This day in 1985 … I was in New Zealand, sailing around the Bay of Islands on a thirty foot yacht. We anchored off a sandy beach for swimming, lunch and bush walks through one of the islands.
A wonderful day of sunshine, sea, sand, salt in my hair, on my skin, the sounds of wind in the sails and the boat sailing though the water. I met other travellers on the yacht and also in the lodge where I was staying, some at the end of their time in NZ and Australia, so lots of tales and ideas of where I should visit.
I’d arrived in NZ on 6th February, Waitangi Day. Friends of UK friends welcomed me into their home in Auckland. We clicked straight away and a life long friendship blossomed.
Auckland is such a beautiful place. A city on a narrow strip of land, surrounded by water. The Tasman Sea on one side, Pacific Ocean on the other. Wherever you looked there were bays, creeks, harbours. From Mount Eden, you see a three hundred and sixty degree view spread out below. Some of the beaches were totally unexpected, with black volcanic sand, such as Piha Beach.
In the city, I wandered down Queen Street to the quay, where QE2 was docked along with the Greenpeace ship “Rainbow Warrior” which was sunk just a few months later. I explored the main streets, the squares, art galleries, shops. We drove over the harbour bridge, and I found my way around the western suburbs where I was staying.
NZ is such a picturesque country, green, fertile, so much space. I began my travels by heading north on the bus. The driver was delivering parcels as we went. Sometimes stopping at shops, but later by just throwing newspapers and packages out the window, or kicking them out the door. Something different!But here people only expect things to be delivered to the end of the drive, post, milk, newspapers, not up to the front door as I was used to. One place we stopped was a kiwi fruit plantation (one male plant needed to pollinate every nine female plants).
We passed someone moving house, literally. A police car appeared with a “wide load” warning, then a house drove past on the back of a lorry. Wow.
I stayed overnight in Kerikeri, a town on the river, with wharf and two of the oldest settler buildings in NZ, then a couple of nights in Paihia on the coast with three beaches.
I walked along the beach to Waitangi, which is where Maori chiefs signed a treaty in 1840 ceding sovereignty of NZ to Queen Victoria. Hence Waitangi Day. A visitor centre shared the history, the governors house, a Maori Meeting House with intricate carvings, and a Maori war canoe, carved from three kauri trees, to hold one hundred and twenty warriors.
To make a phone call from Paihia to Auckland, I had to use a phone box and go through the operator for “toll” call – long distance call. Who would have imagined mobiles back then?
Oh I was loving NZ. My planned four weeks there was not going to be long enough.