Gathan Beaga

down by the creek

Last week – well, the last two rather intense days of last week – were all about Webstock, which I may or may not get around to writing up.

Immediately after the drinks on Friday night Rebecca and the girls picked me up and whisked me away for fish and chips on the Petone foreshore followed by a drive out to the Catchpool Valley for some camping with Ralph and Kathleen and their kids.

OK, so I have to admit I wasn’t entirely keen. It was a bit of a wrenching mode switch from webstocking to camping. In the dark, I was momentarily excited when I was able to name the bright stars using the Sky Voyager app on my iPhone. And luckily for me Rebecca and the others were being tolerant of my need to hold on to my techno-comforter.

The next morning was lovely. However our sleep was not: between the pack of munters over the way who didn’t stop yahooing until 2:30am (and at one point we heard them discussing loudly their plan to take one of the kids’ bikes for a ride, but lesser yahoos prevailed) and the pigs, moreporks and other odd screechy things wandering about, and the hard hard ground I didn’t get much rest.

Can you tell? Yes, it’s been almost 20 years since the last time I went camping. And I’m a whiner.

flax wakaIn the late morning we hung out down at the creek. By this time I was dehydrated, caffeine deprived, and overtired. I needed occupational therapy, and then I remembered what my father used to do for us on the banks of the Pomahaka River in those hot summers of the 1970s. So I got out my pocket knife and cut a flax stalk, and I made a boat.

One waka was not enough, though this one was the most elaborate. Eventually all the kids had their own, and they floated them with intent smiles lit by the water’s reflections from the pools and rivulets they carved in the gravelly sandbars.

Meanwhile I was looking for spiders and other interesting invertebrate excitement; and the others joined in too. There was lots to be seen…

Beautiful pebble-speckled wolf spiders running fast across the stones, shying away from the water:

Wolf Spider?

Smooth and sleek giant-jawed tetragnathid spiders surrounded by the translucent shells of their prey:

A Creekbed Spider

(and later, parked on their line and waiting for dinner to arrive, their undersides an unlikely stripe of yellow)

And crayfish:

Freshwater Crayfish, Catchpool Stream

This latter caused a LOT of excitement amongst the kids, some of whom had never seen one before (though our girls have encountered them up at Khandallah Park). I picked it up behind the eyes so they could have a close look; and they took turns holding on to it gently. It was much prettier than the muddy green brown ones we used to catch in the ponds and creeks around the farm. I have to admit… it actually looked edible. If it were a little larger.

There was lots more: dragonflies; little invertebrates scudding about in pools; lovely grey water-skating nurseryweb spiders. Shade growing across the water bringing relief from the sun. The kids starting catching things and showing them to me. It all was great fun.

But then it was getting on into the late afternoon, and we had to go home.

It was a pretty good way to start the weekend, all things considered. Curry at Petone’s Curry Heaven on the way home, and a whole Sunday to recuperate.

Though maybe next time we’ll bring a thermarests for sleeping on, and a billy to boil for coffee…