Monday, August 24, 2009
The Winterless North
Four months ago I was travelling around the Far North of New Zealand. The skies were blue, the temperatures balmy, the white sands sparkling. It’s hard to believe as I sit here in a Christchurch winter but these photos are proof. I stopped a while at Opononi and Omapere, two tiny seaside towns on the edge of the Hokianga and drove to the top of the hill to take some panoramic shots. When I came down again I saw the sign leading to Kokohuia Marae, home to the Ngapuhi hapu, Ngatu Wharara. I drove up the narrow lane and popped out on the brow of a small hill in front of the marae.
There was a man mowing the marae lawns and he stopped to chat with me. He talked to me about his life, growing up in the hills above the marae; about the recent renovations to the marae's wharenui Te Whakarongotai, which he was very proud of; and about life in the Hokianga in general – where 75% of the population is Maori. It was one of those lovely spontaneous encounters that saw me driving away feeling pleased and happy with life and the people I'm lucky enough to meet along the way of it.