Thursday morning I awoke from a surprisingly comfortable sleep in the tent. That extra pad made a big difference. I thought it might rain during the night, but beside one very brief spitting, there was nothing. The skies were overcast and ominous, a chill in the air and no hope of sun. I went driving down the road searching for beach access and ended going down yet another gravelly, rocky dirt road. It ended at a bunch of gateways to private residences with hand scrawled notes: NO BEACH ACCESS! So I turned back and found that the public beach access was very close to the hostel. There is a little walk over a bridge and through the forest to get down to the beach. This beach is breeding ground for the endangered New Zealand Dotterel and Variable Oystercatchers, so efforts are made to keep disturbances (like cars) away from their nests. There is a spit of land down on the south end of the beach called the Wharekawa Wildlife Refuge.
Looking back towards the car park:
From the bridge:
Once down to the ocean I came across two bright yellow benches, one with a name inscribed on it:
Esme! I don’t suppose Jim – semi-luddite that he is – is reading this. But maybe you are Darcie? A tribute to your baby girl on the spectacular beaches of Opoutere.
The waves were crashing violently and in a disorganized fashion. Overhead the sky was still threatening storms, but still no rain. Gorgeous in a gloomy, wild way.
A long stretch of beach and I was alone except for the birds. I saw many variable oystercatchers, whose long thin orange beaks resemble peeled carrots. I think I saw a New Zealand Dotterel, but my bird-spotting skills are not so well-honed.
There were gelatinous blue animals (or plants?) dotting the sand along the shoreline. The color seemed almost plastic, and the see-through quality of the body revealed a darker blue spine-like structure along the ridge.
My first siting of the littlest penguin of all, the blue penguin, was not a happy one:
But it did allow me to get up real close.
It looked like the rain may actually hold off for a while, so I decided to take a kayak down to the harbor. I put on my board shorts, bikini top, rash gard and flip-flops. The kayak shed had life vests so I put on one of those, too. The process of just getting a kayak down to the little wharf across the street, solo, was a bit cumbersome and slow. I strapped a set of wheels to the front and one to the back, but the clasping mechanism on the tie-downs wouldn’t allow you to tighten them once it was clasped together. A stupid design. So the ends of the kayak kept slipping out every 20 feet or so. After a minor struggle I got it into the water. Which was about 6 inches deep at the shore. Kayakin was not difficult but maybe a bit more strenuous then I had imagined. I headed towards the bridge that lead to the beach, but the water was so shallow I gave up on that plan and headed back out to the middle of the harbor. A flock of birds was resting out in the middle of the water and I headed that way. Once out a ways I just sat in the rocking little waves and looked out on the hills and the sand spit. Every now and then a large breeze would come up, rocking me more. I could tell the tide was pulling me towards the town, so I started rowing back towards shore. If it did start to storm I didn’t want to be out in it, so this kayaking trip was short.
When I returned to the hostel I was very very hungry. A girl can’t live on porridge alone. So I decided to cook up a bit of a feast. I boiled water and added an OXO cube and small chopped up onion and some garlic from the German Tourist stash. To that I added a generous helping of lentils and let it simmer. On the road from Waihi Beach to Whangamata I had stopped to buy vegetables from a lady selling out the back of a hippie-like van. Four delicious little tomatoes, an avocado a few days away from ripe, two gala apples and a little box of organic blueberries. I had already eaten two tomatoes on the beach, with a little salt. I cut up the remaining two and put them on the plate. Then opened a tin of tuna in sweet chili sauce. Add to that some toast and butter offered by an English guest and the ever-present cup of tea (PG tips this time). A big bowl of lentil soup and I was set.
The rest of the rainy day was spent napping, on the internet, reading and hanging around the common areas of the hostel. Particularly the back porch with the framed view of the water and hills. One of the dorm rooms was empty, so I paid the dorm price for my own room. I could here a lot of bustle and talk as the other hostel guests chatted and made dinner and washed dishes. It had gotten reasonably cool and I just wanted to huddle under the comforter, alone, and read more about Dervla Murphy’s extreme travels in the Baltistan regions in the early 70s. The book is called “Where the Indus is Young: Walking to Baltistan” and has been my travelogue companion on the trip so far. I don’t feel like I am roughing it at all with such great accomodation, but her experiences make me feel even more pampered.