Our second week in New Zealand has definitely been better than the first if only because we’re settling in now and not having to do as much running around and setting stuff up. We’re staying at the Ponaamoo Bed and Breakfast : http://www.ponaamoo.co.nz for our first month here and are then planning on moving closer to Auckland city itself for a couple of months. It’s beautiful here out in the country, but I think we’re both looking forward to being closer to the city where there is more going on.
Margaret invited us to go for a walk with her to Karioitahi beach on Thursday outside the town of Waiuku. How could we refuse? We piled into her SUV and took off for a half hour ride down winding, hilly two lane country roads that made me feel a bit like I was on a roller coaster. The speed limit is 100 km an hour and people do take this quite seriously. We rode past acres of farmland; dairy, sheep, and different crops (I could swear I saw artichokes too). Our first view was pretty spectacular as we breached a hill to see the ocean straight ahead fronted by a wide, black sand beach. As we parked in the lot, Margret explained that a lot of folks also bring their horses to this beach for exercise and we did see a few doing just that while we were there. It was a cold and windy day but I wore a pair of padded pants we found at the B & B so I was pretty comfy.
We walked about 2 km up the coast while trying not to get our pants wet and exploring everything along the way. Got to see our first waterfalls
sandstone cliffs, tidal pools with anemones attached
and abandoned cars.
You see, people are allowed to drive their cars on the beaches here, however if you get stuck…. well you might not be getting your ride back depending on the tides. A bit of a shame really because you’ve got these awesome beaches and every so often you run across this swamped, rusting vehicle.
The ocean here is dangerous to swim in from what we understand and since it’s still pretty cold and plenty windy, I have no problem just walking at the edges. Besides, it looks really scummy there and at first thought it was runoff from all the storms but have since been told that the scum is actually algae that the fish just love to gobble up. This makes it easier for all the people who fish out here. We’ve seen net fishing and line fishing while being out here. Here’s an interesting aside: most of the folks fishing do it to have some fish to eat as buying fish in a grocery store is pretty damn expensive. Why? From what I understand, most meat and dairy products are priced the same whether they are for the home market or abroad. So somebody is making some serious money, but the regular person in the grocery store has to pay a higher price. Kinda ironic when you consider just how much of NZ is rural farmland or that it’s surrounded by water, you know?
The sand itself is really black with a beautiful sheen to it. That’s because it’s got a lot of iron in it and there is actually a steel mill a few miles from the beach where they process out the iron from the sand. You can see the smoke stacks with their billowing white plumes on the drive to the beach. On a sunny day, they say you wouldn’t be able to stand on the beach in bare feet for long but each time we’ve been it hasn’t been an issue.
We actually came back the next day as it turned out to be one of the beaches where the winds can be right for paragliding. We met the pilots in the parking lot about 11:30 and followed them up the beach to the launch site. Marc got his check off from the local instructor and then flew the ridge for about an hour and a half.
Unfortunately, we’ve both been out of sync with the wind since then. Either we go and the weather is not right by the time we get there, or we go just for a beach walk and there’s 5 guys flying and the glider is at home. We’ve been kind of paranoid about leaving anything in the car as car thefts are unfortunately; very common here. We are going to change rental cars again Sunday and hopefully once we get this new wreck we can strip it of all rental car identifying marks and breathe a little easier.
Other than trips to the beach, we’ve also been to Hunua Falls at the Hunua Ranges Regional Park.
Hunua is pronounced: who knew a (soft a). That was our first big waterfall and while there were some kids splashing around in the pool, that water was COLD, and those kids were crazy. We got close enough to feel the spray,
before turning towards the interior of the park for a hike (Kiwis call it a tramp) along one of their well-marked trails. It’s so quiet once away from the falls and except for the occasional bird, we were entirely alone. We took the Cossey Gorge Track only as far as the road before turning around. We did have to cross one stream, but it made for a refreshing break each time as we got to sit and take our shoes off before making our way across. Also saw a couple of Tui birds in the forest. We think there might have been a nest nearby which is why this one just hung out and let us take repeated pictures of it, trying to get a pic of its two white throat feathers. Here’s the best one:
We’re planning to do a longer hike there soon, but next time we’re thinking about making a whole day of it with a picnic lunch. Gotta work up to it a bit though, we were both a bit sore in the calves the next day. Nothing like San Diego, but still noticeable.
I’m going to leave you with some pictures taken in our backyard. All the flowers are in bloom here and everything is just gorgeous. The air smells like Queen Anne’s Lace, slightly peppery and with an occasional whiff of bubblegum when you’re close to some of the flowers. When the winds blowing the other way though, you smell a lot more of the nearby sheep. I think I like the flowers more.