Okains bay weekend

Our original weekend plans were foiled by a “Westerly,” intense wind and rain that moves into the mountains from the west, rises, drops boatloads of water, and roars down into the canterbury plains as a fierce dry wind. So instead of battling swollen river in the high country we headed out to the Banks Penninsula, to Okains bay where a colleague of Jeremiah’s said there were cockles (clams). The hunt begins! In the photo, Okains bay is the far sandy one.

As soon as we got there the weather changed and a Southerly barreled through. It blustered and rained for maybe an hour while we huddled in the campground kitchen eating lunch, then cleared off enough to walk on the beach. Those boiling clouds are the tail end that left over the ocean while Jeremiah was picking mussels below the cliff.

We looked for clams underneath those tiny bubbling holes you see at the beach, even got out my big garden shovel, but only found sea worms.

Good thing the mussels were plentiful instead! Jeremiah had to be quick to avoid being swamped by cold waves but the got a bag full at the low tide.

The mussel picking path was guarded by a bad tempered seal who grouched at us as we sidled past him. You could smell him before you saw him–he smelled just like those sticky soft rabbit poops, oddly enough, but 1000 times stronger than a bunny. We weren’t sure if it was his breath or….something else.

We set up our tent after the rain and Milo circled it, carefully stepping over all the fly lines. We camped in a grove of huge pine trees which turned out to be a good thing, as the weather continued to be “unsettled” through the night. We couldn’t tell whether we were hearing the wind and rain in the trees or on the ocean, but it was fierce out there. Milo actually slept mercifully well, after waking up once in a strange place and just needing to hear Mama’s voice to settle down again. Our two person tent now sleeps three!

In the morning Milo amused himself with the camera. He needs a little help with the composition, but his photography is coming along pretty well.

We played on the campground zip line, or “flying fox” as the sign said. It was fun to ride!

Banks Peninsula is an old extinct volcano, and the variety of rocks and caves are pretty neat. Here the porous rock eroded to make a convenient cave/barn for the local farmer. I used to think that lava rocks were all black and shiny with tiny holes throughout, but how fast the lava cools and the water in the rocks afterwards can make it sparkly and porous with mini geodes or hard and gray like basalt. I did spend some time thinking about what I should do if an earthquake happened while we were walking along the cliff base….and decided that probably I wouldn’t have time to react before falling rocks took over, so it wasn’t worth worrying about.

In the afternoon we took a walk up a farm track that skirts several points and comes out with a great view of the bays. We passed plenty of sheep (“Baahh!” says Milo) and cattle (“Booohh” says Milo), and could always smell the animals as they seemed to use the track as a preferred toilet spot. Not as stinky as the seal though!

These sheep have pretty ritzy accommodations. Their private pond has sweeping ocean views.

I don’t know what it is, but isn’t it wild? We passed this tree humming with bumblebees on our walk.

The waves were higher the second day, but we were determined to get a bag of mussels to take home with us (free food!). Here’s the technique–scout for a good bed of mussels at the trough of the wave, then hustle to pick a handful while keeping a close eye out for the next wave.

Then hustle to get out of the way of the wave….

And if you don’t hustle fast enough, you get wet. Brrrr!

Were they worth it? Mama likes collecting them and Daddy likes both eating and collecting them, so yes, they’re good.

It kind of feels like you’re eating aliens, but they’re good if you just don’t think to hard about exactly what’s getting squished between your teeth.

3 thoughts on “Okains bay weekend

  1. I really enjoyed taking the trip vicariously with you, especially the first picture. Thanks for sharing the pictures and stories with us.

  2. How neat to go an do that!!! That looks like fun but knowing my luck I wouldn’t find any like. Not catching a single Salmon in Alaska. Milo eat Mussels? Love the flowers on that tree. I bet Humming birds wood love that kind of tree. Do you have humming birds there?

    • Aw, don’t be so hard on yourself! I didn’t catch any Alaskan Salmon either but I didn’t even try, which is worse than trying and not succeeding. The wonderful think about mussels is that they can’t swim away, they just cling there to the rocks and when the tide gets low enough (and waves calm enough), there they are! One of the locals told us about the occasional really super low tide, happens predictably probably related to the moon phase and how close earth happens to be to the moon at the full moon. He said at those low tides all the Maori come to pick shell fish, even the really old grandparents with canes.

      I haven’t seen any humming birds, but that doesn’t mean they’re not here. That pink tree was alive with big fat bumble bees!

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