Karekare Beach

Karekare Beach

Black sand—miles of it. Rocky shards framed by fenced-off hills and smashing waves. And tiny little you, pressing virgin footprints onto this colossal tidal canvas.

You’re a small speck surrounded by a massive force. But rather than seeming inconsequential, you feel a part of this powerful place.

Perhaps it’s the lack of urbanisation that makes Karekare so special. You can thank the locals for that. Fiercely protecting the place for years, they’ve stopped it from becoming another tourist freak show or jigsaw of multi-million dollar ‘baches’.

In 1993, Jane Campion’s The Piano made Karekare an overnight superstar and everybody was talking about this black sand beach. They may not have been there, but you can bet they were on their way.

After all, who wanted to be the only Aucklander who couldn’t say, “Karekare ... know it well. Could tell right off the bat that movie was filmed there.”

International tourists also came to check the place out. It was a bit of a spectacle. Disembarking from scenic coaches, bus drivers tied plastic shopping bags around the Prada heels of ill-equipped women.

They teetered, with Foodtown bags rustling around their ankles, across the creek, along the flank of a sand bank, and stood where that baby-grand had once been.

Thankfully, Karekare’s no longer the screen idol it once was, and buses don’t visit as often. Nevertheless, movie makers still love this location …

At this beach there is a cave; a dark hollow carpeted in damp sands. Void of warmth and comfort, it became the shelter of a grieving woman. The very sea that crashed outside her cave had scooped life from her husband’s lungs. Newly married, and now newly widowed, she was adrift with sorrow.

She called to her lost lover, begging him to return. He did, in the form of a local fisherman, and through this incarnation she finally resolved her love—and loss.

So goes the story of Memory and Desire, a kiwi film directed by Niki Caro and set at Karekare Beach. Could any location have been more perfect for this tale than this wild, alluring west coast strand? Not likely.

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Content updated: 01/11/2014 17:02

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