Rā 36, Rātapu 5 o Huitānguru 2017

Day 2 of a long weekend. Boy wants to stay home and hangout with friends so we head off to Opoutere. Across the flatlands of the Waikato in the cloud which starts to break as we hit the hill climb from Kopu to Opoutere. Little car decides enough is enough and hiccoughs it’s way to a halt on a really inconvenient part of the snaking road.  I don the hi-vis vest and walk back down a couple of bends, take my life in the hands of mad NZ drivers racing up the hill to wave frantically at them to slow down for a hazard.

Little car eventually decides it has rested sufficiently to carry on.  A Good Samaritan follows us to Tairua to check we’re ok. Thank you, man from Kopu Bed and Breakfast place.

The stunning views from the top of Paku – an extinct volcano are worth the steep, hot 380m climb.

I get my first ocean fix at Ocean Beach, Tairua. Golden sand, blue sky, deeply shelved beach so waves roll and crash magnificently. Floating beyond the breaking waves, being lifted on the rise and fall, eyes closed, weightless. Then swimming into the wave before it spills over me, exhilarating. Rest afterwards, the warm sand under me, sun beating down so just a few minutes. Bliss!

Opoutere in the early evening, in beautiful light is stunning. A walk through the pine forest. I love the smell of pine trees, the soft carpet of fallen pine needles and the crunch as they break underfoot. And the patterns against the blue sky as I look up at them towering above me.

Another ocean fix; the water seems warmer, the sun less harsh, the breeze less fresh, the waves gentler. Then we walk along in the shallows watching the play of light on the water, the shifting sand as the waves roll in and ebb out.

Wee Dotterels sitting on their nest pop up and draw us away, marching primly, pausing, looking, and on again. Nesting right in the middle of a sandy beach….hopefully their chicks survive.

We are warned off by male Oyster Catchers fiercely defending their young as they forage on the waterline, breaking tuatua and pipi with their bright orange beaks.

Then, a stretch along the muddy estuary as the sun is going down. The edge of the mangroves, leaves  bursting from their seed cases, shellfish providing sustenance for birds, a living, breathing landscape.

Finally, a bright blue flash – the wings of a tiny kingfisher as he darts through the sky to land on the top of a tall ponga tree stump. Perfect day.