We carry on the next morning, taking the bend and driving northward now along New Zealand’s East Coast. We stop as signs direct us to little attractions, like“Jack’s Blowhole”. We stop, make the hike, and find Jack’s Blowhole isn’t blowing right now. We should have timed it better with high tide. But who can coordinate all these random factors?
We drive through town and buy a giant box of plums, nectarines, and peaches for $25.00. There are even strange green plums that are some of the best I’ve ever tasted. Delicious.
We are too far inland now to find penguins, so they are going to have to wait again. We find a campsite at the Sinclaire Wetlands and reserve our spot.
Sinclaire Wetlands is a bird preserve in the middle of vast swaths of land the kiwis have drained
for ranching and farming. It’s an area left wild in the midst of tractors, rows of corn, herds of sheep, and cattle. I’m hoping to track down a few pretty birds the next morning.
In the meantime, we pop up the road for a little mountain bike ride. Government Track is supposed to be a single track that winds itself up and through native jungle and forest seven miles each way. Muddy and slick over rocks that feel like ice, we have to walk the first three switchbacks. But, then the trail gives way to a perfect climb, padded with fallen jungle leaves and fern fronds. Andrew takes the lead to clear off the spiderwebs and the spidery inhabitants, usually with his face. One might reach out and clear a spider web with one’s hand, if the sun is dancing from the strands just right. But usually you can’t see the web and it pastes itself to your face. Then, you claw at your face to try to pull it away, hoping that the spider is just little and that it is not hungry. Gentlemen never sail to weather (up wind) and Gentlemen never make their lady clear spiderwebs with their face.
About four miles in, we come upon an area where the ill used trail is flooded with water, mud and cow plop. We cross the first plop pond hopping over slick rocks, but when we reach the second plop pond, there are no rocks to hop and it is much to large to skirt around. Andrew attempts to build a bridge with a log and a few rocks. Cows “mmhherrrruuuwww” in the distance. We cross the pond, pedal about ten more feet and find….another large pond. We look forward and see cow hooves have dug holes in the trail and the mud continues for the foreseeable future. Meh. We turn around and head back down hill.
Back at the road, we find a pretty little river in which to take a swim. The water is cold, the rocks beneath our feet smooth. We are warm from our ride and the sun is out, so we jump in. Once we have cooled down, we relax on the pillow of soft grass surrounded by flowers…until the black flies find us and swarm in for a snack.
Then, we run, hoist the bikes back into the van and head back to camp.
We turn in early, because I have high hopes for the Wetlands at dawn. My watch beeps at me at 6 a.m., I hit snooze, but then Andrew pushes me out the van door. Eyes still squinty with sleep, I wrap my camera around my neck, grab my extra lens and tie on my boots. The grass is dewy, and my socks are already wet.
We hike along the path and as the sun peeks over the horizon, we are surrounded in mist. The grasses play chameleon, one minute gold the next pink or red with the sunrise hues.
One of New Zealand’s birds — the one I call a blue chicken — trots down the path in front of us trying to avoid our footsteps. He has taken the path right in front of us, so his attempt to avoid dour footsteps is failing. New Zealand has the laziest birds. Many don’t fly at all, and others only fly when they absolutely have to. The blue chicken is in this latter category.
WHY ARE YOU FOLLOWING ME!?!??! He seems to look back and say. Finally, he veers to the left.
We don’t find many other birds, but I am enraptured by the dew covered spiderwebs. Little drops of crystalline water have collected along the delicate strands of web and are stuck there. They look like a necklace made of diamond pearls, if such a thing existed. Such a simple thing, I bet spiderwebs dress up like this every dewy morning, everywhere across the world. And yet, it is only on my 12,922 day of my life that I take notice. It’s nice though. A new surprise, a new beautiful thing to love - even after all this time.