We woke up to pancakes and hot coffee, along with delicious pourable yogurt, just right to prepare us for an easy three-hour hike. We started down the beach, with the sky and sea the same grey, but quickly turned into the bush, following the Porariri River inland. The path is beautifully maintained, packed gravel and planks covered with chicken wire to avoid slips. Every few minutes there’s a break in the foliage and we can see the river below, big and green and bordered by palm trees, rima, and other NZ natives. At one point we walk through “a wee grotto,” as Alice calls it, wooden steps down under an overhanging rock, dark and damp.
The path was very well marked and maintained. On one side was the great, green, greasy Limpopo River, on the other were ferns and palms.
At a turn in the path, we see two robins (not our robins at all) pecking on the ground. We turn away from the river and the forest changes: more beech trees like the ones we saw yesterday, mottled trunks, and plenty of ferns on the forest floor. The walking is moderate, the air very humid but cool and breezy, so despite the humidity we all feel comfortable.
The first part of the trail was fairly flat, but it soon began to ascend.
Eventually, the path opens out to a gravelly river bed, a NZ specialty, with a dozen horses cropping the grass and taking their leisure. There’s a new bridge over the river which means we don’t have to cross on foot. Tim tells us that a psychological barrier is crossed the first time you get your boots wet (yes, even Gore-tex is no help when the water is up to your knee), but that pleasure lies ahead of us, perhaps. It’s a wobbly wobbly bridge but feels pretty sturdy.
The last part of the trail goes under cliffs of pancake rock, amazingly stacked and reminiscent of the canyons in Utah. Jim spots a pair of goats up there, feral ones Alice tells us (remember that NZ has only two small bats as native mammals, everything else has been imported). They watch us impassively. Below is a pukeko, close enough for us to enjoy its blue head. A weka stalks around nearby.
plus pokeko, a bird commonly found in swampy areas
and a cormorant trying to find some sun on a rock.