Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Lion Rock


The tide coming in

Leaving Pihu on a better day

A crowded beach at Te Henge

A 'New Zealand Dotterel'

Te Henge

Muriwai Beach

The gannet nesting stack

A viewing platform above the gannets nests

Sylvia’s Comments

Friday morning dawned and as the weather forecast had predicted it was another nice morning. We drove around to the beach area to have a walk, and a closer look at the Lion Rock. This huge rock sits just off the coast and you can climb it up to the lookout point. The tide was on the way in and the only way we would be able to climb it would be to take off our shoes and socks, roll up our trousers and paddle across. I would have been game but Jeff did not want to take his socks off. Must not moan at him too much as at least he has given up wearing a collar and tie since he retired. It is a lovely beach and at the end of the summer a horse race is held on it as well as the usual surfing competitions. We then drove the van around to the other side of the bay to have a look at the Lion Rock from a different perspective. Whilst walking along the beach we met a gentleman who had lived here for over 13 years, he told us that one of the best views of the coast line and the surf crashing up around the small islands was up a path to a look out. When we walked around to the track the ranger was in the process of repairing parts of it and it would not be open until next week.

So now we need to make the 10 mile journey back to the scenic drive to continue our on. Near by to Piha is the even more remote Karekare Beach, used in the film ‘The Piano’, but the road down to it was a closed due to a land slip, so another view we will just have to miss. Our next stop was at Te Henga (Bethells Beach). This is another raw black-sanded beach with surf and windswept dunes. We walked along the beach meeting lots of dog owners walking their pets. One lady came past with an old dog, when I commented about it she said it was not her dog but a local one who walks on the beach every day. He probably looks down his nose at those dogs that require an owner to take them out. After a very invigorating walk along this beach we returned to our van just in time before the rain started.

After lunch we then drove across country to rejoin the scenic drive and onto SH 16 before turning down to Muriwi Beach, which is home to the Takapu Refuge an Australian gannet colony in the Muriwai Regional Park. The colony was once confined to the nearby rock stacks but it has overflowed to the shore cliffs. Parking the van we followed the walking track to the two viewing platforms. Unfortunately for us the gannets are not here yet as they do not arrive until August. We did get a very close look at the nesting area directly under the viewing platform to make us think what a wonderful sight it must be when the birds are in residence. Not to mention the noise and smell that goes with these birds. The gannet chicks are just like NZ young people in that when they leave the nest they fly off on their ‘OE’ (overseas experience) to Australia, on their own and remain there until about the age of 4 or 5, when they return to the place they were hatched. Then they will never leave NZ again. How do these birds know where to fly to, as no adults go with them? Perhaps some of us parents could learn from the gannet parents, their teenagers go off for an extended trip and it costs them nothing, whilst our human teenagers when they go off seem to cost money.

We were now beginning to think about a stop for tonight, consulting our map book we saw we were close to another campsite with hot springs attached to them. So that is our destination, Parakai. We got onto our site and down came the rain, so we had tea and then later in the evening we walked across to the hot springs, dodging some very large puddles, and had a soak in one of the private pools to enable us to have a good night sleep.

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