Glendowie rates another visit with Cate Foster.
The day is glorious, the tide is low and we decide to extend one of our favourite walks from two hours to four. But we stick to our usual rules - the route must be a loop and it must finish at a cafe. Any tempting stops in between will be a bonus.
Parking at the south end of St Heliers Beach we strike uphill along Cliff Rd, turning off at Glover Rd and into Glover Park itself. This is the real start of this Sunday's walk and after this we hardly touch any tarmac. Exiting Glovers Park at Waitara Rd we walk a few metres down a stretch of Riddell Rd and take the walkway into Churchill Park.
Here, walkers have two options, a bit like the song in which one takes the High Road and another the Low Road. In this case, we choose the low road as part of the no-roads strategy. It's prettier, with a narrow winding path along the edge of tucked-away fairy-tale gardens. I'm told the little creek is wont to flood at times but it obviously hasn't for a while as the cannas are taller than I am and the mown grass at the water's edge is as lush as a bowling green.
Hitting the tarmac for a few metres at the Forfar Rd exit we cross the long grass of Glendowie Reserve and into Roberta Reserve. Our feet are wet now but we know they'll be a lot wetter before the end so it isn't worth getting upset about. Perhaps in high summer when the grass is dry this doesn't happen, but every time I walk this route I find myself somewhere along it moaning about wet feet. C'est la vie.
Most of us are going to walk right out to Sandy Point at the tip of the Tahuna Torea Nature Reserve. Because of my wet feet and because I've been there before, I volunteer to look after Cosmo which, because he has four legs, isn't allowed there.
Leaving the others to make their way out to throw pebbles into the Tamaki Estuary, Cosmo and I take a side track and head for the Spencer Deli and Grocery Store at the junction of Roberta Ave and West Tamaki Rd. With food this criminally good it's worth carrying it home. Even Cosmo, labrador-hungry as ever, gets a look in with a piece of ham. I resist the superb coffee with difficulty but buy a packet to take home.
Rejoining the others we sweep up to Riddell Rd, re-enter Churchill Park at the Clouston St entrance and - taking the high road this time - follow its edges until we leave it just before Peacock St and the steps down to Karaka Bay, with its string of cute baches. Cosmo gambols with a resident dog in the tiny waves. We bathe our feet and look out to Browns Island.
Because the tide is low, but won't be forever, we press on around the rocks at the northern end of the bay to find glorious sea views, with nothing between us and Browns Island except the dazzle of water. It seems crazy that we are the only humans in sight.
This is not the case around the corner in Gentleman's Bay where a couple of chaps in mankinis are lazing with studied ease on the rocks. We leave them to it and make our way around to neighbouring Ladies Bay, and to the top of the steep steps. Back on Cliff Rd we're all gasping for our promised coffee just down the hill in St Heliers. But what a walk. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.