Thursday, June 4, 2009


I was lucky last weekend to be able to travel to the South Waikato. The primary purpose was a weekend of orienteering (check out the video in the next post for some footage of this) but equally important was the catching up with. We booked a bach out in wop wops of Aotea Harbour, where none of us had ever been, and used the mornings and evenings to get to know a special little part of New Zealand.

It was late Saturday night by the time we got there, though Rach and Rhys had the fire cranking, Sunday morning I was up early getting some photos around the village with the tide close to low.

The bach looked over the harbour channel towards the North Head of the harbour which is a giant looming sandhill. It reminded me of the Swedish town of Kiruna with its giant pile of tailings, exccept this is 100% natural, indeed declared a scientific reserve for its archaelogical and ecological values. Behind the sand dunes in the far distance is the volcanic cone of Karioi which towers over the famous surfing beach of Raglan.

I wondered about the village appreciating the amazing light and the timelessness of the place. There is change though. On the ridge overlooking the old bach settlement modern houses are springing up in a new subdivision. They loom over the township like alien spacecraft waiting to suck the souls out of the little children that go exploring to far away from town.

Later in the morning Rachel, Rhys, Oscar and I went walking around the headland towards Kawhia. The tide was still low enough for the pram to find hard sand. It was great to feel the sun again after an eternity of terrible weather. Ancient pohutukawas nestled in hollows at the tops of the eroded clay cliffs. And recently one had fallen. Though pohutukawas are amazingly tough colonisers able to re-root where there branches touch the ground I think this one was doomed. Its death and its neighbours life were displayed in symmetry by the horizon of the cliff top.

Rachel, Rhys and I share many values about ecology and it was nice to wonder along discussing some of them. How the patterns in nature repeated in changed scales. You can see a landscape in the erosion of the beachs...or equally in the dissolution of the rock

When you try to comprehend nature as a system, with an ecological view, be it as limited as ours (which was also a topic for discussion), you see cycles, and flow and inter-relationships and you try to percieve of the human impositions on that and the effect they have. I found this abandoned gas canister as a useful metaphor in my thinking...

Its a beuatiful walk with springs welling on the beach (rumours of hot springs further around), and weathered rocks. Further around as we left the shelter of the harbour hills the rugged south head of Kawhia harbour came into view, stretching down to worn stacks on its seaward side. In these rugged oceans the NZ Maui's dolphin struggle for existence, possibly the rarest dolhpin in the world mow that the Chinese river dolphin, the Baiji is extinct.

Oh yeah and driving out of Aotea I saw a cool is that! In its alarmed pose on the side of the road, beak thrusted directly up revealing its striped belly used for camoflague in the reeds. Whenever I think of Bitterns I always think of the classic New Zealand childrens book "Bidibidi". Bitterns, sheep, dogs, barb wire, ghosts and a man with a rainbow coat...but anyway...

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