The anticipation starts during the drive. We listen to the radio as it crackles one last song before succumbing to silence, the only sound bounces from brilliantly green trees flanking the road. The car snakes around perilous bends, cushioned between the mountainous walls of the Waitakere Ranges. Without warning it happens. The road banks wildly to the right, spitting the vehicle on to a sun-drenched bank overlooking Piha beach.
It is raw, with ragged edges and a beauty so rare it strips the breath from your chest. Lion rock stands stark against the black sand. It is a beckoning view, one that breathes an air of ferocity. The sand dances for miles. It’s a day-time galaxy, glittering under a scorching sun. We drag our toes through it, headed for the shore where waves are crashing against towering rocks. I look at him with wide eyes, in awe of this place perched on our back door step.
The beach is not the only treasure hidden behind twisting roads. We reverse the vehicle and plough back in to the bush. The car-park is reminiscent of city life. The track to Kitekite falls is well worn and littered with people. A few strides in to our journey and the air thickens. The walk is serendipitous. Dipping between chance meetings with other adventurers and the absolute serenity of solitude. The immediacy and complexity of life in a concrete jungle seems strangely obscure as the ferns encase us.
I’m suddenly aware of the constant buzz of cicada and tumbling water. My heart drums deep inside my chest as the track rises and falls in front of us. At times we wind so close to the edge I can see the bush plummet below. Through the curtain of trees, we can see the ranges sprawled for miles. Undisturbed by the city pressed on its doorstep. This moment can’t be justified by an image, brushed by filters and cropped for effect. We continue to walk. The track is less worn on our path. Scrambling for a foot hold in the damp earth, the effort of summiting the sharp incline flares my excitement. I can hear the falls, close and loud. I draw longer breaths from the fresh air, desperate to reach the top. We divert from the main track and I’m intoxicated by isolation. With a sheen of sweat beading at the temples, our bodies scramble out from the emerald bush. The falls vanish at our feet, cascading toward the swarm of people at the bottom. I look at him again, enamoured by this place.