After 'Geothermal Day', I returned to Taupo and had dinner with my fellow scientists, spent the night and had breakfast with them before they returned to Wellington and Lower Hutt. Then I headed out for Waitomo, wanting to see the famous glow-worm caves. I tried stopping at a couple of nearby places like the Huka Falls, but it was cold, foggy and rainy, so I decided just to drive towards Waitomo. Though the distances seem small, to a Canadian, the drive is long, because like the say in New England, "You can't get there from here." None of the roads are straight for more than a few hundred metres. It's perpetually winding and up and down because of all the mountains - and that's just the less mountainous North Island. I stopped periodically when the scenery was too beautiful to ignore, and shot some photos. Anyhow, by about lunch time, I had made it to Te Kuti and stopped for gas and food.
I got turned turned around at the gas station and on the wrong road. It's hard to tell because nothing is ever north, south, east or west, but some complex combination of the above. I should have known that I had gone further than I needed, but that's also a bit tough because the roads are so windy. The road I was on was almost entirely devoid of any road signs or places where one could safely turn around. It was one lane in either direction, marked at 100 km/h except where too too hairpin turny, with occasional single-lane bridge or tunnel with alternating right of way. I was going southeast, rather than due east.
Here is a cliff with my little rental car for scale.
I came to a little village called Piopio. I couldn't see it on the map and made the mistake of assuming it was simply too small - rather than recognizing that I wasn't where I thought I was. I should have recognized that small is relative, because it is in fact on my map.
Kiwis will tell you that corrugated tin is a very Kiwi material. Many, many buildings are build like this.
It was all hills and bends and tunnels and sheep, until I came around one bend and there was this... the coast! I thought, shit, where am I? I had made it to Awakino, a good 50 km out of my way. However, if I had not done so, I would never had seen the black volcanic sand beach, with the incredible Mt. Taranaki in the distance. A volcano so massive it not only dominates the skyline (even at a distance of tens of kilometres), but clearly was responsible for the nature of the beach. I even found pumice on the beach - floating (volcanic) rocks are cool. Also, I met a heron, who was distinctly not afraid of me. Birds who know no predators are really something.