Monday, December 10, 2012

Up the Tasman Coast

Dec. 10, 2012

We had a leisurely morning in Kawhia, which is an interesting little town.  In Maori history, the Tainui waka, the ancestral canoe, made its final landing in Kawhia.  There’s a whole long story about that, but essentially the waka was tied to a specific tree, and eventually buried on a hill, with sacred stones marking the burial place.  So Kawhia hosts a huge Maori festival each year, when ten thousand or more people come for feasting, dancing, catching up with family and friends, all that.  (Our Lonely Planet book says there are only 670 permanent residents in this town – I can’t even imagine having 10K extra people show up!)

Kawhia sits right next to the harbour, but it’s a short drive to the ocean beach – another black sand beach, this one with huge black and white sand dunes.  Keep in mind that black sand absorbs and holds more heat than white sand.  We tried climbing the dunes barefoot but quickly realized that this was not going to work – so sandals on, we headed back up.  This was one of the tallest dunes we’ve encountered – really huge – and the black and white grains of sand are mixed with flecks of mica, so the beach shimmers and glitters in the sunlight.  Nice sized waves rolling in and breaking into white foam, the sea a gorgeous turquoise, hills and mountains on both sides in the distance – it really was a beautiful spot.  And, as if that weren’t enough, this is another hot water beach – so we arrived at low tide and found a few hot water spots, enough to dig in and get our feet into some toasty hot water.  There were two young women who dug quite a pool for themselves, and were enjoying the relaxing hot water bubbling in.

And there was a random Maori gate or entrance standing in front of someone’s property – nice carvings, no idea what or why.

Then we headed inland, on state highways, and made our way to Raglan – another beach town on another harbor, with the ocean off somewhere in the distance, a short drive away.  Raglan is a bigger town, and has become better known since the surfing movie “Endless Summer” – not that it’s a huge town, but it definitely is bigger than Kawhia.

Our holiday park is out on a flat peninsula (or maybe an island) just outside the town itself, but there’s a lovely pedestrian bridge connecting the park to town.  We had a walk around to see what’s going on, but Raglan is still in pre-tourist-season mode, and was closing down by 6 PM.  We’ll see what’s going on tomorrow, as we wind down our caravan part of the trip.

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