I was woken to find my bed covered with spattered blood this morning, Keith crying that he was not prepared to stay a moment longer, and masterfully instructing me to stay put whilst he got the van on the road again. I was pinned to the bed, legs crossed, feet and head tightly swathed with the duvet, barely breathing.  

But more of that later. 

The Hapuko Estuart Walk is a short loop walk through a world heritage section of tidal estuary (yes WORLD HERITAGE, folks. That’s big! ) with ancient trees, mudflats, birds calling and feeding and yet a terrific peace. 

Beautiful small details too: 

There must be a great caption for this picture…..

Then we visited the river and asked questions about white baiting – big business in New Zealand at this time of year. It’s said to take a huge amount of patience and resilience. 

Whitebait are a local ‘speciality’. A whitebait fritter is like a small omelette, normally served as a sandwich for around $10 (around £5.50). Each one has maybe 20-30 whitebait. 

The 10 week season ends in two days.  The whitebait are essentially the immature offspring of five kinds of fish that are caught on the rising tide (only) from official river side stands. No new stands are allowed. Stands are passed on through generations. 

A stand is essentially a kind of pier with a net on the side. 

Here you see the pier/stand. Each one has a ‘shed’ at its head. Each shed is occupied by a man, a newspaper and I think a glass or two. Here is another ‘shed’ with the net drying in front of it. 

Each stand has to be removed from the river at the end of the season. They can be dismantled completely – and stacked in/under/by the shed – or elevated over the water thus:

The whitebait stand concept reminds me of the British allotment system BUT this man, who with four mates runs two stands, tells us they are costly to acquire – around $85-100,000!!!! And whitebait sells for around $140/kg (around £77/kg). 

This man comes up to his stand without his family for a week at a time. He tells me ‘it can get social. VERY  social’. L

Talking of social, this is Ken, Helen and Dave from Lancashire who have always wanted to come down under. The fact that the rugby World Cup is here this year made them make the move to come. (Is it? I had absolutely no idea tbh). 

They’re over here and in Australia for seven weeks, staying in hotels etc. Lovely people. 

And finally – wildlife again at the Lake Moeraki/Monro Beach Walk. 

Believe me there are four wild Fjordland penguins pottering on this beach (40 mins walk through more beautiful forest and across a suspension bridge suited to I’m a celebrity get me out of here). They were so special, if distant, interacting, poitling  into and out of the sea. 

Bits of the Walk were so gorgeous it felt as though someone on a film set had been along before us providing clear pools of water, beautiful pebbles, banks of glowing green sphagnum moss, trunks of fallen trees…..

Obviously as I’m writing this I survived the night – we were eaten alive by sandflies despite our best efforts with flyscreens. Not wanting to have a light, which would attract them, in our bedroom I lay quietly with my curtain open watching a star scape on a scale I’ve rarely if ever  before experienced. An ear splitting noise around two this morning terrified me (in retrospect k suggests it was a mosquito in my good ear). But they bit and they buzzed and they bit. And repeat. So we drove to higher ground. 

Tonight our attackers are much larger and persistent. As I write one is trying to enter the van. But worry not. Keith is here. 

Endangered wotnots: 4of 1 kind Seen

No tantrums although my companion needs to have more confidence in his wife’s driving abilities. Enough said. 

Tomorrow: the sweet. 
Oh yes! What do you see in this condiment set? Keith thought it represented some kind of ritual child abuse.

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