(Pictured: South Piha Beach) The rest of New Zealand (now, granted, we haven’t yet visited the South Island) has been lovely, but hasn’t grabbed me like this place has. Piha is heaven. It’s nestled in the Waitakere Ranges, which is natural New Zealand rainforest and volcanic ranges. It’s the first place we’ve seen Kauri trees – and they’re all over, including a beautiful specimen in our hosts’ front yard. Of course, heaven to me isn’t complete without a perfect beach, and Piha certainly delivers. Black sand (iron) beaches and volcanic rock tidepools, and world-famous surfing breakers. Waterfalls are a short walk away. Dozens of walking tracks crisscross the countryside, through the forest, to the various peaks; there’s even a walk that you can take through the “gap” past Lion Rock, which is the only way you can see the arch (a natural rock arch through which the ocean roars) or the blowhole (an unusual rock formation that forces incoming waves up through a tiny hole at great pressure).
It sounds like it should be a tourist nightmare, right? It’s not (well, it gets busy in summer), for a few reasons. First, there is no public transportation to get here – it is impossible to get to Piha without your own vehicle or a ride. Second, there are no restaurants or shops (except one takeaway joint, a few hidden surf shops, and one very small “general” store hidden up a hill), and very few accommodation options. The council here wants the beach to stay hidden, stay natural, and has held on with an iron grip for decades. The beach is hidden, and it is natural. No one flaunts their money here – that stays in the city. Piha is only an hour drive from Auckland, but it feels worlds apart.
(Pictured: Our host house). One of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with this place may be our legendarily hospitable hosts. The house is up in the rainforest, backing up to the Regional Forest, and we are in a gorgeous spare room with a nice comfy bed. There are two friendly pups, three cats (only one of whom is a real lovey), and two horses down the road in their paddock. Last night, Denise made some salad and some nachos – they’re very laidback. Rollie represented New Zealand in the World Surf Championships in California back in the 70s, so he is apparently a bit of a surfing legend around here – he still surfs often. Very neat people! We are honored to be their first CouchSurf guests.
Looks like this will be our last real stop before finding a hotel close to the airport for Tuesday night – Denise has offered that we can stay here as long as we need. It’s fine by me – I can’t get enough of this place.