The day of our BIG WALK arrived, sunny and calm with just enough autumn coolness to keep us comfortable over the 5-6 hours we set aside to achieve our goal. We arrived in Paihia in high spirits, hats and sunblock on, snacks and water packed and grins worthy of a Lewis Carroll story.
We expected to see stunning views. Living in the Bay of Islands it’s impossible to get away from countless vistas encompassing water and hills but this walk is special. The first 6 kms encompasses a waterfront path that includes a wooden walkway through mangroves and ends at the Opua wharf. In New Zealand we have what is called the Queen’s Chain, which establishes a 20 metre strip of public pathway along the shoreline, even on private property. The path led us through several secluded coves where it was easy to be respectful of the privacy of the 2-3 houses as our gazes were drawn to the view and not their windows.
The wait at Opua allowed Barb and I to grab a quick coffee to wash down the oatmeal biscuits/cookies I’d made. Ten minutes and $1 each later we were at Okiata Point. It never ceases to amaze me how different the bush walks are in such a small catchment. The track was very steep, with both natural and reinforced steps cut into the hillsides. Nikau palms were everywhere and my friends waited patiently while I photographed countless mushrooms and fungi.
The steep track soon gave way to a boardwalk where high tide masked the distinctive sulfur smell of mangrove roots. We spotted commercial oyster beds sitting in the bay and the brilliant autumn colours of a lone liquid amber tree in the distant hills. Several blue herons crisscrossed the estuary, one kind enough to pose at the end of a stretch of walkway.
A kaleidoscope of hibiscus colours greeted us on our arrival in Russell, five hours after the start of our adventure. Well-deserved ice cream cones and a return ferry trip to Paihia finished the trip perfectly.
It’s so easy to fall into the same routines and I do love my daily walks with great friends but I finished this walk inspired to keep finding the hidden treasures in this special place I call home.