Tatapouri, New ZealandGUEST BLOGGERS, NEW ZEALAND, ROAD TRIPS, SERIES — By JM Merchant on August 3, 2011 at 15:28
Story by guest blogger JM Merchant. Photos Copyright © Joanna Abram.
TATAPOURI CAN BE found on the eastern cape of New Zealand’s North Island. Despite its proximity to the city of Gisbourne (the nation’s surfing capital), Tatapouri is gloriously quiet and secluded. It may be set on one of the country’s major highways—but stand by the road and all you’ll see is the hills in front of you, the sea at your back . . . and a selection of flat possums on the tarmac.
If there’s one thing the Kiwi nation hates, it’s possums. With no natural predators on either island the little blighters are free to destroy hundreds of tons of New Zealand’s slow-growing vegetation every night. I’ll never forget the delighted whoops of our driver, Lauren, every time she went over a freshly-squashed possum, and the cheers and groans that echoed down the bus. Or the taste of the “Headlight Delight” possum pies produced by Pete of the Bushman Centre.
But that’s another story!
The Dive Tatapouri Centre, where we stayed, is run by the Savage family. We were greeted by Chris and two-year-old Alfie, who insisted on showing us around the moment we stepped off the bus into the late afternoon sunshine.
Chris, like most Kiwis, was a delightful host, once she managed to be heard over her son! After informing us that in the event of an earthquake (and in case of a tsunami), we should “run like a hairy goat” up the hill behind the cabins, she left us to explore the little piece of paradise that is Tatapouri.
The beach doesn’t extend far beyond the centre, but it’s peaceful all the same and you can easily forget that the rest of the world exists. (See feature photo.)
We were delighted to be escorted to the water’s edge by Alfie, who taught us the proper way to throw stones into the sea.
As the sun began to set, Dean and the boys returned in the boat with the evening meal. No doubt this was the freshest and tastiest fish I have ever eaten. A variety of fish and mussels were pulled off the back of the boat, cleaned right there on the beach (you can see fish being cleaned on a rock behind Alfie in the photo above) and put straight onto the barbecue.
The fish was so fresh we happily ate some of it raw—although the more squeamish of our group had it dipped in lemon juice to “pre-cook” it.
The thing I love most about the people of New Zealand is that they make you feel at home. We spent the evening sat around a fire drinking beer, watching the most mystical sunset, asking any and all the questions we wanted and being taught the very basics of the Maori language.
A large number of nights in New Zealand I spent in dorm rooms. I was fortunate that most, including this one, were very pleasant and clean—even though the majority of the beds creaked. On this occasion, however, I slept on the sofa in the living room. There were plenty of beds in our cabin, but one of the guys snored like a freight train. How anyone slept in the dorm that night I do not know.
After rising nice and early with the sun, most of us spent a lazy day on the beach, waiting for those brave enough to try out the shark cage to return.
As the tide went out, one of our group was guided to the reef a short distance from the beach, where she was swarmed by hungry stingrays. Her shrieks of laughter as the rays nudged her boots and quickly took the fish from her hands showed us that these creatures don’t need to be feared, as long as they are treated with respect.
Later I took one of the centre’s kayaks out for a gentle paddle around the bay, but didn’t get far before getting stuck on the reef.
The best thing about Tatapouri is the relaxing atmosphere. There is no pressure to do anything other than lie in a hammock and read or sit on the wall and just watch the water.
Magical Tatapouri. When I go back to New Zealand, this will be one of the first places I revisit.
JM Merchant (or Jo Abram to most) lives in the North End of London, although she aspires to the West End. An occasionally employed sound engineer and stage manager, most of her time is currently spent reading pirate tales as she works on her first novel. She blogs and posts short stories at Am I A Writer Yet? and tweets as @JMMerchant86.