The white-foamed spray leapt up in a shower as the blunt bows of the dingy thumped into the swell. Robbie knew he had to put a couple of kilometres between himself and the point. Otherwise the in-rushing tide will trap him inside the reef.
He'd come to Blackner's beach now for three summers. The beach was a wee bit of an open secret in the area. Secluded, remote and only accessable by sea or farm track, it had all the qualities Robbie desired.
Old man Blackner would have closed the track anyway, Robbie knew. He didn't want visitors disturbing his ewes during lambing. The farmer can do that, of course. He can ask for a restriction of public access from the Regional Authorities for farm management purposes.
This meant that only boaties could possibly be visiting the beach. Locals doing a bit of fishing, perhaps. Only at high tide, though, it was waste of time otherwise.
"Bugger!" Robbie muttered upon rounding the point.
There on the beach, beyond the high tide mark were a couple of caravans, huge tandem-axled things.
"What the hell are they doing there!" he said aloud.
Clearly they couldn't have come by sea. Obviously they must have come via Blackner's old track, but how? It was barely wide enough for a farm tractor let alone those bloody great houses-on-wheels.
As the little 10 horse Yamaha outboard pushed the aluminium dingy towards the beach, Robbie saw a number of figures around the 'vans. An awning was spread and under it several deck chairs and a table. Cables ran from the 'vans to somewhere in the push.
"They've got a bloody generator too!" Robbie announced to himself, "what next, TV, hot and cold?" He could scarcely believe it.
The surf carried the little craft over the pebbles and the last few metres to the beach. Robbie leapt into the knee-deep water to pull the dingy onto the beach and unload his camping gear.
He figured he'd camp in his usual spot at the other end of the beach under the Pines. He was disappointed to find strangers on 'his' little beach, but he was here for a week and maybe they'd be leaving before that. He was determined to enjoy himself regardless.
Robbie saw a man approaching. He was dark, at first Robbie thought the guy was local Maori but, as he got closer, he saw he was far too dark for a Polynesian. 'Melanesian, perhaps, African?' thought Robbie as the guy strode near.
He was enormous, rather like a mahogany dining table stood on end. 'Fully 7 foot in bare feet, at least' Robbie thought. He wore dark 'wrap 'round' shades and trunks large enough to make a tent with, decorated Hawaian fashion.
"I'm sorry sir," man mountain spoke, "the beach is closed, you have to move on."
He spoke with an American accent, like one who's used to getting his own way. Robbie wasn't surprised, clearly not many people would care to argue with the guy. He was, though, impeccably polite.
"Excuse me?" said Robbie, not sure of what he heard.
"This is a private party, sir. You have to move on," he repeated.
"Eh? Where?" Robbie asked in surprise.
"Anywhere, sir. Not here!"
Outrage began to form slowly in Robbie's gut. 'How dare some Yank tell him he can't stay on a public beach!'
"You can't do that!" Robbie protested, "there's no such thing as 'private' beaches in this country. Only the Regional Council can close a beach, and that's only for health and..."
"I don't know anything about that," the stranger continued, "all I know is that you can't stay here, so would you move on... please!"
"The fuck I will!" Robbie told the huge man, "I'm within my rights. Have you permission from Iwi?"
"From who, sir?"
Robbie knew local Maori had no customary rights to the beach. He didn't figure the stranger would know that.
"The local tribe," Robbie told him, "the Ko-matua need to give permission for you to camp. The Tribal elders, you'll be in big trouble if you haven't got it."
The stranger looked uncertainly at Robbie. He'd finally pierced a chink in the guy's demeanour. Emboldened, Robbie continued.
"Yes sir. When they find out, there'll be a dozen canoes coming around the point full of warriors..."
"There will?" the Black man asked, clearly troubled.
"Yep, you can't just take over a beach..."
"Wait a minute!" the guy told him and padded back towards the 'vans up the beach.
Robbie chuckled to himself. 'Damn, what a sucker.' There hadn't been a war party for 150 years.
Presently the guy returned accompanied by a woman. She was bikini clad, 30's, well-tanned, eyes shaded with long black hair tied in a pony tail.
"Now what's the problem?" she asked, "what's this stuff about tribes and canoes?"
