Posts Tagged ‘dolphin’

Walking to Cathedral Cove: 22nd Feb

March 7, 2010

At Hahei Beach, on the Coromandel peninsula, there are two activities that visitors are expected to undertake: a trip to the Hot Water beach (I pass on that) and a walk over the northern headland and along the top of a beautiful ridge, to Cathedral Cove.  Both of these are best done at low tide. On the first day there – ariving late-ish in the afternoon – I swim at Hahei and walk along the beach. 

My shark-phobia means that I like to check on the situation before swimming in the open sea,  new Zealanders are unanimous that there are ‘no sharks’ off the Coromandel, but there is a suspicious difference in the reasons they offer.  For some it is an article of faith – no big predators in New Zealand, therefore no sharks.  Other narratives include:
1. They are out there but they just don’t come inshore.
2. They get hammered – which I take to mean that they get meshed, fished and driven away.  This seems likely.
3. The fish stocks are better in the deep ocean.  They don’t need to come in here, where the fish are fewer.

A leathery-skinned man fishing from the beach gives me answer number 1 to my shark question.  He it is who tells me about the dolphin who have been coming to play off the beach between four and six, for several evenings now.  (I do slightly wonder why the dolphin come into the bay, if not to eat.  Maybe it’s to socialise. And why do snorkellers see plenty of fish, and why was the guy fishing off the beach . . . ? However, this explanation does fit with point number one. Furthermore, on later days I see intrepid sea-swimmers moving gamely across the bay, with no apparent fear.  Confidence is contagious and I felt perfectly happy every time I swam in that sea.)

Later on that first day a German man of about my own age at Tatahi Backpackers advises me (firmly) how to go  to Cathedral Cove: namely ASAP and at low tide.  Snorkelling is better at low tide – and he narrates an encounter with a stingray which doesn’t exactly persuade me.  Though unconvinced by the idea of snorkelling, I nevertheless set off early-ish in the morning for Cathedral Cove – to catch the low tide – also,  as it turns out, avoiding the crowds. 

As well as the usual cicadas creaking and sawing, something is clicking – a rattling like rolling dice; like little twigs on fire; like a bike crunching on a gravel path as it approaches you quickly.  Like none of these.

A steep set of steps finally takes the path down into Mare’s Leg Cove, and from there Cathedral is the next beach. There are signs at Cathedral Cove, telling you not to go through the walkway underneath the stone arch for fear of falling rocks. The way has been fenced off.  The wire fence, though, has been breached, and a clear path of many footprints leads through to the beach beyond, where the swimming is wonderful, and there are very few people. Also, very little shade.

Blyton-esque notiuons of being trapped by the high tide cross my mind, so I soon go back into Mare’s leg Cove – equally charming – where a young man has whizzed in via an inflatable dinghy and has started to set up a kind of kiosk under an awning.  From this rather makeshift location he advertises soft drinks for sale and snorkelling gear for hire.  Inspired!   I discover later that this  

Only on the way back do I realise just how popular theses beaches are, as group after group pass me, climbing down as I climb up the long, wooded hills. 

The Puriri Grove is dark and cool, and a small group of people are taking one another’s photos there. They graciously take one of me:

There is always a bit of yourself that you forget to cream against the sun: today, for me, it’s my chest.   And it lets you know later, most spectacularly.  Where others are brown, I am red-and-white.  By afternoon, I am exhausted from the walk, the swim and the snorkelling. Spend the afternoon reading Audrey Niffenegger and putting anti-itch cream on my heat rash, back at the Backpackers. Bliss. Later in the afternoon I go looking for the dolphins – and there they are – rolling and leaping far out by one of the islands. Such joy!


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