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Published: November 19th 2009
Sunset Beach is well known for its spectacular errr.. sunsets. But the evening I visited, it was overcast with a hint of rain and the salt spray hung in the air - obscuring the Waikato River mouth.
Here I am in Raglan, looking at a real estate leaflet with properties for sale in Port Waikato. $284,000 for a "classic beach bach" doesn't sound too bad. Here in Raglan, you would be lucky to get a section for that. The two settlements have a number of things in common. They are both on the West Coast. One has a harbour, the other has the country's biggest river spilling out into the Tasman. Both are close to centres with much bigger populations - Hamilton and Auckland. But that's about where the similarities end.
Raglan is reggae vibe and way cool. Port Waikato is Coast Radio and hits from the 60s. It still hasn't discovered the meaning of the word cool. But I like it. Just as the music is from the 60s, so too is the development. The architects and the Auckland money haven't arrived.
It was raining when I left Port Waikato and before long the rain became worse - I could see sheets of it sweeping overhead and the trees were being thrashed by a fierce wind. The coast road was gravel and turning muddy, but the ride was exhilarating as the elements lashed me and the
The Only Good Possum is a Dead Possum
Guy told me he knew there were a few possums on his farm - they were eating the roses. So he did the right thing and called in a possum poisoner. 933 possums were poisoned in a month. Not only did the roses spring back to life, but suddenly the clover in the paddocks was looking much healthier.
Beast of Burden.
It was a day of small encounters. The first was with a horse, which was on the road and could have been a danger to motorists - if there had been any. As I endeavoured to engage it in conversation, a car came down the hill and pulled up alongside me. A woman with pinched lips wound down the window and abruptly said," that horse belongs on that side of the road, not this farm" indicating the property over her left shoulder. "We get sick of do-gooders putting it on our farm." She glared at me. I told her I had no intention of putting the horse anywhere, but she didn't look as though she believed me. She glared at me again, wound up the window and drove off without another word. I got the message. No do-gooders.
One of the next encounters was with a couple of young, male, German tourists in a car. I'd stopped for a breather and they pulled up to ask if I could show them where they were on their map. I indicated and asked them where they were going. In poor English, one of them replied,"anywhere, where the
$284,000. CLASSIC BEACH BACH ON 1052mS SECTION!!!! Original 1 bedroom bach with sleepout.
people are." I suggested a route and it wasn't til afterwards I realised there was probably a better alternative - one with tarseal. It might have made them feel more comfortable than negotiating their way down a narrow, gravel road in the rain.
My road was a roller coaster - steadily gaining height until I had views on both sides - limestone country with puriri and nikau and - through the rain - glimpses of the Tasman pounding ashore on windswept beaches. All this within a couple of hours of driving time from Auckland.
Inside my wet weather gear it was like a sauna. My clothes were saturated with sweat, my drinking water was getting low and my legs had that concrete feeling. I'd had to walk up parts of three hills. The invigorating wildness of the day was being replaced by simple tiredness. And yet I'd barely done 60 kilometres.
It was a relief when I struck tarseal and then spotted my destination. A farm belonging to Guy and Faye, friends who'd offered me a bed for the night. I swung up their graceful driveway and stopped in front of a beautiful old house set in
Looking towards the river mouth.
equally beautiful gardens. Faye was in Auckland, but Guy was at the door to welcome me as I peeled off the outer layers of my mud splattered clothing and dropped them on the verandah. Within the space of a few minutes I had a hot shower, a huge mug of tea and put my filthy clothing into the washing machine.
Guy is an excellent conversationalist and before we'd even sat down to dinner we'd begun talking about subjects as diverse as farm management, my route south and the local history of the region - information I was able to follow up on the next day. By the end of the evening, I think we'd settled on the idea of a travel club to visit some of the world's more exotic places - Iran and Libya were two of them. We both felt the history of the two countries had been overshadowed by their politics in recent decades.
The ride the next morning to Raglan was straightforward. Forty kilometres, all of it on sealed roads. It was bustling. It was way cool. But somehow Port Waikato stayed with me. Would I snap up real estate there, if I was
in the market? Less than an hour and a half from Auckland it had to be in the running. It would especially suit anyone keen on fishing, surfing or whitebaiting. Then I remembered I only like fish on plates and I never really mastered how to surf. But perhaps I could get to enjoy whitebating.
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