Bug Bites and Bare Feet – Piha, New Zealand

For as long as I can remember scrolling through Tumblr in my teenage years I have wanted to come to New Zealand. It was my 2nd dish of social media, once I stopped using the ever so nostalgic Myspace, and the constant feed of photos was exactly what I wanted. I loved photography and I loved nature so scrolling through an endless feed of this was the perfect visual delight. I remember somewhat recently going through my “likes” on tumblr and seeing photos I liked nearly 10 years ago of locations I had actually been to years later. It was a moment of, “okay phew, I have accomplished something!”. Most of these photos seeming something of a dream or a photoshopped postcard. I have seen photos, videos, read blogs, articles and zoomed in on maps of New Zealand for years, but I think somewhere in my mind I convinced myself it was a place (like many others) other people can and will see, but not me. I am not lucky enough. But luck sure did not take me here.

Heartbreak, stress, getting my purse (with wallet/credit cards, iPhone, passport) stolen, more stress, spraining my ankle and dishing out hundreds in lack of travel insurance, even more stress, food poisoning, horrible restaurant jobs where the “in charge” treated you like foreign idiotic trash, finding a place to live, a job, opening a bank account, all of these things more times than anyone would want in one year, and also way more stress.

In honor of being in New Zealand for exactly 21 days and this being my “Twenty-first” blog post, I feel compelled to let the endless inspiration of New Zealand take over and have decided to retire my beloved F.R.I.E.N.D.S inspired titles, “it’s time the velvet ropes came down.” – Monica Geller. 

Since arriving to Auckland, this is the start of my adventure:

Let’s begin at Piha Beach. The drive from the city is about 50 minutes to the black shimmering sand beaches. And trust me, you will not be bored on that mini road-trip. You leave dense civilization real quick and enter some dense nature. Driving along Piha Road through the Waitekere Ranges we could not help reminisce about Indonesia. Now now, I understand Indonesia and New Zealand are completely different, but similar enough to give me those butterflies of a foreign oasis. We drove through twisty-windy roads through what could only be best described as some sort of jungle. Through the small openings of the trees we would see lush hills, mountains, and valleys. I was refreshed with an endless array of different plant life that only a botanist could do justice bringing to life (in possibly more ways than with just words). We climbed Lion Rock, which is apparently an Auckland landmark being a volcanic plug, with our muddied and black sanded bare feet. It is a short but steep climb, and offered beautiful views of North and South Piha Beach.

The black sand glittered in the sunlight and I could not help but dig my pale feet right in and watch the silky sand wash away into the cold Tasman Sea. The sand dried on our feet and hands giving them an extra dirty appeal.

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Less than a mile (1km) off the coast hides a waterfall named KiteKite falls. The walk to the falls is fairly short yet full in beauty. If anyone knows Sara this will not come as a Disney surprise, however to be fair it was a valid statement, she stated the environment felt nothing short of a Jungle Book vibe. The water streaming alone the side of the trail, with mosquitos by our side, and the crystal clear water glowing beneath the suns rays.  There were all kinds of trees laying upon each other and cascading perfecting overtop to create the most natural umbrella there was.

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Living in the Pacific Northwest for nearly two years before I began traveling abroad I was fortunate enough to lay my eyes upon and photograph, swim and jump in, walk behind and through a number of waterfalls. Tall, short, wide, narrow, powerful and powerless. Kitekite, in my opinion, was spectacular in the form of natural beauty but I think my previous experience with waterfalls is a difficult one to top. The gorgeous pool that surrounded the base of the waterfall was easily accessible, beautifully blue, and will be in your thoughts on the sweaty more strenuous hike up to the top of the waterfall. Since we had removed our shoes at the approach of the waterfall in order to cross the water, we decided who needs shoes to hike a mountain anyway. We hiked barefoot the whole way up regretting that decision on our later hike down as our feet were then raw.

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At the top there was a smaller swimming pool that flowed down into a smaller one which flowed down into a long, and probably painful, drop if you happened to lose balance. The jump into the pool at the top was not high, but extremely cold. We have a video of ourselves jumping in and if you did not have background of the scenario, we realized after analyzing the video you may watch it and think, “why are these girls so proud of jumping a couple feet into a puddle?”. We think maybe it was one of those situations where you had to be there. We were literally at the top of a waterfall with a view into the mountains that started at the blunt end of a pool of water and rocks. It looked as though you could swim yourself right off the ledge, although my number one thought after jumping into the ice cold water was not to keep swimming around and possibly fall off the cliff, but to get out as soon as possible before Sara and I turned into Jack and Rose. We climbed back down the mountain, our feet and bodies sore, hopped in the car, ate our super warm, super fancy road-food PB&J’s.

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We then did the Mercer Bay Loop walk but quickly realized into our familiar climb back to the car park that we had actually missed the loop. During that walk down we were too distracted by our surroundings to realize what a steep downward walk it was, until we had to walk up it. The trail seemed very unkept as plants (some actually very sharp) and tall grass billowed into the path and left us no choice but to parade on through and deal with the scratches and bug-bites later. Similar to being in Australia, I am forever blown away at how blue the water is and how overwhelmingly enormous and vast the horizon is. Every hue of blue on the spectrum yet it is such a simple view in ways; minimal colors of the full rainbow, water and sky meeting forming a simple “straight line”. It is much less dense and textural than that of a walk through the woods but the mysterious cover of the book of the ocean is perhaps its attraction. Hidden beneath is no walk in the woods either, yet a swim into the magic of the, mostly, unknown.

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love-laura

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