Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Akio, Kazuko and the Hokianga Print E-mail
ImageAkio had said quite simply "you organise the itinerary".


We could have gone to the South Island and looked out of the windows of luxury hotels at spectacular scenery, but in the main we would have been voyeurs. Spectators. Outsiders looking in. We would also have spent too much time travelling with not enough time to talk to the birds or smell the flowers.

The alternative was to go right inside Aotearoa life and culture in enough depth to become lost in the complexity and become at one with the people. The scenery would be less dramatic but it would the stage on which the drama of life was being acted out. There would be a chance to tell the story of the land. The accommodation would be honest rather than luxurious, but it would be the ordinary accommodation of ordinary New Zealanders. What we might do if we were on the road.

Akio had seen quite a lot of New Zealand. I decided he was ready for total immersion.

ImageLorraine Gibbs and Norma Donaldson, sixth cousins of Helen, from Australia, came to Karaka Bay for dinner on Tuesday 28 February. When we discovered that they could meet up with us on their journey around New Zealand we convinced them to come from Taupo all the way through to Kohukohu so that they could see Helen's exhibition and then come on up to Arakainga the following day. None of us could have envisaged the hilarity which would result from this chance meeting. Their positive energy was infectious making them great travelling companions who kept appearing and disappearing.

ImageMonday 6 March 2006
Karaka Bay

EVA Flt BR 361, coming down from Taipei, touched down at Auckland International Airport at 14.00. Clive had rung to say it was running 30 minutes late, but then rang back to say it was on time again. By that time I was running too late to get to the airport on time, so Clive went out to welcome Akio and Kazuko, and I met everyone a short time later. All their baggage fitted happily into Lisa and we were on our way.

Our adventure began almost as we left the airport. The church and graves on the corner of Ihumateo Road were being moved to make way for a second runway. A pity. The church was the only decent architecture to be found in the area, and the graves went back to the earliest colonial days. In former times you left the airport and the church marked the beginning of a green parkway of fields which made Auckland different from every other country in the world. Planners never get the big decisions right and soon all that will be gone, destroyed by thoughtlessness.

ImageWe turned off here to go down to the Otuataua stonefields. It was difficult trying to explain how the Maori volcanic scoria stonework kept the ground warm to extend the growing season. It will all be easier when Harry Turbott's competition winning information centre is completed.

The coastal restoration of the beaches of the old oxidation ponds was even harder to explain. The technical advances of the new sewage treatment works are difficult enough for local people to grasp. More than 13km of coastline is being rehabilitated here, with some 260,000 native trees being planted. The birds are returning. The name Manukau tells the story of immense flocks of birds flying into the air when they were disturbed. Nature wants to heal.

ImageThe Villa Maria Winery however required no explanation. Akio loved it. Great architecture. Wonderful setting. The staff were unobtrusive but very helpful. They suggested that some of the more expensive wines really needed cellaring. We settled for two bottles of Merlot for less than NZ$15 a bottle. Akio asked if he could buy an issue of Trends which featured the winery. They graciously presented him with a free copy. We were allowed to explore wherever we liked. We sat at the tables supplied by Rowena and Michael of Draper Design.

We made the customary trip up One Tree Hill, Maungakiekie, to allow them a chance to get reorientated. The city basking lazily in the sunshine. Sheep. Cattle-stops. Olive trees. Akio was interested to know how old our trees were. Along the Remuera ridge to Karaka Bay.

ImageA chance to talk, catch up on news, and enjoy the beach, sitting out on the old Oriana suite. Jeffrey passed by and stopped to chat. Helen cooked a welcoming meal. They settled in to our Pacific paradise.

In the Japanese way Akio and Kazuko had brought wonderful presents with them. Helen and I were both presented with a superb quilted cotton "working man's" hanten. A bottle of Japan's best organic saki. A box full of Japanese food. A recent magazine with an article on their new house in Suginami-ku. A collection of hand-crafted gifts from Tomie.

After a long flight they needed an early night to get some sleep.

ImageTuesday 7 March 2006
Karaka Bay - Kohukohu

Breakfast developed into a Japanese feast as I worked out how best to pack the car. By taking everything out of the boot it was possible to fit in the big chilly bin and also a box of dry food. Everything else more or less fitted in, as we travelled light. Two enormous bags of acorns and a big box of croissants and other good things could not be left behind as they were a tenth birthday present for Piglet.

