Dune Boarding near Cape Reinga

IMG_4949Back in Auckland from my whirlwind trip around New Zealand, I was thankful to have a day or 2 rest before hopping on the plane and heading home.I just had one more trip to do up to Cape Reinga, the top of New Zealand.Because of the way the bus schedule worked we would head up to Paihia the first day, do a day trip to the cape the second, and then have a day to relax on the third.I was expecting this part of the trip to be pretty slow and just a scenic drive up to the cape and back. We got to Paihia and went on a cruise out to the "Hole in the Rock".  It's basically a massive hole in one of the rocks that you can drive through with your boat as long as the water isn't too high. Unfortunately our boat was a little big and the water too high so we didn't fit. We did get to see plenty of dolphins playing around the boat along the way.I didn't realize that we would be doing some dune boarding on the way up to the cape. I had never even seen it before and was excited to give it a try. I assumed it would be on a fairly small dune and the sleds wouldn't go very fast.Just getting to the dunes was a bit of an adventure. Right on 90-mile beach, the dunes rise up off the beach and are bigger than I thought. The road ends abruptly and turns into a stream that heads down to the beach. That didn't stop the bus driver. He slowed a little to make sure we were in the right gear and then plowed on through the river.Careful not to stop in the gooey sand he showed us the smaller dunes the "Oldies" would be sliding down. There were a few buses hitting the dunes that day and a couple were primarily an older crowd. He quickly hauled the bus around so were facing a much larger dune with wind whipping up sand over the top. We'd be climbing that.Our guide and bus driver had an incredible amount of energy and as soon as everyone had a board set about explaining how we were supposed to do this without breaking our necks.He flops down in the mud by the stream and explains where to put your arms, feet, body and how to stop. Then he hops up and starts to run up the sand dune.It wasn't small. And sand is about as hard to hike up as snow, minus the cold. 2 steps up, 1 step back.Near the top, I couldn't wait to rest to catch a breath but had to get right to do the top ridge to do it. Stop before and you'll be assaulted by sand whipping over the top of the dune and down the other side.Finally we make it to the top. Myself and a Finnish fellow named Antti made it to the top first after the guide and we hurry over to where we're supposed to slide down.The first run was fun but I wasn't sure how fast or far I would go so I dragged my feet a little.  Wicked. Now that I know what it's like time to hurl myself down the hill.  I trudge all the way back up to the top of the dune hop in line. Once we've gone once and know what to expect we're allowed to cut the line and go further down the dune. Antti and I rush over past the rest of the wide-eyed first timers and rip down the dune a second time.I pretty much laughed the whole way down. It's like sliding down a huge hill on a sled in the snow but nice and warm. Aside from all the sand getting into my ears, eyes, mouth and nose it was a wicked ride.Antti and I managed to get up the dune 3 more times and got a little further each time. The stream went along the bottom of the dune so if you were going fast enough you'd go right over the stream into the swamp beyond. I didn't quite make it into the swamp but did get onto a little island in the middle of the stream. The last 2 times we raced a couple other people all the way down.We hit up a beautiful beach on the way out of the dunes and hopped in the water to get rid of all the sand. Even after the swim and a shower later, I still was finding sand everywhere. It was a small price to pay for an awesome trip to the sand dunes.[gmap]