Now that the twelve week scan results are known I am given permission to tell those few in the world that don’t already actually know, that we are going to be grandparents!! This exciting news has been known to us since late december and a few close friends and family are already party to the fantastic news that Rosie and Andy are going to be parents in July. Naturally emails , texts and Skype time home to Rosie is spent with news of how sick she has been feeling ( thankfully getting much better ) and, of course the ‘name’ conversation that goes round and round. We are so looking forward, when we get back, to getting involved in the preparations for the birth. We have been looking at all the grandparents playing on the various beaches we visit and commenting on how soon we will be able to do that. Mega exciting.
This morning we are opening our emails and I am posting the last blog when a Skype call comes through from Rosie. We are in the public library because it is the only place we can access Wi-Fi so we soon have to master the mimed Skype conversation. It’s a bit like charades through the ether. Only Rosie is a little bit deaf and from the comfort of her Greenwich flat will keep shouting – to everyone’s amusement around us.
We decide to bite the bullet and purchase the camping gear we need if we are to make use of the tent that we have hauled half way around the world. Soon we are the proud owners of the very cheapest sleeping bags, the most chemically smelling bed rolls, a nice little gas stove and a baby trangia that, when we unpack it, looks like it belongs to a doll’s set. A lamp works for five minutes and then stops working and I singe all the hairs on my arm demonstrating to Marilyn how quickly the water will boil in our mini pan.
Undeterred, I decide to teach Marilyn how to pitch the tent and we have a little dry run on the grass in front of the beach house. We get some comments from passers by and one of the neighbours comes over to ogle at our initial clumsy efforts. However, despite never having been a girl guide or possessing a camping badge, Marilyn is more than up to the task and soon we are lying in our little tent and working out who will get which side. I can’t persuade her to have a practice night sleeping out however and soon everything is packed up again.
After supper we go over to visit Gordon and share some of his lovely’ Old Coach House’ Pinot Gris. We also share some of his poetry (a hidden talent) and he digs out a holdall for us to store our newly acquired camping paraphenalia. As we walk back along the beach to the beach house we feel that we couldn’t be more prepared for our intrepid journey south to Coromandel, Rotorua, Napier and Wellington.
Sunday – Kawau Island
But before that we have our cruise to Kawau Island to enjoy. We can see this large island from the house and have been looking forward to catching the Royal Mail Post boat and spending the day cruising there, enjoying a short three hour hike and cruising back with a steak BBQ on board for good measure.
Unfortunately there are no dolphins to be seen and the skipper tells me that they have not been around at all since the New Year. I do happen to see some penguins however which is very exciting and the gannets are diving and later roosting on trees around the island.
Kawau has an interesting history but in a land that is successfully trying to give a more positive slant to the Maori influence on New Zealand culture, perhaps this story is one to hush up. By all accounts, the tribe that lived on Kawau were a pretty bloodthirsty lot of pirates who regularly caused mischief to their Maori neighbours on the mainland as they tried to fish or ply their trade. After a while the victims of these outrages were so fed up that they all ganged together temporarily and attacked and killed the Kawau pirate tribe. Not content with this they then ate them in a big cannibal festival and put a curse on the island.
For this reason it was pretty easy for the newcomers to populate the place. Governor Grey built a large mansion and, as a man of discovery, planted new plants, started an exotic zoo and generally had a good time partying with those that could get over to him on their boats. Copper was discovered and the Cornish came over to mine it very successfully but the mining enterprise went pear-shaped when the Welsh got involved in the act, dug a mine in the bay next to the Cornish mine and flooded out the Cornish. Eventually disputes and the growing scarcity of copper saw the demise of mining and gradually the whole enterprise fell into disrepair. It has now been rescued by the Department of Conservation and has been turned into a sanctuary with the intention of renovating the house and protecting the flora and fauna – especially the Kiwi.
We hope perhaps to see a Kiwi on our trek over to the mining spots and at one point I think I have seen one as a dark bird shape runs, startled, into the undergrowth. It turns out to be a Weka which is quite exciting in itself until we see several more of these chicken type birds and are soon ‘weka’d out’.
Marilyn then sees a long tail and some thumpy legs disappear into the brush and screams, “ Wallaby,” which ensures that every wallaby worth its salt in the vicinity will hit cover you would think. But a few minutes later we see another one. He bounds into a thicket where he is totally camouflaged: only his little beady eyes can be seen checking us out. Eventually he gets bored with the game of who will blink first and bounds out right in front of us and away into the forest. Now for most Antipodeans the thought of getting excited by a wild wallaby may seem absurd. But for these Brits our first sighting of such a lovely animal is very notable.
The tourist map that we are given leaves a lot to the imagination and often is just plain wrong. This means that we keep on descending precipitous paths to a bay thinking there is a path out the other side and onwards, only to be thwarted time and time again and having to return upwards the way we came.
Despite this it is a lovely walk and the names tell of the European past and the mining legacy – Miners’ Beach, Dispute Bay, Lady’s Cove, Two House Cove. There are no Maori names left following its bloody past. The forest is filled with ancient trees, some of them imported by Governor Grey. There is a massive Redwood, huge Chilean wine palms, Dicksonias the size of large trees and it all falls into the sea at these frequent small bays. There is a famous garden near us in Cornwall called Heligan and we comment that it is a bit like walking in an everlasting ‘ Lost Valley of Heligan’ on a massive scale.
And when we see the chimney of the mine Pumping House we could be transported back to West Cornwall and I begin to wonder why we spent all this money and made all this effort to come all this way.
I think it is the wallaby and the weka that remind us why – and the prospect of wild camping in the wilderness of course.