A couple of quick phone calls just to tie up the loose ends. The last one was to Chloe Harwood. "Did I remember to tell you about your presentation to the Board at 10.30am on Monday?" "Well, no." My plans for Monday were suddenly cancelled, but there was no point in trying to do anything more now. Everyone else was already on their way up the hill to the car.

ImageWe were away by around mid-day and across the harbour bridge by 12.30pm. A coffee for everyone as I refuelled at the Dairy Flat Service Centre. By now it was beginning to rain with the tail end of a tropical cyclone sweeping across the north of the country. I was thankful we had been able to pack and depart before the rain came. There was no point in delaying our journey, but after having had no rain for a month it was unfortunate to be driving into the eye of a cyclone. Everyone else in the north was thrilled to have the heavens open to water the land.

ImageUp the Mahurangi Road to "Zealandia", and I was bitterly disappointed to find it closed for renovations. It seemed as though the house was becoming more sculptural, but Graeme said the rumours were all about problems with leaks. The lawn was being mowed so Akio, Kazuko and Helen took the chance to explore a little of the garden with its many sculptures which change as you move around them. The visit was not enough to give any idea of the magic of the house, with its moving interior walls constantly creating new illusions.

On to Warkworth and down to Matthew Road. A big welcome from Deniece Gannaway and Graeme North. Coffee and tea. Laughter and korero. A German who was heading home in a week wanted to have a pizza farewell. To achieve this he was busy building a mud brick pizza oven, so we saw mud brick in action as well as in its many manifestations in the house. Kazuko and Akio were fascinated by two books. "Built by hand", Bill and Athena Steen & Eiko Komatsu, published by Gibbs Smith 2003, ISBN 1-58685-237-X (Orders in USA 800 748 5439 US$50) and I think the other one must have been "African Painted Houses" by Gary van Wyk, published by Hary N Abrams 1998, ISBN 0-8109-1990-7, www.abramsbooks.com.

On in the rain. It was tempting to visit the Eco-village at Kaiwaka, but I had one eye on the clock. There was so much I wanted to show Akio, but so little time. We could do the trip again and see completely different things.

ImageAn ideal day to spend time in the Matakohe Museum. They gave us good advice. Walk right through to the back where the new boarding house was being built, and then work slowly back towards the entrance. The working sawmill was extremely good. The cowshed. Old Lister engines. Timber jacks. Heritage which stirs my soul and brings memories to life. It is impossible to know what someone from another culture comprehends, but I thought of looking at the irises in Tokyo. We all see a great deal. There was an exhibition on QE II Covenants, so I tried to explain how the process works.

The Museum was the ideal preparation for leading them through the Waipoua and on to what I am trying to achieve at Te Ohu. In the Maori way we moved forward by first looking to the past.

We headed on in the rain. Not time to stop at the little Ratana Church at Ruawai. The clocktower on the corner in Dargaville as an example of New World urban design, but that was another difficult concept to explain.

Through Kaihu, where my father was born. That house has gone now but Aunt Lily's is still there. She kept the working team of bullocks after Dave died.

We stopped briefly at Tane Mahuta and everyone ran in in the rain. Nothing prepares you for the immensity of the tree.

Sadly the Hokianga dunes were lost in the rain and the mist, so the sensation of arriving in the Hokianga was not to be. We related the story of Opo the dolphin. We were too late to see the video but saw the sculpture. The churches. Pakanae. Whirinaki.

With five minutes of time up my sleeve I was able to ease back a little and even do a quick tour of Rawene before catching the 7.30pm ferry, the last one for the day. Everyone huddled in the cabin as it was so bleak outside. The beaming smile of welcome however shone through the weather and told Akio that I had arrived "home'. In the Hokianga way I was told about Leif Penny's tangi.

Down to the Tree House. Piglet was on her feet and delighted to see us. She had a run and then raced home for some of her birthday treat acorns and croissants, and a bowl of her favourite things. Collected the key.

It was dark by the time we moved into Kohukohu cottage.

ImageWe only took time to unpack and then went around to visit Lise Strathdee. A wonderful entry up the long flight of steps to the colonial villa. Met Claudio for the first time. We collapsed into the comfort of padded armchairs, high ceilings and quirky art. Over green tea the conversation was soon flowing from Italy to Tokyo. Helen left some cards, I gave Lise ten more copies of "Piglet" for the Outpost and collected cash for those she had sold. She needed to go to Whangarei Hospital with Claudio in the morning so this was our last chance to catch her.

A meal back at the cottage. Instant noodles all the way from Tokyo.

