Sounds vs noise

I did my favourite Raglan walk today – through the Bryant reserve, along the beach and then back to the bush track that takes me to the lookout, where I snapped the photos above. One of the delights of this walk is the sounds – the boom and crash of the waves, the cries of the gulls and the calls of the birds that frequent the bush, the sighing of the trees in the breeze – which is why I don’t emulate those who walk with headphones plugged into their ears. Most of the human activity is muted – the occasional shout of a child finding the water colder than they’d expected, people one passes on the track saying hi, the slap of a surfboard hitting a wave. But today, the high-pitched whine of several jet-skis could be heard even above the sound of the surf. They set out at speed from the Manu Bay jetty, accelerated along a stretch of coastline and then performed noisy U-turns before heading back the way they’d come. They repeated this several times, with no discernable purpose apart from going as fast as they could, making as much noise as they could. On my way back to the track I passed a couple sitting on a bench overlooking the beach far below. I have often sat there myself, enjoying the view and listening to the waves. But this couple were playing music from some sort of portable device – why is it always music with a repetitive beat and inane lyrics (she asks judgmentally)? And then there are always a few people who fail to remove their dog’s droppings, which is not noisy but noisome for others using the track. It was a relief to get to the lookout and enjoy the quiet of the bush all around, watching the silent surfers below and the silent paraglider above.

A glimmer of hope

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Readers of this blog know well that Raglan is our favourite weekend getaway. We were there again last weekend and I walked through the Bryant Scenic reserve, as I’ve done often before. This time there was this notice, put up by Karioi Project https://www.karioiproject.co.nz/ – a community conservation group that is working to restore biodiversity in the coastal region around Karioi, the volcanic mountain that looms over Raglan and gives the beaches their distinctive black sand. By trapping and eliminating predators like stoats, rats and ferrets and setting up burrows, the Project has helped 22 oi chicks fledge from the Karioi coast, eight in the 2019 season. Oi are native grey-faced petrels, whose burrowing habit makes them susceptible to introduced mammalian predators. So reading this notice in this beautiful place on a sunny summer morning made my heart lift. Good things do happen, even though it may seem as if they’re very few and far between!

The east coast

Mount MaunganuiReaders of this blog will know that our favourite New Zealand seaside spot is Raglan, which is on the west coast of the North Island, south-west of the Waikato city of Hamilton. But last weekend we ventured over to the east coast to Mount Maunganui, known locally as the Mount. The two coasts couldn’t be more different. Raglan has waves courtesy of the Tasman Sea breaking off a series of points, black volcanic sand and a steep ridge line descending to the beach. Access to the beaches at the Mount is through gently undulating dunes and you emerge onto a wide white sand shore. There are some surf spots but generally the waves are small and placid as befits the Pacific Ocean. Raglan has kept its small surfer town feel whereas the Mount is all large modern houses, shopping centres and restaurants. Nevertheless we had a good day – Jim got into what surf there was and I took a long walk down the beach towards the mount itself and then followed the track that goes right round it. We got some tasty lunch from the food trucks that line the main beach before heading back across the Kaimai Range, which separates the Bay of Plenty from the Waikato.

In sight of the sea

Raglan coast

August 1st was the 200th birthday of Herman Melville, the author of perhaps one of the least-read classics of English literature, Moby-Dick. I admit to never having read it but it has always been on my horizon because of all the references to it, for example, the white whale that shall remain “unpainted to the last”, Starbuck (first mate of Captain Ahab’s doomed ship the Pequod), “damp, drizzly November”, “the sea we swim in”. You know that when you call someone an Ahab, it is not meant as a compliment. Philip Hoare is convinced that Moby-Dick is the novel for our times – see his article here https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jul/30/subversive-queer-and-terrifyingly-relevant-six-reasons-why-moby-dick-is-the-novel-for-our-times

