[Taranaki] All-Black Sand and Endless Sunsets

Oh Taranaki, you amaze me! I have been so intrigued and fascinated by this place, my brother keeps saying that I should just marry it. 

As they said, every story involves a love affair, and a sad one this is indeed. 

[Taranaki over sunset in Mokua]

I first heard about it from Sebastian, then saw it again when seeing the three giants side by side for the first time when arriving in Taupo. And here I will share it with you again, briefly, as I understood it:
Once upon a time, Mt Taranaki and Mt Tongariro fought a vicious battle for the love of the stunning bush-cladden Mt Pihanga. This clash of the titans shook the earth and sky and everything around them until the battle ended. Pihanga stood by Tongariro's side, and Taranaki left defeated, heading toward towards the setting sun in the west. His tears carving the great Whanganui River and all the rivers around where it stands today.
[Taranaki, seen from Tongariro]

Now that I am here, I've heard a second version:
Mt Ruapehu, the beautiful maid, used to be the lovely wife of Mt Taranaki, until Mt Tongariro came in storming and bold and the wife away from Taranaki. 
I prefer the other version better, this version does not imply a good morale! :P

But anyways, on with our travels! 

I was so so so excited to come coming here! For the past few weeks, I have just been completely captivated by the idea of being in Taranaki. Maybe it was seeing the picture of Mt Taranaki at Stu's place every single day I was there. Staring at it and imagining being in the presence of its beauty. Mt Taranaki being the heart of New Plymouth, and the Surf Highway draped like its skin around it. 

Escaping from rainy rainy Auckland, we were extremely lucky once we got on the SH3, the winding road leading towards the western coast. The sun started peaking out of the crazy marshmallow clouds, sunshine and rain both pouring on us at the same time. Eventually, the clouds parted, and sunshine lit up the entire Waikato valleys and hills. The hills slowly emerging into mountains, in which we twisted and turned, making crazy lip sync videos as we went.

I am absolutely, head-over-heels mesmerized by the beauty of the west coast, its rich shining black sand, thundering waves, sky-scraping cliffs and endless sunsets. 

The sand here is All-Black black, asphalt black, glimmering rich obsidian black. Footprints here just don't look the same as any white sand beach. 

As if leaving the entire world behind, we'd march across the shimmering waters towards the sunset. The waves are high and mighty, yet taking their time to swallow up the beach before gently paddling at our feet. 

I wish I were better with words, because the beauty of it was just indescribable. It is like walking in paradise, floating on a dream, lost between the heaven and earth. It is silver, it is pink, it is blue, it is smooth, it is moving, it is delicate. 

To experience the west coast's magic, tidal timing here is crucial! Just to visit both the White Cliffs and the Elephant Rock on the same day, we calculated that we had just enough time before low tide and also when the sun sets at around 20:30. The best thing about this season is that the days are soooooo long!

The White Cliffs, a taonga (treasure) of Ngati Tama,  we started by going over the hills and paddocks over the headlands, until arriving at the beach where it was still high with water, impossible to access, and unimaginable what kind of path awaits us. We hid out in the sand dunes, trying to stay away from the wind, and there we stayed for an hour before the tide finally retreated.


The White Cliffs was an absolute wonder! This must have been one of the most surreal places I've been ever since Cape Maria van Diemen (which I am still completely awed by), the magnificent drop of cliffs towards the Tasman sea, with just a little gap of accessible land for us to experience its beauty from. 

I think about how generous Mother Nature is, allowing this little window of space and time everyday for us to savor this ephemeral yet eternal beauty.

The impressive cliffs stood grandly on one side and the breaking waves once again lapping and retreating back towards the emerald green ocean, leaving behind the silk blanket that reflects the cliffs, bringing the heaven and earth together in that clean and pristine mirror. Boulders and pebbles shimmering like stars within it, as the water smoothly weaves its way around them. 

That day, we rushed towards the setting sun at Elephant Rock where the Three Sisters (now Two Sisters) stand. And finally returning to our campsite in Mokua, the Hunter's moon grinning above us with the stars as we sleep.

Finally, when we first arrived in New Plymouth, we climbed Paritutu Rock, a single monolith standing south of the city, where we could get an excellent panorama view of the surroundings, and "clouds permitting", a great view of Mt Taranaki. 

After climbing an "okay number of stairs and not so many rocks compared to the intensity of Mt Manaia", we got to the top and to our expected-dismay, saw Mt Taranaki still hidden within the clouds. I could have asked everyone on the top to blow all together on three to blow those clouds away, but I guess  most people have already used up most of their breath on their way up.

Later that day, I saw the sky significantly clearing up, and like a possessed creature out of control, I started driving towards the mountain as fast as I could, twisting and turning here and there, and with a trail of other cars behind me (who I was sure they were all on the same mission as I was), I savored the drive with the magnificent view in front of me. 

In the end, all we got was still Mt Taranaki peeking just a little bit over the clouds. With the weather forecast staying that it will be raining for the next few days, I think this is the best we could have gotten for now.

However, on clear days here, blue and sparkling with Aotearoan clouds float ever so slightly above the horizon, once again reminding me of how lonely Taranaki stands, far away from the Tongariro, defeated in his love for Mt Pihanga, shedding his tears all over the western lands ...


  1. Hey, it's beautiful! I love your words too!

    BTW it's Hanwei