Karl, Skylon and I tooled into Muriwai Beach, famous for its surfing and gannet colony. The only surfers I saw were the dudely dudes in hoodies and flipflops at the campground, looking a little rough, but I did get to see dozens of gannets courting (shaking their heads and then doing a little dance that reminded me of the air kiss-kiss you see in the fashion world).
The birds will start mating the end of this month… the chicks take off in summer at the age of 15 weeks and head for Australia before returning to New Zealand to spend their days air kiss-kissing their mates and dive-bombing for fish.
I stopped at another honey educational/retail outlet but it wasn’t nearly as well-done or interesting as the Honey Centre a few days ago. On my list also: the Dally Valley, home to New Zealand’s oldest wineries and named for the Croatian immigrants, mostly from Dalmatia, who first planted vineyards on the islands.
At my first stop, I liked the Sauvignon Blanc and they did an amazing late harvest, Eiswein-style Riesling (on sale! half price! Is it so wrong that I bought a bottle?) but halfway through the tasting I started getting my wine illness, when even the thought of another sip makes my stomach spasm. I skipped the other wineries, more interested in heading to the Waitakere Ranges.
Located right outside Auckland’s western suburbs, the Waitakere Ranges (most of it a regional park) are insanely lush, densely forested glorified hills that tumble down to the west coast and some of New Zealand’s most dangerous – and popular, with surfers, anyway – beaches.
As you can surmise from the photos, the weather has been grim the past few days. I didn’t realize how spoiled I was my first week here with bright sun day after day. For the past five days, it’s been rain, mist, sprinkles, showers, torrential downpours and oh yeah, occasionally rain.
On the flip side, the tempermental weather has made for some (I think) cool photos. Here in New Zealand, it seems even the clouds are more dramatic.
Photos: the sea stack where gannets go to see and be seen and get some; a view of Muriwai from the trail to the gannet colony overlook. Karl overlooking the moody Waitakere Ranges; a shot of downtown Auckland on the right and Rangitoto’s looming shadow on the left from a lookout atop the Waikatere Ranges. Dramatic clouds over Waikatere.