One of our regular walks (Waitonga Falls: ) provided us with a pleasant surprise on Christmas Eve. As it had the day before, the sun shone from a clear blue sky, so we left early for a quick walk before its heat made anything more than a snail’s pace unbearable. Within the trees it was still cool and we marched to get blood flowing rather than adding a layer we knew we’d have to remove before long. Sure enough the sun blazed hot as we reached the boardwalk, the mountain to our left wearing his zebra-striped early summer coat.

We’ve walked here many times, arrived almost at the crack of dawn to try and see the famed mountain reflection in the clear Rotokawa pools. But the wind also wakes early and likes to play with the water, running it into ridges to spoil a viewer’s fun. Today we were lucky. It wasn’t perfect, there were still a few wavers across the water’s surface, but it’s the best we’ve ever seen. These pictures are snapped quickly on my iPhone rather than being set up for hours (it often feels like it) by Neil on his camera, but you get the gist.

As we approached the second pool a grunting noise travelled across the boggy ground towards us, ceasing as we approached. The ripples in this pool weren’t racing across the water ahead of the wind, rather they were radiating out from a central point, ever-increasing circles until they faded or hit the tussocked edges. In the middle of each was a small lump. As we watched, one lump sank and stretched out long legs that propelled it under the clear water towards another. Frogs! (They are in the picture – good luck spotting them. Neil googled and discovered they are Southern Bell frogs.)

As it always does when I see or hear anything froggy, my mind landed on my friend, Lynn, who loves them. It then flashed back to childhood and primary school, where we would daily check the small dark dots that our teacher had placed into a glass tank half full of water. One day they grew tails, then they grew tiny legs that propelled them through the water like the larger versions I’d just seen. Tadpoles have fascinated me ever since. We tiptoed past, trying to quieten our boots on the wooden boardwalk, and left the adults frolicking in the reflection of the mountain.

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