Lost at Lake Forsyth

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs

Two boys, late back from a hike.

Submitted: October 31, 2017

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Submitted: October 31, 2017



A new family moved into the street and their young lad turned up in Henry’s class. Henry had his own bunch of mates so he didn’t bother with the new kid at first, but he noticed that nobody else bothered with him either.  During playtime, the boy sat by himself, perhaps afraid to join in. Maybe nobody wanted to make friends with him because he always had a snotty nose, and he sucked the two big fingers on his right hand! When he was unhappy, which was most of the time…. Oh let’s not go there, it wasn’t a pretty sight! Henry decided to make an effort and befriended the boy, which seemed to please his mum and dad. So much so, to show their appreciation, they invited Henry to stay with them a few times in their fisherman’s hut out at Birdlings Flat.

Birdlings Flat was a fishermen’s camp on the south side of Banks Peninsula. The settlement was perched on the gravel beach close to both the sea and Lake Forsyth. There were perhaps twenty huts there, some of them owned by commercial fishermen. The huts were built from car packing cases and the facilities were rudimentary at best. The Birdlings Flat area was locally famous as a training ground for the army during and post WWII. Mostly for camping rough, marching, survival and experiencing cold, harsh frosts.

The beach is downright dangerous! It’s steep, with waves rising high to crash down to almost nothing, only to be sucked back out to form the next wave. If you were caught, the tide would suck you out to sea! The fishermen used little kontiki rafts that pulled their long lines with baited hooks out into deep water. The sail was held up by a barley sugar, and when it dissolved, the sail dropped down. They left the line out there for a complete tide, say six hours, and then hauled the fish in. Henry and his mate were caught playing chicken with the waves one day, and received deserved whacks from a random passer-by!

If you look at the map of the area, you will see that the lake is close to the sea. The fishermen used a bulldozer to open the gravel bar so an incoming tide could refresh the lake overnight. Henry thought the idea was to allow big conger eels, or maybe it was long finned eels, to swim into the lake – he didn’t know the difference back then. The boys caught eels by sinking a rowing boat with roadkill-rabbit inside overnight, they would quickly land the boat, trapping the eels inside. The fishermen paid them good money for the cut up bait. The eels were big buggers and could bite! Even today, Henry can’t believe that nine year old boys weren’t scared of them! Indeed, they actually thought it was a barrel of fun!

Henry harboured the ambition to walk around the lake! Well, he figured he walked about two miles to school, setting off at 8:15 am and arrived there well before the 9 o’clock bell, so it didn’t faze him that the lake was five miles long. He reckoned they could do it easily in a day! But, his mate was not so keen on getting out of bed! Henry’s the opposite, reckoning that morning is the best time of the day! Anyway, because of his mate’s tardiness, they didn’t get under way until after lunch, but again that didn’t really concern Henry because they had oodles of time before dark.

They crossed the gravel bank and walked along the right hand side of the lake. It was easy going at first, along a beach of small round stones, but soon they had to detour to climb over sharp, rocky outcrops. Henry thought it was easy, skipping over the rocks, but not so his companion, he struggled, sucking his fingers and wiping snot on his sleeve in dismay! Every five minutes, Henry sat on his haunches waiting for him to catch up. The boy wasn’t very fit.

Henry realised it was getting late in the afternoon and they hadn’t yet reached the end of the lake, so he tried to cajole his mate to hurry up a bit. But the lad was hungry, beginning to get whiney and wanted to go back the way they had come. Henry told him that getting to the top of the lake wouldn’t take long and then they would make good time because of the road on the other side. Perhaps someone might even give them a lift! But no, the boy refused to listen, became teary, snotty-nosed and pleaded to go the way they had come. So they set off back.

The real trouble was, the young bugger hadn’t told his parents what they were doing, or where they were going! Henry genuinely thought he had, in fact he had expected him to! So, as parent do, they were starting to worry about the pair being lost or perhaps drowned! They rang even Henry’s Dad, who told them that he was sure the boys wouldn’t be lost! He knew that Henry had a good sense of direction and advised patience. But his mate’s parents, perhaps knowing their son, began gathering a bunch of locals who were going to search the beach and around the Birdlings Flat wider area. Their plan was to search in the opposite direction to where they actually were! But just as the search parties were setting off, someone spotted the boys crossing the gravel bar! They had made it back!

His mate’s parents were relieved to have them back safely and yakked on about them as if they had been lost and through good luck had found their way back! Henry was indignant! All the time, every second, they had been gone, he knew exactly where we were, most of the time he could even see the road on the other side of the lake!

They were never lost, just a bit late – that’s all! But Henry had learned a good lesson: plan your trip with the slowest member in mind!


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