As the sun begins to sink in the sky, lowering itself gently towards the sea, stillness settles over the estuary. The wind has not been strong, but its absence leaves a silence into which even the smallest sounds filter. From the balcony overlooking the soft mud of the empty seabed, I can now hear the gentle roar of the ocean as it endlessly throws itself at the sand, only to retreat again moments later. The tide has turned and the sea is creeping its way into the estuary, a silent predator invading the mudflats.
Overhead, the sky is violet, streaked with a million rose and gold coloured hues. Seagulls squawk as they head back towards the beach and the feast that awaits them there, carelessly left by daytime picnickers. I turn towards a scratching sound below, and watch as a family of quail bustle up the dusty gravel driveway, darting in and out of the scrub. The fluffy grey chicks scurry this way and that as their mother tries to herd them towards their evening resting place.
The manuka in front of me shakes its branches as a kereru- native wood pigeon- swoops down. The spindly branches seem too fragile to bear the weight of so plump a bird, yet somehow they do, bending as the white-breasted creature strips the new young leaves. In the twilight its jade green plumage glows.
I look over the estuary, almost full now, at the bush-covered hills beyond. Directly opposite I can see the small lights from the campsite, can picture the families there, gathered around their lanterns under the canvas awnings, playing cards or reading as they ignore the scuffles and whispers of the children not sleeping in the tent behind them. Further along is the ocean, growing dark now, Kaka Point silhouetted against the sky. The ancient pohutakawas at the top reach skywards, their gnarled branches grasping at the stars. Against the last light on the horizon I can see the black shapes of the water taxis and yachts, moored now, silent and bobbing sleepily on the gentle swell.
From next door comes the throb of bass, the teenagers celebrating the last weekend of freedom before school starts. Later there will be shouting, laughter, fighting, as the flagons empty, but for now the low thrum of their music is not intrusive. In fact, the chattering of the penguins under the house is more distracting, their cries harsh as they slide their way down towards the estuary. A lone pukeko adds its voice to the chorus, startling the kereru who flaps away, emerald wing so close to my head that I can feel the displaced air as it passes.
The sun has disappeared completely, leaving only faint smears of lemony light in the sky. Stars have appeared, exploding out of nowhere to scatter themselves across the darkening sky. The scent of smoke fills my nostrils, barbecuing meat from somewhere beyond our house. The clink of glass reminds me of my wine, and I reach for the glass, now slick with condensation, and sip at the cool, buttery chardonnay, made with grapes grown not ten minutes from here. I settle back to enjoy the clear, still Kaiteriteri night.