Another day, another duneFebruary 14, 2016 in New Zealand
Imagine you take a 13.5-hour flight across the Pacific (forget that it was delayed until 4 AM) to arrive in Auckland, New Zealand, having skipped February 13th entirely due to the international date line. If you're Nick, you got a solid night of sleep on the plane. If you're Rachel, you slept for 3 hours, too excited the rest of the time about finally coming to this country. You have a long day of immigration, customs, buses, grocery shopping, and driving out of Auckland on the left side of the road in a manual-transmission campervan (that one is alllllll Nick). You drive for hours on winding roads, over hills and through farms. You finally get to your destination....only to find out you're not actually there yet. You have arrived at the Kawhia (pronounced like coffee-ah) harbor and marina, not a westward facing shore. The beach you want is down a different road. "Just follow your nose," says a local.
Okay, we say. Let's give it a shot. An easier directive would've been to follow the signs to Ocean Beach, but our noses helped in their own special way, I suppose. Unexpectedly, the road ends. You find yourself at the edge of where a mixed pine and deciduous forest meets a black-sand dune, with a few other cars parked on the grass. You hike up over the dune (large by New England standards, small in Michigan) and see native grasses, large white flowers, and a sign about nesting endangered birds in the grass (Nick saw one of these birds in fact!). Over the crest of the dune, you find a vast black-sand beach with only two other people in sight. Eventually, others come and dig large holes in the sand and sit in them because natural hot springs can be found at low tide. You open a bottle of Argentinian wine, and enjoy the sunset over the Abel Tasman Sea.
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