Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Two more fabulous west coast beaches

15 April
Off to Sunset Beach which is just south of the Waikato estuary, about an hour’s drive south of Auckland. The weather’s been fantastic recently, and today’s no exception. The area seems fairly remote once we leave the main road, and cross the river, following along its south bank, till we get to Port Waikato, then further south to the beach itself. There’s a little cafe here where we enjoy good coffee and scones before walking on down to the beach. There’s a few cars on the beach, a common sight over here, some belonging to fishermen others just seem to drive onto the beach for the fun of it.

Mist rising and wet sand like glass 

It’s another endless beach and the mixture of surf spray and brilliant sunshine create a beautiful haze in the air as far as you can see. The tide’s fairly high and we’re walking barefoot along the shoreline getting wet feet every now and again. The sand’s yellow and yellow here and the beach is backed by dunes. We’re heading up towards the river mouth walking due north with massive surf pounding to our left and the odd seagull overhead. As we get closer we see huge tree trunks stranded further up the beach to our right which we head towards, cutting off the corner as it we head towards the river. There are also large pieces of pumice stone lying around and weird patterns in the sand made by the wind.

Buried tree trunks and wave patterns in the sand

We come across fishermen waiting patiently for the fish to bite as we walk back along the riverside towards the sea. The tide seems to be on the turn and the currents by the mouth of the river are all over the place. The sand here is like quicksand, so we’re careful where we step. There's loads of pumice stone lying around, so we collect some and play boats with it in the river: it really does float.

Fishermen on the sandspit between the Waikato River and the sea

On the way back we pass a Maori family splashing around in a shallow pool. I think they must be digging for shellfish but can’t see them come up with anything so they’re probably just having fun. I do my usual thing collecting shells, stones etc, and back at the car Mike decides to go for a swim. It’s more of a splash really because the surf’s too rough for swimming, so I give it a miss.

22 April
This Sunday we’re off to another beach as the weather’s continued fine. We go south again to Karioitahi Beach which is just north of the Waikato River estuary. It has the blackest sand we’ve yet seen. Also more cars than we’ve ever seen on a beach before. There are no cafes, no village, just a road running across the dunes to the coast where there are some public loos and a car park; not that it’s used much as most people seem to be parking on the beach. We walk south but it’s really hard going because the sand is so very soft you have to plough your way through. Even the wet sand on the shoreline is soft, very odd. Eventually we give up, head back, and once back at the car decide to go for a swim. We’re pretty warm from struggling through deep sand and the waves aren’t quite big enough to put me off. The water’s not a bad temperature and we even manage a bit of swimming as the waves are quite well spaced.

Once changed we decide to try walking in the other direction. Surprisingly, it’s much harder sand and consequently better walking. The coastline consists of sand dunes that have been compressed into stone in places which the sea is constantly eroding: there are cliffs with caves cut into their base, and isolated ‘islands’ of sand stone holding out against the sea, all eroded into fabulous shapes. There are a number of waterfalls with streams running out across the beach. We’ve checked the tides and know we’re safe to walk in this direction, though at high tide we’d be cut off and have to climb up the cliffs.

There’s clear evidence of this as we find 4 car skeletons under the cliff, rusty and half buried in the sand. They look more like art installations than cars but unfortunately we’ve forgotten our camera today so no pix. We’ve left all the people behind so have the place to ourselves along with the seabirds of course.

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