It was census night, an event held once every five years in New Zealnad, and Pauline had provided us with forms to fill in. We were all too tired, but the job did get done before we left. Not an early night.

ImageWednesday 8 March 2006
Kohukohu - Te Ohu - Kohukohu

Kazuko and Helen produced another wonderful Japanese breakfast.

Then Lorraine and Norma arrived. They had spent the night at Opononi and crossed over on the 9.30am ferry. Unfortunately they could not find the cottage and ended up back at the Tree House to get fresh directions.

We all headed off to Village Arts, where Helen's exhibition ended today. Louise Evans was caretaker for the day. Kazuko bought some pottery. Lorraine bought lime marmalade and chutney for our lunch. Helen stocked up at the general store.
ImageWe then made a two-car tour of Kohukohu going up Church Street and back down Yarborough. We stopped to explore the old school with everyone peering through the window. June very graciously allowed us to go inside the oldest building in the town, the one room mill-worker's cottage. (It has since been extended with a second room to double its size.) June is going to head off soon to Wellington to provide support for her disabled son. A pity. She observed that no one from the school had bothered to cross the road to look at the magnificent kauri display put up in the library for the Kauri Festival. She is hoping for better things from the new principal - Dan Watkins.

ImageAlong then to Marg Morrow's photographic gallery. Akio bought some refrigerator magnets. We collected a box with all the photographs for the competition. Marg told us that a theatre-sports/comedy show, part of the Kerikeri Arts Festival, was on tonight at the Rawene pub. She was going across with Louise on the 7pm ferry and there was a special late ferry home at 10.30pm. It seemed like a unique opportunity for the Hayashis to taste yet another very Hokianga experience but it was not to be. We simply ran out of time.

The tour ended with coffee, cake and other good things at the Waterline Cafe. The tide was down so the mullet were not jumping, but sitting out on the deck was idyllic nevertheless.

Tossed Piglet some more acorns and then on our way out west to Rangi Point. Panguru. My theory was that we would explore a little on the way home, as we were already running very late. We did stop at the Lower Waihou church which the Hayashis liked for its simplicity. Our only other stop was to throw some croissants to the Windy Hill pigs. They had never seen anything as sophisticated as croissants before but eventually concluded that all food is good food.

ImageOn the way out Kazuko and Norma had decided not to walk up to Arakainga, so they went around with Helen in the rental car to the Community Centre, to enjoy the beach and a swim. Meanwhile I parked Lisa at the marae. Just as Akio, Lorraine and I were setting out to climb up there was a torrential downpour, so we all dived back into the car to shelter until it passed. It left no doubt in my mind that it would have been both impossible and dangerous to take Grunt up the hill as I had intended. My efforts to get the new tyre on in time for their visit finally came to nothing, but in fact everything worked out well.

I would love to know what Akio and Lorraine thought when they finally arrived at the house. Certainly they enjoyed themselves, explored every corner, and sat on the long-drop among the kauri to get their photographs taken. The brickwork. The Ise Shrine roof. Akio was both surprised and delighted to find photographs of Jim Morgan in the Visitors' Book, along with his comments from when he had visited. Coffee, tea, and all too soon we had to be on our way again.

ImageThrough the kauri grove to give Akio some idea about the potential beauty of the block, if only I can get a QE II Covenant to protect everything. On up to Te Hurunga. A golden light swept in from the West. The Hokianga stretched out beneath us. Magnificent. Down again to Lisa.

Paused briefly at Ripeka Tapu. Just long enough to look at the graves of my ancestors, and to let Akio see the interior of the church. I still had in my mind that we could catch the 8pm ferry to Rawene. All that faded when we arrived at the Centre to find a wonderful meal laid out to welcome us, and an air of contagious contentment. It was a wise decision to take time to enjoy the evening light dancing on the mountains.

ImageLorraine and Norma set out for Paihia in the rental car, but then I realised I had forgotten to tell them to turn across the bridge. Rather than risk them going to Te Karaka and getting hopelessly lost I pursued them, passed them and indicated the correct route. Off back to the Tree House, but my fast driving along the winding road unfortunately made Kazuko car sick. She rested while I went in to tickle Piglet's bottom. By the time I got back to the car Lorraine and Norma had arrived. Farewells. However it turned out to be less "goodbye" and more "till we meet again". By now it was dark and they would not get to their motel until after 11pm. We carried on around to the Kohukohu cottage.

