Thursday, 15 December 2011

Christmas Approaching

Okura Estuary Reserve, 4 December
Its a damp cloudy Sunday in Auckland, and when we set off on our weekly ramble it’s spitting with rain. We cross a wooden bridge over the river and immediately enter fairly dense bush. Of course when you’re under this canopy of trees you aren’t really aware how much it’s raining you just get dripped on a bit. There are far more kauri trees here than we’ve seen before, both large and small and as it’s a reserve many of the trees have name plates.  So we at last learn the name of the other enormous old trees we’ve noticed before, the Puriri,  which have yellowish trunks and mostly have epiphytes growing (sorry if I’m get a bit technical for some,  just showing off my improving botanical knowledge). We walk for a couple of hours and it definitely feels wetter. Eventually we come out onto a beach and feel the full force of the wind and rain but ahead of us we see Dacre Cottage which is our destination. It was built c.1860, a tiny brick building with a white picket fence. We shelter and have lunch. An English family join us, been out here for 4 years and loving it. There’s no other way back so eventually we just have to brave the now torrential rain and gusty winds back across the beach and into the bush retracing our steps back to the car. By which time I’m wet through, and I mean right through to pants and socks. My once famous forever-waterproof Brasher boots have let in half a pint of water each. Back home for a hot bath, then out for delicious Chicken Laksa at our local Malaysian restaurant.

The deep dark shade of the bush shelters us from the rain
Thursday 8 DecemberToday seems to be a red letter day, things feel different somehow. I realise I don’t use the Satnav in the car as much as before. I feel a little more rooted, slightly less of the fish out of water I’ve felt for so long. Some tourists ask me directions to Mount Eden and I give them a sensible response without looking at their map. I meet Mike for my favourite Sushi lunch and we’re greeted by the Japanese owner, his wife wants to take our photo for their wall. Not sure what’s happening there! I buy myself a beautiful big bunch of flowers and spend the afternoon ironing Mike’s shirts as promised.

Walk in Whatipu, 11 December
Another amazing Sunday ramble. A long drive south west to a spit of land at the northern end of the entrance to Manukau Harbour. Our Satnav is struggling a bit with her Maori pronunciation and is converting Whatipu to ‘Farty poo’ much to our amusement. The last 10 km or so is on a rough dirt track going down to the coast. We walk up to the top of the nearest hill to get our bearings. It’s another section of the Hilary Trail which seems to pop up everywhere here, and we’re climbing up through manuka and flax and over some exposed lava flow to a staggering view at the top, water on 3 sides, where someone has kindly placed a bench for us. Great view up into Manukau harbour in the direction of Auckland and over to the Tasman Sea in the other direction. The sea side here is a wild area of swamp, dune and lagoon and the long beach is a mass of swirling black sand. We see fishermen way below us but few other people. On the way down I collect a few dead flax flowers with a view to creating an alternative Christmas tree back home.

Looking down onto Whatipu Beach from the headland
We’re ready for lunch but struggle to find some shelter from the sand storm back on the beach. The sand seems liquid here with the wind blowing it into strange shapes and causing wonderful wavelike patterns, in blue, purple and brown, almost metallic in places. Apparently there’s a lot of iron in the black sand and when the sun’s full on it bright flashing points of light are reflected. There’s a huge flock of white-fronted terns wheeling round above us and while Mike’s absorbed watching them, two rather cute black oyster catchers with bright red beaks and feet are flying at me. I didn’t realise I was standing just next to their clutch of eggs and they’re trying to scare me off. Just 2 little speckled eggs lying in a dent in the sand, no nest at all. I walk away and they settle down.

I just love the wonderful patterning you get in the sand with debris from the high tide mark
We go inland a little and find ourselves walking into a swamp. It’s a very dry swamp but our feet sink into matted grasses, about 18 inches at each step, and if you stand too long in one spot you get wet feet. I’m collected beautiful star-burst grasses for my alternative Christmas tree.

My beautiful NZ alternative Christmas Tree with flax, shell and reeds
Working at the Mercy Hospice Shop
First impressions weren’t great. The volunteers are lovely and set me off on the right track, but Amanda, the manager, gave me no introduction at all. Said hello when I arrived and gave me a big smile and a thankyou when I left 3 hours later, nothing in between. The shop itself is bigger than the Headington shop, and there is a basement floor selling furniture and electricals, with a separate manager. The furniture is pretty tatty unfortunately and not well arranged, but the floor I’m on is well presented, though rather over-stocked.  It’s good to be working a proper shift and I really enjoy being with the other volunteers but was amazed not to be offered tea, coffee etc by the manager, and certainly no biscuits, let alone cream cakes, were to be had. Have to start bringing in my own I guess. After another couple of shifts Amanda talked a bit more, but she tends to stay in the back room all the time. In fact volunteers don’t seem to do much sorting that I can see. It’s all sorted and priced out the back then brought in for the vollys to put out in the shop. They have no culling system at all, so the rails are over full and there is no recycling company like Choice to sell rags to, so all reject goods are given away to other less fussy charities. Nothing is steamed either so the clothes can look a bit scruffy. As for the window displays, Andrene would have an absolute fit if she saw them. There’s a paid window dresser who does all 7 shops, so I can’t just step in and re-do them but they do look very amateurish.

The shops make a fair amount of money, we took $2000 (about £1000) on the last Wednesday I worked and that’s excluding the furniture department downstairs.  The Mercy Hospice shops are considered to be at the top end of the scale, which is why I chose to volunteer with them of course, as opposed to the Sally Army or the Red Cross shops which are a bit smelly and down at heel. I was given a good tour of the Hospice itself by the volunteer co-ordinator, who also explained its history and answered our queries. There are 7 shops in total throughout Auckland but appears to be no-one in overall charge of them, so each shop manager is pretty much autonomous. I’m missing the Christmas party unfortunately as we’re away for the w/e but can’t be helped.

Christmas is coming . . .
and we’re off to Nelson on South Island all of a sudden! There’s been an awful lot of rain here, especially down south and Mike Boon, Special Agent, has been asked to go down to Nelson where there’s been a lot of flooding, to assess the damage. He’s booked to fly down next week (Mon-Fri) so I’m going too, just for the hell of it. Think of me as Lady Penelope to his Scott Tracey, in Thunderbirds are Go. So we’ve postponed the Tree House and I’ll find somewhere nice down there for our Christmas w/e.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sue

    Love reading your blog and seeing how you doing out there. Looks a lovely place and very pretty. Will email you soon with gossip and there is certainly some to tell you! Look forward to reading your updates.