Monday 4 February 2013

Life's a beach (what, that's been done?)

Well, the locals didn't get their rain, and we holidaymakers didn't get our sun, so nobody on Waiheke was satisfied today. The birds on the beach didn't seem much bothered either way, the white-fronted terns gathered neatly together all facing into the wind, the black-backed gulls being nagged by their pathetically-squeaking huge offspring, and the busy oyster-catchers stabbing with their long red beaks after shellfish. None of them was concerned about me as I trotted past along the hard sand, wondering what I was being reminded of.

It only took the length of the beach (estimates vary: I'm going with 2.5km) to remember: the last time I took a long walk on sand was in the Bay of Fires, in north-east Tasmania. Named by European explorers for the cooking fires lit by the local Aboriginal people along that bit of coast, it's a series of stunning white-sand beaches divided by big weathered rocks orange with algae, and backed by dense green bush. The silica sand is truly white, squeaking underfoot, and it makes the colour of the sea that much more brilliantly blue, so that it feels as though someone has ramped up the saturation just a bit too far for reality.

Apart from one lighthouse and a sprinkling of homes near it, there's just sea and sand and nature, which included wombats and kangaroos, and one stinky dead whale. For four days we walked along the sand and over the headlands, longish days sometimes but not especially strenuous being so flat, and always spectacularly colourful on those (luckily) clear, sunny days. We stayed in fixed tents one night and in a fancy eco-lodge for two, and ate incredibly well. It's a part of Tasmania that tourists tend to bypass, but it's well worth the effort of getting there - and getting out and hands-on with it. Do it!

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