For 39 years not a peninsula but an island. It took that long for someone to go in for a closer look and Captain Cook’s maps were redrawn to show its connection to the mainland. Still I’m sympathetic to that description – for something so close it has always felt far away. Not on route to any place but a destination in itself.
There are some great options out there for eating well in the back of beyond: freeze-dried, all-in-one meals that weigh next to nothing. They taste pretty good too. But, like all flash outdoors gear they come at a price, almost $10 for a single serving. You’ll also need to go to a specialist retailer to find them.
Mount Wainui is just a tiddler, 722 metres at its peak. But from my kitchen window in Paekakariki, beyond the backyard and the bald flat paddocks, past the hill pasture and monotonous pines, Mount Wainui appears hefty, rugged, rebellious.
Lately I've been dreaming of having my own garden, a place where I can sit and sip a beer on a late summer afternoon. In this dream there is a small raised bed of vegetables in the corner, bees buzzing about, butterflies flitting from leaf to leaf, maybe a fruit tree or two completing the picture.
New Zealand might be all coast yet my childhood camping trips were rarely by the sea. Instead we went inland to immense grassy campgrounds in South and Central Canterbury. There we endured the tedium of setting up tents, bending pegs into the hard soil and discovering a mean bloom of mildew in the nylon. We labelled our sausages and milk before hiding them at the back of the communal fridge.
It had started well. We were quick moving through, first the farmland before the track, sheep watching with suspicion as we kicked up sprays of dew, and then through the gloomy, sweet smelling beech forest that meant our tramp had officially begun.
At about 200 metres up, the birds suddenly triple in number. Large trees sway in the wind, and too many birds to identify swoop and dive between them. It’s one hell of a racket and we stop to watch and listen. It feels a million miles from our usual haunt, the Tararua, where a walk in the bush is often conducted in silence, and sadly seeing a single tui is a notable event.