Stay Alive on Five

Ok, so I know I wax on and on about how wonderful New Zealand is, but there are a few things that could use improvement. Driving in New Zealand is not for the faint of heart — and not because you drive on the left, which quite frankly isn’t that big of a deal. The roads are windy, narrow, slick, and mountainous almost everywhere. It takes constant concentration and makes it hard to appreciate the stunning beauty we are driving through. It is also annoying in some of the cities since they rarely use stop lights. This creates a constant parade of cars that is nearly impossible to get across. The ying and the yang.

Onward to Wine Country

I drove down to the coffee shack and got our last set of long blacks in Taupo. We still marvel at how good the coffee is here. Yeah! We lounged around for awhile and then packed up our stuff and headed out toward Te Awanga where we had rented a place on the beach for a month. We are excited to explore the area as this might be a place the we end up settling full time. Plus, neither of us has ever been there before.

It wasn’t a long drive, but it was on the infamous Highway 5 which according to the New Zealand Transportation Agency is: “one of the highest risk roads in the Hawke’s Bay.” The road used to be 100 kph through the windy mountainous part but they had recently lowered the speed to 80 kph. Clearly this upset a bunch of people as there were protest signs all along the road complaining about this huge imposition on them. The road was super narrow, often with dense fog and very windy. Personally 80 kph felt just fine for Susanne, Otis, and me.

Will do!

We got to the rental around noon and were very happy with the overall configuration of the place. It is, what they call in New Zealand, a bach. According to Wikipedia (which is always accurate):

“A bach (pronounced ‘batch’) (also called a crib in the southern half of the South Island) is a small, often modest holiday home or beach house in New Zealand. Baches are an iconic part of the country’s history and culture. In the middle of the 20th century, they symbolized the beach holiday lifestyle that was becoming more accessible to the middle class. Bach was originally thought to be short for bachelor pad, but they tended to be family holiday homes. An alternative theory for the origin of the word is that “bach” is the Welsh word for “small” and “little”. The phrase “Tŷ Bach” (small house) is used for outbuildings. Sizeable populations of Welsh miners relocated to New Zealand during mining booms.”

The kitchen actually had lots of things to cook with and there was a BBQ. Yeah! After the debacle of a kitchen in Taupo, this was a great relief since we were going to be here for a month.

Our bach

We got our stuff unloaded and organized in the house and then took a bit of walk on the beach that is all of 30 meters from the house. The beach itself was a bit disappointing in that it is quite rocky and not very accessible at high tide and they allow vehicles on it. Bummer. But that is only a minor complaint. We have a lovely view of the ocean from our place.

Our beach with Cape Kidnappers in the background

We had noticed a fresh produce store in Clive, so we drove back the few clicks and got some amazing veggies. This is definitely an area that grows a lot of fresh produce. The bach is pretty basic, but I think we will be quite happy here. The bedroom is nice and there is a nifty little sun room that you can sit in, have a glass of wine and watch the ocean — which is exactly what we did. It was lovely.

Sunrise in Te Awanga

The weather forecast was looking a bit grim later in the week, so we got up and were going to walk down the beach toward Cape Kidnappers in the morning and enjoy the low tide and the sunshine. It was very chilly, but of course there were Kiwis out walking their dogs in shorts. Cape Kidnappers is where the world’s largest Gannet colony resides. Sadly they are gone for the winter so we won’t see them. Further, when we drove out to the start of the walk, there were big signs saying it was closed due to instability of the cliff along the route. The picture of where it had collapsed was impressive. I guess two hikers were nearly crushed. Both Susanne and I decided that being crushed under a giant pile of rocks was definitely not on the agenda for the day, so we got back into the car to figure out what to do instead.

No view of the gannets this time
A couple of hikers were nearly crushed

Susanne remembered there was a nice beach to the south of us where she had seen an Airbnb, so suggested we go there. Perfect. Plus, that allowed us to drive by the Craggy Range and get a view of that.

The very impressive Craggy Range

The drive to Ocean Beach was lovely and the lighting on the hills was really gorgeous. Although, as mentioned above, the driving can be a bit stress-inducing so my new strategy is to just pull over when I see some huge 18 wheeler barreling up the windy road behind me. Heck, I’m not in a hurry, why not.

We made it to Ocean Beach and it was still a bit chilly, but the beach looked amazing. About 9 miles long of flat, easy-to-walk-on beach. Yahoo! That is exactly what I was hoping for. We headed out north toward Cape Kidnapper — the Gannet colony is on the north side of the Cape and this beach is on the south side of the Cape. There we only a few people on the beach, which was amazing. A guy with a dog was up ahead of us and the dog was running around like crazy. Into the water. Up on to the dunes. Into the water. Up the beach. Down the beach. If anyone had the audacity to think that animals don’t have feeling, they would have only had to watch that dog and his pure joy. It made us both smile. As we walked, it got warmer and warmer and we had to start stripping off layers. The weather here is quite lovely and very moderate. Much like the Bay Area in California.

Lonely fisherman
Cool backlit shot on Ocean Beach

We ended up walking close to five miles. What a fantastic start to our month here in Hawkes Bay. We drove back to Havelock North to the New World market to pick up a few supplies. The town had a wonderful vibe — restaurants, markets, and lots and lots of bike paths. We both thought “wow, this nice.” The market was great. Pretty much everything you needed and it was nice to not have to shop at a crappy 4 Square. We headed back home and settled in for the evening.

It will be nice to settle down for a month and relax and start to visualize whether this would be a place we would want to live permanently. So far, in the short time we have been here, all signs are good!

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