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Published: January 29th 2008
Arataki Visitor Centre
The nicely presented Arataki Visitor Centre complete with phallus bedeckt totem pole!
It wouldn't be a normal weekend for us here in Auckland if we weren't treated to a day out with our surrogate mum, Liz, and her hubby Allard. Today we took off to the Waitakere Ranges, one of Auckland's Regional Parks located in the mountains on the rugged west coast. Just a hour's drive out of the city, it is an area of lush tropical rainforest with some the greenest, most picturesque scenery we've seen since we arrived.
Expertly following his nose rather than the map, Allard wound us around hairpin bends and through pretty little townships with houses hidden away at the top of driveways so steep, even 4x4 drivers were looking intimidated. Our first stop was at the Arataki Visitor Centre which may not sound very excitng but it actually has extravaganza of information on all aspects of life and widlife in the region and some seriously cool displays. In the entranceway was a huge totem pole carved with Maori figures displaying the most generous male attire I think I've ever seen! Inside we found more Maori carvings, insect and reptile enclosures including some gorgeous green geckos and loads of interactive exhibits to play with. Outside, there were
No need for a caption here - just check out the writing at the bottom of the picture frame!
viewing platforms with vistas across the forest canopy and out to the coast. It was fab.
Next, we drove down to the sea to a beach renowned as a surfer's paradise. Piha Beach was very different from the coastline we've seen elsewhere. Here the soft sand was a dull grey colour and the water was way too choppy for us to consider swimming. There were surfers bobbing about on the waves, many of them away from the designated safe swimming areas where the masses had piled in to splash about in the cool sea. The west coast of New Zealand is notorious for its dangerous undercurrents and strong riptides but I guess that's the risk you take if you want to catch those big surfing waves.
We opted for a long stroll across the wide beach, all the time marvelling at the blatant disregard for the safety warnings. Surrounding the beach were crumbling cliff faces which seemed to invite rather than deter several Kiwi lads to climb around. The fallen rocks were strewn about the beach and on closer inspection, we discovered clusters of starfish clinging on tightly while they waited for the tide to return. Green lipped
World's Best Surrogate Mum
Liz checks out the view from the Arataki Visitor Centre.
mussels also abounded and I couldn't help but wonder what other interesting creatures must inhabit these west coast waters.
There were several small lagoons dotted about the beach providing a safe, calm spot for a dip. Glynn tested the water and in a bid to check how deep one lagoon was, ended up submerged right up to his waist. Luckily the warm breeze soon dried his trousers out! Further along the beach, we discovered blowholes where the sea rushes in and forces huge sprays of water through the rocks. Piha Beach is a cool place indeed and of course all the tanned, 6-packed beautiful surfer people were testament to that too.
With a swim out of the equation, Allard suggested a visit to a nearby waterfall that he remembered going to as a teenager. We found the start of the trail which promised the waterfall was just 30 minutes' walk away and didn't sound too daunting a prospect. The sign failed to mention anything about the somewhat uneven terrain and steep inclines we would encounter along the way and it felt more like 45 minutes before we got there. It was well worth the effort. The waterfall featured
Jude doesn't quite know where to look....or does she?
a gently cascading river tumbling well from over 100 metres high into an inviting looking natural pool at the bottom.
Continuing along the trail to the base of the falls, we found a group of energetic teeneagers enjoying a splash in the very cold waters. When Allard suggested we walk back on the other side of the valley, Liz was a bit uncertain about the terrain as it had been a long time since Allard had walked the route and he wasn't sure how rough it would be. We had a bit of a clambour over some tricky rocks and got to play stepping stones across a river at one point but it was otherwise not too difficult. The trails are generally very well mantained in New Zealand making nature and the great outdoors really accesible. I love it!
So, here's to another great day out with Liz and Allard and another fab set of photos for you to enjoy :-)
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