It must seem strange to many that I enjoy being up so early. “Why not sleep in?” most ask me. Well, I can’t! In a strange way, it’s exciting for me to turn on my heater and sit in the warmth of Cuzzie with a hot mug of coffee, sorting out my day as much as I can. This morning, it’s raining. (How surprising.) But I draw back the curtains so I can see as soon as there’s a glimmer of daybreak. Then I’m out to say “Good Morning!” to this day, with layers and layers of clothing to keep me warm against the wind (the final layer being my faithful red rain jacket) and with my all-weather Crocs on my feet. Then it’s off onto the beach where it’s low tide and I start gathering more cockles, clams and pipis. I made the most amazing fritters last night (I have to say they were incredibly delicious). The oyster-catchers and seagulls were not impressed seeing me arrive again this morning, although I do have to admit they seem to have the upper hand on me, having already grabbed some of the largest cockles. It’s a strange experience. It’s pouring with rain and here I am walking along the edge of low tide, with the birds scuttling along in front of me, leaving behind a trail of open shells on the beach. Once in a while, I find some they have missed and grab them for my bag, and by the end of my beach walk, the bag is full. I’m happy. I love being able to go food gathering, even for these humble shellfish. They’re perhaps not quite as exotic as paua but I really like them. Sweet and juicy, just right for another batch of fritters, so that’s my dinner and lunch sorted!
As I reach the end of the beach walk, I turn and a full rainbow has formed behind me, glowing in the otherwise dull, grey sky, and the weather looks like it’s going to clear up today. My stomach’s grumbling, it needs breakfast. It’s already quite late, as I have spent a good couple of hours wandering along the beach this morning but it makes a really nice change from some of the smaller ones on which I spent time in Fiordland. Now I’m obsessed with spending as much time as I can just walking from one end of the beach to the other. (Imagine me on Ninety Mile Beach!! That could prove a bit of a problem!)
Back to Cuzzie I head, stash my bag of shellfish in the fridge to deal with later, then sit in the now warm sunshine and ponder my day. Firstly, I have to open up Cuzzie’s doors to air the place and do my daily housework!! I began tidying up some things, then got chatting to the totally wonderful campsite owner who come from Pohara and have been so incredibly generous. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. We chatted about Fiordland, about what a spectacular place it is, about his trips there each year, agreeing that everybody should spend some time there solo. Just living, just doing, just absorbing the magic of the place.
By now, it was calm and sunny, the day was racing along and the water was calling me to go paddling and exploring for a few hours, to go and visit the birds and other wildlife that is to be found on the islands. As I got ready, I ate my cold fritters, pulled on my gear and then jumped into Louise before paddling off into the sunlight with the sun already high in a very blue sky. A couple of gannets dive into the water with a “plop!” just next to me, then fly off quickly again, having already swallowed whatever they had caught on their dive. Then it was out to see the nesting shags, and around the island to see a seal sunning himself on this wonderful day. I head out, past the marine and mussel farms in Wainui Bay, turning at the 10 km mark. I played a crazy game with myself on the way back, weaving up and down the lines of large buoys in the mussel farm, doing tight turns at each end, like a zigzag race, sprinting up and down on the calm waters. Then, after a while, I aimed for these incredible islands that have a sort of archway or tunnel that you can paddle through. I paddled through them just for the hell of it (a couple of times) a bit like a kid in a playground, going back to my favourite little spots and enjoying the paddle, enjoying being out and about. It was really fun.
Once I got back closer to Pohara beach, I sat and sucked it up, going from being warm and dry to being wet!! Eskimo rolls to celebrate a great paddle, although to be honest, I was in a bit of a hurry on a couple of the rolls which is always a bad move, I know. I can hear all the fantastic instructions: “take your time, set up under the water, don’t hurry!!”. “But the water is really cold!” I can hear myself retorting. “No excuses. Just do it!” Back on dry land, I get changed, have an amazing hot shower, re-heat a pot of coffee, sit in the sun and inhale the remainder of today. Then I have an unexpected visitor. All I can say is “Thanks, Daniel, for taking the time to drive over the Takaka Hill. Thanks for the incredibly fresh food (the homemade spreads, nut butter and pesto) and the loan of a beautiful book”. We talked about this magical South Island, about the outdoors, about life and how great it can feel. Knowing and being in touch with nature seems to bring a certain calmness (at least it does for me) most of the time. We talked about connections, links, meeting people just when you most need to meet them. It all happens for a reason (that old, repetitive saying). I firmly believe this is true, you just have to be patient. As Daniel left, I grabbed one of my ripe avocados to give him, as my way of saying “thanks”. They are so expensive around these parts at the moment but it felt great to be able to give him one of the Auckland home-grown ones I still had. At the risk of repeating myself, I have to say this to the South Island people: you are amazing! I am humbled by the continued generosity of everyone I meet.
My smiles today:
Cool, generous people. Thanks to the South Island.
The ocean, for the food, the wildlife and being calm.
The amazing fresh food. Thanks.
Pohara Camping-Ground, you guys totally rock! (www.poharabeach.com)
Everybody knows everybody, crazy and cool vibes.
My thoughts today:
The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you have to put up with the rain!
Now it’s the end of a very positive day, one that started with wind and rain, then cleared to be magic and beautiful.
Goodnight from Red. Ma te Wa.