ImageThe astonishing chefs produced another amazing meal out of nowhere, and then Helen and I worked on until after midnight to judge the Inaugural North Hokianga Photographic Competition. Marg had found a source of Chinese $10 throw-away cameras. She bought 50. Entrants paid $10 to take part which covered the cost of the camera. The Northland District Council provided $1000 to cover the cost of processing the film. Everyone had two weeks to capture a "slice of life" in the North Hokianga. To our amazement the results were spectacularly good.

ImageThursday 9 March 2006
Kohukohu - Aroha Island

The table was strewn with all the photographs from the competition. We all poured over them again. After a night sleeping on my decisions I felt that my conclusions were correct. We decided, on Helen's suggestion, to award extra prizes and sorted out a third prize of $25, some $10 judges' awards, some $5 judges' awards, and some commendations. We also sorted out our choice of postcards. They intended to print 8. We recommended 16 if the funding could be found.

Rang Marg Morrow, just as she was about to ring us. She walked over and was delighted with our conclusions. Apparently the winner was a Maori woman who had never used a camera before. The second prize-winner was a professional photographer who had been working in London for some years. Marg gave us a koha of NZ$100. We discovered that we had awarded exactly NZ$100 of extra prizes, so we gave the koha back to her. A very satisfactory result.

ImageWith the table drawn over to beside the window we were able to enjoy our Japanese breakfast looking out over the mangroves. The changing weather brought changes of mood and light. New Zealand is like that.

We packed up and I headed off to Motukaraka Church with Akio and Kazuko, leaving Helen to do the final cleaning up. We picked up a Swiss back-packer walking from the ferry to the Tree House so he came with us out to Motukaraka. Everywhere we seemed to be seeing images which had been entries in the competition. We explored the church and went out to the cemetery. Back to the Tree House.

Piglet seemed happy enough to get acorns rather than a run, Farewells. However we did not get far. Having picked up Helen we only made it to Village Arts where we found Lindsay McAuliffe-Evans setting up his new exhibition. Exquisite assemblages of found objects. Love and imagination in equal measure.

Over the road for refreshments at the Waterline Cafe. Tickets for Sam Hunt are selling fast. I had hoped to get there but time and weather worked against me.

ImageNorth to Maungamuka Bridge where we refuelled, and then the few kilometres on to Maungamuka Church Road to find the Ratana Church. The sun was bright, the shadows were sharp. It is a fascinating little building with moments from so many different traditions.

Ratana was a ploughman from the Rangitikei district south of Wanganui. He began his spiritual mission during the 1918 influenza epidemic, which killed 5516 Maori, but only 1200 non-Maori. He sat on his verandah and a cloud came from the sea and hovered over him. He heard the voice of God telling him that He had selected Maori to be his chosen people in place of the Jews. Ratana preached the unity of Maori, and practiced faith healing. He focused the discontent of Maori soldiers returning from the Great War to impoverished rural communities, and Ratana and his followers became a political force as well as a religious one. In the event the Liberals came back into office in 1928 and Apirana Ngata was able to lead a Maori recovery, with a focus on cultural revival. The recording of Maori oral and material culture began, and Ngata also recruited the mana and talents of people such as Whina Cooper at Panguru.

The story was too complex to explain when we had passed through Panguru and seen the remnants of Apirana Ngata's land development scheme implemented by Whina Cooper, but you feel a presence when you pass through this seemingly sleepy hollow.

ImageWe doubled back to take the Taratara Road. This road had been widened, and there was an excellent lime surface. So much so that I began to wonder if we had taken the wrong turning. Even the road from the turn off north to Fern Flat is now a little wider and has an excellent surface.

Marguerite and Rod Davies gave us a great welcome. We explored the house and the pottery. The old St. Mary's Convent window looked as good as ever. I gave them a copy of "Piglet" and she gave me a mug in return. She had knocked the head off a Maori figure which I really liked and glued it back on. A bargain as a second. Helen preferred a dark cloak. I found a space to store it behind the chilly bin. It will make its way up to Arakainga to join Rod's other pot as a memento of Akio's visit there.

Cam Wilson was not home. Rumour had it that he was in USA. We explored the house exterior and enjoyed his bold furniture.

ImageOn to Peria. Dhaj Sumner gave us a great welcome and she and I talked of people and techniques while the others explored the house and assorted outbuildings. Gave her a copy of "Piglet". She had a DVD of a USA TV programme on extreme houses of the world. Dhaj gave us a practical demonstration of a paper pulp kaolin plaster manufactured by her son.

