This place is in my head, and I am resolved to return to New Zealand someday. We leave for Indonesia in about 36 hours, which I am very excited about, but five weeks in NZ (and four days in Piha) isn’t nearly enough. These have been a few beautiful days, though, perfect notes to end this leg of our trip.
Yesterday, I dragged Rhys out for another walk (he was wary that I wanted to go back to the beach, at which I can sit for hours, much to his dismay. I tell him he needs to learn to appreciate beauty better. He doesn’t idle well). We went down the road the opposite direction, into the rainforest. Yep, NZ has a rainforest. Piha is situated just past the Waitakere Ranges, which is the greenest, wettest place I have ever beheld. (Is that a word? It should be if it isn’t.) I wanted to do the Kitekite Falls walk, which is an “easy” walk (Kiwis have an odd sense of difficulty, but their “easy” makes me gag at what their “extremely challenging” would be – a track of hot coals while being chased by wolves spitting scorpions at you? I don’t want to know). It was easier than Huka Falls, for certain, with only a fifteen minute steep incline or so. The end result was more than worth it:
Absolutely breathtaking. Where Huka Falls excelled in water volume, Kitekite makes up for it in complexity; there are falls within falls, areas where the top rock juts out farther than the next few levels, so you get waterfalls behind the front cascading water, and thousands of patterns of water on rock. I love waterfalls, and this may be the most impressive one I’ve seen yet, in person. They all have their beauty, their own personality.
While the falls are at the very end of the Kitekite trail (one of a whole spiderweb of trails in the range), I don’t want to sell the walk itself short. The forest is thick and lush (I’ll say it again – LUSH). Giant kauri trees, tall elegant ferns and palms, and sturdy tea trees create an interwoven canopy above your head that is thick enough in most places to keep the all-too-common rain or mist off of you. There is an old kauri stump at the trailhead large enough to walk into (that’s me crouching in it to the left). Some areas of the walk are muddy and wet, with the plants encroaching on you, while other areas (especially toward the top) feature a trail that’s barely wide enough for one foot next to cliffs going up and going down.
The sound of the stream and mini-falls serenade you while you walk. The walk itself is inspiring, but the falls at the end of it would make even a boring trek worthwhile.
This morning we dragged ourselves out of bed early (!!) in order to catch low tide at South Piha, so we could walk “the Gap.” It’s not an easy stroll, although we had heard it described that, and involved a considerable amount of rock-hopping to get past Camel Rock. Still, it was fun – I haven’t been rock-hopping since Shikoku. After getting on the beach (there is a whole other section of beach only accessible by scrambling over the fallen, clam-and-barnacle-covered boulders. Here you can see the Keyhole (pictured), the Gap (an area where the waves crash through HUGE rocks and create a little, fairly-serene swimming hole called the “Ochre Pool”), and if you disregard the “No Trespassing” sign to go a little further, you’ll find the Blowhole (an impressive cave-y keyhole structure that, at very high tides, blows water through a tiny hole in the very top). Awesome, adventurous walk.
Tomorrow is our last full day in this gorgeous, underrated country – this time around. I will be back to revisit my favorite places and check out the South Island – who wants to go with me? 🙂