september 25, 2000
the most recent dispatch from the field... (more)
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sept 21, 2000
UNITEC farewell... (more)
sept 20, 2000
Critters at the Auckland Zoo... (more)
sept 18, 2000
Visit to Auckland University of Technology... (more)
sept 17, 2000
Orewa and northland beaches (more)
sept 15, 2000
On stage at UNITEC.. (more)
sept 11, 2000
Rangitoto excursion... (more)
sept 10, 2000
Waitakere Range and Tiritiri Matangi.. (more)
Getting out of Auckland was very easy. I called a central dispatch number for a taxi, and they knew from where I dialed that I was at UNITEC so I just had to provide a campus location for a pick. James the driver, from Fiji, was promptly there at noon and drove me downtown to the bus terminal, located around the corner of the Sky Tower.
The InterCity bus was pretty full with travellers and a fair amount of kids on school break. Auckland is a sprawling suburb in a Phoenix way, except it is much more green, and is surrounded by lots of water. Ok, it is vastly different, but like Phoenix is spread wide and leaving town involved driving through a lot of housing and shop areas and finally out to the rolling green countryside. Here are many farms, cattle, sheep, and more of the same. The land is anything but flat with many pointed and rounded undulating landforms, again, all covered in grass and trees. The higher distant ridges look covered with forests.
today's photos - all photos o o o o
o o Kuaotunu Beaches
There was a stop in a small town called "Thames", perhaps the size of a small Payson, Arizona which is probably the biggest town around. Maybe it is even a city. Here was my transfer to a smaller bus tat rumbled up a twisty road across some mountains perhaps the height of the McDowell Mountains north of Phoenix, yet more rounded and densely forested. The road twisted and dropped back to the east coast through a few very small villages, mostly homes, guest houses, and usually one small market store. I saw no big chains or fast food emporiums, a refreshing taste of small town community.
At 5:00 I was dropped the bus at the lovely sea side town of Whitianga (invariably pronounced by locals as "Wi-ti-an-gah" or "Fi-ti-an-gah"). I was met by Allyn (she pronounces it like my name) and David, friends of a friend in Oregon (thanks Tim for the introduction!). Allyn spent some time in the states and is a big baseball fan. She was gleeful that night when we checked the online baseball standings to find out the San Francisco Giants had beaten our Arizona Diamondbacks to win the National League West pennant. The hat was not happy.
I thought they lived in Whitianga but we drove right out of town! Over another hill/mountain and to actually a smaller community of Kuaotunu (cannot even call it a town) and up a gnarly steep driveway to their delightful house on a hill overlooking the bay below.
Dave is an architect and this is definitely an architect's home, with lots of unique touches. We talked a while on the patio gazing at a marvelous sunset. Then they made a dinner of some scrumptious local fish, home made bread, and salad. We ate in front of the fireplace watching the Olympics.
Saturday morning was bright and clear, and the beach below called for a walk. It takes about 4 minutes to walk down and have your toes in white sand. The beach at Kuaotunu stretches west in a gentle arc toward some rocky outcrops in the ocean where birds nest.
The back of the beach rises in a low dune, but unlike sand dunes of your imagination, many of them here are covered with growth and quite often a colorful array of bright flowers. They might not be native there but they are still quite pretty.
The sand ends at a rocky headland that prevents me from walking along the water, so the road provides the way over to the next beach. From the top of this bluff is a wonderful view east to Black Jack Hill and the sandy heaven in between.
The road here is not paved, yet is still State Highway 25, the main route to Coromandel Town on the other side of the peninsula. I saw no traffic as I walked through the dense bush on either side of the road.
The next beach east is Rings Beach, an almost straight line of white sand. I saw very few people on these beaches, and my hosts here describe some days of looking down at the beaches, seeing 3 people there, and saying to each other, "Let's wait until it is less crowded." The day is bright and sunny and I have the beach to myself!
The far end of the beach provides a nice lunch spot. Like almost every beach here, you find a small stream or creek winding out of the hills behind and running gently into the ocean .Behind the sand is a quiet and luxurious estuary, a unique place where fresh water mingles with seawater.
From here it is another climb up the road over a bluff to another string of white sand beach, Matarangi Beach. This one is a bit longer and sports rows of beach house along the beach front, some monstrous mansions and some humble shacks. Most seem to be for seasonal use as the streets are somewhat quiet and deserted.
This is my turn around point for what turns out to be a 5 hours walk, and I get to see it all anew, with different lighting, in reverse. Returning to "town" it seems appropriate to stop at the Kuaotunu Store and get a scoop, well two scoops, of the delicious "Tip Top" ice cream. The ice cream here in New Zealand is extraordinary and makes our stuff taste like plastic.
The next day, Sunday, was also looking to be a sunny beach day. We got up early to catch the low tide at Matapaua Beach, a very small and quiet bay on the end of the peninsula here. I was told that Zane Gray, the American author of western novels, spent some months or longer living here and writing, and the rocky point off the shore is called "Zane Gray Rock"... it seems a long way from the cowboy west!
But we were here to dig for tuatua, a clam-like shellfish that is just a few inches below the sand in the shallow surf. To find them you just wiggle down with your toes and then scoop them up. David and Allyn describe the ones we find as plentiful but smaller than typical. During the summer where there are more tourists here, they get picked pretty clean. There are perhaps 15 or so vacation homes here and I find out that about half were designed by David.
The next stop is at Otama beach, one of the prettiest ones I have seen here. The sand is brilliant white and the water a deep azure blue.
The backs of the beach are lined with large and languishly growing Pohutukawa trees. The roots start atop the dunes and seem to tumble down to the beach, making the trees appear as if they are growing downward and sideways. There are places where you can walk in tunnels beneath the root system.
This is another place where an estuary winds a lovely path down to the ocean, emerging from behind a set of high dunes that are protected as a nature reserve.
While I am busy repeating "Wow" and snapping photos of the beach, trees, and water, David has wandered over to the rocky points and gathered some fresh New Zealand mussels which make for a great afternoon snack.
Today, Monday, has turned out quite cloudy, somber, and grey. The beach is still pretty, although I prefer the bright sun!
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