A film had attracted a crowd to the Swamp Palace, but our deadlines were already impossible so we could only pause while I explained the significance of this cinema in the wilderness.

Taipa in the failing light and then darkness overtook us as we headed south. We could not just drive past Gidi so we called in briefly. More cups of tea enjoying the near-full moon from the bay window while I rang through to Aroha Island to apologise for running so late. They had assumed we would not make it, but Greg's wife went back out to turn the lights on and left out red torches so we could go looking for kiwis.

ImageIt must have been after 10pm when we finally arrived at Aroha Island. The cottage has a double bed and two bunks. In the morning I realised we could have used two bunks in the adjacent ten bunk room. The chilly bin came in and in no time there was a meal on the table.

I checked out the information centre and sorted out where we would be most likely to find kiwis. We searched but only heard one call in the distance, somewhere down by the causeway. I was probably too cold and tired and as a result a little impatient and unwilling to just sit and wait. A pity. It was perfect conditions after just enough rain to bring worms to the surface. We finally left the kiwis to enjoy themselves and their supper.

ImageFriday 10 March 2006
Aroha Island - Russell

With more sunshine and breakfast out on the verandah it was clearly going to be another late start. Tui joined us. We explored the island. On the rock shelf there were hybrid oysters as well as the NZ and Pacific varieties.

ImageHelen ingeniously discovered an Arts Festival Latin-American lunch time dance event in the new cultural centre, but when we arrived we found it had been cancelled. It was a lucky chance because it left us in the right place at the right time. We all wanted to see the Chris Booth exhibition and it was a delight to find Chris explaining his maquettes, which represented a lifetime of work. This was the first time they had ever been shown publicly. The conversation flowed and Chris invited us home for lunch.

David Barker was also there talking about his retrospective exhibition, and Martyn Evans, the architect for the Centre, was happy to talk about that too. Sadly there was not much to talk about. It is abysmal. The location is wrong but so is almost everything else. You cannot even find out how to get into the theatre. There is no sense of occasion.

ImageAn op shop for the shoppers. Bread for lunch. The Stone Store and the Kemp House. No one seemed to be interested in exploring the interiors. The fine old steam boat cancelled its 2pm sailing for want of a single tourist. My original plan had been to take Akio and Kazuko sailing in the Bay of Islands but we were rapidly becoming involved in much more interesting possibilities.

ImageChris Booth's house had just been completed after they had been living for four years in a caravan. The block of family land had been put into a trust when it had been passed down to the four sons to prevent it from being subdivided. Originally it was 42 acres, but they gave 20 acres to DoC to help offset costs and rates.

A sumptuous and leisurely lunch with Chris, his Bavarian wife Anna-Maria, their daughter Lena-Huia, and their German guests Suzanna and Reiner. We talked of many things, in particular his vision for the Eden Project in Cornwall. Chris is hoping to get a commission in Japan and he will be visiting to follow up on his submissions. Akio invited him to come and stay. Chris gave Akio a copy of his book, with another copy for us. I gave him a copy of "Piglet".

Even when we set out to leave we paused again to all end up in their extensive garden being showered with vegetables to take with us.

ImageIt was 5pm but Stuart Park, the Northland Manager of the NZ Historic Places Trust, was still in his office. We talked about the ASB Trusts report. He agreed with my approach to whakapapa. He also suggested that we should try to be on Flagstaff Hill at dawn in the morning.

We turned off at Haruru Falls so that we could approach the Treaty grounds from the top. The Bay of Islands opened out before us. To my surprise the Treaty House is open until 6pm. Ten minutes. Just enough time to get tickets while Akio and Kazuko had a quick look around. It was the Visitors Centre which I really wanted them to see, but we were just too late for that, although we were able to explore both front and back. Down to the canoe. Up to the whare runanga which I explained was a meeting house for all the tribes. The only one in New Zealznd. Some young Maori were preparing for a cultural show. At $45 it was clearly a technique for fleecing unsuspecting tourists.

ImageI would have fled through Paihia but we had a reason to stop. At the Scenic Circle Motel we found Lorraine and Norma, just back from a bus trip to Cape Reinga. They "borrowed" our entry tickets to the Treaty Grounds which remained valid for tomorrow so it all worked out well in the end. Another farewell, but it will once again not be the last.

ImageOn to Opua and we had no difficulty finding Berth C-30 at the Marina. The yacht was open but there was no sign of Geoff Kivell or Raewyn. They must have been away having a meal somewhere. Akio and Kazuko explored the boat and were fascinated by just how much needs to be squeezed in for voyaging around the world. Even by Japanese standards it was tight.

