Just click on the map above and you will be able to follow along.
Red: Day One, Part 1
Orange: Day One, Part 2
Blue: Day Two
Yellow: Day Three
|On the car ferry!|
Upon arriving in Auckland we are taught our first lesson. Google maps in New Zealand really sucks. Thank goodness paper maps still exist! Driving in another country in it's most populous city in a borrowed vehicle is nerve-racking enough. Doing it with a map that tells you to drive in circles... Maddening!!! Lizzy to the rescue! She had the foresight to bring along the previously stated paper map, and as my wonderful co-pilot, managed to direct us to our first stop: Arataki Visitor Centre
|The uhhh, "Masculine" entrance to the center|
|View from rear observation deck|
This is where we are taught our second lesson. One that I thought I already learned when I was applying for my visa here in NZ. Information on websites vs. information over the telephone vs. information in person is always conflicting! And confounding! While at the visitor's center I decided to confirm that it is ok for us to have Betty Blue in our campsite. I looked on the website and yes, it's ok, I specifically asked when making our reservations and was told, "Yes, she's allowed.", and upon asking in person, nope. No dogs allowed over night in any Auckland Regional Council campsite! Arrrrgghhh!!!
Example 2 of where "Chadding" helps out. I speak with the park rangers for a bit, explain the situation and the fact that we just took a ferry from our island and drove an hour to come camp in their beautiful forest, and they relent and give us a new campsite and a pass with the dog for a night. Rejoice and on with the adventure! Next stop: Piha for black sand beaches and the best surf on the North Island!
The following are a few pictures from one of the most amazing beaches I have ever been on. The sand is actually black, and is magnetic from the iron content. When we arrived it was a torrential downpour and we had to wait in the van for it to stop. And when it did, it was beautiful!
|Lizzy and Betty on the way to Lion Rock|
|The view south from half way up Lion Rock|
|The view north from Lion Rock|
|Lizzy next to a monument to a Maori tribal ancestoress|
As we were driving away from the beach to our "new" campsite, Betty started acting a little strange. She was riding in the back of the van just fine all day, and now she was freaked out about something and kept trying to jump into the front seat. As I'm driving. Up a very steep, very windy road. She gets scolded again and off we go without further incident to the camp.
Our campsite is just south-west of a little town called Huia in the southern part of the Waitakere Ranges. What we were NOT told, was that to get to the actual camping area we had to ford a stream that was a bit too much for us with all the rains currently dumping on us. We decide to camp in the van in the parking lot to save us the hassle. This is where we notice Betty Blue acting very strange. When she was walking around, she looked just fine. When she stood still, it looked like her hind legs were about to give out. Then she started staggering around and really freaking Lizzy and I out. We get her to eat, then put her to bed in back of the van. She can barely hold her head up, and when she does she does the bob n' weave like she was drunk! We are nearly convinced the dog is going to die, but there is nothing we can do at that moment. It is getting dark and we are miles from anywhere. We decide to tough it out and she if she is better in the morning. Lizzy and I hunker down after dinner to do some reading in the back of the van, and right when we are about to go to bed, a set of headlights appears in the parking lot. We think it's the rangers come to tell us we can't camp in the van. Nope. We see one headlamp, then two, then four, then a whole bunch. And they're running around. And running some more. Then talking right next to the van. Then in the creek next to the parking lot. Then they leave! Were we just visited by boisterous aliens???
|Gypsy van the next morning|
|More amazing carvings|
The next morning we find that all is right in the world. No strange lights, a perfectly normal dog, and the beginnings of some decent weather. After our trip and consulting with some other people, we came to a final conclusion about the dog: She ate someone's dope stash on Lion Rock and suffered the effects for 18 hrs. That'll teach her to lick strange bits of foil! As for the strange lights, we run into some sort of high school outdoor group on the trail the next morning. I can only assume (and hope) it was them.
So day two has us starting on good weather, good dog health, good spirits with the humans, and an amazing hike through an amazing water catchment / rain forest in New Zealand. It is also one of the more grueling and demanding hikes I have been on in a while. The following pictures will give you an idea, but they just don't do any justice to the sights we saw:
|A Kauri log on an old train cart used for logging circa 1900's|
|Waterfall off the side of a mountain|
|Lizzy and Betty Blue stream crossing|
|Waterfall and rock pool off trail|
|This was the trail a good portion of the way up the mountain|
|Even Betty had a hard time!|
|The sights were worth it|
|Nature's helping hand!|
We promptly set up camp, cooked dinner, and tried to unwind a bit after a drawn out afternoon spent driving all over the place. I told Lizzy we were going to have an adventure!
Oh. I almost forgot. At some point I decided to go utilize the magnificent facilities available to us. As a went to sit down on the great, white throne, my headlamp strayed across this guy here: <-----------------------!!!!!!!! El Monstro! Almost scared the crap right back into me! I had to take a picture to show Lizzy.