She had the bored tone of a professional damage-controller. Like, 'here's another problem that needs sorting out with a bit of negotiation.' She was controlled and wary.
"You can't close a beach," Robbie explained, "I come here every summer to camp. You can't do that!"
"I see," she replied, interested, "Ok, Charles," he addressed the Black man, "I'll resolve this. You'd better go back and keep... our client company."
"Sure Adelle," he replied.
The man gave Robbie a long stare before he turned to go. Robbie could sense the menace behind the dark glasses.
"My name is Adelle," she explained, unnecessariy, "that's Charles," she said, looking behind her, "and you are?"
"Robbie. Well, Robbie we have an understanding from the local farmer that we'll have complete privacy here. There's obviously been some kind of misunderstanding..."
Robbie grated at the woman's patronising tone. He took an instant dislike to her, and to her pal Charles.
"He has no right to guarantee that," Robbie explained, pointedly.
Like every country person, he knew the rights of property backwards and forwards. Who could and couldn't come onto your land. The 'Queens chain' guaranteeing access to foreshore and rivers.
He explained to her that old man Blackner could restrict who could come across his land, particularly at lambing time. But that no-one could legally stop him from landing on the beach in a boat.
"I see!" the woman nodded, irritatingly.
Robbie still felt he was being humoured. He hated it. The woman considered for a moment before making up her mind.
"Ok," she finally said, "I guess we can live with it. You'll be camping where?"
Robbie pointed down the beach, away from the 'vans.
"Ok," the woman brightened, "I guess that won't be a problem. You'll be here how long?"
Robbie explained that he'll be here a week. Adelle asked him if he had a cellphone, or camera, and when he assured her he hadn't, she smiled and left him to bring his things ashore. He noticed, though, Charles standing staring at him the whole time.
It didn't take him long to pitch his tent and set up his campsite under the Pines. He was of two minds about staying. He felt the Americans were invading his little patch of heaven. Some bloody-minded obstinacy told him, however, that it would be as good as backing down. In the end he decided to stay, just to piss them off if for no other reason.
The water was lapping near the high tide mark when Robbie put together his rod for a little surf-casting. A fresh Kahawai was way better eating than the tin food he'd brought with him.
He noticed the fresh sea-breeze had driven the Americans inside their caravans. All except Charles, who appeared to be keeping watch. Robbie had already snagged a nice 6 kilo wriggling fish when the black man approached.
"Any luck?" he asked.
"Yep!" Robbie said, indicating his plastic bucket.
He asked about the species and Robbie told him it was a variety of Sea Bass. Charles explained he used to go fishing off San Diego as a kid. The ice was breaking down a little, over fishing.
Robbie gave the American a turn at casting, offered some pointers, and soon they were getting along just fine. As the sun waned, together they had caught a half dozen good sized fish, unusual at this end of the season. Charles clapped Robbie around the shoulders, trapping him vice-like, and told him he hadn't had that much fun in years. Rubbing his shoulder, Robbie thanked him before dividing up the catch.
"You sure you don't want to gut and scale them for us?" the American asked, grinning.
"What, you Yanks want to fish them out of the sea wrapped and filleted?" Robbie teased.
"Sure," he replied, laughing," and on a plate with basil and a squeeze of lemon!"
They went their separate ways having become instant friends.
Charles visited Robbie's camp first thing in the morning. Robbie shared some of his breakfast, beans and coffee, brewed in a billy.
"Damn!" Charles said, spitting away from the fire, "you call that coffee? I call it shit!"
"Instant," Robbie explained, "and powdered milk. Keeps longer."
"I don't want to keep that shit at all," Charles laughed, "you come back to the trailer. I'll make you proper coffee."
Robbie agreed and followed Charles back to the 'van. He explained he had it all to himself, Adelle, apparently, 'roomed' with their 'client'.
"So who the hell is this mystery client?" Robbie asked.
"Can't say," he replied, "someone big... in the entertainment world. She don't get up until noon, so I'll make you a real breakfast, with real coffee. Instant... shit!" he added, in mock disgust.
The coffee was certainly better than Robbie's. They sat under the awning of Charle's 'trailer' watching the bluer than blue ocean heave gently in the morning swell.
"It's sure a picture out there, ain't it?" Charles commented.
.... There is more of this story ...