The light was fading as we took the ferry across to Russell. We had only one objective. To find somewhere to stay. Every motel was full. The Esplanade Hotel was full. Even the camping ground was full. It did not look good. Akio wondered how long it would take to drive home. Then a sign "Vacancy - Apartment" offered hope. In a few minutes Helen was back to say we had somewhere to stay. Palpable relief. A double bed and a fold down couch with a tendency to focus on the centre. Immaculate and well appointed, with a garden.

We settled in and headed off to the Promenade to get something to eat. The chef at Sally's was willing to stay on and take our orders. Superb clam chowder, oysters for Akio, fish. It seemed appropriate to have a bottle of Shipwreck Bay Merlot. A local wine from the most northern winery in New Zealand. The setting was idyllic with the wharf stretching out into the bay. We all walked out for an after-dinner stroll.

ImageSaturday 11 March 2006
Russell - Karaka Bay

Everyone else was up at 6.30am. I caught a little more sleep, had a quick cup of tea and we were all up at Flagstaff Hill right on 7am. The sound of a cannon shot  broke the silence as we drove along. Then the eerie call of the conch shell filled the air as I parked and walked up the hill, as the road was cordoned off. Everyone gathered in the hill carpark and then the Karakia called us up the pathway to the summit itself. A group of children welcomed us with a haka. It was still dark but in the first light the shadowy form of the islands was visible. White mist hung in distant valleys.

ImageOn this morning, 11 March, in 1845, the town of Kororareka, the first Capital of Aotearoa, was attacked by Hone Heke and Kawiti. After a day of fighting the Maori withdrew, leaving 20 Europeans dead and they lost a slightly greater number of their own men. Then a powder magazine exploded and set fire to much of the town and most of it burned to the ground.

Five years earlier Hone Heke of Ngapuhi had been the first chief to sign the Treaty of Waitangi but he had become disenchanted. It seemed to him that the rangatiratanga promised to the chiefs in the Treaty had been usurped. On 8 July 1844 Te Haratua, Heke's second in command, had cut down the flagstaff which had originally been a gift to the district by Heke for the purpose of flying a Maori flag. Instead it had been used to fly the Union Jack. On 10 January 1845 Heke cut down the replacement, and another on 19 January. Fitzroy offered a reward for Heke's capture. Heke meanwhile gained the support of Kawiti of Ngati Hine and together they decided to attack the town.

It was the beginning of the Northern War, as Maori realised that the Treaty of Waitangi was not going to be honoured by the new settlers. Sporadic battles continued for several years but it became a war of attrition which no one could win. Finally Kawhiti went to Governor Grey and said "If you have had enough then I have had enough." Grey replied simply "I have had enough."

It was a declaration of peace which should ring in the ears of every politician today. There are better ways than war for resolving conflict and differences. In a war everyone loses and the environment is brutalised too.

In our morning ceremony the white ensign was raised. I had the feeling it should have been the Maori flag, but this was to be a morning of enigmas. There were speeches, waiata and hymns, but the mood was informal. Certificates commemorating the battle, and restating the commitments made by the Treaty, were presented to the Navy, the Army and the Police. They spoke in reply, with a clear display that when it came to oratory Maori were always the winners. Sadness and humour mingled. When Clive, one of the kaumatua, saw Akio and Kazuko in the crowd he turned to welcome them. "Konichiwa".

The sun rose over Roberton Island, slowly picking out the detail so that I could indicate the path of our journey of the day before. The whole Bay of Islands was spread out beneath us. A giant cruise ship lay at anchor in the Bay.

While the others went directly to the Church cemetery we did a detour to Rocky Bay, just to enjoy the beauty of looking east from a typical enclosed bay, and another detour to Long Bay to briefly show everyone Charlotte Larkin's quirky owner-built house. She began in 1941 when she was 60, intending to show soldiers returning from the war against Japan in the Pacific how they could house themselves. When she was 76 she wrote a book about it. Unfortunately Puawananga needs a lot of maintenance work for it to survive, although it is listed with the Historic Places Trust.

We then joined everyone else at the grave of the sailors from HMS Hazard who were killed in the battle of Kororareka. The comedian Kaumatua explained that they could not find a trumpet, but they had a tape recording of the last post. The first time I had been inside to explore the church for many years. It is not particularly interesting.

