Topic: My Piece of Paradise by Phoebe Sopp

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It is summer time. The car begins to slow down and eventually comes to a stop. I jump out and it all hits me at once. The clean crisp air that whips under my nose. The loud crash of the mighty waves that travels through one ear and out the other. The salty seawater smell that fills right to the top of my lungs. It is now that I say to myself, “This really is paradise.”

Punakaiki, one of the most beautiful places in the world. Where else can you find beautiful beaches, breathtaking rivers and extravagant bushy landscapes all in the same place? This is what makes Punakaiki so special.

Look to the west and become witness to the raging sea bellowing a symphony of sounds so hypnotic, so addictive. The waves crash upon the stony shore leaving a trail of white foam from one end of the beach to the other. Sea spray flies high into the air, sprinkling whoever is close enough to be treated to a quick shower. Looking out to the horizon it is difficult to tell where the sea meets the sky as both are as blue as can be. My toes creep into the glistening water, my entire body relaxes as the coldness sends a chilling but somehow soothing feeling up my spine. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Follow the beach along and you will eventually reach the Pororari River. Children frolic in the shallow waters, splashing and laughing with glee. Kayakers take a joyride down the slow but steady current, paddling along at their leisure. The crystal clear waters allow you to peer right to the bottom where the ground is embedded with rocks of all shapes and sizes.

On the other side of the river Bullock Creek awaits for anyone who is adventurous enough to venture into its waters. Here the deepest, darkest waters in Punakaiki are found. Daring teenagers climb to the top of the rock and can barely make out their reflections in the dark waters. On the count of three they plunge into the water, disappearing for seconds at a time then burst upwards with smiles stretching from ear to ear. With their adrenaline now pumping the eager young adults climb back up the jagged rock and prepare for another heart-racing experience.

Walking back up the river the most picturesque landscape meets your eye. The sparkling waters are no match for the exquisite bush that follows the river further inland. Shades of every green imaginable are painted upon the hills. Birds dart in and out of the trees singing to one another in harmony. Nikau palms sway ever so effortlessly in the gentle breeze. The most beautiful feature painted upon this stunning canvas is however the pohutukawa tree. Its ravishing red flowers in full blossom between November and December add a touch of vibrancy to the sea of green.

The small township of Punakaiki is always buzzing in summer. Tourists from all over the world come to visit the most spectacular attraction of Punakaiki - the Pancake Rocks. These magnificent creations resemble stacks of pancakes you would expect to see served in a fancy restaurant. Formed by the erosion of the sea they never fail to amaze anyone with how realistic they are. Stand on the bridge and watch as the waves crash upon the sides of the rocks. If the waves are big enough steam shoots out the top of the chimney pot and soaks those who are in close proximity. The shrieking of tourists who were not expecting such a thing to happen fills the air along with the laughter of many, also taken back with surprise.

As night falls the sunset is one thing not to be missed. Couples holding hands stroll peacefully along the edge of the water. Families sit cosily around a roaring bonfire, toasting marshmallows on the ends of sticks and enjoying the company of one another.

When the tide is out you can make your way to one of the many mussel rocks that fill one end of the beach. From here is the best view of the sun’s descent. Keen seafood addicts who are not afraid of getting a tad wet pick out the biggest, juiciest looking mussels for their dinner tomorrow night.

As the evening grows older the sky is painted a beautiful red, orange and yellow colour. Everybody’s eyes are drawn to the spectacular sight, frightened if they look away they might miss the moment when the sun finally exits the sky for another day.

When the sun has made its departure the air begins to cool and the sun-kissed bodies start to head back to their beds for the night. The ocean continues to play its never-ending symphony, rumbling and roaring in the darkness. Light from the moon casts a beautiful shadow upon the hills, creating a luminous affect among the Pohutukawa trees. The gentle wind has come to a complete halt resulting in a still night. From the bush the subtle call of the more pork can be heard. Another day ends.

Punakaiki, the place I like to call the best in the world. A place of beauty where the beach, river and bush all create a picture-perfect scene fill of tranquility and bliss. There really is no other place like it and so this is why it is my little piece of paradise.


‘My Piece of Paradise’ was written for the Memoir & Local History Competition 2011, run annually by the New Zealand Society of Authors (Bay of Plenty Region) with support from Tauranga Writers, and was entered in the category of Young Writers (13-18).


The amazing Pororari river.


View overlooking the Pancake Rocks.


A beautiful Punakaiki sunset


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My Piece of Paradise by Phoebe Sopp