Posted by: scribe9 | December 4, 2009

The lay of the land

It’s raining possums and pigeons right now, so this seems like a good time to show you some of my neck of the woods on a sunny day.

Several Saturday mornings we’ve headed to nearby beaches on the Pacific coast. The Pacific’s on the east side, but since we usually don’t get there until after nine and leave in the early afternoon, when it clouds up, I haven’t yet seen a sunrise on the “wrong” side, or sat on the beach at sunset with the sun behind me. 

When we arrived at Sandy Bay last Saturday we found a wetsuit-clad surfing class already in the water, but Rick and Emily, veterans of the Oregon Coast, body surfed for over an hour just in swimsuits. (I’m a veteran of the Oregon Coast too, but I tired years ago of cold water.) Then they laid on the beach to warm up, and got sunburned.

Just a few miles offshore are the Poor Knights Islands, a big diving site with lots of subtropical marine environments, hence a great variety of sealife. Why the Poor Knights? Back in the eighteenth century, Captain Cook thought they looked like a dessert form of French toast (which, being mainly eggs and bread, would have been inexpensive).

Diving and snorkeling tours to the Knights run from the hamlet of Tutukaka. We sat outside at the Schnappa Rock Café, with a view of the marina, for coffee and tea. The fish here is just snapper, so I assume the restaurant’s being cute.

Sunday we drove some local roads to find out distances for Rick’s and Em’s runs. Our neighborhood is out in the country a bit, started long enough ago–the fifties–that urban planning wasn’t much of a consideration. Fortunately, it’s within walking distance of the hospital, which was built on what was the edge of town almost a century ago, so Rick usually commutes on foot. The walk to the hospital passes pastures of sheep and of goats (don’t worry–they’re separated). The road to town is State Highway 14, even though New Zealand has no states, just districts. There’s a lot of milk tanker traffic, there must be many dairy farms beyond us.

Across the highway is a Health Camp, which started as a summer camp for poor city children, but is now a year-round facility for disabled children. Farther along the highway are more houses, but also pastures for horses and beef cattle, fairgrounds, a bird santuary and museum, a small college, and polo grounds.

Rick and Emily also run on Cemetery Road, which loops off the highway through sheep and cattle pastures, single houses, and Lifestyle Blocks which are developments selling multi-acre (or, rather, multi-hectare) lots–but most of them are as yet undeveloped, as the recession has hit here, too.

I think these sheep are Perendales, a relatively new New Zealand breed (I’m only starting to learn the breeds. In all those years of going through the barns at county and state fairs I noticed the differences among breeds, but never could remember their names–must be that there haven’t been any sheep farmers in the family):

That photo doesn’t show you the clearcutting in the  not-so-distant hills to the left. Considering this country’s propensity for landslides–practically every pasture and every road cut seems to have at least a little one–you’d think they wouldn’t clearcut.

Some of the pastures just have fences, but many have rock walls–there’s plenty of volcanic basalt around here–or towering hedges of various plants, or both, as here:

The highway’s not bad, but the side roads, like the roads to the beaches which also have development sites, are narrow and winding. If I were a planner here, I’d worry about the growing traffic on roads not designed or built to be much more than market roads, as well as the loss of farmland.

It’s stopped raining–now the laundry I hung this morning has a second chance to get dry.



  1. Finally! pictures. more please. I am dying to see where you live!

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