New Zealand – Aukland and around 

On Day 4, we picked up our rental car, a Ford SUV, called the Everest (similar to a Ford Explorer).  Since parking comes at a premium and we were beginning to tire of the big city, we decided to head out of town.  We headed west to the black sand beaches and wineries of Pisa and Muriwai Beach.  My favorite sites of the day were seeing the surf slap against the black rock formations, and climbing up to the Takapu Refuge gannet colony.

It was chilly and very windy on the west side.  We climbed quite a few flights of stairs before reaching the top.  But just over the ridge were hundreds of gannets (related to the Gooney bird) testing their landing skills into the wind.  Gannets have about a 6 foot wing span and the wings are like a parasail.  So the wind holds them up even when they want to land.  Despite their pungent smell and the ferocious winds I could have watched for hours. Plus the views below of the surf against the black sand were amazing!  But we had a lot more to see today.


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