So as anyone knows who has traveled with me, I have a huge love affair with my travel guides. I love to read about the places we could go and get a local perspective if possible. I’ll often ask the staff at a local dairy (convenience store) or a waitress. Young people have a new, unique and cheap perspective on the area, and older folks have “seen it all” and can tell you the highlights. Unfortunately, the middle aged folks often recommend the touristy or expensive options, so I typically avoid their advice. (Sorry to any middle-aged readers.)
My friend who had come to visit had studied in Auckland for a semester, so we tried to find some new things to do. While she had been to Piha, we also went to Karekare beach, both just west of Auckland. Beautiful beaches.
Karekare is a lot more exclusive and takes a bit of a dip or a small hike to get to. There were lifeguards if you wanted to swim, but we were all still bundled in jackets for the most part. We all took a roll down a fun looking hill and got sand everywhere. I mean everywhere. But it was definitely worth it. We wandered around and enjoyed the black sand beach. The sand sparkles, as if there were heaps of glitter mixed in, something you cannot capture in a photo. We walked and talked and caught up with our friends. Andrew and Jed started a new fad of jumping on the hills and we all tried it at some point. The sand is so fine, much finer than the sand in CA and on the east coast of the US. Karekare is such a beautiful beach, and many movie scenes were shot here, including scenes from The Piano and Xena, Warrior Princess.
Next, we drove a couple of minutes north to Piha. A much more popular west coast beach, and also known for great surf. American’s brought the longboard to New Zealand in the 1950’s and the beach has been a popular surf beach since then. There appeared to be some sort of surf competition going on and the beach was wicked crowded. We happened to park at the south end of the beach right near the Tasman Lookout Track. Kathy and Jed were still recovering from a long flight and agreed to the short hike in what I must assume was a cloudy sense of judgement, so we climbed a bunch of (a lot, quite a few) stairs to a path that led up to hill where we had a great view of “The Gap”, where the Tasman sea forces it’s way through a narrow gap in the rocks at an isolated beach. The path wasn’t challenging, but long pants should be recommended since there is ample growth along the trails and many of them were spiky plants.
After a quick lunch of meat pies at Piha cafe (not bad) we hit the road and went to Port Waikato. I really want to see the sunset, and if you recall, Andrew and I already tried over a month ago to see the sunset there, but it was cloudy then. On this day it was clear, just a few scattered clouds so we drove on to Port Waikato, detoured briefly past Weathertop to show our friends and snap a couple of better pictures and went to sunset beach. Of course, by this time, it was starting to get a bit cloudy. We frolicked. Jumped in the sand. Wrote in the sand. Found the biggest engagement ring in the sand (j/k) and avoided the neon blue Portuguese Man of War’s scattered along the beach, and the fish heads.
Nearing dinner, we grabbed some fish and chips from the local cafe (and only cafe) on the beach and some local L & P soda which smells like Pine-sol (seriously) but tastes pretty darn good.
Finally, as 8:30 and sunset neared, the cloud cover was blanketing the sky. Occasionally we saw a few rays from the sun, but several minutes past the start of the sunset, we called it in and headed back to Auckland.
Next time we will see that sunset! We will try again!