Day 18 – Feb 17 – Monday – A trip to Piha Beach
Piha Beach is on the west coast, WSW of Auckland, about an hour’s drive.
Since Piha fronts on the Tasman Sea, between New Zealand and Australia, it is quite different than the beaches on the east side. The surf is bigger, and the sand is black, volcanic sand, like some of the beaches on the big island of Hawaii. We got on-line and found a trip we could book, for today. The tour met up in Auckland, on Queen Street, in front of ACB which is the backpacker’s hotel (500 rooms on 7 floors).
About 9 o’clock a van pulled up, driven by Mike, and 10 of us piled into it and we took off. Mike informed us the ac wasnt working, but the day was mild – no problem (at least for me, I was in the front passenger seat with the window open. I quickly learned that in addition to driving tours, Mike’s primary activity was talking – solidly for the entire one hour trip. Born in New Zealand raised in Dubai and Singapore, used to work at the backpacker hotel………………
Finally we arrived at Piha after a drive through the mountains west of Auckland – the entire west coast of New Zealand is mountainous, right down to the sea, thus the east coast, more suitable to farming, conains most of the population centers. The mountains on the coast run right up to the beach, creating some striking scenery.
We descended into the little town of Piha, and Mike pointed out the three main parts of town 1) the beach, 2) the general store, and 3) the forest. He suggested we do the forest first, refresh ourselves at the store, with a pint and a pie (meat pie), and end up at the beach.
We started with what we thought would be a pleasant walk through the forest. This is the start of the forest walk.
This sign advises of the efforts of New Zealand to save the Kauri tree. The trees live up to 3,000 years, growing to immense size, but they grow very slowly and are subject to some sort of, as yet unidentified pest or disease. Because of this there are serious efforts to prevent anyone from accidently bringing any “creatures” into the country in the dirt on their shoes. At the entrance to this forest walk, we had to scrub and spray our shoes upon entering and upon leaving.
The forest walk started out gently enough,
winding along next to this beautiful little stream, but it went on and on, and began to go seriously uphill.
While there were some startling vistas as we progressed up the hill, this was turning into quite a climb. We rested at every bench and stump along the way, and finally came to this view of a spectacular waterfall.
We next encountered a steep set of stairs carved into the rock, and declining to the base of the waterfall. At the base of the stairs was a stream we had to cross on wet rocks – luckily there was a family ahead of us who helped across the rocks. This tour is definitely not for geezers!
The view from the base was amazing.
The trip back down was not quite as tough, but still involved crossing the stream again, and the same family had kindly waited for us to help us cross. Really nice of them. When we finally exited the forest, after washing our shoes, we rested for quite a while before trekking into town, cussing Mike all the way – a walk through the forest my #%!.
We walked into town, went to the store and bought lunch, which we ate on a table outside the store – very nice. In March, Piha is going to host the world surfing championships and a few of the contestants are reportedly here for some early practice, but who could tell who they were? After lunch we walked through the campground to the beach.
This is Piha Beach and Lion Rock – so named because from a certain vantage point (up the hill, no thank you) it resembles a Lion. The beach is very wide (from the road to the beach) and the sand is hot.
Sally and The Lion.
Sally ventured briefly into the Tasman Sea
Like the Ausies, the Kiwis take their life saving activities very seriously – they only allow swimming in a narrow area of the beach, that they can constantly monitor, and they have jet skis at the ready to plunge in after someone in trouble. Interestingly, they ignore the surfers, I guess figuring that if they are crazy enough to go out there, let them go.
Sometimes on our trips we see things we dont understand, and probably never will understand. For at least an hour, that we observed, this man carried this woman up and down the beach, running. Sometimes it was this piggy back carry, sometimes in his arms like a baby, sometimes over his shoulder. He had a precise distance, about 50 yards marked off and he rested for about 30 seconds between runs. Was it a bet? Was he trying to impress her? Was it some sort of strange body building exercise? Was it a lifesaving test? Your guess is as good as mine.
Time to head home – ride back to Auckland, walk down Queen Street, Ferry to Devonport, up the hill to home. A record of over 17,000 steps today. Sore tomorrow.