In the morning, across the garden, the view took off: over bush, over ocean, across Bream Bay to Whangarei Heads. Sea birds hovered in the middle distance; the sky stretched out.
We meandered down the garden path between raised beds, past a chook run tucked under fruit trees and into the bush. Jac was showing us around. We went through a kowhai grove, followed a path high above the coast and out to a wind-blown point called Bald Knob, where the view expanded again.
Down a track, we arrived at a compact shelly beach with noisy waves and pohutukawa caught mid-dance. Jac left us to it; left us with our day packs, the day stretching out before us, and no one else in sight.
It took ages just to get to the far end of that first small beach. Constantly distracted by flotsam, shells, smooth stones and other treasures, we let ourselves be taken in and soothed by the warmth of the day.
Around the point, we found Langs Beach, where civilization waited and impressive homes had been raised to take full advantage of their locations and provide topics of conversation for passing walkers.
We went up and over and along the road before dipping down again to pick up a coastal track past crazy, pancake-like rock formations and through sweet dells and secret crannies.
A shady spot for lunch provided a spectacle of thousands of seabirds swooping, dithering and gathering in a bobbing frenzy, preparing for some mysterious flash mob moment.
Fuelled by homemade sandwiches we summoned what was required to move on, to find more photos to take, more rambling paths to tread. Up a short ladder, over a sturdy style, it was a low-key, kind-hearted walk; it required effort but not so much that we wanted it to be over.
When we stopped for a swim it was good to get our boots off though. And when we followed the curve of a hill and found Waipu Cove just there, take-out coffees went down well.
The town’s excellent murals distracted us for a while then we walked on, aiming to go up the soft white-sand beach to the spit, to where the ferry terns nest, to take what is described as a contemplative walk over the sand hills to the lagoon. But we’d run out of steam. So we called home base and arranged to be picked up.
‘Home base’ was a lodge-style B&B, home of Jac and Natalie Spyksma: gardeners, walkers, cooks, hosts. We’d arrived the night before, been welcomed sincerely into the modern, light- and view-filled guest wing of their home, given a sumptuous meal of local produce and home grown veges, a breakfast with free-range eggs laid within ear shot, and sent off on the day’s walk with a homemade picnic complete with Louise cake.
We could be forgiven for wanting to get back there.
Sure enough, soon after taking our boots off for the day, a snack arrived. A really good snack. And then dinner: herb-coated grilled fish, freshly-harvested vegetables, pavlova and crème brulee. It was either all that lovingly-made food or the hot-day walking, but we slept extra well, despite the distraction of the brilliantly starry sky, lit up in splendour with no city-light murk to contend with.
Late the next morning we set out again. Over the road and across farmland we went, into the bush then up, up, to the trig at the eastern end of the Brynderwyns.
It was quite a climb, quite a trek: beautiful in an entirely different way to the day before. Steep bush heavy with lancewood, kahikatea, totara and rimu filled the land either side of the trail. Fantails followed and played; an occasional tui and distant, crashing keruru caught our ear and we also heard what we’re pretty sure were bellbirds.
Up the top, the views exploded open and we could see way across Bream Bay, north to Whangarei, south to Leigh, west to Kaipara Harbour and even, faintly, the Waitakere Ranges. We sat in the shade with our lunch before heading down another path, the Tanekaha Track, to meet Natalie in the carpark for a ride home.
It wasn’t really home, of course. It was someone else’s home and we just went back to pack the car for the drive to our actual home. But it felt like we’d gone home for the weekend, with all the nurturing and goodness that implies. All that positive, healthy input kept me going for weeks.
Reported by Kathryn Webster for our AA Directions Winter 2019 issue