Most days I take Sam for her long walk in the afternoon. She needs the exercise and so do I. Sometimes Steve joins us, but mostly it’s Sam and me. We often walk at Onetangi Beach. It’s 1.5 kilometers from end-to-end and the tide goes out a long way. When we time it right, Sam can race around the flats with a case of the zoomies (i.e., racing around in circles, barking, totally out of control). She also gets to see other dogs and panhandle for cookies. I’ve met a lot of people walking at the beach. On a cold and grey day with few people at the beach, a man asked me if my dog was “complete.” I looked at Sam; nothing seemed to be missing. He was asking, of course, if Sam had been neutered and should he control his male Australian shepherd. Later on, of course, this question spawned many others to Sam: Are you complete, Sam? Got tail? Got ears? How about nose?
We’ve met a charming woman artist whose dog, Tahi, is digging her way to Italy; a family with a lab puppy, Shadow, who has outgrown Sam by a lot but still races over to visit with her; the principal of the new school who just wants to get a dog; and a crazy poodle named Chloe who jumps straight up in the air.
At both ends of the beach, locals drive tractors with boat trailers into the water. This is how they launch small fishing boats. Cruising boats anchor off the beach when the wind is right and the crews bring their dinghies ashore. Sam has jumped into several of these dinghies and sat patiently waiting for me to catch up. Does she remember her other life where if she didn’t make it into the dinghy she’d have to swim back to the boat?
Even in winter, people go in the water all the time, wading, swimming, surfing. I’ve been bundled up against the wind and follow bare footprints in the sand. When waves come out of the northeast, surfers converge on Onetangi as well as people para-sailing along the surf line and lots of kayaks. There are annual races here in three categories: horses, spectacular as they gallop through the surf; waiters from island restaurants with trays of drinks (I think this started in Paris); and tractors in varying degrees of repair.
Our most frequent walking place is the Te Toki Reserve. It’s quite near our house on Taraire Street and, in fact, I discovered it on a morning run. I had noticed one part of it from our living room window, but I didn’t realize it was a public reserve. It’s a meadow, with hills and valleys and a walking path mowed along the edge. It reminds me of some of my favorite walking places at homeTurkey Hill or parts of World’s End or Bay Farm in Duxbury. This may be one reason why I like it. Also, it’s quite open. Many Waiheke paths are through the “bush”, dense trees, shrubs, and ferns, where both Sam and I can get a little spooked. I like to walk Sam at Te Toki when I don’t feel like a really long walk and when I don’t feel like dealing with salt and sand.
We also walk at Palm Beach. It’s not as long as Onetangi, but it’s closer to home. It has a nice, protected bay and I’ve watched people kayak out from the beach. Steve and I had walked there several times before I went on my own. It was a quiet late afternoon, probably mid-week, not too many people around. Sam and I headed off toward an isolated part of the beach, over an outcrop of rocks and down a steep trail. Here we found another section of the beach, smaller but very nice and quite secluded. A man was heading off the beach as we got there, carrying a beach mat. He was very tanned and gave me an odd look. Sam and I spent quite a bit of time exploring and then headed home to dinner. Later I learned that this is Waiheke’s “clothing optional” beach. I don’t know whether Sam would be very welcome in summer; I’ll send Harry to investigate when he comes to visit.