Okarito - Tyler
Well along the length of the huge lagoon and no more than halfway across it, Tyler determinedly caught up to his cousin, got really close alongside and whispered, "Cassie! Cassie, look – a Kotuku!
It's Beautiful. But what's it doing away out here on the water? It must be standing on a log or something."
"It'll be standing on the bottom. That's why they've got long legs, they're wading birds and most of the lagoon is only a few inches deep. You could probably walk from one side to the other."
"Oh, I see. I didn't know that. I haven't seen a live Kotuku for years, they're very rare."
"You think? Look, there's another one over there and there was one back behind us."
"I missed that one. Three of them at once? Wow!"
"There's no wow about it, Boy. White Herons are not rare around here, they're quite common. At some times of the year there's lots of them. They nest and breed on the Waitangitoana River, in New Zealand's only breeding colony. That's just a few k's north of here and they feed here on the Okarito Lagoon."
"Yeah? They take tourists to see them, don't they? I saw a tour-company place in a small town north of here."
"You did – White Heron Sanctuary Tours. They're based in Whataroa and the only way you can get in there is with them. It's a great trip, but the dumb tourists don't realise that they can come here and see them for free. Well, some do, but not many. Pity really.The birds don't take a lot of notice of you if you're out on the water but if you haven't got a boat you can't get up close."
Tyler said, "Hmmm."
"Yes! There it is, over there, the Otatoki Creek. You go in first, Tyler and I'll follow you."
"Me first? Why? It's not booby-trapped is it?"
"Of course not!" Cassie laughed. "I wouldn't do that to you and, anyway, Aunt Kathleen would kill me if I did. No,I just want to follow and watch your reaction."
"My reaction to what?"
"Don't be so suspicious, Cousin. It's just a cool place, that's all.'
"Okay. I'll trust you – once."
Tyler led the way, paddling slowly from the lagoon into what Cassie called the Otatoki Creek. He soon stopped and sat quietly looking around. "See all the Beauty that Surrounds You," he quoted.
She said that it was one, but it was like no creek that he'd ever seen. This was no small, bubbling and swirling waterway; this was wide, green and serene. The blue sky could still be seen, in places, above the trees, but everything else was a million shades of green.
Well, there were some browns, but even most of the tree trunks and branches were festooned with a host of green epiphytes and parasites. There were a few brightly coloured flowers, dotted around here and there, and the tangled mass of foliage went all the way down to the water which was green as well and even calmer and flatter than out in the lagoon. There didn't seem to be any current flowing at all.
"Well, what d'you think?" Cassie came up alongside hiim.
"I think that Heaven must look like this. Oh, Cassie! This is absolutely gorgeous, I love it."
"So do we all," she smiled. "What makes it even better is that it's all perfectly safe. There's no snakes or other creepy-crawlies looking to kill you, unlike some countries. Come on then, we'll paddle upstream a bit and there's a clearing with a small beach where we can stop and have some lunch."
They started moving again, gliding along. He was startled when the silence around them was suddenly broken by a pair of Kereru, or Native New Zealand Wood Pigeons, noisily flapping above them. Cassie laughed at the look on his face. "Noisy buggers, aren't they? You often hear them long before you see them."
"They're noisy. Another rare bird, but I suppose you'll tell me that they're common around here too?"
"You've got it – heaps of them. There's over 70 bird species around here, including our very own Rowi."
"What's a Rowi?"
"It's a kiwi, a little brown one. Rowi are the rarest species of kiwi, there's only about 300 of them in the world and they all live here, around Okarito."
"Really? This must be a bird-lovers' paradise."
"Yep. What they can see of it, that is."
"Hmm," said Tyler.
They stopped and ate the lunch, sitting on the so-called beach – actually a gently-sloping bank of stones, all covered in thick green moss which made great seat-cushions. Some bird-song could be heard, but not much.
"It's so quiet here!" Tyler commented.
"Now it is," Cassie replied. "But not in the summer. Then, there's bloody cicadas everywhere, singing their little hearts out. Some years they're so thick you can't hear yourself think.
Mind you, they spend about 17 years as nymphs burrowing underground, and then come out to fly and breed for a few weeks in the summer sunshine. It's no wonder they sing, I would too. Still bloody noisy though."
"You know a lot about nature, Cassie. People miss a lot living in a city."
"They do. That's why I don't, and I never will. I like it here."
"Y'know, I think I do too."
"Shot!" she grinned.
"Yeah. Shot in the heart – like Cupid's arrows. Speaking of which, what time are you expecting Bevan?"
"Cassie!" He protested with a grin and a blush. "He said that he'll come over after school, around 4 o'clock."
"Plenty of time then. We'll go a bit further up the creek, and then start making our way back."
The creek soon got too narrow and choked with fallen trees etc for them to proceed any further. They actually had to reverse a bit before the long kayaks could turn around to go back. It wasn't obvious, but there was some current flowing in the water because the downstream trip took no effort at all.
Tyler actually used the paddles to brake a couple of times, he was in no hurry to leave there, and then they just drifted along, occasionally dipping a paddle to steer.
Back out on the wide waters of the lagoon they travelled homeward, staying close to the north 'shore', where the bush met the water. There were a lot of birds, including a couple of Kotuku, away out past them on the water. They weren't upset at all by the humans passing by, they just ignored them and got on with their lives.
Tyler was quiet. He just flashed lots of grins to show how much he was liking it.
All too soon they came down the lagoon to the point opposite Bob and Kathleen's home, and they turned to cross over there. A light wind was disturbing the surface now, but it wasn't enough to make the going any harder. Someone was over there, standing by the water's edge, waiting for them.
"Bevan's there already!" Tyler exclaimed. "Come on, Cassie, I'll race you over there." He started paddling faster.
Cassie sped up to match him. "I thought you said, 'no racing'?"
"I changed my mind – Come on, Old Lady!"
"I'll show you who's an old lady, you cheeky little shit!"
They cut across the water like surfaced torpedos, racing for home. Cassie won by a narrow margin when they slid up onto the grassy verge. She got out and danced around, celebrating her win and cheering for herself.
She had to because no-one else was cheering, the two boys were busy grinning at each other.
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