Hoare says Virginia Woolf read Moby-Dick three times and her work was inspired by the evocative vision of “a fin rising in a wide blank sea”. But it is Hoare’s assertion that Melville was born “in sight of the sea” that transported me from my desk to the west coast of the North Island, where I took a long ramble weekend before last. It was a calm, overcast and not particularly cold day, a rarity in New Zealand’s winter, and perfect for walking. I started out at the top of the ridge overlooking the Tasman Sea and made my way down the track, with a long pause at my favourite Raglan look-out, all the way to the wide black sand beach. I walked along the beach before heading up towards the ridge again and found the bench where I took the photo above. The bench was dedicated to a baby boy who had lived for only one day and reading the inscription added to the greyness of the day. But it was hard to stay melancholy for long – watching the waves rolling in, hearing the sea birds cry and catching the scent of the harakeke on the breeze. I was reminded of Don McGlashan’s song The Waves Would Roll On, in which he describes the unrelenting ebb and flow of the sea that will continue after he’ll no longer be there to watch. There was something so soothing and timeless about the scene that I understood why the baby’s family had chosen it as the spot for their baby’s memorial.

Raglan coconut yoghurt

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Readers of this blog will know that Raglan is our favourite place in New Zealand. At present we live just 40 minutes away and can visit often. We also love the coconut yoghurt (http://raglancoconutyoghurt.co.nz/) that is made there. In this country dominated by dairy farming, it was difficult for people to access non-dairy yoghurt and this product fills that gap. We eat it most mornings with our fruit and muesli and it is delicious! In addition, it comes in glass jars from which the labels are easily removed. You can then wash out the jar, take it to your favourite refillery and use it for whatever dry goods you need. In the photo above I’ve used the jar for shredded coconut – very appropriate.

Tūrangawaewae

Manu Bay 18 March 2018

We’re back! A brilliant Sunday morning in Raglan: into the surf at Manu Bay (see pic above) for Jim, up the hill into the Bryant reserve for Jane, tūī, pīwakawaka and kererū sighted on the way, coffee and brunch at the Shack. We couldn’t have asked for a better home-coming.

Sunset

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On a grey Sunday afternoon in Auckland as we approach the shortest day, it is good to remember this glorious sunset that we experienced in Raglan at the beginning of May. The sea was aglow as the hills disappeared into the gloom. I walked from Whale Bay to Manu Bay and stopped every few seconds to snap another photo, and every time it looked different. When I got back to Manu Bay, the surfers, including my beloved, were sitting in the dark, transfixed by the iridescent water surrounding them. They came out reluctantly, one by one. We stayed till the last light had disappeared and it was still and magical.

Litter

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I spent part of the Easter weekend in Raglan and did my favourite walk up the hill from Manu Bay into the Bryant Reserve (about which I’ve written previously on this blog). On my way back, I picked up six cans that had been thrown out of car windows and were either crushed on the road or lying in the grass beside the road. It didn’t escape my attention that all six were RTDs. So I asked myself “Is there a correlation between people who drink RTDs and people who litter?” Perhaps we should not draw that conclusion on the basis of this small sample. The other question that sprang to mind was “Who in their right mind would discard any litter in this beautiful place?”

I’m back …

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… in magical Raglan. I am staying in our generous friends’ beautiful bach and sleeping in the upstairs bedroom with its breath-taking view. I haven’t been closing the curtains and awoke this morning to a stunning scene – grey-blue water rippling with the incoming tide, whirling sea birds and a pure white yacht circling the harbour. Today was the kind of calm, blue-sky, turquoise-sea day that made up all the summers of my childhood in my memory. I walked up from Manu Bay to the look-out point in Bryant reserve (you can see the edge of the platform in the pic above). I sat there so long and so quietly that the cicadas in the bush around me resumed their song. One even alighted on a blade of cutty grass right beside me. The sound of summer. It would have been perfect if I had walked back down to meet my beloved coming out of the water after an epic surf and we’d shared breakfast at the Shack in town. But I’m here without him alas. The Shack’s coffee didn’t disappoint though!

Finishing as we began

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When we arrived in New Zealand just before Christmas, we spent a week in Raglan. We’re back here this week. I’ve been in New Zealand all along, enjoying a glorious summer, as those of you who follow this blog know. Jim came back a couple of weeks ago and we have these few days in paradise before going back to the tropical heat of Malaysia at the end of the week. The summer weather is hanging in. Although the mornings and evenings are cooler, the days are beautiful and the surf is inviting. Right now the clouds over the harbour are pink with the light from the setting sun and soon we’ll have a glass of wine on the deck. How will we tear ourselves away?