From Tapotupotu DoC camp, we left the caravan and drove to visit Parengarenga Harbour.
While staying at Houhora we tried to visit the Gumdiggers Park but it was closed for winter. We found it funny as the weather was quite warm and even the squalls of rain passing over didn’t seem to be stopping plenty of other travellers besides us. Still, they obviously don’t get enough of us to make it economically viable to remain open, and other tourist attractions were also closed, as well as some food places – it seems about half the eating places shut and half remain open. I was disappointed about the Gumdiggers Park as I would have loved to see it.
I went for a walk along the beach from the Māori settlement at the end of Kaimaumau Road to Houhora Heads. It was easy walking on mostly hard sand and there were plenty of interesting shells along the way, including thousands of small wheel shells and also a few large geoducks. These shells with their large openings that hold siphons that can grow to a full metre in length have fascinated me ever since I observed them years ago at the sea farming scientific unit Cawthron Institute in Nelson on one of their annual open days.
I could hear what sounded like a gun firing in the distance as I approached the approximate halfway point. It stopped well before I reached it, and didn’t continue again until well after I’d passed. I could see someone watching me so I waved out and they waved back. Soon after a young guy stopped to ask if I wanted a lift; I said thanks but I want to walk for the experience. Kind of him though – while we hear stories about ‘feral’ Northlanders this incident just served to reinforce my belief of friendly Far Northlanders. Kevin has created a new acronym – JAFN: Just Another Friendly Northerner. Much nicer than the ubiquitous JAFA that we hear even up here – I thought this was southern terminology but no, people who live as close to greater Auckland as the very edges also freely use it! Perhaps they invented it…of course, all the real Aucklanders we meet and talk with seem like thoroughly nice people.
I timed the walk so that I would reach the inlet, where my walk would end, at low tide, not wanting to cross over in water over my head. I turned inland off the beach a little before reaching the Heads and followed a road through low lying shrubbery to the inlet where I was treated to a small flock of royal spoonbills settled on the sand of the outgoing tide – I’ve never seen any bird such a pure white. When I started walking again they flew up and away. There were lots of holes in the sand and I listened out for popping shrimp but didn’t hear any. The holes must have been crab ones. I made my way along the banks, searching for a good place to cross until I spotted two tyres jutting out. The sand hardened with millions of shells embedded into it and I felt a lot safer crossing here than I might have further back where it seemed there might be patches of sinking sand. Once across, Kevin was waiting and we stood by the motorcamp to watch a tug boat pull a fishing boat along the river. The sun was already down and everything was violet and grey and calm and peaceful. I took some photos on my phone, but a recent software update meant they weren’t converted to jpgs when I emailed them to myself so I can’t include any here – I’ve tried to describe it better instead!