Wheel alignment

Saturday, 6 October 2012

A Walk on the Wild Side - Auckland's west coast

We have just got back from a few days away and it's been quite an occasion!  Most of our IAM training rides take place on the roads to the west of Auckland and the topography in that area is mainly dense bush and twisty, technical roads with wild surf beaches.  Jennie has never been out that way and I've only had a fleeting visit to one of the beaches themselves so it was a good opportunity  to spend a couple of days exploring together out that way.

The forecast was for stormy weather which was the perfect conditions for seeing surf beaches.  The Street Triple stayed safely tucked up at home and we headed off in Jennie's MX 5 to stay at our Auckland-based son's house to get an early start the next day.  The first surprise was when our daughter arrived unexpectedly (also Auckland-based) to take me out to a show as an an advance birthday present for later in the month.  And what a show it was!!!  The famous UK comedian and classically-trained musician Bill Bailey was giving a one-man performance and I'd have to say that it was one of the most memorable I'd ever been to.  Laughed until I hurt all over and his musical talent with all manner of instruments was unbelievable.  Clearly a lot of collusion among the family to get me there and something deeply appreciated.   For those who have never seen Bill Bailey at work, the short following clip is an example of both his deadpan humour and musical talent Cow Bells.  His hour-long YouTube Guide to the Orchestra is outstanding.

The next morning, we set off for Muriwai, the northernmost of the surf beaches and the GPS decided to try and send us 576 km south to an unknown Muriwai Road which was clearly not our intended destination!  There are times to trust your intuition and we found the proper destination pretty much by dead reckoning.  From then on, the GPS behaved impeccably!  The stay wasn't a long one despite the really impressive surf as the wind was picking up huge amounts of sand and with no shelter, the car was getting a real hiding, not to mention black sand getting in our mouth, hair and eyes, the moment we stepped outside!

Next stop Bethells Beach, some 30 km away by road.  The roads in this area are narrow and winding through native bush but during spring, the bush is dotted with flowering trees and the spectacular native clematis shown in the next photo.

NZ native Clematis

Bethells beach was magnificent.  Huge surf driven by the high winds but we were sheltered by a large hill at one end of the beach for much of our walk.  There was no-one about and the black clouds, black sand and white surf made for a great contrast.  The surf lifesaving season has yet to start and the empty small lifeguard tower added to the lonely atmosphere of the place.  Not a place to go on your own and get into trouble.

Bethell's Beach - the perfect weather to visit

White shell and black sand contrast

Wind erosion on the dunes

At the far end of the beach, there was a warning about quicksand.........

How's your insurance, honey????

Time to visit the next beach south for a late lunch.  Piha is the most frequented of the west coast surf beaches and is featured in an annual surf lifesaving TV series, mainly featuring young, bulletproof foreign tourists who deliberately ignore instructions to swim between the flags and make headlines for all the wrong reasons.  

 Piha from the lookout

There's a good mix of permanent and holiday homes in the hills at Piha. The smaller holiday homes are known as baches, apparently a contraction of the old phrase "bachelor pads" from long ago when mining and logging operations etc provided basic accommodation for single men.

Typical NZ coastal baches

A few hardy surfers, despite the cold conditions

Our accommodation that evening was nestled in native bush in the hills overlooking Karekare beach.  NZ IAM member Keith (HD Sportster) and his wife Ann own a beautiful home with separate high quality visitor accomodation.  Keith was at work in the city when we arrived but Ann welcomed us with fresh chocolate cake and settled us in.  It's a beautiful location full of native birds and views to die for.  There's also an outdoor heated spa pool in the bush for a romantic evening...... or any time come to that ;-).

View from the front garden

Our accommodation

The guest lounge

View from the bedroom

Keith and Ann are the most wonderful hosts and next morning, we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast of fresh fruits, cereals and toast.  We would loved to have stayed longer but alas, we had friends to meet south of Auckland so bid our reluctant goodbyes.  Very happy to recommend Lone Kauri Lodge as it's an oasis of tranquillity with great walking tracks and beaches nearby.  IAM members even get a good discount!!!