A crocodile line of the motley crowd then wended its way down to the waterfront for kai. We decided it might be quicker to go to the cafe next door and eat al fresco on the promenade. A mistake. I should have known. With typical Marae efficiency their lavish breakfast was on the table, they had eaten, and the tables were being cleared, while we were still waiting for our breakfast to arrive. Kazuko preferred to be inside, but soon realised that all the action was out on the beach. A large contingent of manuhiri (visitors) arrived to rehearse their taiha routines, using padded sticks. This developed into a relay race and all kinds of other entertainment. Nothing "tourist" here. They were just enjoying themselves.

ImageAkio came back with me to gather up our bags from our apartment. A wonderful shower, but they must surely be short of water after a long dry summer? Back to park in the shade of a tree. By now a market was under way on the village green and our shopping team were laden down with fresh bread and vegetables. There was a parade at mid-day, but I calculated that we must get though Pompallier House before then if we were to get to Auckland tonight. We ran late and missed the parade. My fault.

ImageWalked along the Promenade to Pompallier House. Of course I had forgotten to bring my NZHPT Life Membership card with me but Kate Martin, the Manager, accepted my story and we had a long discussion about NZHPT in relation to my ASB Trusts report. Their guides have just had a 5% pay rise, but could earn far more waitressing and twice as much cleaning windows. Education, we agree, is critical. Kate was keen to get high quality CD material out into the schools and available to the general public. She wanted top producers, which also means top dollars, which in some ways is the NZHPT problem. I think of the Hokianga, the photographic competition, and wonder if Rhys might do a better job. I need to convey all this to ASB Trusts.

Meanwhile Kazuko had opted to lie on her back on the grass and smell the flowers, while Akio was amazed to find that the guide was Louise Evans. Is the population of New Zealand so small that the same people have to be everywhere and do everything? Well, yes. This is part of our cultural tradition. Louise explained how the Marists tanned the leather, printed books they had first translated into Maori, and then bound them and covered them with leather. Her explanations of process were superb, and I regretted having only caught the end of her tour. So that is why you end up with ribs on the spine of a leather book. Obvious, but I had never thought of it until I saw the "press". Kazuko took a page of printing back to Japan.

The market was now is full swing. The comedian kaumatua convinced Akio that he ought to buy a Maori cap. We later discovered that it was "made in China". I tried to convince Akio to sample some hangi food. A punnet for NZ$7 with three meats and the usual array of vegetables. Later I discovered that he had not understood that this was the great New Zealand delicacy. Food cooked in the earth with an oven heated by stones. Too late. The moment had passed.

We were back at the car and ready to go, when Helen wistfully mentioned a cultural show in the Town Hall at 1pm thinking it would be ideal for Kazuko. Moved the car a little to keep up with the sun and we all walked back again. It was fun. Children of all shapes and sizes being enthusiastically egged on by grandmothers and aunts. Who cared if a few sticks got dropped during the stick game. In ancient times these games were played to train eye/hand co-ordination and nothing has changed. It was all free, with a koha for the Kororareka Marae, and the crowd packing the hall was there for the fun of it. After an hour of traditional music hip-hop began creeping in and it was time to go.

ImageMy original intention for today was to be back in Auckland for Pasifika. Later Derek King would tell me that the same process had taken place there. The day began with traditional music. Every group of islands was unique and distinctive. By the end of the day hip-hop had taken over and the Pacific had merged into a single identity.

Off to refuel Lisa, and by chance found Lorraine and Norma driving down the main street. Great hilarity. We encouraged them to go to Pompallier House but they did not make it. Tonight they will be at Nautilus.

ImageReluctantly we headed south. The coast road is now sealed all the way, and not having dust in your eyes and your mouth certainly makes a difference. The road from the turn off out to Rawhiti is not sealed. We had no problems with finding Geoff Rickett's "beach house", with the gate at the top of the hill just past the bay. It was hilarious to watch Akio and Kazuko climbing over the fence, but I dared not take any photos. The photos would almost certainly find their way back to Geoff and Anna and they could take offence.

I had hoped that someone might be there on a Saturday, but it was deserted and all closed up, which made it hard to understand the transparency of the glass link. I found the scale of the house too large and rather overpowering. Akio liked it. The setting was exquisite as you look right back down to Long Beach.

ImageOne beautiful bay followed another. We stopped to look out over Whangamumu with Cape Brett in the distance. It was hot. The light was sharp. The air was clear. Could anywhere else in the world be as beautiful as this?

