Muriwari Beach gannet colony
We picked up a rental car this morning and left Auckland for a two-day trip to the north part of the North Island. We wanted to see some of the countryside before meeting up with our tour group on Saturday. Part of the excitement of the drive was the requirement to drive on the left: my husband drives, I navigate and yell “Stay left” at appropriate intervals. We not only didn’t run into anything, we didn’t lose any of the original dimensions of the car (what is known among many of our friends as a Mullaney mirrorectomy).
Auckland traffic is very congested so we were happy to get on highway 16 and escape to the North and West easily.
After a few false turns we arrived at Muriwai Beach which is on the Tasman Sea facing towards Australia. This side of the North Island has black iron-rich sands, rough surf and a craggy coast line and Muriwai Beach in particular is known for having a gannet colony. (Gannets are called Takapu by the Maori and are a large gull-like bird. They’re a protected bird and, considering their fishy smell if you’re downwind of the colony, not something you’d want as a food source anyway.)
the Tasman sea at Muriwari Beach
Muriwai Beach was almost deserted except for one lone surfer, a guy on a ATV and us. We climbed around on the cliff paths for awhile and then drove on north.
Even though the speed limit was 100km/hr, the road was narrow with many tight turns and it took us much longer than expected to get to Dargaville. I’d planned on going up to Opononi and staying on a motel on the beach. It was obvious that we’d never get there before dark if we wanted to stop and see anything, so we got a motel room in Dargaville. (I have to admit that part of the reason we stayed in Dargaville was the great lunch we had there. We stuck around.)
During the afternoon we drove on to the Waipoua Forest Park which has kauri trees, a magnificent tall native tree that once covered much of the island before logging began in the 19th century. One large tree, over 2,000 years old, is called Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest). There are also alot of cabbage trees and large fern like trees in the subtropical forest. Everything is a lush green and even the air is scented with a sort of cedar-like smell. In the background is the constant sound of the cicadas.
After hiking thru the forest, we retreated to Dargaville and dinner. Later that night we could see the Southern Hemisphere night sky pretty well since Dargaville is a small town and there isn’t much light pollution. It was strange to see the Milky Way but recognize none of the other star patterns. It was beautifully clear.