DAY 254...In and Around Westhaven Inlet

As is normal for me, my day started far earlier than most would like. But I enjoy these peaceful, early mornings. I sit and watch the flames in the fireplace, soaking up the warmth, drinking a mug of coffee, reading my book and I am one happy person, having "me" time before the sun wakes up.

By 7.30am, it’s time to get wrapped up warmly to hike down to the beach and look at the ocean. Time to watch the day dawn and feel the frost beneath my feet. Time to set out along the farm track wearing crocs with no socks! What an amazing frost there is in the valley this morning, crisp and white but no frozen puddles. Even the cows in the paddocks were rather surprised to see me out and about this early. As I got closer to the beach, I could hear the waves as the tide came in, not really surprising as I knew what the weather was doing. The sunrise behind me was amazing, with the ocean being its normal majestic self, preparing for a storm and each set of waves seemed to increase in intensity further out to sea. I stood to one side, just looking, sheltering from the cool wind, admiring not just the coastline but the day itself; brilliant blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.

Turning back, I walked back to the farmhouse to eat my breakfast and get ready for a paddle around the inlet while it was still high tide, when the inlet is at its best. I get geared up before I jump into Cuzzie, then drive fifteen minutes down the road to a boat ramp where I unload Louise and, within no time at all it seems, I am on the water. We cruise along, heading round the edges of the inlet. I see Joyce on the quad bike, way up on the ridge. She shouts out and I wave. The inlet is a beautiful paddle. As I get further along, the wind picks up and suddenly, I’m paddling into a stiff headwind. But it’s fun, especially as I know I’m going to have a fast return trip. I turn after an hour and retrace my course back to the boat ramp. As we turn, so does the tide, so we race along with a tail wind but with the outgoing tide, the pace really stays the same. It felt really good to be out on these waters and I realise I’m going to enjoy tiki-touring about here. What a lovely discovery!

All the while, I’m mindful of the time, as I’m due to meet Joyce to head into Collingwood School for a Matariki evening of fundraising and having a hangi. After a quick shower, I get dressed and no sooner than I am ready, I’m in the car with Joyce, heading for the school. But first, we stop to see her son Johnny at a local farm working hard in his shearing gang, getting as many sheep shorn as possible before the end of the day. It’s been a very long time since I last stood in a wool-shed, watching everyone else working. Go you guys and girls! It’s extremely hard physical work, with each and every one of them having their own job to do. But it flows like clockwork and they are rocking along. The entire team working as one, without saying much, but a large number of sheep seem to be heading back out the door minus their fleeces.

Next stop is the school and we chat to lots of different people. To say I met a diverse group tonight is a total understatement; the local didgeridoo player, the headmistress, the dentist, the outrigger paddlers, the daycare workers, and a man who has walked the Heaphy Track more than four hundred times. The list is endless, everyone who is anyone in this community was there, supporting, enjoying and generally being part of the evening. Again, what a cool little community! This school has a really good vibe. The kids had helped prepare not only the hangi itself but also the food (pork, chicken, goat or vegetarian). Thanks to all of them for the great food, it was truly amazing!

As darkness arrives, it starts getting colder. The wind has dropped but the clouds have arrived, the calm before the storm, as they say. Let’s just wait and see how the winds are over the next few days. We head home for the night. I stoke my fire, sit down with a hot mug of tea and read in the comfortable old recliner chair, looking out at the dark sky and welcoming the stormy weather, in the sure knowledge that after each storm, the calm returns and then, I can start paddling again.

My smiles today:
Westhaven Inlet, what a paddling gem at high tide.
This great community, somehow the cities seem to have lost their way.
A great hangi, nothing better!
Parsnip crisps. My favourite after a paddle.

My thoughts today:
Each new day is a unique gift, twenty four hours (one thousand four hundred and forty minutes) of opportunities, choices and chances. Make the most of them!

Goodnight from Red. I'm in a very happy place. Ma Te Wa.

A dream of a paddle, Westhaven Inlet.

A dream of a paddle, Westhaven Inlet.

Who is more surprised?

Who is more surprised?

The hard working Hangi team.

The hard working Hangi team.