Thursday, December 20, 2018

Orokomai Bay and Shakespear Regional Park

[Kyle]From Tiritiri Matangi, we motored the short distance to Orokomai Bay on the south side of the Whangaparoa peninsula, opposite the island. There, we would be better able to find protection from the strong westerlies forecast for the following few days. We ended up anchored in the lee of high cliffs topped with big mansions. We had inadvertently stumbled on none of Auckland’s most well-to-do areas. From where Begonia sat, we could just see the Auckland skyline peeking out from behind the headland.

Another dose of heavy rains was coming, but for the moment, we were expecting a day of sunshine, so we set off for a day in the park.

Orokomai Bay is very shallow, nearly drying out completely at low tide. When that happens, the locals come out in force to rid the bottom of its shellfish, which are supposedly tasty. We set off about then and got as far up the bay as we could with the dinghy. It didn’t take too long before it was too shallow for the motor, so we punted the rest of the way to the spot where we grounded. From there, we dragged the dinghy to the water’s edge and then as far up the shallow beach as we could with my back still being a little tender. I wanted to accompany Maryanne on her walk instead of laying in the bottom of the dinghy saying, “Ow, ow, ow!” all day while the sun cooked me like a Christmas ham.

From our anchorage tucked behind the cliffs, we went ashore and found a place to land the dinghy and walked around the giant Kiwi protection fence looking for a way into the Park.

Waterfalls and Fantail

Forest, grazing fields, and beaches - a mix of environments

From Orokomai Bay, the southern part of the remaining peninsula is taken up by Shakespear (with no e) Park and reserve (The Northern part is used by the military). Our first encounter with it came as we encountered an elaborate perimeter fence at the beach. Large sections of the park have been set aside as protected reserves for ground dwelling and nesting animals. The electrified fence had regularly spaced predator traps on both sides and vestibules with shoe cleaning stations and double doors that can’t be opened simultaneously for humans who want to go through. New Zealand really takes the protection of its native species very seriously. The fence must have cost a thousand dollars per meter to construct, but the park was free of charge. We never saw one as we hiked many of its trails, but we would have gladly stuck a tenner in a “donation for the upkeep” box.

Shakespear is another great place for a nature walk. There were thick forests full of ferns and crisscrossed with vines and open meadows with views of the Auckland skyline and the whole Hauraki Gulf, all filled with gregarious singing birds. On the way back from the next bay over to Oromokai, we finally saw a field full of sheep. We’re always hearing about how they outnumber humans five to one here, but so far, we’ve only seen scattered ones at great distances. We have definitely not seen more of them than the friendly people at this point.

Back at the beach and through the fence (self) checkpoint, I noticed they had a camera on a motion detector. It was mounted at knee height and seems to be there for the purpose of helping them enforce the “No Dogs” rule.

Quail and Oyster Catchers

By the time we made it back to our dinghy, the water had come up far enough that we no longer needed to drag it down to the water. In fact, it was tugging gently on its anchors at a depth of about a meter. All we had to do was wade out, climb in and then punt towards Begonia until it was deep enough for our motor. We had just enough time for a quick swim to wash off before the clouds moved in and the skies opened up. I guess we could have just waited a little and gone out on deck with a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap, but what was done was done. We got to hide in the dry cabin while Begonia got a ten thousand liter rinse of her own.

Back to the Dinghy and return to Begonia

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