Oakura Beach is particularly close to my heart as it is here that I spent most of my summer holidays as a child -- swimming in the sea, building sandcastles, pulling mussels off the rocks for dinner or just watching the ebb and flow of the tide, back and forth, as the hot summer days blended into each other. As kids we were indeed fortunate: Our grandparents had a modest old beachfront cottage, a place of pilgrimage for the family every summer, to be enjoyed simply for what it was in the days before coastal property ever became a trophy-like commodity the way it is now.
Each part of the beach was (and still is) a special place for childhood memories, from the scattering of mussel-encrusted rocks near the Oakura River at one end of the beach to the two small streams that spread out across the black sand near the Surf Club building. Near the beach house the tide often left behind sandy pools on the beach that would be heated by the afternoon sun to a bath-like temperature; here we would spend long hours soaking in the warmth, digging new pools or building sand dams in futile attempts at stopping the incoming tide from flushing us out with its inevitable flood of cold water.
While the pools are ephemeral, for some reason they seem to always reappear in much the same place. On this particular morning in February 2006, when I had arrived at the beach house in darkness the night before and risen before sunrise, there they were -- gleaming under the morning twilight sky as if to welcome me back. I walked down onto the beach to take this sunrise photograph, then headed back to the house for breakfast as the tide rolled in. It was the perfect start to another holiday.