The other day I packed up my fishing pole and gear. Knife, hooks and weights and my metal pot to fill with cockles and mussels on the walk back to Marahau and where I parked my car in the lot of the Abel Tasman entrance. Ready to head back up over the bridge where sacred kingfisher hang on the power lines and down the road before Fat Tui. Down Marahau Valley Road, the road winds and farmland, feijoa trees and scattered farm homes border the road. It’s springtime and the sheep have given birth to baby lambs. They let out bleats and skip and hop in packs together, sometimes tumbling, learning how to use their new, unfamiliar knobby limbs. A ridiculously cute and heartwarming sight, the idea and option of eating lamb is no longer on the table.
It’s peaceful at the cottage. Bella and I are sit in the living room and drink our morning Tuatara coffee. The great thing about this place is the bird song and the green ferns and other trees that breath life into the space. Sunlight hits the couch, and it’s nice just to lay around. Once the caffeine kicks in, I’ll start to be productive, and the space becomes my office.
Our place is perched upon a hill that overlooks Sandy, Tinline, and Coquille Bay. In the distance is Fisherman’s Island and just north Adele Island, named after the wife of French explorer Jules Dumont d’Urville. Small NZ blue penguins sometimes visit, and many tourists come over the summer to kayak. Fur seals also swim around the rocks near the shore.
I spotted one once I had arrived at Coquille Bay to cast from the rocks. Off to my left and further up the bay a lone seal was enjoying their swim, and I was able to get closer before spooking it, as it dove and swam away. They remind me of dogs of the sea but are finicky like cats.
The entire country of New Zealand is one giant national park.
Forest bathing has become a new meditation by osmosis and it helps to block out mental noise by replacing it with silence and a more acute focus on the present. Time slows down.
Being hyper-observant of the natural landscapes over the past six months has allowed me to appreciate the micro-worlds of the bays — the birdlife along the shores. The Kahawai in the bay easily caught from the rocks where seals sunbathe and play. The Canadian geese huddle together on the sand plateaus surrounded by crystal clear cold running water emptying into the bay.
The estuary changes rapidly throughout the day with water covering hundreds of meters; and then suddenly emptying into the ocean, creating a sandy, rippling desert with squishy wet steps as I trudge through the shore. Sometimes I stumble across small green blankets of seaweed growth, islands that are filled with cockles, whelks, and rotting driftwood teeming with baby crabs, some smaller than a fingernail crawling inside shells and between green-lipped mussels. Vultures and scavengers like spiders of the bay.
After fishing and catching a few baby kahawai at my spot in Coquille Bay, I head back for the evening.
Rabbit Island is just south of Mapua and can be accessed by either ferry or by car (if you’re coming up from Nelson).
The island is a reserve, and many trees are planted here to be used for timber. There are many picnic benches and places to park for people to enjoy the island and the beach. As we ate our lunch many wekas, including some newborns came out curiously looking for food.
Further along the coast towards Mapua there is a garden where I stumbled across the most amount of white basket fungus I had ever seen. These fungi grow near the coast and produce a hexagonal shaped exoskeleton and unfold into what appears to be a soccer ball. The Maori believed them to be ghost poop.
This strange, foul smelling fungus was known to Māori as Tūtae kēhua – ghost dung. It certainly looks like the kind of thing left behind by ghosts, and often emerges after thunderstorms. Māori would eat the thick gooey shell before the basket bursts out and develops a layer of stinky slime. It could be roasted in the ashes of a fire, or cooked in hāngī.