By: Christopher Cookson
It's a scorching summer Sunday afternoon after a week of weather that as a Marlburian, I'd prefer not to mention. Let's just say that it at least helped reduce the fire risk. Today at least is making up for it, and the family is keen to find somewhere to cool off, but we're not particularly organised.
My daughter insists she wants to go snorkelling, and wants to go to Governors Bay, as she remembers playing with Daddy's snorkel and flippers there when she was just a toddler. It's certainly a nice spot but it's a bit of a drive from Blenheim when it's already late afternoon.
My wife suggests Whites Bay, but my daughter isn't very enthusiastic, as she went there only a few days ago, and doesn't think it will be great for snorkelling.
It needs to be said at this point that my daughter doesn't actually have a mask and snorkel or flippers, but thinks that the Warehouse is a sort of magical convenience store where you get whatever you want whenever you want it. The concept of where money comes from isn't really something she's quite grasped yet.
Still without having made a definitive decision we grab our togs, toss my mask and snorkel into the car along with my daughter's body board. By now, my wife is adamant that Governors Bay is too far, and my daughter is equally adamant that that is where she wants to go, and to emphasise the point, breaks down into a screaming tantrum which only intensifies when we drive past The Warehouse without stopping, as apart from her determination of where she wants to go, she is equally determined that we were going to buy her a snorkel and mask. Needless to say, screaming tantrums tend not to be the way to bend parents to a child's will, and if anything they tend to have the opposite effect.
We drive on, with the back seat din unabated, and I'm a little uncertain of where we're going. After a week of dismal weather, one fine day isn't likely to make Whites Bay warm, and the stream that trickles into the bay is likely to have been topped up with chilly water. At least we're going for a Sunday drive, and maybe we can go paddling I think.
We reach Rarangi, and begin the steep climb up the narrow, winding road that clings to bush clad mountainside, that leads to Whites Bay. I wonder if we should have just stopped at Rarangi. It's not exactly a swimming beach, but it can still be a pleasant spot to relax.
As we drive, my wife happens to make a casual comment that some friends of ours spent a day at Robin Hood Bay. Suddenly I have a plan. Robin Hood Bay is the next bay after Whites Bay, and if it doesn't work out, we can always come back to Whites Bay with not too much time lost.
We reach Whites Bay, and continue driving. The asphalt ends, and we're on this narrow snaky thing that passes for a road, full of corrugations and deep ruts that makes some forestry tracks look more civilised, with dust swirling around us. The ride is bumpy and slow, but fortunately we don't have too far to go. We coast down an incline and Robin Hood Bay comes into sight.
We're not the first ones there by any means. A DOC sign marks an official campground, but there seem to be just as many, if not more people, camped out on a long grassy strip on the roadside, overlooking the beach. The southern end of the beach is steep and stoney, and not particularly appealing, with a steep drop of several metres from the road to get to it, but at the northern end of bay, a pleasant sandy beach nestles up against a rocky shoreline that extends out to the entrance of the bay.
There are a few familes on the beach already when we arrive, but the beach is much more intimate and less crowded than Whites Bay, and a steady line of waves provide an ideal opportunity for body boarding.
My daughter is cheerful now, and keen to get in the water. I'm a bit more cautious, as I tend to feel the cold, but at least I'll get my feet wet. My daughter is soon wading out into the waves with her bright yellow body board, and cheerfully shrieking in delight as she rides the waves.
My wife finds a sheltered spot on some rocks at the end of the beach with a bit of shade, and I decide I should check out the water.
The water is actually quite pleasant, and the gently sloping sand extends out so that I can walk perhaps a hundred metres out with the water barely coming up to my chest, except for passing waves. My daughter decides she wants to play in the sand, and I manage to convince her to loan me her body board so I can ride the waves.
A couple of men in wetsuits emerge from the sea further out in the bay, and I know that if my daughter sees them, she will insist on wanting to try snorkelling. She doesn't seem to have noticed them, but soon askes to try my snorkel and mask anyway. It turns out they fit her, although the flippers are far too big, however she's perfectly happy to float around head down, looking at what she can see.
As the golden light of late afternoon bathes the bay and signifies it's almost time to go, we catch a glimpse of a mass of black shapes in a wave as the sunlight shines through it. We wait, and watch, and sure enough with the next big wave we see it again. A large school of fish is riding the wave. We watch patiently for a few more minutes, and see the occasional fish leaping out of the water.
As we finally pack up and head home, I have a feeling my daughter is going to demand we come here again, and truth be told, I don't think I'll mind.
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