358 Days on the Road
Before we kick this story off, we have to take a moment to say: Only six more days to go!!!!!! Ah, on the final leg of our 365 Days: 365 Activities, we couldn’t imagine being in a better place than escaping the winter in New Zealand’s region of endless summer. Our day begins in the Far North town of Ahipara known for its surf, sand dunes and for being at the very end of Ninety Mile Beach. We explored the dunes yesterday in a thrilling 4×4 buggy safari, we have travelled part way down Ninety Mile Beach by bus, and today we are going to explore the other end on horseback!
Horse riding with Ahipara Horse Treks
This morning, we rock up to Ahipara Horse Treks which is easily spotted on the roadside thanks to the simple but efficient wooden carvings of horses’ heads. Our guide for today, Sally-Anne, is brushing three beautiful brown horses and getting them ready for their ride. Of course, Robin’s broken arm rings alarm bells, but with a combination of being confident on a horse and Sally-Anne teaching him how to ride a horse one-handed, we manage to make it work. Plus, Ahipara Horse Treks takes safety seriously, so we feel reassured.
The bond of brothers
Waivers signed and helmets on, we are helped onto our horses by Sally-Anne. Robin is riding Star and Laura is riding Storm – two brothers who have the same father. They suffer from separation anxiety, which becomes apparent every time we split them up to take a photo throughout the trip. When they come back together, they rub their heads together. N’awww! Cuteness overload!
Making our way to the beach
Before we set off on the trek, Sally-Anne teaches us a few techniques to ride these horses, which we practice in the paddock. Admittedly, we have rode a horse on a few occasions during these 365 Days: 365 Activities, so Sally-Anne can see we are confident enough to get going. For safety reasons, she walks her horse in front of us as we ride along the roadside on our way to the beach. It’s only about a hundred metres across a bridge and partway up a hill until we reach the beach access. So far, our horses are super mellow and well-behaved!
Ninety Mile Beach!
The beach access takes us through a grassy sand dune alive with birds and decorated with flowers. Then we emerge on a large open beach: Ninety Mile Beach! Despite the huge open space, our horses resist the urge to bolt and stay perfectly in line behind Sally-Anne who is riding Dreamer, a smart and sassy horse who needs to be tamed.
Laura and Storm are keeping things cool at the back…
Finding whale puke and oversized seashells
At first, we get the time to enjoy this big open sandy landscape. We have dunes on one side, raging waves on the other, and compact sand beneath our horses’ hooves dotted with all kinds of seashells. We even swear we have seen some ambergis, which is essentially whale puke that is highly sought after for its use in perfumes, but when we turn around and Sally-Anne jumps off he horse for a better look, she concludes it’s just a pretty rock. While she’s down there, she’s finding heaps of huge shells called toheroa – the largest oyster shells found in New Zealand, in fact. After packing the shells for her garden into the pockets of her saddle cloth, we continue past seabird sanctuaries and across small streams.
Wading through the tide
These streams only get bigger and deeper as we go, until we the waves start to roll into our horses’ legs! Awesome! When we get out of the tide, we walk across damp sand with a thin layer of water left behind to give stunning reflections of our horses walking across the beach. However, this trek is not just about the walking…
“Are you Ok to trot with a broken arm?” Sally-Anne asks Robin. Hells to the yeah! We speed things up a little trotting our way down the beach. In the circumstances that Robin had two arms to hold onto the reins, we could give galloping a go, which would have looked so badass on a beach. Next time, right?
Back along the beach and onto Hokianga!
After about an hour, we turn around and walk back down the beach, this time with the view of Whangatauatia, Ahipara’s iconic mountain. The cone shape covered in bush is makes a stunning backdrop for our ride back to the Ahipara Horse Trek stables. Here, we help Sally-Anne take the gear off the horses and say a massive thanks and goodbye to our guide and beautiful horses! For us, it’s time to hit the road to our next Northland destination: Omapere on the Hokianga Harbour!
Ferrying across the Hokianga Harbour
The drive is a classic New Zealand drive of winding roads, barely any other vehicles, and hills and hills of farmland. Things are switched around a bit when we have a huge harbour to cross though! Here, we board the vehicle ferry from Kohukohu to Rawene. We pick up some Kiwi savoury pies from the convenience store to keep us going for the remainder of the drive along the beautiful Hokianga Harbour. Across the water, we see the light-coloured rolling sand dunes. This place is another sort of Northland paradise.
Arriving in Omapere
After passing various small harbourside towns, we finally make it to Omapere where we check into our accommodation. Here, we have a relaxing night of playing card games, watching crappy TV, doing laundry and discussing what the hell we are going to do after this whole adventure is over in just a few days! Eek!
Sally-Anne shows us some of the awesome features of Ahipara and Ninety Mile Beach
Have you read yesterday’s post about riding over the sand dunes in a 4×4 buggy? How about these articles?
- Northland – Guide for Backpackers
- 11 Awesome Horse Treks in New Zealand
- 10 Reasons to Stop in Hokianga
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See you tomorrow!