It's a long way to Tapora - it's a long way, I know (now). But when you're one of the left-behind ones during the summer holidays, day-trips are all you have and on this Sunday afternoon, we headed to the Okahukura conservation area on the Kaipara Harbour for an afternoon's walk.

The area is one of those islands that is only an island when the tide comes in. When the tide is out you can easily walk across the sandflat to the island, at the end of Journeys End Rd, on a hot peninsula jutting into the Kaipara.

And it's a long drive. It took nearly two hours from Auckland but we are hikers so we were more focused on the walk than the drive. We parked beside the road at
the Okahukura reserve sign to avoid getting stuck like the, frankly, morons, we met that day. You should be able to realise before you are hubcap-deep in sand that you need to rethink your life decisions.

We managed to choose what must have been the summer's only cloudless day full of blazing sun. The entrance walk offered little shade but a slight breeze cooled our sweaty brow as we crossed the flat to the white dunes that glow like a mirage in the distance.


Those soaring rippled slopes contrasted photogenically with the blue sky above and the white-capped inner Kaipara Harbour ahead. They also sorely tested our thighs as we scrambled up, feeling like over-active nomads in the deserts of central Iran.

The braver members of the group waded into the water to cool down while the rest of us slowly made our way up and round the island. We'd timed it carefully and the tide was coming in as we spread out in an intrepid line across the vast sandy plain that made me think of The World's Fastest Indian and setting speed records on salt flats in Utah.

No motorcycles, Indian or otherwise, raced past us; although a white ute was taking noisy joy in making circles in the sand in this bird sanctuary known for harbouring the critically endangered dotterel, among others. You may think you look cool, lads; actually you're dicks.

And less than two hours after setting out, we were back at our cars. Okahukura is a decent but doable distance from Auckland but its isolation will help ensure few know such gorgeousness exists so close to home.