Monday, November 26, 2012

West of Auckland

Nov. 26, 2012

We decided that, in our haste to head north, that there was an area to the west of Auckland we still wanted to see.  So we left Whangarei early, and headed south.  We only got turned around and lost once, when we missed a turn off the Twin Coast Discovery Highway (and which was poorly marked).

Highlights of the trip:

Gorgeous scenery to the east, a group of islands named Hens and Chicken on our map.

A large and woolly sheep standing in the middle of the road, looking like a traffic cop facing us and ready to apprehend us for some kind of violation – everything short of an Official cap and a hand held high to force us to stop.  Mr Sheep turned at the last minute and ran in the same direction as us, but in the lane for oncoming traffic!  Luckily no traffic came before he jumped the ditch and leapt off the road!

A cow traffic jam.  Yup.  The cows were moved from one paddock to another, opposite the road from each other.  So we were there as the cows crossed the road.  Which created the cow traffic jam.  (We’re seen this with dogs assisting the farmer – this team, there weren’t any cow dogs.)

We finally reached Piha in the late afternoon, and the view from the top of the hill made it all worthwhile!  The giant rock formation in the middle of the beach is known as the Lion’s Head and glows golden in the setting sun.  It’s apparently a partially eroded extinct volcano.  The sand in all directions is black – dark grey underneath, but solid black on top!  Even the sand dunes are black!!  So strange looking, we’re all so used to seeing white or beige or light gold sand.  

This is a surfer’s beach, with rip currents and strong surf and apparently frequent rescues.  Plus the water is cold (so we’re not going in beyond our toes), and we saw blue bottle jellyfish on the beach – the nasty kind with long blue tentacles that wrap around your leg and sting/burn your skin.  Yeah, I think we’re going to walk the beach and dunes and enjoy the sunshine, and stay out of the water.

But the best news – there are a few penguin colonies on this beach!!!!  YES!!!!  The New Zealand Blue Penguin lives here, and I definitely will search out a penguin or two.  Or a colony.  This is penguin who apparently doesn’t want ice, just cold water.  I’m so excited to find out that there’s a chance of seeing a penguin here!

And yes, this is a tsunami zone, with tsunami warning signs, a siren at the caravan camp where we’re parked, and tsunami evacuation routes (and safe zones) marked all over the place. 

Exciting times!

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