Saturday, December 5, 2009. Recently, after studying Google Maps satellite images of the areas around New Zealand, I have become obsessed with visiting somewhere where I could swim or walk to an island. Luckily for me, today is going to be the day where I can go somewhere to try to satisfy that desire!
Beachlands is a large village about twenty kilometres east of central Auckland and about eight kilometres south of the western portion of Waiheke Island. The reason that I wanted to visit Beachlands is that according to Google maps and other online resources, about half a kilometre off the coast of Beachlands is Motukaraka Island, an island which is accessible on foot during low tide.
The drive there was pleasant. There was a surprisingly large suspension bridge on the way. We also stopped to grab a drink at a diary (convenience store) in the middle of nowhere during some sun showers. Then, after stopping at a store in Beachlands to grab a pie, we headed to the coast. The first thing we noticed is that there is a surprisingly good view of Rangitoto, so of course, we stopped to take some photos. It turns out that we didn't park at the best spot, as we ended up walking down a steep hill, into another parking lot, before reaching the beach that appeared to provide access to the water. I was disappointed by the quality of this beach. Although the water was a pristine aqua colour, there were a few pieces of rubbish in the water by the beach, including a tyre and a beer bottle. I suppose this is what happens when a beach is close to big city like Auckland.
We followed the beach around towards Motukaraka Island, passing some private residences and tiered rock formations covered in strands of Neptune's Necklace, shells and tidal pools. At one point, a balloon floated nonchalantly around us, slowly drifting off just above our heads. Eventually, we reached what looks like a causeway to Motukaraka Island. I checked the tidal charts the night before, and found that luckily, low tide is during the day, so we could actually walk to the island while we are there.
The causeway was mainly made of slabs of rock, much like the coast we had been following previously. However, as we went towards the island, we came across thick mud, which was quite disgusting. To make it worse, the mud was interspersed with large shallow tidal pools filled with moving things. Sometimes they were just hermit crabs and shells but sometimes there were things in there I could not identify! Progress was slow and we nearly gave up a couple of times. However, we pushed onwards towards the island.
Eventually, we intercepted a what appeared to be a swath of higher ground covered in shells. This was much easier to walk on, as it was just like walking on a soft gravel road. We realised that if we had followed the coast a bit farther, we could have taken this easy route the entire way from the shore. Following this causeway, we reached the island and a staircase leading up the small cliffs surrounding the island. We walked around the top of the island for quite a while, getting quite beat up by spider webs, overgrown thorny plants and other unpleasant things! We reached the other side of the island where we could see some ocean. The view was quite disappointing considering what we had to go through! We tried to take an alternate path back, but ended up in some thick overgrown patches of grass with sharp serrated leaves taller than we were! We ended up taking the same path back, getting jabbed left and right by the sharp plants. This was one of the worst hikes I have ever had!
We were very happy we after making it back down the stairs. We walked around briefly on the rocks surrounding the islands, stopping for Steffan to have a smoke. On the way back, we took a quick look at a rusted-through boat that was lying on its side by the island. We were afraid that we might see something scary like a dead body inside, but luckily there was no such thing. Following the shell causeway back, we had an easy walk all the way back to shore. I also noticed oyster catchers and other birds foraging around - I am sure there is shellfish somewhere hidden underground. I also experimented with tossing the shells like playing cards - I can throw playing cards quite far, and these shells, with the curved shape, generated a surprisingly large amount of lift.
Instead of going back west, we headed east. There were some pōhutukawa trees in blossom, which was quite pretty. We explored a beach with a small stream running through it and some rocks covered in tiny oysters. Steffan smashed one open to see what was inside, and it turned out to be a live oyster. Eventually, after passing by a grove of mangroves, we reached a marina. We were a bit unsure of where we were. When we got back to land, we noticed a lot of people walking, with chairs and chilly bins towards an area with some restaurants and music. It turns out that there is a Christmas event planned for that day, but seeing that it was mainly family oriented, we decided to head back.
We walked back to the car through a trail that led us up a hill past some very modern and expensive-looking houses with a great view of the water below and Auckland in the distance. After that, there was a surprisingly long walk through some pleasant residential neighbourhoods before we found our car.