Black Beaches

I got a recommendation from some friends I met of a nice place to stay called Whatipu. The campsite is run by a nice Kiwi and his German wife, and is situated a couple minutes walk from a spectacular black beach.

We were the only ones on the beach.

The day I was there, I ran into my friend Pedro, whom I had met at the hostel in Auckland.

There were some caves located near the campground as well, bit hose were no nearly as impressive.

There also is a trail that leads you to the top of one of the hills, offering a spectacular view of the beach and surrounding features. The walk takes about forty minutes and is a relaxing walk.

The next day, I explored on of the more famous beaches in the area, Piha beach.

I found a cool little outline of what looks like a country.

The view was less impressive, and there were more people out Nevertheless, it is still a nice beach.

If you are planning a trip to this part of New Zealand in a campervan, I would recommend Whatipu over Piha.

I was planning to go to Coromandel next, but as it is labor day weekend and it will be packed, the plan is to head to The Bay of Plenty and look for some work for the next three or four weeks.

The Curious Case of the Overturned Tree

Standing in the depths of the forest that blocked out the little light the waning moon provided, I saw a red light slowly bobbing in my direction.

I had been there for twenty minutes already, hoping to see the glowworms at the overturned tree, as a Swedish person recommended in the visitor’s log.

So far, no glowworms had appeared. As such, I spent my time pacing back and forth, bending and twisting every which direction, hoping to see some tiny speck of blue light. Was I even at the right tree?

The red light approached closer. I called out, but received no response. The forest was especially quiet at night. The only sounds were the occasionally rustling of some creature in the bushes, or a distant bird calling out.

I was shivering, not bringing enough clothes for the night and thinking fondly of just a few hours before, where I was soaking in hot springs chatting to some Maori women about tourism and the effects of tourism on a local community.

The light finally approached. A couple from Montana was the source, on a Kiwi-spotting adventure (the animal, not the people). So far they had been unsuccessful, perhaps in part because of my squawking. I apologized as they passed by and resumed my own hunt.

Two or three glowworms finally appeared. More followed suit, and soon the overturned trunk’s curves were outlined by luminescent blue spots.

After a few minutes of observation, my instincts for self-preservation outweighed my curiousity. I fumbled back in the dark, barely able to see the path before me.

Hot Spring Cold Spring

The local Kaikohe library led me to some fantastic hot springs.

I had gone there originally to charge my phone, as well as catch up with some people back home. Many of the people I ended up catching up with, however, were the locals.

Libraries around the world are always a sure place to find a collection of interesting people, and Kaikohe was no exception. There was the 22 year old Maori guy with his hand bandaged up from a fight, intent on bringing up topics just on the edge of propriety. There was the 70 year old woman who avoided technology and lived a simple life out in the countryside. The older Maori guy who traveled the world in his younger days, intent on discussing politics. The middle-aged business woman, keen on doing her financials but constantly distracted by the rest of us.

The older gentleman asked if I knew much about the history of New Zealand, and I admitted my ignorance. I asked if he would give me an overview, and his only response was, “Do you have three days?”

The group worked well together, listing off names of places I should visit as though they were stock brokers two minutes before the markets close.

The one I did remember was a place just a few kilometers east of Kaikohe called Ngawha Springs.

The springs were a bargain at $4NZ for a day pass. There were about eighteen different pools, with tempertures ranging from 20 degrees Celsius up to 45 degrees.

The color of the pools were a monochromatic scale.

The woman working at the springs and I got to talking about tourism. She said when she was young, the patrons were 100% local, and now the split with tourists is 50/50. She said originally she disliked the tourists, but has changed her mind after many pleasant conversations.

The ethics of tourism are difficult. At what point do tourists become a burden on the local population rather than a curiousity? What will happen to these local communities as more tourists begin to go there? How many is too many? I felt a bit guilty. She asked my thoughts on the matter. I said, “I guess it depends on the tourists,” unable to come up with a concrete answer.

I alternated pools, unable to get the thought out of my mind.

Also, I smell like eggs.

Sandboarding Shmamboarding

As I was making my way down the final hill faster than a human being should move, I realized that on the back feet-first is the worst way to go.

The sand rifled into my pants (among other places) as though I were a plastic bag catching wind outside a racecar.

I should have known, as hiking up the hill had worn me out from its steepness.

I had been practicing on the main hill for about an hour, getting to the point where I could reliably stand up on the board (only backflipping off once!). I got tips from some German youths I met two days prior. I felt prepared. The big hill, however, was a double black diamond compared to the bunny hill before it.

Before going down, I told myself don’t think just do it. And I did.

On the way down, I remember thinking, “Man, this is going to hurt when I fall.” Not if I fall, but when.

Lisa trailed behind with no board to aid her down. She went down slowly and cautiously, holding her stuff as well as mine.

She did not look amused.

The $15 NZ to rent a board, however, was money well spent.

The pictures can’t capture how huge the dunes were. I guess that’s why they’re called the “Giant Dunes.”

The dunes appear out of nowhere in the countryside. You expect there to be fewer trees, and the landscape easing itself into the dunes near Te Paki. That is not the case. There is just a line that separates dense forest from sprawling sand dunes.

Quite the experience.

Cape Reigna and Overestimation

I realized I had overestimated my hiking prowess on the way back up to the lighthouse.

Turns out every step you take downhill in one direction, you have to take uphill on the way back.

The trail was one of many hikes near Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the North Island of New Zealand.

All of the side trails were too long to do in a day (apart from a quick thirty minute one), so I decided I’d go down one until I started to get a little tired, then turn back. After about an hour, I turned back. Ten minutes later, I realized my mistake.

I made it back to the lighthouse and climbed down in front of the lighthouse, where a nice perch exists for the sure-footed.

The lighthouse is nestled high above sharp cliffs with dreamlike beaches down below. The sapphire water spread for miles.

The lighthouse (and northern tip) are sacred places for the Maori, and you can feel the magic looking out into the ocean.

I escaped right as a few tour buses showed up hauling dozens and dozens of (other) tourists to see the lighthouse.

I made it back to the campsite and crashed hard.

P.S. Linglong tires or bust.