The Sands that Burn Are Black

 Auckland is located on an isthmus and is set between two harbors, one opening to the Pacific Ocean and the other to the Tasman Sea. The city boasts it has the greatest number of boats per capita of any city in the world.  In addition to the fascinating Polynesian culture, visitors will find beautiful beaches and expansive parks.

The city is situated over 53 dormant volcanoes and, over the years, Auckland has had many earthquakes and tremors. The city, which is quite mountainous and hilly, contains about 1/3 of the New Zealand’s population and spreads out over a large geographic area.

After a day in the city, Barb chose a driving tour for her second day in Auckland that went up the rugged West coast of the north island to the Waitakere (Mountain) Ranges – about 11 miles northwest of but still apart of the city. This range forms a natural barrier between Auckland City and the surf-lined Tasman Sea on the west coast. The ranges were heavily logged between 1830 and 1930 and some of the cleared land was then used for vineyards and pastureland.  A few virgin forests remain, and the kauri tree is being re-planted. The kauri is a hardwood conifer that produces quality wood that is used for ship masts and ship construction.

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We stopped above the village of Piha to photograph the iconic coast with its Lion Rock and beach below.  We then drove down to the beach and strolled along the soft, black sand beneath our feet. The black iron sand comes from the rock spewed out of the volcano 150 miles away.  The rocks erode, forming sand that is carried up the coast by the strong currents and washed onto the beaches this beach by the waves.  The black color of the sand comes from the minerals in the original rocks.  Black sand absorbs heat from the sun and will burn the soles of your feet on summer days.

Lion's Head rock

Lion’s Head rock

Black sandy beach where it burns your feet in the summer time

Black sandy beach where it burns your feet in the summer time

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Great beach for the surfers!

Great beach for the surfers!

From sea level we traveled upward into lush semi-tropical rainforest of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park and took a walk to enjoy the vegetation and scenery along a meandering stream. We saw black and silver ferns and the interesting Rata.  This particular specimen escaped the axe because of its twisted, gnarly form ~ the consequence of starting life as a vine.  It has witnessed and withstood many floods and storms.  The Rata is valued for its medicinal properties:  the nectar from the flower soothes sore throats, the young leaves are chewed to reduce toothache, and the bark is crushed, steeped, and boiled and applied externally to bruises.

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Silver Fern

Silver Fern



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After a short snack we headed to the Arataki Center with its breathtaking panoramic views from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  In addition to information on local history, we saw some lovely Maori carvings. The educational exhibits in this interpretative center enhanced our experiences in the forest.

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