Sick of the city, on Thursday afternoon Claire decided she fancied a weekend away, she pointed me in the direction of the contact page for a house for rent in a small coastal village called Onemana, near Whangamata, and I made all the necessary arrangements.
Dropping Eddie off in the cattery on Friday before picking up the keys for the bach, I then picked Claire up from Friday drinks at her new office, then we headed South at pace.
Skifield bound travellers filled every major eatery along the Southern motorway, so we gave them a wide berth, finding ourselves hungry and in Whangamata at around 9pm, we stopped to get some Fish & Chips at the Blue Fish, I got a quite good ‘Mexican’ burger (hot chilli sauce, lashings of jalapeño peppers, cheese, sour cream, beef pattie & salad, and… corn chips… in a bun), some pork ribs and a well cinnamon sugar encrusted donut, Claire got chips and what turned out to be a very average piece of Snapper.
Finding our way along dark night roads through vast tracts of forrestry land, we arrived in Onemana, dragged everything into the house (George fell out of the car and hit the door, then managed to run into a half open ranch slider, it was funny if a little sad) and et our overdue dinner with abandon, while building up a nice fire in the wood burner.
I may have accidentally had a couple of Appleton & Cokes.
Claire fell asleep in front of the TV (14", with rabbit ears, picking up One & Two surprisingly well, and everything else not at all) while I hauled out my laptop, newly loaded up with a selection of holiday reading.
I made the bed in the mezzanine level master bedroom, drew the curtains, then stoked the fire, and dragged Claire upstairs.
Fell asleep with the laptop open on my chest, and had quite an interupted nights sleep, with George constantly pacing around on the wooden floors, clickity clack, clickity clack – this is why we no longer let him sleep in our bedroom. And of course the house was making entirely unfamiliar noises. And then there was the aforementioned rum as well.
Saturday morning we didn’t really bother with.
But shortly after noon I had a hearty lunch of cheese slices and a bag of chips then we headed down to the beach, walking along a reserve by the stream that runs along the back of the property we’ve rented, numerous weird birds having a good time, and punga ferns everywhere, looking like giant hairy legged spiders with green leafy parasols to hide under.
The beach intself is quite wonderful, sandy beach with large banks following the meandering course of a couple of streams that flow out to sea, including one that meets the beach down a small rocky waterfall.
The beach itself is a breeding ground for dotterel, which are really wonderful little things, they have a delightful little call, and they’re very shy and well camouflaged. There were various other sea birds, and some large very dark birds we couldn’t identify, sounded like some sort of duck – but they didn’t look like ducks (there were a couple of ducks there to compare them with).
I presented Claire with about a dozen carefully nature crafted rings made of second hand shells, which she receievd with a grateful grin, and then proceeded to slyly (she though) dump them one by one in the sand as we walked along the beach.
We sat on some rocks beside the waterfall while George paddled around in the water, then walked back up to the house, through the centre of the village so we could check out the nearby cafe – not terribly stimulating, to be honest, so we’ve pretty much decided to see what else Whangamata has to offer us for dinner tonight, it’s only about a 10 minute drive.
The village, which it isn’t really, is cursed with not one but two real estate agents, just a single little dairy and the one (very) over priced cafe. Those real estate agents are a curse, and it’s no wonder that the valley is so over full with development.
Walking up the road this time (instead of the nice scenic walk by the stream) we saw pukeko roaming around in people’s front yards, like you’d expect cats in the city. Very nice.
Back to the house, it’s time for Claire to have another nap on the sofa. She’s allowed, she needed a break.
— 2.30pm, Saturday 19th August, 2006.
Sitting at the table in the main living area, reading books and writing as the mood takes me, I can gaze out the wall length windows, over the punga ferns and flax, loquat and lemon trees and the odd banksia, and enjoy the thick bird song, with tui flying around, and the odd bright flash of green as one of the exotics that have been released here (either accidentally or on purpose, who knows) fly around.
Directly ahead over the lip of my laptop, I’m looking out to sea, over the beach and rocks.
It’s a great spot. But unfortunately a little over developed. The valley is quite small, and the sections not especially large. So I can see numerous houses dotted around amongst the trees. Perhaps 50% too many to be able to feel really secluded.
This explains the two real estate offices.
A very small shame. Thankfully the birds don’t seem to care.
— 4.15pm, Saturday 19th August, 2006.
I stoked up the fire, made everything dog safe, and we hit the road for the short drive into Whangamata. I may have hit a possum, but under strange circumstances, so I’m not sure – I saw what looked like a bloody big black animal charging from the side of the road, almost behind the car, but I think I heard a little thump. This would be very strange, ‘cos it would require the animal to continue running even though the car was actually directly in front of it. So I’m hoping it was just a coincidence that some gravel flicked up at the same time as the possum (or what I assume was a possum) shot past.
