P,P,P,P pursuit of a Penguin

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We woke up, put some trousers on, had a cup of tea and thought about leaving the van, I stole that from Damon Albarn, but it was true. We left the camp and started our drive towards Auckland. We firstly visited a surf beach called Muriwai Beach a 50km beach with black sand which was looking just about better than any of the surfing we saw in Australia. It was really beautiful.  We had come here to visit the Takapu Refuge and the Gannet Colony. We were not really sure what to expect but there was a nice walk with a few lookout platforms looking over the cliffs where the birds nest. It was a great twitch and despite most people spending about 20 minutes there we ended up spending a good few hours. The Gannets were really interesting with plenty of reading material to learn about the birds. They partner up for life and return to the same spot on the cliffs to nest and breed each year to meet their partners again (maybe we could learn something from them). We spent ages watching a bit of a scrap and it got so aggressive at times we thought there would be a casualty however in the end the apparent trespasser managed to dive off the side of the cliff (the video is attached below and is well worth watching if you like to watch birds fight... ahem). It was also amusing to watch the flirting rituals of the birds rubbing necks and beaks a bit like an Indian dance.

We had some cheese butties (spread cheese of course not the expensive stuff) up on the cliffs and managed to catch a guy playing the bagpipes out on some of the rocks. That reminds us bizarrely New Zealand has more Bagpipe Bands per capita than Scotland, how odd!

We then headed to Piha Beach a town to the west of Auckland. It was another stunning spot with a few large rocks such Lion Rock and the Camel. We headed up to the North end of the beach, the sand was stunning with black marble effect patterns around the paler sand. At the far North end of the beach is a blue penguin colony however unfortunately despite our best twitching efforts we didn't see any blue penguins. We did however find lots of Mussels and it is a foragers dream as the number there were so incredible that a bit of sustainable foraging is a great thing to do. The mussels were both Green Lipped and more normal size black mussels as well as lots of babies.

As the sun started to set we had to get to Auckland to find a paid campsite but one for which we had a 2 for 1 voucher in our Wicked discount pack. The park was not really our bag, very organised, with kitchens, tv rooms and lots of school trips with kids playing, water fights and people wanting to know what the gimp mobile was all about. We got chatting to an older Aussie couple down the way, who ended up giving us all their leftovers of coffee, washing up liquid etc essentially all the things we had given away when we left Oz. To coin Mikes phrase "what comes around goes around". They appeared quite interested in the fact we were cooking a Thai red curry. The lady was actually Thai so the next second out came a huge amount of Thai red curry paste, chilli sauce, coconut cream, everything you need for about 6 weeks of continuous Thai red curries. Well that is tea sorted for the next 6 weeks then!

They also gave us some of the biggest Oysters I have ever seen that they had bought locally so we had a starter of fresh oysters, before our chicken red curry. We ended up having a fairly early night I even think some of the kids were still up when we finally fell asleep.  No change there then.
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