Monday, March 2, 2009

Place of Hidden Treasures

A sign at the entrance to the beach at Pouto Point proclaims it as The Place of Hidden Treasures. No other phrase could describe it so perfectly. One of the treasures is the local people and we are lucky enough to be related to a lot of them (and having lived amongst them for a few years) so have plenty of help in discovering the bounty.

The forecast for heavy rain on Friday night, did not dampen our spirits and when the storm hit we felt more relief for the local farmers who have been struggling with dry conditions than concern that our weekend would be ruined. Son-in-law Bill and I went for a short walk Friday evening in light rain I was so keen to see what had changed, what remained the same.

We woke Saturday morning to no power. Shrug! What do you expect in remote areas after a storm! I read in survey results a few years ago that Pouto is the fourth most remote area in New Zealand. But the power came back on before we starved and kids had cereal and milk to keep the hunger pangs at bay. And with good rain overnight we didn’t have to worry about the 6 adults and 5 kids using too much of the tank water.

Our tally of kids increased by two as my niece Christine lives just over the road and her two, Jessica and Joe joined us for most of our activities, and acted as our tour guides. (We were staying in Christine’s husband Andrew’s family bach). I was fascinated by this word ‘bach’ when I first arrived in NZ and am now a lover of the authentic old family baches you still see at holiday spots. The word originated from ‘bachelor pad’. One humorous definition of the bach, is "something you built yourself, on land you don't own, out of materials you borrowed or stole."

About 5 years ago the Department of Conservation threatened that all baches on their land were to be dismantled and moved but that didn’t come to pass. I give thanks for that! Anyway, the baches at Pouto are on privately owned land but in all other ways this one is typical of what I think a bach should be. Modest and loved, the furnishings mismatched and way out dated, cast off from a former life or picked up cheaply at garage sales. A place where you don’t have to worry too much about sand on the feet.

Fed and watered, we set off for a walk, not straight down to the beach but via a track Danny and Leone remember running along as kids, that takes you out on to the beach past where there are any houses or people. And, as these things tend to do in our family, idle chatter turned to a plan to go around to the lighthouse now rather than wait till the tide turned and maybe more rain. It was grey and overcast, still looked a bit threatening.

Now, as in most outdoor pursuits there are rules. And the Pouto rules that had been instilled in me decreed you do not try to get around the beach in vehicles at full tide. But the thinking of the group was what’s the worst thing that can happen, we can get stuck but if we have 3 modes of transport one of them can be used to go back to get a tractor from one of the relatives and we won’t have to worry about the tide coming in and claiming our stuck vehicle. And we were in adventure mode. So some of the party went back to pack lunches and get the vehicles.

We had Danny’s four wheel drive, a trailer, a quad bike and a little 100cc motor bike.

Words cannot describe the beauty of Pouto, and a ‘picture tells 1,000 words’ so I will let our photos tell the story.

Little farm girl Georgis decides we should dig it out!
With everyone pushing we backed it out,
let some more air out of the tyres
and took a different path.

Danny announced a prize of $4 (negotiated up from $1)
for the first kid to get to the top.

Heather and Georgia show Danny how much easier it is
coming back down.

Girls shrieking as they spot the sandhills up ahead.

The lighthouse is a speck at the top of that sandhill.
There's got to be an easy way to get up there -
or at least part of the way!
Justine got me a bit further than the truck
on the back of the quad,
but it was still a hard slog.
The younger folk went straight up
but I zig-zagged all the way.
And I made it!

The girls made the ascent quickly,
then went running off,
with only their footsteps in their wake.

The girls make their second ascent -
a bit slower this time!

Top picnic spot.
The ever shifting sand has gouged out a moat
around the base of the lighthouse
and it has filled with overnight rain.

The weather was a bonus, I think. Had it been hot and sunny the sand would have been too hot to walk on without shoes and I don't think I, at least, would have managed the climb. And what is better than running barefoot in the sand?

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