I could hear the sound of roaring winds and heavy rain throughout the night. Inclement weather that had been forecast hit the city with redoubled force, with gale winds reaching speeds over 150 kph. The story of the morning was not very different. It had to be a wet start to the ‘Explore New Zealand’ expedition. Archana told me that the forecast was for more foul weather over the next few days. Kapil backed the car into his garage to facilitate easy loading of the luggage. Without that, in the rain, it would have been a difficult proposition. In any case, it was difficult because we were not travelling light and many bags of food did not help matters either. After considerable struggle, use of skill and muscle power fourteen pieces of different sizes were accommodated inside the car; would be great advertisement for RAV4.
We wore T-shirts of my company – Genchi Global – and went through a couple of rounds of photographs and goodbyes inside the house and in the garage before we finally embarked on the expedition. Within the city limits itself we found evidence of the lousy weather overnight that was continuing. Broken tree branches were everywhere, traffic signals were down at many locations and, as I heard later, 75% of Auckland city was without power supply. Last evening Kapil had talked about the Gannet colony in Muriwai Beach. Since it had got late last evening after the Museum visit, the drive to Muriwai had been abandoned. This morning Kapil told me that with the way the weather is, it would not be worth our while to go there. However, I thought that it would not be a bad idea to take a chance. I am not a gambler, by any chance. But, this time the paid off, and very well too. We were greeted by glorious weather as we neared the Beach and it stayed that way for almost the hour that we were there.
The black sand beaches of Muriwai, the holes in the rock and the Gannet Colony are reasons why it is a popular recreational center for Aucklanders. It is less than an hour’s drive from the city and the views are magical. Certainly, I felt, that this is a piece of Paradise. I was glad that I had taken the decision to come to this wonderful place. The black sand of the beach comes from the iron content of volcanic activity in the past. The layers of rock on the cliffs is a majestic sight too. Some Gannets were on display too. They live in a colony among the rocks there. I was told that the beach and neighboring areas get awfully crowded in the summer months, especially on the weekends. Surfing, fishing and bushwalking are popular activities here. It started raining after some time, by when we had stored enough images of this paradisiacal land in the eyes and cameras. We used the rain break for breakfast inside the car.
The drive from Muriwai beach right up to Te Kao Lodge were frequented by stops at lookout points and scenic places. I took the State highways 16 and 1 through lovely little towns like Waimauku, Tauhoa, Wellsford, Te Hana, Brynderwyn, Whangarei and Whakapara. The green rolling hills with millions of cattle and sheep grazing unhurriedly with camera moments lurking everywhere the drive was a dream. We took as much time on the road as fellow road users would permit. They was no hurry. Visits to such places are not an opportunity one gets often when staying in a country far, far away like India. The direct route to Paihai, highly recommended by Archana, was closed and a diversion board made us continue northwards towards Te Kao.
Nearly 150 km short of Te Kao we took a break in a small town called Towai. As we drove into the town we noticed the Towai Hotel. The building and hotel have been in service since 1872 and the present owner of the property, Matt, has done a fantastic job to make the restaurant, bar and even the toilets interesting and colorful. The walls of the toilets will certainly make you spill with laughter. A broken urinal has been used in the wooden sit out to pot small plants! We had coffee and some superb Garlic Loaf. Matt told us that the original building was moved to the present location using logs to make way for the railway line in the early part of the last century.
It was exhilarating to drive through many crests near Mangamuka. We took another short break at the Pukenui wharf to take in the superb views of the bay. A heavier than light drizzle drove us back into the car and onwards to the Te Kao Lodge, where we were the only guests. Irene Lee, the owner of the property had mailed me saying that we should complete dinner in Pukenui because there are no cafes and restaurants in Te Kao. We were prepared with food items to cook and the kitchen was decently equipped. Rain kept us mostly indoors and I was engaged in updating documentation. The excellent Wi-Fi connectivity helped.