I listened to another couple of James McNeish’s chapters from his “Touchstones” book last night and I was reminded of a few more details from our Te Maika holidays…. I haven’t really described the peninsula in any detail, though the photos do replace “a thousand words” of course! Mr McNeish talks about it being an island, which it isn’t… but it could be as the walk from a full tide in the harbour to the surf on the West Coast is all of 500 metres I would guess.
This geography makes for a wonderful choice in which to swim or walk or explore – all of which we naturally did and still do. As I have mentioned previously, the main bay of baches is very tidal and is only suitable for swimming an hour either side of high tide. At these times it is perfect for children with a sandy bottom (the seabed, that is!) and without current, so children can potter about in kayaks, dinghies or whatever craft happens to be nearby. At low tide we would dig for pippies in the mud banks. I’m not sure if they are still in abundance but scallops have been found on a very low tide… shhhh!
When we rented baches in the bay and swimming at the front door was limited, an excursion to the rock pools was just as anticipated at low tide. These pools can change with each tide so most assuredly they would change each year. We looked forward to our first escapade to the rocks and trying any new pools with trepidation. Trepidation because the depth of each pool was unknown, the sea could come in while we were enjoying the fun and crabs inhabit the rocks in great numbers and sometimes also the sand below!
Because there is and was no such thing as a surf life-saving club at Te Maika and the sea, as in most New Zealand west coast beaches, can be quite unpredictable and treacherous, our surf swimming was limited to splashing about in the shallows, often with paddle boards (miniature body boards) and, as we grew, hard plastic body boards – fore-runners of today’s body boards, I guess. I remember clearly a wooden board which my mother used – probably something her father fashioned back when she was a teenager.
Our other “low tide” activity was to walk…. and walk…. and walk… up the harbour or along the coast and over the rocks. We never complained – there was always water nearby if we needed to cool off; there was always something new to discover, and we always had company – that of each other (my two brothers and I) or any number of our “holiday” friends.