I am tempted to just let the photographs speak for themselves in this blog and not write any words….as the scenery we have encountered recently was very beautiful. A real reminder of the art that can be found in nature and how much we love being by the ocean!

After my antibiotic allergic reaction to metal had faded and I regained the vision in my right eye (wow that was a bad week for me) I was delighted to be able to see and enjoy the scenery of Opoutere once again. I had been so confused when I had to keep one eye closed and realised just how much we rely on vision. At first I had to keep both eyes closed and it gave me a brief insight into how important sound becomes when you lose sight. I was utterly reliant on Nicholas’s voice and it brought me great comfort in the hospital waiting room. It didn’t take long to recover though and we revisited the beach over the weekend with sunglasses firmly covering my eyes – no more grit in my eye thank you very much. It was during our beach walk that Nicholas ‘proposed’ for the third time and presented me with my engagement ring. I had missed wearing my shark ring whilst allergic to metal and it was lovely to have it back where it belongs.

The YHA Opoutere hostel and camp is my favourite that we have stayed at. The site is peaceful and set amid native bush. There were New Zealand Kaka (a type of parrot) in the trees and a gorgeous, plump New Zealand Pigeon. These pigeons are endemic to New Zealand and were traditionally hunted by Māori. Sadly the pigeon populations are under threat from hunting by various groups of people, habitat degradation and poor reproductive success. The species is protected under the Wildlife Act.

We both really enjoyed our recovery time at Opoutere and did little more than listen to the birds, visit the beach and also walked to the top of a nearby hill. The views across the area from the hilltop were well worth the climb and we thoroughly enjoyed basking in the sunshine before the wind picked up and sent us back down the hill. Heavy rain showers and sunshine were a common theme at Opoutere.

It was soon time to leave and we drove north along the eastern side of the Coromandel Peninsula to Whitianga for our event with Dive Zone. We had a great time lecturing there about shark conservation and the divers were all keen to hear about our work and travels. The next morning we drove onward to explore the local and well-known beaches of this peninsula and started with Cathedral Cove. I knew this was a tourist hot spot and, to be honest, didn’t expect much from it. I was wrong, VERY wrong. The area surrounding Cathedral Cove is part of the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve and contains a number of offshore islands that stood proud amid the blue ocean. These islands provided offshore gardens for early Māori tribes so that they could grow their crops without the risk of mainland frosts damaging them. Some of the islands are now used to home rare and endemic New Zealand species that have been decimated on the mainland by local pests including rats, possum, ferrets and more. Pest populations are the main threat to this country’s unique fauna and flora and islands such as these provide vital safe havens to prevent species from becoming extinct.

We camped at the western end of Cooks Beach, which we had been advised was a freedom camping site, and enjoyed an evening of star gazing, popcorn and a dusk walk along the endless golden sand. It was a perfect end to our day after Cathedral Cove.

I woke up early the next morning to the sound of a vehicle outside of our campervan but thought nothing of it when it departed – I had assumed another campervan was arriving. When I got up shortly afterwards I noticed a leaflet on our windscreen. We were both so frustrated to wake up to a $200 camping notice from the council for freedom camping in the wrong area. There were no signs saying precisely where to park but we knew it was a designated freedom camping area based upon the online council information on a camping app designed for freedom campers. We had to depart at 8:30am to avoid being fined, which was a condition of the notice left at 7:30am, yet they didn’t wake us up to advise us and it was now 8:26am. There was a lot of shouting ‘Nick get up! Get up!’ and a fast exit from the area.

Not to be deterred by our unusual start to the day, we explored the Shakespeare Cliff Reserve; including Lonely Bay and Mercury Bay. There was not a soul in sight on Lonely Bay and Mercury Bay is so named because it is where Captain Cook did his measurements of Mercury in 1769. After enjoying yet more sunshine, we drove up and around the peninsula to Coromandel on the western coast. We had a restful night at Coromandel and then it was time to head back to the centre of the north island and away from the turquoise oceans to Hamilton.

I have such a spring in my step after the recent sunshine. The closer we get to Auckland, the more daylight and heat we are experiencing! Next stop Hamilton and then the surf town of Raglan for our next events.