Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Leaping off place of spirits

This is the final set of pictures from when my folks were here. I have saved the best for last.

Cape Reinga is the northernmost point (that you can easily travel to by car) on the North Island. Despite the long drive along the Aupori peninsula, Cape Reinga has become a popular tourist destination attracting 150,00 visitors each year.


Known as Te Rerenga Wairua, Leaping-Off Place of Spirits, or Te Reinga, The Underworld, in Maori, this cape is one of the most sacred Maori places in New Zealand. As the names suggest it is from this place that the spirits leave this world and make their way back to their ancestral home, Hawaiki.

Tradition says that the souls of the dead travel overland to this cape where they reach Te Aka, an 800 year old Pohutukawa tree that is the root to the spirit world. The spirits descend the tree and on entering the sea they cross through a large clump of seaweed called the Motatau or Maurianuku, which is the door to the underworld. The spirits swim underwater to the largest of the Three Kings Islands, Manawatawi, which translates to Last Breath. Here the spirits surface and, after a farewell look at the land of the living and a last lament for the loved ones left behind, descend again and continue their journey to Hawaiki.

If you look closely you might be able to make out the pohutukawa tree at the waters edge. It is right of the rocky hill in the center of the picture. For being 800 years old it is not very big.

At Cape Reinga the South Pacific Ocean meets the Tasman Sea and mighty waves are made as the two forces join.

When we first went to Cape Reinga, I stood where those people are standing and, looking down, realized one of my favorite places on the planet is this sandy alcove:

(Again, you might be able to make out Te Aka on the far side of the rocky hill.)

Everywhere you look in New Zealand it is beautiful. I hesitate to repeat trips as there are so many places I still want to see here, but I will happily make the long drive (7 hours if you drive straight through, which misses the point, really) to stand in this place and watch the oceans meet.

Not everyone finds this places as mesmerizing as I do. William Puckey, a missionary that is believed to have been the first European to travel overland to Cape Reinga had this to say about it in 1832:
“The place has a most barren appearance with sea-fowl screaming and the sea roaring and rushing against dismal black rocks. It would suggest to the reflecting mind that it must have been the dreary aspect of the place which led the Maori to choose this spot as his hell”
To each, his own, I say. You'll just have to decide for yourself when you come visit! For the more adventurous I suggest we approach it on foot via the Cape Reinga Coastal Walkway!

From the point looking south, toward 90 mile beach.

1 comment:

Mel W-K said...

BEAUTIFUL!! It reminds me of Hawaii with the lushness, and the story especially. It looks like it was well worth the drive. Yeah for your broken hand that made you take time off and enjoy the scenery.