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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Stony Batter

NEW ZEALAND | Wednesday, 10 September 2008 | Views [1489]

"Yoo-hoo, today is a great day if you want to go to Stony Batter" Roberta calls into my room at 8:30 AM. I'm glad I did because I've been waking up a little too late the past few days. She was right, so I thought I'd seize the opportunity to get out there! After a breakfast of Weet-Bix I packed a bag with my jacket, camera, and headlamp. Also I made a couple of peanut butter sandwiches and Roberta let me have two bananas. Before I go further I must tell you a wee bit about Roberta. She's an ex-Canadian who's lived on Waiheke for many years and her home is called "the Sunflower Shack." She's 65 and has limited mobility but she lives alone, and she's a great cook! Her best dish so far is a cake-like cornbread topped with baked beans. She's my second host I've found through WWOOF (the first was Catherine in Titirangi). Roberta advised me to bring my raincoat even though it was sunny; the weather is so unpredictable in NZ so it's best to be prepared for several types of weather in a single day. After stopping at the dairy I was picked up only about a minute after holding out my thumb. They took me to the turnoff to Rocky Bay. I'd be hard-pressed to get all the way from Surfdale to Stony Batter in only one ride. After a few minutes I got another lift to the road where I was dropped off the other day. A few days ago I tried to get to Stony Batter but I'd left too late in the day and there's very little traffic on the eastern side of Waiheke. A few more rides took me to the top of a hill. The green rolling hills in the sun are absolutely stunning!

Only a few minutes later a local man named Steve offered me a lift. He lives right near Man O' War Bay. We drove down the dirt road where I was stranded in the rain the other day. As we chatted he invited me to his home for a cup of coffee. The ocean is right outside of his property.

He has a major passion for the ocean and is an avid scuba diver. Two hours north of Waiheke are the Poor Knights Islands, which are said to be one of the best diving sites in the entire world. There's a magnificent clipper ship in the distance called The Spirit of New Zealand, which I saw as I was kayaking just off of Steve's backyard. I can't wait to have another "Milford Sound experience" where I kayaked straight up to a seal. I was about 200 metres offshore before coming back in. Steve then offered me a lift to Stony Batter. He remarked that he's lived on Waiheke for eight months yet has never been to Stony Batter. We kept joking about how "stony batter" doesn't sound tasty. That reminds me, when I was little I always thought the batter tasted better than the cake itself. Steve had just spoken with a friend who said it was pouring rain in Auckland whilst it's sunny here. You might wonder what Stony Batter is that I've mentioned it so much: it's a series of gun emplacements installed during World War II in case the Japanese attacked New Zealand. The name "Stony Batter" comes from the fact that there are many boulders in the area, including one painted to look like a shark with an open mouth.

After a 20 minute walk from the car park, grey clouds filled the sky. After paying the entrance fee I realized my headlamp wasn't bright enough and I didn't have $5 to hire a torch, although she let me hire it for $2 (all I had left). It started to rain just as I entered the tunnels, which are pitch black!

There are two gun emplacements, but neither of them were ever fired because Imperial Japan didn't reach New Zealand during their expansion. After walking through several hundred metres of tunnels I climbed a steep flight of stairs and visited one of the gun emplacements.

It was raining so I left my torch and backpack inside and closed the door behind me. I had to keep it closed because the tunnels will fill up with fog when it's raining or misting. The door wouldn't open when I went back down, so I was worried I'd have to walk all the way back in the rain to the museum, get another torch, and go back and retrieve my stuff. After pushing the door for a minute or two it opened. There is one tunnel that was closed and if you went down it you could get locked in. A warning stated that "cell phones don't work down here." It's NOT a place you'd want to be stuck in! Walking down another tunnel I reached the magazine, where the ammunition was stored. In there (and in other areas of the tunnels) I turned off my torch to experience total darkness. I walked up another steep set of stairs to another gun emplacement but the door was locked. Stony Batter is one of Waiheke's, if not New Zealand's best kept secrets. It's really rewarding for the effort it takes to get out here. The sun was shining through the grey clouds as I was on the gun emplacement again, and this time I left the door open a wee bit to avoid getting locked out. After a photo or two I walked all the way back through the tunnels and out through the tunnel entrance, and I needed a photo of me in front of the entrance to certify I've been to Stony Batter. Today was excited as I followed through on my second go! The small on-site museum has photos of Stony Batter during World War II and I glanced at some of the news written in the various New Zealand newspapers. As I walked back through the carpark I walked up the hill to get a close-up shot of the "boulder shark."

It was grey but sunny and I walked to a T-intersection wondering how I was getting back to Surfdale. A gorgeous, vivacious girl named Taryn stopped and told me if I was still there on her way back from dropping off a customer she'd give me a lift. A half hour later I was still there and Taryn showed up! New Zealanders are so caring, and I love that about this place! It is true NZ spirit! Love, hospitality, and care prevail in this beautiful land. Taryn is a consultant for an automotive parts company but looking at her I'd think she'd be on the cover of a magazine. Her company pays for all of her transport, mobile phone, and the whole lot. In talking to her I found out she's never travelled outside NZ and doesn't have a passport; a rarity among Kiwis. She hasn't even been to the South Island. Taryn dropped me off at the supermarket and she gave me her business card. I'd love to hang out with her for my birthday! At the supermarket I got lamb nuggets, pears, and some energy drinks before hitching back to Roberta's house and telling her about Stony Batter. It's been a nice and fulfilling day! I wanted to get to work so I went outside and pulled more weeds for about a half hour before it started raining again. For dinner Roberta made sweet and sour chicken, which tasted great after an adventurous day. "Waiheke" comes from the Maori word meaning "waterfall" but I haven't seen any waterfalls on Waiheke. New Zealand is home to many spectacular waterfalls! It's been a long day, and after washing dishes and having a few cups of tea I look over my photos of Stony Batter before washing up and calling it a worthy Waiheke evening! Whilst earlier I was dreaming Stony Batter, now I'm dreaming cookie batter.

 

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