here it is, reason #687 to visit / fall in love with / move to new zealand (perhaps in that order).  today roger and i went on an adventure to mercer bay, a small secluded beach west of auckland in the waitakere ranges, surrounded by (and only accessible by clambering down) 250m-high cliffs.  they do give you fair warning:

but really, you should already know, if your guide looks like this.

before the steep descent, you hike about 20 min along the top, affording spectacular views up and down the coast.

after sustaining large numbers of pokes and scratches from the dense gorse along the path, you come to the actual point of departure from the main trail, down what we shall call the cliffs of insanity.

although some things do apparently enjoy life along the steep, crumbly goat track.

at some point, you get your first real glimpse of the kilometer-long beach below.

and you know it will be worth it.  and when you get down to the bottom, oh, it is.

so you swim, explore the caves, eat lunch, and stroll along the beach.  you watch the oystercatchers run in and out of the waves, you admire hundreds of meters' worth of stratified rock cliffs, and you are lulled by the pounding surf.  you stare out at the different blues and greens of the ocean, the near purple at the horizon, and you contemplate what interesting marine life might be right out beyond the breaking waves.  (what do you mean, not everyone does that??)  and you try to avoid looking too closely at the way back up, until you have to actually face it.  and as you climb, you keep turning around for one last look, to fix it in your memory until the next time you come back.  which you know you will.

and although this may seem like a very sober, collected account of the day, let me just tell you – it actually felt more like this.

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