More Xena, Less Piano

Karekare is one of the beaches wedged between the Waitakere Ranges and the Tasman Sea, and is famous for a number of reasons: Neil Finn* has (or at least had) a pad there, Eddie Vedder* almost drowned in the water at Karekare while staying at Chez Finn, it was used as a location in both “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “The Piano,” including the iconic shot of the piano sitting on the black sands, or so I am informed by my guidebook and the ranger at the Arataki Visitor Center.

*For readers not of GenX vintage: Neil Finn is the guy from Crowded House and Split Enz, whose brilliant lyrics I mangled throughout high school and college (and to this day… I’ve got more than a few Finn tunes on my MP3 player)… you have probably heard the biggest hits, like “Don’t Dream It’s Over.” Eddie Vedder is the guy from Pearl Jam who, unlike Kurt Cobain, had the good sense not to off himself at the height of grunge and instead got old and boring like the rest of us.

Everyone who’s written or commented to me about Karekare, including the park ranger, goes on and on about how haunting a place it is, all moody and… uhm… haunting. Black sand, black cliffs, rough seas, I get it.

I’m not saying I was underwhelmed, it just wasn’t, you know, haunting. I felt none of the atmosphere I experienced at Cape Reinga or among the giant kauri trees. That did not stop me, however, from getting all artsy and arranging spiral shells I found on the black sands while humming Pearl Jam’s “Wishlist” and Crowded House’s “Mean to Me,” which I thought was terribly appropos: “She came all the way from America, she had a blind date with destiny.”

Photos: semi-haunting shot of Karekare; my most haunting shot of Karekare; pseudo-haunting artsy shots of shells on black sand (the gray stripes are mini-dunes where the sand has been dried at the crest by the wind so it’s gray); semi-pseudo-artsy self-portrait as I leaned over to take a photo of shells I set afloat in a stream that fed out to the sea – a moment later, a sudden, dare I say haunting breeze blew the shells back to me and rippled the water (the second photo). Whoa.

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