Auckland to Piha

2 January and it was finally time to hit the road. Cala, Alegra and I finally feeling half way human, Siena feeling like death. The weather had been pretty dire the past few days, and remained so (welcome to New Zealand), so we donned our waterproofs, dosed Siena up to the hilt with every legal drug we could find, and set forth to Piha, a truly spectacular black sand surf beach on the West Coast, about an hour from Auckland at the end of a winding track through the tropical Waitakere ranges regional park. Note: the first of numerous animated ‘conversations’ about driving skill and how to correctly take corners on narrow NZ roads between the Spaniard and myself begin).  Agapanthus grow like weeds here – the locals all detest it, but I love them.

The view of Piha from the road above, with Lion Rock in the centre, the remnants of an ancient volcano, is a sight to behold, even in driving rain. A well known surf spot, but apparently incredibly dangerous too, with terrifying currents and wild surf. No swimming for us though- too darn cold! The next day, when a tropical storm hit, the whole place was evacuated, so in the scheme of things, we were lucky. After a short walk on the beach, during which I found out that my waterproof jacket was a load of shite, lunch was a good pizza and burger in Piha Cafe, the only nice place we could find in the whole village, which we found rather surprising: anywhere else in the world and this would have been populated by surf-type coffee shacks or cafes, but here, there’s but a camp site, some houses, and that’s it… We didn’t realise then, but this seems to be a recurrent theme in NZ – a surprising lack of great hotels, pooch b&bs, cafes or restaurants, really anywhere.  Perhaps Wellington and the bigger cities, but it is curious.  It’s much more a bring your own and sit looking at the view situation.  Maybe not a bad thing after all…

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