Sunday, January 1, 2012

December 3rd: Beach and Auckland

Some New Zealand pigeons, as seen from John and Sheelagh's back deck. They're huge! After checking them out, we had breakfast, packed our bags, and hit the road. It would have been great to stay in Paihia longer, but since we were flying down to the South Island the next morning we needed to head back toward Auckland.

We did still have a little bit of free time, though, so we stopped at a grocery store to grab some lunch while we did some exploring. I tried to convince Mark that cuttlefish chip things would be delicious, but he didn't believe me.

Since we didn't have to be in Auckland until that night, we decided to backtrack to Tauranga Bay, since we liked it so much! We had to share the beach with a few birds...this one wanted my lunch.

We went for a walk after lunch...and found a cave hidden in the rocks! I wish we had a flashlight; it would have been neat to see how far back it went. :)

Instead, we climbed over some rocks off to the side...

...and found another secret beach! There were a couple people on this one so we left them alone.

By midafternoon we knew we needed to get moving, so it was back in the car and back on the road. John and Sheelagh had recommended stopping on the West Coast if we had time, so after a few hours of driving and a stop for a snack at an i-site, we found ourselves at...

...Muriwai Beach. It's pretty close to Auckland (and one of the most crowded beaches we saw the entire trip), and is a volcanic black sand beach. It's so pretty that we saw a couple having their wedding photos taken while they were there. If you follow the path up and over the hill, you get an extra treat (though I doubt Mark would agree)...

...gannets! Lots and LOTS of gannets.

And by lots, I mean thousands. I feel like this should be a Where's Waldo picture.

There were baby gannets and grown up gannets...

...and cranky gannets. They were pretty funny. :) Though I was impressed at how poorly they land. They're very graceful in the air, then come crashing down and almost trip across the ground as they come in to land.

Mark didn't like them; they wet their nests.

After getting our fill of gannets, we drove to Auckland, found a hotel near the airport, got caught up on some emails and laundry, and learned the hard way that you should never ask for tomato sauce on your pizza (unless you like oddly flavored ketchup). I guess that's what we get for ordering chicken pizza from a Middle Eastern pizzeria; lesson learned. It's been almost a month and Mark is still avoiding ketchup.

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