Next morning the toilet had stopped working - couldn't pump it out. Looked like we would be staying in camps with toilets until we could get it fixed back in Kaitaia (about a week). We stopped at Te Kao to pick up a key for a Maori camp ground a bit further up at Parengarenga harbour. They told us there was no toilet there. Oh..... A motorhomer, who was also at the store there, let slip that he was a plumber. He had enough of a look to confirm that a pipe was blocked but wasn't keen to do any more (fair enough) but he gave me enough encouragement (They're really simple, mate) for me to have a go. About an hour and a quarter later (and a very unpleasant time it was too) we again had a working toilet. I boiled my hands for the regulation 3 minutes before we had lunch!
We headed for the very top, a DOC camp at Tapotupotu bay, just east of Cape Reinga.
Got there to find Shorty and Vicky there, Shorty was going out fishing in one of their sit-on kayaks. Kath and I did a walk around the coast (big up, big down and big up again) to Cape Reinga about 2 1/4 hours - our biggest walk so far.
There were great views looking down on the water at the Cape from very high up. And it looked reasonably calm as well - would have been neat to be in a Kayak down there. On the way back I resolved to try it the next day if everything looked right with the weather. When we were coming back we could see Shorty out there in his little sit-on still fishing. When we got back I went and left a message with Vicky that I might be paddling up to the Cape if Shorty was interested in using Kathy's kayak. No sooner was he back than he was over to see us, keen as mustard. I was very pleased as I was a bit anxious about doing it solo.
The marine forecast was good so next morning we headed off (leaving our tearful loved ones on the shore).
It was only about 5km and we did that in about 50 minutes. Quite lumpy but great fun and we got far enough west to see down the west coast of the Reinga peninsular and snapped a couple of "reverse tourist shots": showing the gnarled old Pohutukawa clinging to the cliff edge in the foreground and the lighthouse in the background.
I was a bit curious as to why there did not seem to be any sign of the notorious tidal race (that I'd read about in Paul Caffyn's book about circum-navigating New Zealand). Only took 40 mins to get back as we had the swell and the wind behind us.
Spent a good part of the afternoon in Shorty and Vicky's bus (she baked us scones - they have an OVEN). Had a great swim in crystal clear surf and also in a very warm and clear stream. They left for Spirits Bay and we moved into their (prime) spot.
The wind was still quite light and I decided to put the awning out (as S&V had done). Just as I had fully extended it (a 4m x 2m sail)and before I could peg down the stays a gust of wind came from nowhere and I could do nothing but watch in horror as it lifted gracefully (but powerfully) skywards, folded itself backwards over the top of the bus, over the kayaks and tore itself out of its mountings, spraying shattered smashed bits everywhere.
Time for lunch.
After lunch I dismantled as much as I could and tidied it up to a state where I could lash the components to the roof rack, between the kayaks. What a day: talk about the agony and the ecstasy (other way around!).
Next day we drove to Cape Reinga and did a long walk. (Before we left I had a good look at where we had been and spied that the tidal race was streaming out at an angle of about 11 o'clock rather than the 12 o'clock that I had imagined: so we hadn't been far enough west to be affected by it) Down onto the west coast beach of Te Werahi - 40 mins long and completely deserted (although there is obviously a sizeable pig population, given the routings we saw on the beach), across the Te Werahi stream (reputed to be crossable, waist-deep, only after mid-tide (for which we had carefully timed our trip). Didn't even get our shoes wet!
Up over a big sand dune with clay outcrops on a polled route and down the same sort of terrain for another 40 mins to Cape Maria Van Diemen. Whole area completely deserted. The track up onto the cape was overgrown which caused Kath to grumble a bit. (Please note that these gumblings etc attibuted to Kath are purely for effect) The cape had nothing going for it really so we retreated to a beach we had spied on our way in and had a dip. There was no shade anywhere to have lunch so we headed off to some rocks we could see at the eastern end of this beach. Well! We found some shade under a big rock but we also found this fantastic sheltered little cove, protected by big rocky islands with clear, warm sheltered waters.
We had lunch there and then another dip. It was perfect: worth the trip all by itself. Stinking hot all day and only a bottle of water each, it was good to get back to the tourist center at Cape Reinga and have a long draught of their disgusting bore water!!
And then on to Spirit's Bay - out towards North Cape - and another Doc camp. Spirits Bay has nothing much to recommend it (unless you are a keen fisherman) and we only went there because it would have been rude not to. (15km of gravel road) I'm convinced we stopped in S&V's spot (later confirmed) - we retrieved a rod holder which had been left there. I might be able to sell it back to him! (Payment was a delicious meal which we enjoyed just a couple of weeks ago