Then the verticality comes into play. To reach the Windy Canyon lookout you climb many steps pretty much straight up and through the rock faces of Windy Canyon.
It's challenging to take in just how closely the cliffs hug the staircase.
But once you arrive at the top there are views like these. Overcast day (happily for us, not so happily for that nighttime star tour), so my pictures aren't sparkling, but it was breathtaking.
The loop walk at Harataonga Bay promised to be a bit more bucolic, but ended at the top of an extreme rise with us on all fours, struggling to move upward. You might be thinking: why do they do it? Occasionally we wonder too.
Kanuka trees create a sky puzzle.
We ended back where we started with a nice picnic under a welcoming giant.
Recognizing this map won't mean much, but to illustrate there are only a few roads on Aotea, many of them gravel, and thus we build in much time to get places, enjoy our visit, and then drive back. As a result, we've done quite a bit more transporting ourselves than expected.
Last night returning to Whangaparapara on gravel we came upon a rental car that had gone off the side of the road and was tilted nearly 45 degrees into the bush (luckily into the bush and not over a cliff). These metal roads often have deep deep ditches on their edges. The occupants were were fine, happily, if annoyed at having been pretty much run off the road by a truck coming fast toward them.
No cell service where we all were, so they loaded into our car and we drove to our little hamlet, where Kylie found a couple of generous kiwis with a tow strap on their truck to pull them out.
We said goodbye, but then ran into Dean and Kylie a couple hours later at the lodge having dinner. Nicer San Diego-ans I doubt you could find.
Completing our table were the lovely Juliet and husband, from Hamilton, NZ. She regaled us with improbable but true stories of growing up with a father who liked to sail even though he had little experience doing it.
The Queen of Flat Whites regrets her less-than-scintillating recent blog posts. We've been tending to a lot of business for the next leg of our trip. Tomorrow we return to Auckland and pick up the Rover at Selwyn's. From there we'll have a quick check by the guys who worked on it last time and then it will have its WOF (warrant of fitness) inspection, essential before we hit the road north.
We deeply enjoyed our time here on off-the-grid Aotea, only sorry to have missed the night sky tour due to a waxing moon and overcast skies. But we'll forever remember our first night gazing at the black velvet sky, filled with pulsing stars that looked like backlit diamonds.