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Waipoua Kauri Forest Raglan

12th December 2011

Relaxing By the Surfers' Beaches, Dodging the Rain

Pahi Surfers
    The heavens had wept buckets over Piha through the night; they had cleaned the car anyway. I went for my morning shower, and walked back to my wagon receiving a second shower in the process.
    Since the day was decidedly grim, I decided to make it one of my R&R days. One of my preoccupations on a trek like this is using my time efficiently. Soon I was engaged in eating breakfast, updating my blog, emailing my kids and doing my laundry, all at the same time. Who says men can't multitask?
    Once up-to-date, I scanned the valley that rises up from Pahi into the ranges. The cloud base was very low, so there was no point in venturing up there to do some hiking. Down here at sea level, a light drizzle was falling. I can live with that, so off I went walking north along the black sands. There was a little more surf today, and the strong breeze from the east was whipping up the sand and whisking spin drift into the sea. Quite a few surfers were out, some I recognised from the campsite communal kitchen.
    I made my way along the long shoreline. It was not as easy going as I thought it might be, the sand was soft and my feet sank five to eight centimetres each time they hit the ground. I had to keep my head turned too in order to keep my eyes from being sand-blasted by the spindrift. But hey, I was in no particular hurry. At the far end my progress was blocked by a headland jutting out into the sea. There I sat for a while watching the waves pounding the rocks, sending cascades of water skywards. Apparently the seaward side of the headland is home to a colony of penguins. They would be too far around the headland for me to catch sight of them, besides at this time of day they would all be out at sea feeding.
    Looking south along the full length of the beach towards Lion Rock and Camel, I was presented with a misty and moody scene, quite magical in its own way. Surfers in the distance bobbed about on the waves like corks. I savoured the moment, my mind flicking back to similar windswept scenes on the east coast back in England.
Moody, Windswept Pahi Beach Lurking in the Mist
Recognise the Lion?
    When I had taken my fill of this ethereal setting, I sauntered back towards the village, and called in at the one and only shop to buy some milk. The folk who ran the shop were so laid back they were almost horizontal. I bought a coffee and sat on the shop's veranda, engaged in making my notes and watching the swirling mists sweeping down from the ranges.
    An aging hippy was cutting the grass on a bank just in front of the shop with a strimmer. I was transfixed by his tongue as he went along, it was continuously darting in and out like a snake's tongue. Perhaps he was using it to sense the quality of the grass he was cropping. His legs were bare from his trainers up, and from the knees down they were dyed green with the juices from the freshly mown grass. As he slithered past parked cars, they too acquired a green tide mark from his strimmer. Then came the rains, and the green legged hippy hopped off like a lanky frog.
    An elderly lady and her Dutch cousin took a pew next to me. She had just returned from a tour around Britain. She had really toured, getting as far north as the Isle of Skye. Now she had returned to her home land for summer. She laughed at that point. They moved on, to be replaced by a Welsh chap who was over here for six weeks vacation. He was now heading down to Otago on the south island to visit his daughter. "Perhaps we'll meet up down there," he said. As he left he cheered me up by informing me that the current forecast was for the present weather to remain like this for a couple of days or so. Great!
    A steady stream of customers visited the shop, which served as the focal point for the local community of hippies, artists and surfers. I bit the bullet and sprinted for the cover of my car, where I took refuge for a while until the rains abated. I was itching to get out and stretch my legs, so I headed to the next point of civilisation down the coast, Karekare.
    The iwi of this region is Te Kawerau a Maki, a branch of the Toi-Kai-rakau, whose arrival in Aotearoa is fixed at around 1150. The iwi lived here peacefully until 1820, when enemy iwi gathered with muskets and besieged the pa above the beach, destroying it completely. There were few survivors, but those who did manage to escape were given sanctuary by neighbours on the Manukau Harbour. The massacre ended Maori settlement in the area and Karekare was regarded by the iwi thereafter as a place of sadness.
    The Shaw brothers were the first settlers to arrive in the 1850s, and set about farming the valley. By the end of the century, tramways had been built around the region to help loggers shift the huge quantities of kauri being felled.
    Today, there was very little here apart from a few dwellings perched high up amongst the trees. The beach was a wide vast expanse of black sand, it took me a while just to traverse it to reach the sea. Menacing black basalt cliffs loomed overhead, as if trapping solitary figures on the landscape between the devil and the deep blue sea. This too was a very popular surfing beach, but there were none when I got there. Perhaps the wind whistling down a valley onto the sea was too strong for them. The crashing waves were quite spectacular.
    I returned to base to cook some food, and met the trio who were in the kitchen the previous night, and I had also recognised out surfing. I got chatting with them: two sisters from Bremen and a boyfriend from Hamburg. Once I spoke to them in German, the conversation started flowing, even more so when I told them I worked in Hamburg in my teens. They had spent nine months in Australia, and almost a year in New Zealand, purely surfing. They were due to return on the 22nd, but before then they were hoping for better surfing conditions in a couple of days. I hope it does turn good for them.
    A chap wandered into the kitchen to boil a kettle. Once boiled, he filled his hot water bottle and left. Up until this point, the concept of hot water bottles and campsites had never entered my mind. That was enough shocks for the day; I turned in hoping to make an early start in the morning.

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Waipoua Kauri Forest Raglan

Uploaded from Piha campsite, Waitakere Ranges on 12th December at 21:15

Last updated 12.12.2011