Believe me half way down is nowhere near as far as half way up. I think I could easily have made it to the bottom but I'd still be crawling up those steps if I had.
There are three natural harbours, close together, down along the west coast of the North Island between Auckland and Taranaki. My friend, Chris and I stayed three nights last week at Kawhia, the most southerly of them. We found a sleepy little coastal paradise, quiet and laid-back. The people we met were friendly and relaxed. It is said to have 650 residents but I think the permanent winter population would be less than half that and more than half the houses are holiday homes.
We had taken our spades to dig a hole and have a soak in the black sand beach which oozes hot water two hours either side of low tide. That didn't happen, we decided it was too cold.
Despite the rainy weather, we filled our days exploring the countryside and visiting the other two harbours. Raglan, to the north is a surfing mecca, the town has a great assortment of cafes, bars, surf shops and galleries. Quite a contrast to Aotea Harbour, the smallest of the three.
The next four shots are around Aotea Harbour:
A little side road took us down to the tiny village of Oparau on the banks of the Oparau River, which I'm sure wouldn't look quite so dismal in less rainy weather. There was no hint of the bustling place it once must have been with a dairy factory, flour, flax and saw mills. The school is closed and I wonder who lives there now, if this doer upper will ever sell.
The nearby Oparau Roadhouse is also for sale and, by contrast, is a thriving business. There's no other shop for miles around and they have a cafe, the general store, bar with summer beer garden, petrol pumps, art gallery and, as the owner Bill delighted in telling us, a Lotto counter where a winning ticket was sold a few weeks ago. We each bought a ticket, hoping their luck is holding. It's not!
We stopped for a photo of the hole in the rock, the old shearing shed was a bonus.