We took a leisurely drive after our leisurely breakfast today. It was not raining and at times gloriously sunny, and everyone we spoke to last night said these would be some of the last beautiful days before winter set in, so we went out in the sun.
Because we live close to the edge of the city we only had to travel for about 15 minutes to be in farm country (more like small-holding country). It is amazing how quickly the vista changes to rural and how quickly the suburbs melt into Arcadian idylls. The first stop (number one on the map) was Whitford, which is so close that it is classified as part of Howick for local elections, but you can see how rustic it appears.
We went a little bit further to Beachlands. People who live here can commute via ferry to Auckland, but it is a 50-minute ride. A quiet little suburb based on fishing and boating (so what’s new) – it is like Kosmos at HBP Dam – it exists just for the views and the water. In fact this whole place is reminiscent of Kosmos. One can see the city in the distance – just a blue blur with the sky tower sticking out above everything else.
Off to one side of the Beachlands peninsula is a tiny, quiet beach called Shelley Bay. We stumbled upon it quite by accident. As we parked a station-wagon pulled up with two young women and a labrador. Jules and the lab made instant friends. He had a great personality and for the next while we watched him launch himself into the waves in pursuit of a stick, then try to bury in then hurl it into the waves with a strong jerk of his neck. He was in labrador heaven and, although old, he was in very good condition because of his escapades on the beach.
We then drove for quite a while (about 35 kms) through quite mountainous terrain past Kawakawa beach (which sounds very romantic, but is in fact a cesspool). We drove past Onene Point and were about to drive another 20 kms to the next little town when we slid on to a tiny dirt road heading towards Tapapakanga Regional Park.
There are many regional parks across Auckland and NZ. Each one is a little reserve – perfectly maintained and well controlled. So just out of curiosity we went to see what this place looked like.
We were very impressed. A large farm had been donated to the state by the descendents of James Ashby who bought and developed the farm from 1899 then promptly raised 14 children there. As with most beaches in this part of the world it is a combination of flowing lawns, a small edge of smooth pebbles and rocks, a perfectly white beach, shallow, warm water with towering outcrops at either end of the beach and at least two islands off shore.
We took a very long stroll on the beach and needless to say Jules started collecting shells. Many millenia from now marine archeologists will detect a significant shift in the ecological balance in the beaches of New Zealand caused by the wholesale removal of shells from various beaches by one young woman!
There are three stands on a campsite based on a flat piece of lawn overlooking the beach. We have been collecting emergency gear (which normal people have as part of their camping gear, but we need to buy it). Jules and I need to go camping to see how the equipment works and to become more familiar with campsite cooking, living and sleeping. This might just be the perfect place to test ourselves. And as with the entire country – not a single scrap of refuse in sight. It is perfectly maintained and well respected by all visitors.
We were home and dry by 5pm having driven back through Manukau. All in all an 80km mini exploration.