I have a great new idea for a book I’m going to write. It will be a big, glossy coffee table book about the cemetaries in the most beautiful places in the world. Naturally, I’m calling it A View To Die For. Now all I need it a publishing contract, a photographer, a travel budget and a year off work.
I came up with that one today at the Russell Public Cemetary, which sits on the crest of a hill about the town, overlooking the water on both sides. Russell is technically on a peninsula, but it’s an island for most practical purposes. The best (and, as far as the rental car company is concerned, only) way to get here is via ferry, owing to New Zealand’s somewhat casual approach to paving roads in its outlying regions. At the moment, it is the quintesscential off-season seaside town; partially open and largely empty, with lots of seafood restaurants, chintzy gift shops and old wooden buildings. It reminds me somewhat of a miniature Provincetown, only warmer and without the rainbow flags.
It was still raining this morning, but in a way that suggested it was thinking about giving it up. Mom visited the local church and I slept in, watched a reply of last nights Rugby World Cup game and took the laundry out of the dryer. After she got back, the rain having given it up for now, we went out and explored Russell’s main drag (which took all of about three minutes) and then walked up over the hill to the beach on the other side.
The Bay of Islands gets its name from the fact that it is a bay with a lot of islands in it. Northern New Zealand has a complicated coastline, possibly due to the effects of ancient volcanic and/or seismic activity, or possibly just because. At any rate, the result is dozens, possibly hundreds of sheltered little half-moon coves, calm, clear water and lots of vacation properties. At the moment, though, most of those seemed to be vacant, so we had the place practically to ourselves.
The water, when we reached it, proved to be coldish. Not Northern California bone-chilling, toe-numbing, are-you-kidding-I’m-not-going-in-there freezing, but cold enough that we didn’t mind not having worn our swimsuits. Instead, we did what my family always does when we go to the beach: we went tidepooling.
For a good portion of my life, I thought that poking around looking for interesting things in rock pools was simply what people did when they went to the beach, to the point that I remember a college beach trip to Malibu when I spotted a particularly pormising outcropping and was surprised that everyone else would rather sit around on their towels than see what was there. I have since learned better and been embarassed, but fortunately I have reached a point in my life when I can begin to get over myself and anyway, I like tidepooling.
The ones we found today weren’t exactly world-class– no starfish at all, and only really tiny anemones– but we did spot a couple of chitons, some shrimp and a variety of multicolored periwinkles. And of course, my pants got wet; no matter how far you roll your pantlegs up when you go to the beach, they always get wet. I think it’s one of those laws-of-nature things.
After we were done at the beach it was only mid-afternoon, which meant we could have spent the rest of the day exploring and further enriching our knowledge of New Zealand history and nature. But we didn’t. Instead, we bought some wine on sale at the local market and sat around drinking it and reading trashy novels on the patio attached to our room. What can I say? There are some things you just have to do at the beach.