Wednesday 14 August
Wenderholm to Orewa (11.5 km)
This was a short and brisk walk, enlivened at the start near Cowdray House by the most daytime birdsong we’d heard so far (although tuis were in the ascendant). On the path through native bush over the cliff I indulged myself again with ferns, lichen and moss and we found a tree trunk so gnarled that we could almost hear it snarling.
On reaching Waiwera, we had a stint on the road margin due to the tide, but we walked on the beach at Hatfield and again at Orewa. Here, in the silvery overcast light we came across a seagull parliament. There’s nothing quite like reflection to double your party membership.
Friday 6 September
Stillwater to Long Bay (10 km)
Because there are two water sections (the Weiti and Okura Rivers) in close proximity, making it difficult for groups of walkers to make transport arrangements either across or around these, we did the Stillwater to Long Bay section in advance of the Auckland solidarity walk.
The path began in a muddy mangrove area. Seeing Hannah again in this photo, you may have a question you have been afraid, heretofore, to ask: Does Hannah ever remove that grey and charcoal-striped tracksuit top? The answer, dear reader, is “No”. Either that, or we drove on the same day to all the places we have been pretending to walk through, and took all the photos with her wearing the same clothes.
We climbed to a cliff-top through native bush, before descending to the Okura River estuary. We had timed our arrival for low tide, when the crossing would be hip deep, according to the trail notes.
For most of this wide estuary, the water barely wets your shoes at low tide. The deep section is confined to a channel close to the south side. The channel is about 40 metres wide and in the middle, the water was above my waist. We had decided to wade across without changing, and simply walk ourselves dry afterwards, but I had to carry the day pack on my head so as not to saturate our book. Yes, even on this day trip, we had Adrian Mole and the weapons of mass destruction with us. I hope Sue Townsend is gratified.
South of the estuary, we took the cliff path with wide green paddocks on our right, before descending again to the sand. The trail notes warned us that Pohutukawa Beach is for nudists. The public signs at the beach say nothing of this, but they don’t forbid naturism either. There is a cross through an icon of a tent and a fire, but no icon (crossed out or otherwise) of mammary glands and genitalia. I wonder if the local council hopes the happy nudists will go away if they are ignored? Apparently, until a few years ago, there was a sign euphemistically indicating that Pohutukawa Beach is a “clothing optional” area.
My eyesight is not what it used to be, but it is possibly insufficiently blurry to maintain my visual purity and honour should a generously fleshly sight pop up. However, nothing was put to the test today, because we saw only two males on the beach and both were distressingly satisfactorily clothed.
At Long Bay, we climbed onto public transport. It had taken us just under two hours to do the whole walk, and it took three buses and just over three hours to get home. This was where Adrian Mole entered [stage left]. We read aloud to each other at the bus shelters and on the bus. And now for some social psychology. It is apparently OK to
- have loud conversations, including plenty of four-letter words
- speak loudly on a cell phone, anywhere in public, making an auditory gift of your boring life to everyone within a radius of 15 metres
- fail to acknowledge, even by eye contact, the presence of others, and sit sealed in by ipod earphones, or texting other folk when your friends are right next to you
However, it is apparently not OK to read aloud at a normal volume to someone. We get some odd looks and even some stares in public when we perform this civilised sharing activity.
At our second bus shelter in Albany, at 2.35 pm, a senior citizen broke the mould. It was Hannah’s turn to read. After leading a financially indiscreet but sexually blameless life for 111 pages, Adrian Mole is suddenly propositioned by the vapid Marigold: “I now feel that I am ready to put my heart, my soul, my body into your care,” she says. The senior citizen spoke. “Is that homework?” she asked. “We never got homework like that in my day.” Laughing, we acknowledged that it wasn’t homework but reassured her that Sue Townsend’s books are available in every public library. On page 114, Marigold informs Adrian that her parents approve of his relationship with her and adds: “Mummy gave me a box of organic condoms.” “Oh goodness, what will they think of next?” interjected the old lady. “Organic condoms! I wonder if they’re any use? I hope they don’t pop!” I love this old lady. She can share a bus shelter or a trans-Pacific flight with me any day.