Cape Reinga

On January 30th, we went to Cape Reinga.

Cape Reinga is located at the northwestern end of the North Island. It is more than 100 km north of the nearest small town of Kaitaia. It is a nice view point to look at the separation between the Tasman Sea to the west and the Pacific Ocean to the east.

The Cape name comes from the maori word ‘reinga’, meaning ‘the underworld’. Another maori name for this place is ‘Te Rerenga Wairua’, which means ‘leaping-off place of spirits’.

According to mythology, the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their journey to the afterlife to leap off the headland and descend to the underworld to return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki, using the ‘Te Ara Wairua’, the ‘Spirits pathway’. At Cape Reinga, they depart the mainland. They turn briefly at the Three Kings Islands for one last look back towards the land, then continue on their journey.

The lighthouse at Cape Reinga was built in 1941, replacing a lighthouse located on nearby Motuopao Island, built in 1879. In 1987, the lighthouse was fully automated. The previous 1000 watt light has since been replaced with a 50 watt flashing beacon.

In 2007 protests by Maori and increased tourist numbers led the Department of Conservation to announce that the public carpark and toilet facilities, which intrude on traditionally sacred ground, would be moved further away from the Cape and extended, at a cost of NZ$ 6.5 million.

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