Kai Moana Kapai

Two days out at Riversdale Beach was just gorgeous. The weather was perfect, and for those overseas reading this, you would be amazed at the expanse of our beaches. Hundreds of New Zealanders dream of going abroad and lying on beaches in the South of France, or Italy, or closer to home in the Pacific Islands, but for me there’s no better place to be on a still, blue, hot day than the east coast of New Zealand, preferably in Wairarapa or Hawke’s Bay. Even in midsummer there is plenty of room for all. Andy and Anna have a house out at Riversdale, on the Wairarapa Coast, and while Andy was surfing we went for a long walk along the beach. It just goes on, and on, seemingly for ever.

And don’t think you’ll recognise folks you see every day in the city when they change out of their designer suits and hit the sand – we just don’t really care for sartorial splendour when we relax:

As I’ve written before, I find walking along beaches a fascinating nature study. We found this barracuda, about 1.2 metres long, dead on the sand. It’s teeth were almost transparent, like glass, and I gently touched the points and they felt, indeed, like shards of glass. Lethal, and when Colin told me a ghastly story about what happened to a man who swam naked in the sea, after sunbathing with his togs on, and a barracuda decided to have for dinner the white untanned parts of the poor man’s body, I nearly fell over in horror.

As is always the way, every time I tried to take a photo of Andy surfing, he fell off, but I did manage to get one (he’s a very accomplished surfer and my photo belies that fact).

But the next day, the highlight of our little holiday, was donning wetsuits and going out to the rocks to dive for paua. I’ve never done this before and nearly chickened out. But as one gets older, and the chances of new experiences diminish, one changes one’s mind (for better or worse). So we trekked out into the freezing water. Andy was the only one with a weight belt, so he actually got the paua for us – just eight, even though legally we could have taken 24, but that would have been greedy. It’s the most exhilarating feeling. At first you think you’ll die of cold as the freezing sea gushes through the inside of your suit, but your body soon heats up that water and for me, it was just my head that hurt because it was so cold. I could see the paua when I dived down, but couldn’t hold my breath long enough to take any. On the way back I managed to get five kina as well.

Tired and happy, we drove home after lunch and arrived to find the two stooges – Taja and Kete – lying in their beds side by side on the verandah. They raised their heads and looked at us as we drove up, as if to say, “And what time do you call this?”

For dinner last night we feasted on food more magnificent than any Michelin Five Star could offer. Thinly sliced paua, quickly seared over high heat in olive oil, sprinkled with black pepper and sea salt. I serve it in the paua shell. Then for mains we had kina omelette – three eggs beaten with two tablespoons of milk, chopped parsley, and the kina roe, quickly cooked in a knob of butter then folded over – with fresh green salad. Washed down with Palliser Chardonnay 2007. And we’ll feast on that again tonight, but this time with our own 2007 Pinot Gris.

How lucky are we, to be able to gather such delicious and exclusive food right from our doorstep. That’s why I get so angry when I hear about the appalling paua poaching (we should call it thieving) that is carried out every day from our coasts. Paua are lovely sea creatures, and I admit to feeling a bit mean when I take them out of their shells and kill them. Same with kina, which cling so tightly to their crevices in the rocks, but we are very careful only to take what we can eat fresh – we don’t even take extra to freeze even though we could. And no matter how many times I look at the shell of a paua, I never tire of the beautiful colours swirling around. You can see the ocean’s greens and blues, the browny-orange kelp, and the black of the paua. Lovely to look at, lovely to eat.

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