Bush, birdsong and blisters

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Oceania » New Zealand » North Island » Bay of Plenty » Whakatane
December 19th 2014
Published: January 23rd 2015
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A day of bush and birdsong. The local council has created an 18-kilometre loop walk that begins near Whakatane town centre, then ascends and descends through generally pristine native bush and hugs the coastline before descending to Opotiki Beach. After walking the length of the beach, walkers ascend through another reserve in which the native North Island robin has been released, then blunder round the suburbs before finding their way back to town.

We began the walk early in the morning when the sea glowed under the low sun and everything was fresh and clean. At first, the trail to Opotiki wound up and down through beautiful woodland with fern trees and a varied canopy, or hugged the coastline with its turquoise seas and red-blooming pohutukawa trees.

In the bush, tuis teased us by posing in full splendour, iridescent feathers in bright greens and blues gleaming in the sun. They flew off as soon as we focused our cameras on them. We could see them flitting through trees and making their steampunk-like hoots and fluid calls. They bullied the bellbirds so we could not photo them either, and the flirting fantails moved far too quickly for a decent shot.

Open areas provided views of distant White Island with a wreath of steam rising lazily from its craggy shores and black-backed gulls hovering overhead.

The day was warm and sunny, and we had walked for about 13 kms by the time we reached Opotiki beach. Here, we were luckier with our photography. Pied shags and variable oystercatchers were too busy looking for food to mind us bearing down on them, cameras at the ready.

We had a hot walk in full sunshine along the beach, watching kids play ball and parents relax before reaching a café attached to a mini-golf course where we bought bottles of water and drank coffee. Nice.

Then it was back through the bush, on what the locals called the 'bird trail', before ending up in a neat surburb and wandering the streets, lost. Walking on concrete pathways made my feet sore and I got a blister on my right big toe. This made me grumpy and Matt was probably considering murdering me and dumping me over a cliff edge into the sea.

An artist's shop was open. The friendly owner put us on the right track and we descended to Whakatane.

We deserved a good feed and a nice bottle of sauvignon blanc, so that is what we had, after I had put a plaster on my blister, that is.

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