Our view is framed by hills running steeply to the sea. The bay stretches out beyond the hills to the horizon where at times it seems seamlessly attached to the sky.
Pushing through the small breakers on our kayaks, we are soon in deep water – it is an impossible turquoise colour. Large forests of kelp sway with the swell which seems to increase as we head further out.
We are spending New Year at a friends place at Otanerito – Long Bay on Banks Peninsula.
Out on the water we are on our own, but not really. We become one with the sea around us, pulsing with the steady rhythm of the swell. The thick strands of bull kelp are pulled by the swell, and as we grow accustomed to its rhythms we see them.
The seals swimming through the kelp and playing hide and seek with us. Older seals are more tentative, leaping up on to the volcanic ledges well out of reach. With two arms and legs I would have trouble scaling those rocks, but the seals seem to have no trouble. Their four flippers take them anywhere, somewhat ungainly but they do the job. They soon settle down to watch us, and you have to look carefully to see them. An occasional movement, or the glistening sea water on their bodies the only indication that they are not rock.
Four legal sized paua are collected for lunch – fresh paua has to be one of NZ’s gourmet delights. It is thirty years since my last feed, but worth the wait. Thinly sliced and a bit of butter – yum!
Back out our cottage the sea is mostly out of sight, but remains a steady and relatively quiet background noise. Surrounded by native bush, the sound here is the birds – bellbirds feeding on flax outside our window, with a background noise of sheep in the distance.
At Otanerito we are nestled below Hinewai Reserve, literally on the doorstep of this magnificent wildlife reserve, where the birds thrive on the regenerating native habitat which now runs from the tussock tops to the sea. The reserve is criss crossed by well marked walking tracks which are open to the public. They are well used – a dozen cars were in the carpark as i went past today, and there is easy access from the Bay.
Long Bay is not accessible to the public, but it is typical off the Bays that surround Akaroa Peninsula. Formed by two ancient volcanoes – fingers of lava flow down into the sea, creating these amazing bays. You can rent accommodation in some of them – try Little Akaloa, Pigeon Bay, or go out and visit the Penguins at Pohatu.