Over the last four weeks or so I’ve been binge watching the “I Shouldn’t Be Alive” series mostly on YouTube and I don’t think there are any more episodes left on that medium for me to watch. What got me going with each episode was the gut & determination of the person (s) who lives through some real horrid, inhuman conditions sometimes just a day or two and in other cases for weeks together, to make it alive on the other side of the horrible journey. I think the longest stretch was about a man who survived 74 days at sea when his boat was wrecked in a storm. And he made it alive just on an inflatable, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean ! I mean these are real survival stories packed with inspiration to show that when you don’t give up you can definitely make it to the end.
Now that was a decent prelude to what I’m going to write about. It’s by no means comparable to what they show in the mentioned series but mine was a story of it’s own and should I say what an experience it turned out to be.
So this happened just over a month ago. It was an overcast day with not much sun light making it’s way through the clouds. I was driving, with my parents, towards Hamilton after spending a weekend in New Plymouth. That morning we had our brunch and were making our way northwards. About an hour into the drive on SH3, around the area of Tongaporutu, there was a brown tourist information sign that said” Three Sisters, turn left in 400m.” It didn’t mention how far to go after turning left. Having gone past a few other similar info signs and most of them mentioning at least a 15-20km detour to get to the destination, we assumed the same about Three Sisters and continued to drive on. Although about a kilometre or two later we could see a bit of the coast and some rocks from up the hill and thought it (Three Sisters) must be something of a minor attraction and didn’t bother stopping. However after a further 5kms of driving I thought that though it might be something simple we might as well check it out as that stretch of SH3 wasn’t a common driving route for me and we had all the time in the world to make it to Hamilton much before the anticipated time. So I turned around and drove back towards Three Sisters.
When we got to the information sign and turned right, it happened to only be a short 1km detour from the highway and the detour was more of a gravel road that culminated in a small car park where there were just two other cars parked. There was an information board at the car park which highlighted about the Three Sisters & Elephant Rock. Something that said about monoliths and giant rock formations etc etc. And as classic stereotype “tourists” we didn’t read the information to the detail and tried to look out for what it was. From where we had parked the car all we could see was some black sand and a sort of an inlet from the coast. There weren’t anyone we could look for or ask around. But I did notice there were footprints on the sand that headed in a certain direction but none of any returning yet.. Given the weather wasn’t too bad and seeing people had made their way that side, we decided to take a walk towards the same direction for a few minutes and see if we could find anything.
As Mum Dad & I started walking on the black sand, after about 10 minutes we reached a spot where we had to cross a good amount of ocean water. It was about knee deep and freezing cold. So we rolled up our clothing, held each other’s hands and crossed it. A few more yards that way and we saw a young family who were returning back. On finding out they mentioned that the spot to look out for is about 10-15mins walk from where we were and it was absolutely worth going all the way. This got us a little more excited and about 10 mins later & crossing the light ocean waves we were truly amazed by what we saw. There were three giant monolithic rocks and were huge. To my eyes they reminded me of the Twelve Apostles in Melbourne. These perhaps weren’t that massive in comparison but still equally amazing. It surely was a sight worth heading to. Check out the image at the end of this post and you’ll see what I mean.
Hmmm now though we could see the giant rocks from where we were, we were still about a two hundred meters away from them. We wanted to get closer to them instead. And to get to the actual rocks we had to make our way through some light Tasman sea waves. The waves weren’t too bad and by the time it made all the way to us, it was more of just the water touching our feet. Not seeing anything harmful in that, we decided to keep going. About fifteen meters into it, there was a giant wave in the distance which looked like it could get a little above our ankles. Still not too bad. So we kept going. We came across a few smaller rocks, about half a meter high which we crossed over with a bit of effort, particularly my folks.
And then suddenly out of nowhere I suddenly noticed this massive wave come towards us. It came without notice, it was about knee deep and then it went back. At that moment we started to get second thoughts about going any further. Not seeing anyone in the distance or by the “Three Sisters” rocks made it even more doubtful. But as we were thinking about progressing, there came another giant wave. And this time by giant, I mean it was so big that I had to ask Mum to take shelter behind this big rock in front of her and I jumped onto a higher rock myself. Dad was somewhere behind by a few meters. Despite all this, the wave was so huge that I was almost chest deep in water and lost my balance on the rocks I was standing. It was a bit freaky, for at that moment I didn’t realise what had happened to Mum n Dad. By the time wave pulled back, I was worried that if another one followed through, it would suck all of us in the ocean. Dad was about his waist deep in water too, when I turned back to look at him. Thankfully before anything drastic could happen I looked out for Mum and she was sheltered very safely behind a big rock, that the waves barely managed to scrape through her ankles. Another wave in tandem and things would have been terrible, no doubt. We immediately decided to retract from the idea going all the way and turned back. While Mum & Dad started hurrying back to a safer spot, I made a quick dash before another wave came through and took a few pictures from about fifty or so meters away and sprinted back as fast as I could.
While the incident could have been lot more dramatic, thankfully it didn’t. And it was not until we reached back to the car park did I notice another smaller sign post that said, walking to the Three Sisters could be risky and it told us to do so only during low tides. It was then that I checked the low tide times for that day; as luck would have it we were just at the edge of the low tide period for the day !! What a close call..Phew !!!
Anyway before we got back to the car park, when we were in safer part of the coast, away from the big waves I thought of making a bit more of a pleasant memory of that day, which could have been nasty otherwise and made this beautiful VIDEO to remember. Mum & Dad played good sport and obliged. I couldn’t be more happier that day.
Here’s a smaller VIDEO of the whole episode from that day..No dramatic bits included due to the phone shoved in my pocket when I was chest deep in water.. Doesn’t really unfold the drama we went through but worth a watch.
That episode of the day wasn’t on our itinerary and it was never supposed to even happen. But once it did, it sure created some scary as well as great experiences to remember for life. And that was our adventure, that was never meant to be !!
Some images of the Three Sisters (Location: Tongaporutu, Taranaki)
P.S: I haven’t mentioned anything about the Elephant Rock. It’s only because that giant rock has lost it’s trunk in the last few years, to the nature’s elements. But when it did exist, it used to look like below. More info here..