All in all, a wonderful trip exploring Auckland's wild west coast and hope you've enjoyed the journey.....


  1. Geoff - Spectacular beaches. We have water, but not like that ... makes me want to visit down under!

  2. Karen,
    We were pretty impressed too - only an hour from Auckland's CBD but completely wild (and dangerous). Seeing them in wild weather was fantastic!

  3. Afternoon Geoff, you and Jennie probably saw the west coast beaches in their near-to-wildest best - there is something very special about those beaches on a wild westerly day. Bethels was always a favourite for the family when I was young - last millennium, before Rog says anything - never for swimming but walking and exploring, especially the south end. Another for next time is Anawhata, worth the walk down the hill. Also, remember that black sand adds to the flavour of all food and drink consumed!

  4. Hi Mark,
    They were certainly spectacular. Anawhata was left out of the equation deliberately as really strenuous walking is out of the equation at present. That "whoopsie" I had on the slippery garden pavers might be rather more serious than first thought but we'll give it a few more days before doing that thing which all guys hate - going to the doc to be checked out!

    Yep, that sand sure adds a crunchy dimension to food!

  5. Beautiful pictures Geoff. Some of them remind me of the West Coast - Vancouver Island.

    1. Thanks Dar,
      Hope to see Vancouver Island myself in 2014 - Jennie has relatives in Cowichan Bay. Planing a cruise to Alaska after Vancouver Island.

  6. Bill Baily is hilarious, lucky you for getting such a great surprise :)

    Love your photos, those beaches look almost otherworldly to me, like they just have to be explored but will never be tamed. The quicksand one made my tummy drop when I first saw it though.

  7. Hi Brenda,
    Yep, I was a lucky lad alright! Good beaches for an apocalypse movie I reckon. Good of Jennie to test the ground for me :-)

  8. Looks like a great little holiday Geoff. The views from the holiday home are great and with those deserted beaches, just magic!

  9. Hi Steve,
    Fabulous views mate, but I wouldn't want to launch our small boat in that area - rock fishing would be risky enough!

    Had to laugh about you using the word "holiday", seeing as we're retired. A while back, I said to one of my regular riding partners that we were taking a break and he said, "Taking a break from what, exactly?". Got to admit that he has a point :-).

  10. Oh Geoff, thanks for the memories. I didn't have the time to make it to Piha and Karekare last time so I enjoyed your pics the more. I just love the wild Tasman Sea and the black sands. Say hi to Jennie from me please. Greetings from Germany.

    1. Hi Sonja!
      So you visited ahead of us!! The black sand is full of Titanium which is great for our steel industry. Jennie says hi back! Looking forward to hearing about Germany.........

  11. Some lovely coastal views there Geoff. I loved Bill Bailey in 'Black Books' as well, one of my all time favorite comedies.

  12. Cheers Jules - Bill Bailey borders on genius and definitely madness - outstanding!

  13. Gorgeous pics Geoff. The black sand/white shell is stunning. You ought to make a calendar of some of your beaut NZ pics - I'd get one!

  14. Thanks very much Sue. Normally, I'm not much of a beachgoer but untamed beaches in rough conditions are something else!

  15. A stunning place, lovely photos. It's actually painful to look at these photos...but thanks. :*^ ,

    1. Hi Martha!
      Thanks, not too painful to enjoy them I hope. NZ is a place of contrasting scenery from volcanoes and mountains through to dense forest and stunning seascapes, all squeezed into something roughly the size of the UK but with only 4.5 million people!

  16. Awesome views Geoff. I am glad the two of you had such a great time. Loved the picture of Jennie with the quicksand sign.

  17. Cheers Brandy,
    There are always exciting new places to be discovered, even a few hours from home. We weren't sure where the quicksand actually started but weren't keen to push our luck either!