First Kiwi run (Piha 20k)

I arrived in New Zealand early Monday morning. Ann & John picked me up, we returned to the hotel, I freshened up, and then it was time for a run! 
Piha beach panorama
Ann picked one about an hour west of Auckland, on the coast, that sounded good. It started in Piha, a cute seaside town. 

There's a trail up that seastack-y hill, but we didn't take it
We ran up the beach until it ended in cliffs and steep hillsides. We ran through rocky tidepools trying to find the start of the track (trail) in the route description.

Piha tidepool resident
We couldn't find the start of the track and the hills looked too steep to even have a trail, so we started back along the far perimeter of the beach.

Ann at the dead end of Piha beach
Suddenly, behind a dune and under low-hanging trees, we found the signs. Then it was up and up and up, the air thick with the screech of cicadas and warm summer air that felt alien to me, fresh off the plane from winter in the Pacific Northwest.

The hidden track start 
At the top of the first climb was a detour out to a view from a promontory. We took it, and were rewarded with gorgeous views up and down the wild coast.

Permanent cairn at the top of the first climb
We were delighted by a permanent rock cairn with an inscription and a sculptural rock bench-- a great place for a rest that we didn't yet need.

View from the cairn
Back on the main trail, we continued to climb. We emerged from the trees into open, grassy hillsides. The sun was strong and it felt hot. It was delightful to run in our summer gear, but I started to worry about our race being in such warm conditions.

Panorama from the cairn
Our directions were easy enough to follow with the trails well-marked. Then we came to the roads, and it got confusing quickly. We ran out a ways along one road, but the metric distances confused us. When we didn't find the trailhead, we turned around and ran the other way.

Hilary track sign
We asked at a convenience store, but the clerk hadn't heard of the trail we were looking for. The map at the closed post office next door was covered up with ads, inaccessible behind locked glass.

Cleaning shoes to protect kauri
Luckily we were able to use our phones and Google Maps to find a nearby park with some trailheads. Funny enough, there were signs imploring us to clean our shoes to stop the spread of disease killing a native tree. We saw these a few times and weren't sure if we should wash coming or going-- so we did both.

Finally, a map!
Finally, we found a map! We had somehow missed the original route, but were able to piece it together from there. Then, on a jungly climb, I felt a stab on my ankle and looked down to see a wasp stuck in my sock at the top of my right foot. I flipped it off and got the hell out of there.

A second map, convincing us to check out Kitekite Falls
The pain was sharp and there were lots of wasps around, so when we got to the top of the climb and a trail junction, we decided to head back. Once we got back to the park, however, we saw signs for a waterfall only 30 minutes away. A 30 minute hike is probably only a 15 minute run, we reasoned... so off we went.

Kitekite Falls
It was a fun climb to Kitekite Falls, although the trail was fairly crowded and we were never sure if we should pass on the left or right (since you drive on the left in New Zealand). We never answered that question satisfactorily, but it was fun to see the falls and then run back down.

Downstairs from Kitekite Falls
This little add-on lifted my spirits after the wasp sting, although we then had a bit of running on the road from the park to the town.

Ann is already loving her vacation
We shared a pizza at the Piha Cafe, right where we had parked our car, and enjoyed a treat I anticipated the entire run-- a chocolate iced coconut cream bar. It was worth it-- yum! Good thing we ate before driving the long, wild, windy, narrow roads back to Auckland...

Post-run treat

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