Were you to take a trip to the
'sausage capital of New Zealand,' you would undoubtedly
know you had arrived. A huge roadside sign proclaims Tuatapere's
fame throughout the land. But if you got a fly in your eye
and missed it, you would be reminded of its' celebrity status
by a giant pink plump sausage on a painted sign outside
the butcher's shop where it all began. Meanwhile, were you
to drive through the 'Greenshell Mussel Capital of the World,'
the sight of larger than life mussel men standing on the
roofs of buildings in the main street would subtly let you
know you were there. Many towns in New Zealand claim national
or international recognition for something or other, promoting
themselves as the much reputed towns of 'Trees' or 'Trout;'
the 'Smallest Borough in New Zealand at the Highest Altitude,'
or the 'Health' capital. Where there's not a formal claim,
residents will often tell you of informal achievements;
like the residents of Culverden who like to think of themselves
as a 'damn good pie and pee stop.' A few days ago a promotional
leaflet incited us to visit Kaiteriteri, 'voted one of the
top five beaches in the world.' "This is a must see," said
Stuart, "We should spend a couple of days there and soak
it all up. The boys will love it."
We decided to save the best for
last and take some time to visit the Northernmost reaches
of New Zealand's Golden Bay before heading for paradise.
Travelling up towards Farewell Spit in the deep early morning
shadows was tranquil and stunning, the long sandy coastline
revealing hidden treasures with each twist of the road.
Thousands of Black Swans enjoy
the Golden Bay coastline
"Isn't that glorious, Black
Swans swimming amongst the rocks out there," said Stuart.
"They're not rocks, they're swans arses," said Kirstie
as the rocks grew necks emerging gracefully from beneath
Thousands upon thousands of Black
Swans were paddling in the Tasman blue waters in glorious,
golden sunshine. We camped by a quiet beach in the far North
and the kids paddled delightedly in shallow waters warmed
by the day's sun. Forgetting to undress, they ran in then
out again, soaked and giddy, ripping off their clothes and
going back for more.
"Imagine what it's like for them,
their first time swimming in the sea, playing in the waves,"
said Stuart, picking Cameron up after another wave derailed
"More wave, more wave," said Cam, giggling, choking and
spluttering, his sandstreaked tummy bloated by seawater.
Spikey smooths his hair down
They took spades and threw sand
in their hair and over their wet bodies. As darkness fell
we tried to persuade the boys to leave. Joy turned to tears
and the usual tired tantrums at bedtime, this time in excitable
stereo. After finally tucking the exhausted kids up in sandy
sleeping bags, we took five minutes out to walk together
along the beach, feet splashing in the enticingly warm water,
a full moon rippling its' yellow beam towards the shore.
This moment alone together reminded us of time before kids.
This surely was paradise; so how would Kaiteriteri compare?
We sipped Tea Planters' Punch on
a sunny restaurant veranda overlooking Farewell Spit at
the tip of South Island. We sucked the soft berries up the
"It pops in your mouth Dad, do
another one," said Matthew.
While three of us sucked on the
soft fruits, Cameron chewed his straw frustratedly then
poured the juice down his trousers and picked the berries
off the floor We ordered lunch and ate it hungrily, our
appetites fuelled by the sea air.
"Why does the sea move Dad?"
Stuart engaged him in a lengthy
demonstration of how a watermelon moon goes around a strawberry
earth. But the removal of the strawberry from Cameron's
plate gave him cause to demonstrate his legendary restaurant-clearing
tantrums. While the moon orbited the sun, Cameron circled
the car park, Kirstie orbited Cameron and a galaxy of diners
concealed their sniggers behind their napkins. When it was
all over, there was time for one last beach before the main
The journey to Wharariki Beach
was billed as a twenty minute walk from the nearest car
park. For Thomas the Tank Engine, Edward, Henry and Gordon
it took forty minutes of chuffing up steep sand dunes in
thirty degrees of ozone charged NZ heat. An arrow pointed
upwards, as if into the clouds.
"What are we going to do now Gordon,
why do we need to go up into the sky?" asked Matthew taking
things a little too literally. "Perhaps it means we need
to go up over that stile," he continued answering his
own question for a change.
But the stile presented
it's own challenges.
"It's just like Thomas with a cow on the line," added
Matthew pointing to the large bull obstructing the wooden
'Edward' leads the way at a sign he understands
'Thomas' the little engine struggled
on the dunes
Wharariki Beach was at the end of
the line. It was simply the best. We slid up and down wind-scaped
white sand dunes to reach the shore, where craggy islets
squatted solidly in the sea. Lines of crashing surf surged
onto soggy sands then retreated sucking the grit from under
our feet. Dark labyrinths of sea caves lined the shore,
hungry monsters lurking to gobble up small boys. And just
a handful of people scattered along the beach. No cars,
no windbreaks, no picnic boxes, no deck chairs; just pure
undeveloped sands. Perhaps the inaccessibility of this place
was enough to put off all but the most committed holiday
and tourist traffic. The kids ran over the sand, into the
sea then into the caves. Sand, sea and caves, over and over
again. No need for picnics, ice-creams, or trousers. Finally
they dragged their sandy feet back over the dunes without
a single complaint.
Looking for sea monsters in the
caves at Wharariki
"Wake up guys, we're almost at
Kaiteriteri," said Kirstie, "It's the big one, better
than all the rest. Can anyone smell the fresh sea air?"
"Yuk, Mum it smells of wee here," said Matthew.
"Did a cow done a poo Mummy?" asked Cameron. We had arrived
at one of the world's top five beaches and it smelled
alarmingly like a toilet.
"One of the world's top five pisspots more like," said
Stuart, putting his headscarf over his nose. It was getting
dark so we decided to check in at a campsite. We were
alarmed by the security guard on the gate.
"Er, do you have a tent site?" we asked politely.
"I should think so. Park over there and report to reception."
"J block, number eight. That's
your pitch. You'll need a map," said the receptionist.
She drew a route to our pitch on a plan of the beach camp.
"So, we go past the toilets, past the scullery and turn
right at the fish cleaning area," said Kirstie looking
at the piece of paper which showed four hundred tent spaces,
three kitchens, four laundrettes, nine toilet and shower
blocks, one barbecue, one children's playground and one
fish cleaning area.
It took us ten minutes to find our
allotted space, crammed in between awnings, cars, and family
barbecues, and ten minutes to return to the office to ask
for our money back. We took a short walk on the beach. It
was a pretty half moon bay lit by the setting sun. If we
hadn't seen the other beaches we would have been more enchanted,
but here the natural beauty seemed masked by the clutter
The views at Kaiteriteri were
"Why on earth is this place so
popular?" asked Stuart as we zig zagged around people
drinking beer and eating chips, boats moored up on the
beach and all the debris of a busy day at the seaside.
"I guess it's paradise for families," said Kirstie. "Easy
to get to, safe, and everything you need is here….. entertainment,
boats, playgrounds, toilets, chips. Everyone else seems
to be having a great time."
"I need a wee wee" said Cameron clutching his pants.
"Can we go Dad?" asked Matthew holding his nose.
"Yes, let's go guys," said Stuart.
Our family had already experienced
paradise; there was nothing for us here.