Pretty scary either way.
Whangamata is a pretty small town, and a quick walk along the main drag found us heading into a pizza & pasta place called Nero. The service was very good, I ordered a morrocan lamb pizza, Claire got the vegetarian (olives, feta, etc.). and they were both pretty good. Especially when drizzled with chilli infused olive oil. My one was a bit lacking in seasoning, but a grind of salt fixed that.
A nice glass of limonata went very well.
For dessert we had a couple of passable flat whites and shared a blueberry & apple crumble with caramel sauce and vanilla cream. Pretty good, but not even close to my apple & boysenberry crumble.
— 10.04pm, Saturday 19th August.
Sunday morning was awesome. Then we grabbed George and headed to Whangamata for some brunch, found a cafe called a Vibes, I had bacon & scrambo on toast, Claire, ever the individualist, had a giant basket of chips and a little pot of aioli. For brunch. (They were actually really good.) I had a smoothie, Claire had a flatwhite.
We discovered, at some point in the morning, that all evidence pointed towards the feared animal strike being an actual animal strike – the crazed beast had managed to run directly into the right rear wheel, smashing the hub cap. Thankfully there was no, err, biological evidence. If it was a possum it was a big one, I’m leaning towards it being a genetically engineered panther, developed by a top-secret military lab to be highly intelligent and highly hostile. But they only managed to get halfway to their goal.
Then we tried to find out way out to a walking track in one of the GIGANTIC Matariki forrestry blocks, we finally found the turn-off (the map was difficult, but I worked it out by a process of elimination) only to discover that the forestry road was closed, luckily there were a couple of locals there (one unlocking the gate to let the other out) and a quick chat and the one with the keys was off at a dash and I was in hot pursuit, he guided us to a small park at the top of the Onemana peninsula, and pointed us in the direction of a walking trail (and a warning that the whole trail would take 7 hours) we thanked him and headed on our way.
I let George off and smart boy that he is he immediately ran into a strategically placed bit of fencing wire, gouging a runnel in his schnozzle and setting him off on a massive sneezing fit, firing doggy mucous into the long grass. We were a bit worried, but he got over it quite quickly and acted like nothing had happened.
The trail was quite well formed but narrow, running at times precariously close to a horrifyingly sharp cliff-edges with massive drops down to unyielding rocks far below, George made us a bit nervous here so we put him back on the leed. The views from the cliff top was amazing, this was the most purpose built suicide jumping off point I’ve ever seen – it was just perfect. So perfect is was really scary.
After about 30 minutes we found our way winding down through bush towards the beach we were seeking, emerging into a place of complete wonder. This was simply put, the very nicest beach I’ve ever seen.
We walked along the beach, with George capering around having a good time, trying to catch a shag (that wasn’t impressed at all, and sat placidly on a rock just out of George’s depth). I shot a couple of panoramas, one of which has come out pretty well, I reckon.
We sat on the rocks and enjoyed the scenery, then decided we’d better get going if we wanted to get any Ks under behind us before nightfall (I really don’t enjoy driving on dark country roads) and made our way back to the car. Back at the bach, we put the rubbish out, did one last check through the house for stray possessions and hit the road.
I managed to make the wrong choice at a T-junction (don’t ask me why we didn’t have a map, but we didn’t) and we ended up in a small town, wondering why we hadn’t noticed the school… township… dude with a bow and arrow. Wait a minute, we didn’t come this way! We’re heading up the Coromandel Peninsula! Curses, I should have headed towards Thames! Anyway, a gas station map later we were back on the way, but having been about 25km out of our way, and it was now starting to get dark – and even worse, rain.
I found someone nice to follow, and drove along behind them for a while. At one point seeing a possum appear out of no-freaking-where in their headlights, it looked terrified, as much as it could, and then disappeared. Worst part was that after being hit by the car… it didn’t appear. So it was presumably stuck somewhere on the front of the car, clinging on until the driver slowed for a corner, when it could jump to freedom (and a heroes welcome when it returned to Possumtropolis with stories of daring adventure), either that or wrapped around the axle in a highspeed gristley crunch of very short lived pain. I’m not sure which is more likely, but I like the Possumtropolis story.
Bloody boy racers, they’re everywhere. They love to drive too close, too fast, and try to pass in ridiculous places. They seriously give me the shits. So I found my way to the relative safety behind a 4wd towing a boat. Then leap frogged him for a large trailler loaded down with weird shit that looked a lot like a horse when the light was just right.
It was very nice getting back to State Highway 1. With its median barriers, over-head lighting, and all around multi-laned goodness.
Home meant house-work. I’d very naughtily done no cleaning before we left, but quick as a flash everything was shiny and good once again (including George’s cut schnozzle, which I ointmented up nicely).
It’s good to go away, but it’s also good to come home again.