Sometimes you forget how lucky you are. I woke up on Saturday on holiday in Golden Bay with a vague hangover, beer pong and a skinny dip the night before will do that, walked to the beach for a swim and had breakfast. My wife, another friend and I then headed out for Rawhiti Cave behind Motupipi, we parked in a field and headed up the ravine like valley of the appropriately named Dry River. Twenty minutes in the path turned steeply up the hill and zigzagged up through Nikau Palm and massive Totara before we arrived in a sweaty mess at the cave entrance. And what an entrance, a good two hundred meters across and up to thirty meters high, the stalactites at the entrance literally grow towards the light. There is a viewing platform just inside and as you gaze down you lose perspective at the depth, I thought there was a lake reflecting the roof, but there wasn’t, it was just a massive hole.

We descended again carefully and I dropped the girls back off at Tata beach before heading north to Farewell Spit. After enjoying venison pie and chips looking out over the 25km sand spit that seems to curve around and disappear into the distance, I then followed the inner shore of the massive lagoon before traipsing across the spit towards the outer beach and the Tasman Sea. There were very few people around and the manuka grove opened up onto dunes before the wide expanse of a pristine empty beach. I walked back up the beach and returned over the fields through a flock of some of the healthiest sheep I think I’ve ever seen.

I then drove over to Wharariki, this time I wasn’t alone, it seems to be one of the more popular tourist destinations and you can see why. The path crosses from the car park over farmland before dropping into the dunes and the beach. A group of four horses galloped across the sand. Bright black glistening baby seals frolicked or lazed by the rock-pools, ignoring the cameras trained on them. One group of tourists conducted a yoga session whilst a grey haired man old enough to know better attempted a handstand before collapsing uncomfortably on the sand. The wind picked up drifts of dry sand to blow across the wet. I walked back behind an American couple marching mechanically with their poles.

On the drive back I picked up a couple of hitchhikers, a tattooed Englishman and his pierced Polish girlfriend and shouted them a beer at the Mussel Inn, one of the more attractive New Zealand pubs (not that that says a lot). Then headed back for a curry using fish caught by my companions the day before. Golden Bay, golden day. In the words of Fred Dagg – we don’t know how lucky we are.

Pete Carter is the author of This is Us. Due out in June 2020 it will be published by Exisle and tells the story of more than 200 New Zealanders in words and pictures. The book is really a portrait of the nation and how it is made up. Pete wrote Our Dog Benji a children’s book illustrated by his nephew, published by EK in 2017. He is also the author of two books of poetry. He has had magazine articles published and poetry in anthologies. As a photographer he has had two solo exhibitions and work included in group exhibitions in NZ and overseas and has sold work to and been commissioned by corporate clients.

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