheep over cows any day. I’ve still seen a billion cows moreso than sheep, so don’t ask why NZ has a stereotype for having sheep. Then again, if it was a cow country, I guess it would be compared to the likes of Davis, which isn’t a compliment.
We passed many trees and plains that were reminiscent of scenes from The Lion King. I also learned how prominent roadkill is in NZ… probably since you can’t really swerve to avoid an animal here, or else you’ll run into oncoming traffic.
We also spent a good chunk of time (well, Annie did) attempting to pass large tractors and slow tourist buses that were rudely “incapable” of pulling over to the side so we could pass. There might not be traffic in the countryside, but I still get peeved with disrespectful drivers, especially when they drive 30km under the speed limit. *grumble grumble*
*insert roadtrip music here*
*insert roadtrip music here*
When we finally made it to Cape Reinga, so did busloads of tourists… much to our huge dismay. I definitely get more irritable when tons of tourists are around (thanks a lot, Disney), so it wasn’t the most pleasant experience trying to walk down the trail to this beautiful place surrounded by so many people.
The views overlooking the top were breathtaking (well duh, it’s the highest point of NZ). Rolling hills of lush plants, firs, trees, bush, etc. and a straight view of a few clustered islands in the distance along with the sand dunes. Talk about a perfect Christmas card photo. The landmark lighthouse of Cape Reinga ended up being a shorter, fatter version of one I had in mind… probably 1/4 the size of the Statue of Liberty. It was a bit humid (and also chilly at moments) during the walk, but after four hours in the car, I don’t think any of us minded. It was very similar to a viewing point of something off the road to Hana… then again, everything here looks like Maui, except on a more vast scale.
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Up, up, and away...
Up, up, and away…
"Take the road less traveled." Uh, not many other options except for this path...
“Take the road less traveled.” Uh, not many other options except for this path…
We ended up hiking to the highest point as well, just because I’ll probably never get the chance to visit again. The hill ended up being straight up… and in a dress and jandals, I proved to be completely out of breath by the time we reached the top (plus, we hadn’t eaten in over four hours). It was really neat to see the point where the Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean, since you could see the dividing waves that were crashing into each other in the middle of the ocean from opposite directions. Pretty crazy and hard to explain, even in pictures, other than if you’re there seeing it for yourself.
After finally conquering the Cape, we ventured down to Tutupakara (completely spelled wrong, and Google was no help) Beach for our lunch. With Annie’s supervision, we prepared this quick-and-easy vegetarian chili with avocados, cucumbers and tomatoes to be eaten with some chips, which ended up being delicious. However, it was cut short when we realized the tour buses were departing at the same time, so we basically shot up, crammed the rest of our lunch into our mouths, and ran back to the car and raced up the hill to get in front of the buses.
On the drive back, we passed the same sheep, cattle, etc… but stopped in Mangonui to visit Annie and Sara’s aunty and uncle. I’m so glad we did, since it ended up being the highlight of my day: definitely creative inspiration that I’ve been needing. Their house was designed and built completely by the couple, described by Annie as being “a flower power hippie type.” It basically looked like a large box from the outside, painted brown and with some swirls and flower designs painted on the outside, but as soon as we got to their porch, I understood why Annie thought I would like them.
Oh, and we got ice cream. GOOD ice cream from Tip-Top, since I had some terrible ice cream previously and was scarred. Mmmm, mochachino.
ice cream
Nothing was ordinary about this house. There’s really no other way to describe it other than as a creation only Luna Lovegood would dream of creating if she was here. Their porchstep had marble shapes (fishes, iridescent stones, etc.) glued in, one of the wooden posts holding up the shading for the porch was basically a mosaic of broken glass parts (we’re talking colorful broken plates, tea mugs, mason jars, stones, shells, everything you could think of), and they also had two large RV-like storage spaces (one was presumably used for guests and the other seemed to be used for tools).
Walking into the main doorway was such a different experience… so unlike any home I’ve ever been into. It was in that moment that I realized just how humble and modest Kiwis are… they really don’t care if they’re being judged, if they live in a converted shed, or if they don’t have a garage. This is the couple’s creative space, and it was so neat to be able to see it in person. I WANT THIS LIFE.
Mosaic tiles of color (swirls, patterns, different materials) were on the ground throughout the main room. A colorful swing (yes, a swing!) hung a few feet from the doorway– the swing was made from wood and the rope handles were wrapped in colorful rainbows of cloth wound around to the ceiling, with a few bells at the top to finish it off. Their oven and microwave had painted heart designs on it. The “wallpaper” in the kitchen was another glass mosaic design flowing through, much like the wall next to Disney California Adventure’s “Schmoozies.” Vibrant artwork adorned the walls (pretty sure they were their aunty’s works). The walls itself ranged from red, aqua, lime green, black (the back wall was a chalkboard), pink, etc. The red wall was painted with inspirational quotes that made me smile. They had an upstairs area as well, but they were remodeling it so it seemed rather empty compared to the groundspace.
A rainbow of imagination...
A rainbow of imagination…
Their bed was in the middle of the room (yes, inches away from the kitchen and dining table) with a laced canopy covering. There was another colorful post in the room, along with a mint green tree molding of the branches encased in glitter, that was holding up the staircase. I couldn’t believe how much thought went into their house.
Their toilet (bathroom/restroom is referred to as “toilet” here) was a hoot. It was in this shack that opened up with double doors and the words, “Peace love joy” were painted everywhere, along with hearts and other design fluff. There were some small steps to climb, and at the top were two compost areas… not what I expected, but since they are a green couple, it makes sense. I was fascinated… not with the compost part, but just how much detail and effort went into all this!
Before we left, we also met their two little (well, big) pigs: Beth and Roseanne. One was deaf and one was blind. 😦 They were rescue pigs taken in by the couple, and their snork-snork sounds were so cute, even if the pigs themselves weren’t the most furry creatures (their “fur” felt like porcupine needles, but that’s okay). I was thrilled to meet them. After all, this is the same girl who kissed a 300-lb. one in college while volunteering at a pig sanctuary.
I like pigs.
I like pigs.
Coming away from that, I realized how lucky I am to be staying with this down-to-earth family: creativity and talent obviously runs through their blood. Almost every Edwards child is musically and artistically gifted, even if they modestly say they’re not. And it obviously doesn’t stop with their immediate family, either. I love this place.

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