Sunday, June 7, 2009

How I saw 2 places I actually felt I could live. For a bit at any rate

I have lucked out with my first couch surfing host. She used to be a tour guide. I can be the annoying toddler I once was and ask constant, ever more enquiring questions about the land, people and even the air and spirits in between. I rarely stump her. Her brain is an encyclopaedia. I wonder how she would fair on one of those quiz programmes where you do your best to find a question that the contestant cannot answer. I can’t say I have found one yet.

Today we are off to Waiheke, an island off the coast of Auckland. I have wanted to go there since I saw it described somewhere as a ‘hippy haven.’ That was too much temptation and the internal compass promptly started to pull me in that direction.

We missed the ferry from Downtown so drove to Devonport where we killed time (it was a chore) eating the best fish and chips I have had in a long time wrapped up in newspaper. My vegetarianism/akalinism has been parked.

A short while later we ended up in Waiheke with no grand plans. We bought a bus ticket to wherever the bus was going and stayed on until the end. It took us past hills dense with trees and deserted coves and bays.

We got off at Onetangi. Now fully spoilt by my Maori tour guide come host and not doubting for a minute that I wouldn’t get an answer I asked what this word meant. One (pronounced Oh-nee) is Maori for beach. Tangi (pronounced tongue-gee) means tears or sound. Tears I understood. There was something about that beach that allowed you to release, melt and brought a lump to your throat all at the same time. It had nothing to do with being miserable and everything to do with tears of the good stuff. The sound element was obvious too. The waves didn’t just roll onto the shore, but thumped it with a resounding thwack. I wondered if the fact ‘tangi’ means both sound and tears too had anything to do with the concept of true release/gratitude. I am just surmising, but when you are really grateful you vibrate and move to a higher frequency (combining tears and sound, no?). It’s not a Maori interpretation, but, hey it’s mine and I like it and as thoughts go whilst watching the sunset, drinking warming chai latte it was rather apt.

Waitakere Ranges Regional Park

I have no great stories for today. I just can only share my blessings. The Waitakere Ranges share my number one spot for fave places in Auckland (the other being the aforementioned Onetangi). I could run a list of adjectives out here, but I will never do them justice. The Ranges are mountains covered in lush native rainforest (covering more than 16,000ha) and have the most breathtaking vistas, beautiful beaches, waterfalls and great tramping tracks – need I go on. They are home to approximately one-quarter of NZ's native flowering plants (some 420 species) and two-thirds of all ferns and fern allies (over 110 species). And if that doesn’t float your boat they actually filmed The Piano here - and Hercules and Xena too, though that delivers a different kind of kudos.

Ruth drove me to the spectacular Huia (just Google Earth Huia Lookout Point or click on this though it doesn’t show it in it’s true panoramic glory and I stood silent in awe. There are many places in NZ where your brain just shuts up because everything else that is around it is just too big in wonder for its basic comprehension. My brain has had many quiet moments in the Ranges. If it were a tool it would be safe to say I put it back in its box and shut the lid today.

It didn’t matter that it was raining. We tramped up Mt Donald Mclean (yep, I did the American Pie joke too) and got drenched. 2 things struck me whilst climbing up 1. New Zealand in winter can often feel like Scotland (a Scot confirmed this thought to me the week before) and 2. When did England stop smelling when it got wet? It used to smell when I was a child when it rained. It smelt clean and of plants and flowers and earth and grass. Now it doesn’t. When it rains in New Zealand it smells everywhere. Even in the city. Everything smells clean. Probably because it is.

We lunched with Ruth’s friend who lives in the Ranges and once again I was amazed by the hospitality of Kiwis. Ruth’s friend has one of the most amazing views from her front door I have ever seen. Rolling rainforests just outside her door wrap the mountains and give the impression her house is nestled in Venezuelan valley. Despite having only just met me when she realised my intention was to travel to Bali (and hopefully to work at an orphanage I had seen) she raided her wardrobe for some sarongs (one of which Ruth had made) and gave me them. I was totally touched.

Being a tauiwi (migrant = tau = bum and iwi = people) is making me happier - despite circumstances that started this trip –than I have been in a long time.

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