Whangamata, New Zealand

Thursday 6 January 2022 – Whangamata, New Zealand.

For the first time in an age I feel refreshed. A break from the city combined with four nights of solid sleep had me almost perky when we arrived back at the flat. We’ve just returned to Auckland after a fabulous time staying with friends at their bach in Whangamata. The quiet, sea air and stress free environment, matched with great friends and good food and wine was the perfect antidote to the noisy and fume laden city we live in.

It was about 20kms into the journey south, I was driving and Eleanor was in charge of the music,  when the stress and anxiety that had built over the last few weeks started falling away. I almost felt physically lighter as the emotional load seeped though my skin and was sucked out of the car windows. The further from the city centre we travelled, the better I was feeling. I just knew we were going to have a good break, even when we caught up with the first traffic jam of the day.

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A bach is a New Zealand holiday home, often found near the sea. The glory days of the traditional one or two room bach made of wood or fibrolite with a tin roof are long gone. Some of the new places are bigger than the average house and as, if not more, expensive. Old friends Michael and Jan’s place is closer to the traditional bach than most, but it’s still large, with four sleeping spaces and a good sized kitchen/living area. It backs onto an estuary that flows along the southern edge of the town of Whangamata and is 100 yards from the surf beach. Whangamata is about 2 1/2 hours south east of Auckland and has a permanent population of about 2000 and a peak summer population of 25,000. It is peak summer.

We didn’t do much in Whangamata itself, it’s a small town with little of interest other than being located alongside a glorious 2km Pacific Ocean beach with occasionally good surf and a sea that is eminently swimmable in summer. For a short summer break who needs anything more than that? We seemed to busy the whole time we were away and only managed to take one walk up the beach; to the northern end, where we met our friends at a café on the main street and enjoyed one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in New Zealand. The sun burned the tops of my feet as we ate, thankfully not badly. The tide was very high when we set out so we had to make the occasional dash up a sand dune. In places we could see the damage this tide was causing the dunes and could imagine what Whangamata will look like as the sea level rises.

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Unlike Eleanor and I, this couple, mutually dressed in black and wearing the same model shoes, seemed to be having less fun walking the beach. I was laughing at them (inside of course).

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After breakfast Michael drove us to a bush-clad lookout over the town with a cool tree-shaded 15 minute walk around a headland. The tree line has changed since some of the lookout spots were defined leaving few clear wide open views over Whangamata and the ocean, though there was plenty to see and with a 30 degree day the tree shade and light breeze was very welcome. With or without trees the view was stunning.

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Michael also showed us nearby Onemana where his family used to have a bach. What seems to be typical of New Zealand beaches there was little shelter here; as the beach was closed due to dangerous surf we didn’t linger. The leaning trees are an artefact of using a wide angle lens, the trees were standing nice and upright 🙂

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Unlike the harsh daytime the evening light was warm and soft and welcoming and I used the camera a few times. I imagine the early morning light was equally as good, though until the last day I didn’t see any early mornings, sleeping to beyond 7:30 each day. Sleeping-in is part of my rest and recovery routine, photography should be as well I suppose, but I have never seem to manage morning photography.

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On our final day I was up earlyish and managed to get one final body-surf in before we left for home, stopping in Waihi on the way. Waihi will be the subject of a near future post.

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Though I’ve not been working since July and we’re staying in a rented apartment in Auckland rather than our usual home in the UK, these past five months have never really felt like a break, especially as Eleanor worked for four of them. This was our first proper holiday in such a long time, and it was just so enjoyable. I can’t remember the last time we went away, it was pre-2020 anyway. We should do a lot more of it; now we are allowed to again.

Thanks Jan, Michael, Paul and Lisa!

Dungeness.

Tuesday 23 June 2020 – Dungeness.

We have not been up to much over the last few weeks, lock down has slowly been easing, though that has not really changed us much. We continue to work from home and continue to be sensible when we go out. We have visited a friends garden and had friends to ours, these were extremely pleasant, almost forgetting that there is much more pleasure in being physically in the same place as friends, rather than the ‘new normal’ (Oh, how I hate that phrase) of online conversations which were becoming normalised in a rather scary way.

Apart from small supermarkets we have not been inside many shops, yet. I haven’t even ordered much on line recently (which reminds me, there was a record I was going to order Smile ).

The best news is we came down to St Leonards 10 days ago and have been here since. As we are here and work has been stressful and annoying lately, I decided to take a few days off work this week. It is turning into the hottest week of the year so far, 30 degrees, so I am very glad we are not in London. It is significantly cooler in the flat, half way up a hill I get a lovely sea breeze, taking the sting out of the heat, and I am going to have a swim as soon as I hit publish.

Today was the first day of the four days off, Eleanor is working and is mega-busy. I grabbed the big Canon 5d, a couple of lens and the Polaroid and went on a photo mission to Dungeness; about 25 miles up the coast in Kent. I have been there before, but never on my own and never with the big camera. I will be going back again that is for sure, maybe in the pouring rain next time.

It was not ideal conditions for photography, brutal late-morning sun, no shade, flat, shingle beach, harsh and glary as hell. It was the ideal conditions for Dungeness, and perfect for me as I much prefer extremes. I took a lot of photos, it was the most fun I had out taking photos for a very long time. I had to call it quits in the end as I could feel my face burning under the intense sun, and I had prepared properly and put sun block on before I left home. I didn’t take a hat though, must buy one!

I started by the nuclear power station that dominates the south end of the beach. It has been there for quite a long time and I think most people are quite casual about it. There is only a small fence, and no signs saying you cannot take photos; though there is a ban of flying drones. Something to be encouraged anywhere in my view. I love how the UK Coast Path walks round it’s walls.

Almost every building that is not inside the power plant fence has been converted into a beach house, there is almost nothing here; two cafe/bars, no shops, the beach is shingle, not the usual beach type holiday place. It is very beautiful though.

I am wondering if this was part of any early warning system for the power plant?

I drove back up the beach from the power plant and parked outside Prospect Cottage. The cottage was bought by the artist/filmmaker Derek Jarman in 1986 and he lived there until his untimely death in 1994. The house was passed to his partner Keith Collins who lived there until he too died in 2018. There was an ArtFund fundraising event earlier this year, which I bought a print from, to raise money to buy the property and ensure it’s up-keep in to the future. It is a lovely building and has amazing gardens and I will go back when it opens again.

I took a photo on the Polaroid and to pay homage to the print I purchased.

I took a lot of photos walking around the shingle to the sea outside the cottage. It was a real tonic and I felt a huge lift just from being there and taking photos; of derelict things Smile

The next post I have in mind will just be text, so enjoy the overdose of images, maybe hold some in your mind for next time.