It’s 9.30 on a Sunday morning, and after an hour’s drive north west of Takaka (up through Collingwood, then along the Aorere valley), we’ve passed the last sign of civilisation, the quaint Langford store at Bainham, crunched another 16km up the gravel road crossing creeks with creaking little wooden bridges and the sandflies are already biting at Brown Hut. This marks the start of a 4-day hike across the Kahurangi National Park to Kohaihai & Karamea on the West coast. This is one of New Zealand’s Great Walks – the Heaphy Track.
To get to my sister’s home town in Golden Bay, you have to climb over Takaka Hill. And when you reach there, people routinely talk about “going over the hill” in the same way others would talk about going overseas, as in “oh, I don’t think I’ll be going over the hill this week/month/any time before Easter”! To be fair, although it only takes just under an hour in good weather, the journey between Motueka and Takaka in Golden Bay is pretty spectacular, not unlike the hairpin-heavy mountain passes leading to Alpine ski resorts, and features as one of the world’s most exciting and dangerous roads to drive.
But the journey is totally worth it, the scenery all around is spectacular, the weather its own Mediterranean microclimate and the atmosphere is as laid back as a Greek olive grove in the late afternoon sun. Takaka itself is like entering into a hippy time warp, where shopkeepers are open to bartering, swapping and “lay-by” purchase-in-instalment arrangements, hand-painted signs and murals everywhere you look (even the corrugated iron walls of the Freshchoice supermarket sport a mural) whilst barefoot travellers laze around, playing music and making art and jewellery.
Video clip of the Haka from the waka rowers on Waitangi Day 2017.
Also linked in my blog “Whose land is it anyway?” posted yesterday.
To get to Paihia is a good three hours’ drive from Auckland airport. Once I left the main city suburbs the land gets greener, as the road twists and turns through wooded forests with the ubiquitous Myna birds hopping by the roadside and once an Australian harrier floats across and over the trees. The land seems parched – on a stretch of road just south of Whangarei, the acrid smell of smoke permeates the car, and a helicopter flies overhead dragging an enormous bucket – it’s one of two urgently ploughing back and forth into the river and dragging water across to put out a bush fire.
I cross the brow of a steep hill and there! A beautiful sparkling bay studded with tiny wooded islands glints in the late evening sun. I lean that the Te Reo (Maori) name of this place Paihia means “Good Here”.
One week to go til I set off on my big adventure…
So, the idea of taking time out from work is also meant to be a break from my über-planned life to date, in which I’ve never been out of work for a single day since I left university, and slogged away at my great and interesting jobs almost without pause since the summer of 1987.
Throw caution to the winds… throw plans out of the window, and just go with the flow…and see what happens. What turns up.
It lasted about a week. It turns out I can’t live without a plan. I was almost cracking up with the strain of not knowing what I was about to do next. Lost and anxious. My good friend Shirley in Boston came to the rescue. “Carpe the f***ing diem”, she said.