It was late by the time we got to the main road, and we were all beginning to think of "home". We decided to leave the Matapouri loop for another time. Akio conceded that he was "saturated". It was satisfying to think that we had achieved that. As it turned out the sky turned black and by the time our clam chowder and pizza arrived at the Town Basin restaurant Riva it was teeming with rain. We sat under the verandah right next to the boats of the marina. Akio enjoyed a couple of light ales.

ImageWe headed south. It was too late to go out to Leigh or Richard Didsbury's Brick Bay house. Helen however had another card to play. She had the brilliant idea of a hot swim at Waiwera. They now have new pools set to one side of the babble and they are very pleasant. One as hot as you could wish for. The other just right for cooling off. The perfect end to a perfect trip.

ImageWell not quite. We could not resist going to the Nautilus at Orewa. Normally I would never go near such a place, but Lorraine and Norma made it the perfect setting for a Jacques Tati adventure. Lorraine came parading through the foyer in her swimming togs. With reflections in the glass no one could quite work out if the green knob was outside or inside.  We laughed our way inside and went up to their room briefly. Exiting the building was just as hilarious with Norma in her dressing gown. The following morning they discovered that a video camera made it possible for everyone in the building to watch our antics at the front door on Channel 12. They had been wonderful travelling companions and flew back to Newcastle and Canberra the following morning. This time it really was farewell.

I had just enough fuel to get to Karaka Bay and was too tired to want to stop. A couple of trips was enough to get everything down the hill. We shared the gzrlic bred and pizza leftovers from the Town Basin and soon everyone was asleep. The pace was relentless to the last.

ImageSunday 12 March 2006
Karaka Bay & Auckland

I slept in until 9.30am. I was exhausted. By then Kazuko was already preparing breakfast for us all. We enjoyed the sunshine and unpacked.

Clive generously came over and took Akio, Kazuko and Helen off to explore Auckland. The large pohutukawa tree in Dove Myer Park. The Rose Garden. The Asian Supermarket. Mount Victoria in Devonport. The War Memorial Museum with the Peacekeeping section of the Scars of the Heart display. Coffee in an Italian restaurant and pasta at Portofino.

I spent the afternoon working on the ASB Trusts report presentation for the following day.

ImageMonday 13 March 2006
Karaka Bay - Waiheke - Karaka Bay

I was up with first light, trying to not wake anyone as I made myself a cup of tea and began printing my report for the ASB Trusts. Assembled it. Soon Kazuko was up preparing breakfast for everyone. I retreated out to the beach to prepare my oral presentation. Then I needed to head off to be at Allendale by 10.30am. I was right on time to find the Board at their morning tea break. I had an hour to present my material.

The best possible preparation for my presentation was the trip. I was able to speak with passion from the heart, weaving stories around the events of the last few days. It was perfect to begin with the photographic competition. The story of the Maori woman who had almost never used a camera before winning because she really understood her heritage.

Refuelled Lisa at the Shell Service Station on Quay Street and found an enormous truck parked awkwardly across the exit. Just as I was driving into the road his engine started and I realised he was looking straight across the top of me and was about to drive right into me. There was not a chance of accelerating out of trouble. I slammed Lisa into reverse and escaped an accident which could have written off not only Lisa but also me. The truck creased my front wing, but that was all. I pursued the truck but the security on the wharf gate allowed the truck to escape into the bonded area, while preventing me from doing so. I ended up with only a number.

Parked at the Wilson carpark.  Only time to drop two films into Photo Warehouse, pay off my Visa, get a cartridge of black ink for my printer at the Downtown Warehouse, and get a coffee on the fly before meeting Akio, Kazuko and Helen at the Ferry Terminal. They had spent the morning shopping for the meal tonight, photographing Churchill Park School, and taking the bus in from Mission Bay. In the city they walked through the Britomart Station to the Downtown Shopping Centre, where Kazuko bought a possum/merino jacket.

ImageWe all headed off together on the 1pm Ferry to Waiheke. A stop at Devonport gave us a chance to look at the Naval Base and the steam tug Daldy, moored alongside the wharf. Bean Rock Lighthouse. An icon saved when it came within an ace of destruction. I brought binoculars so that the Hayashis could view Karaka Bay from a distance. Motukorea. Akio and Kazuko had climbed to the summit on a previous trip. Motutapu and Motuihe as examples of conservation restoration in action.

Jeff Thompson's sculpture was still tumbling down the cliff at Matiatia. Obviously the legal and financial problems remained unresolved. I was glad I had not ended up moving it to our proposed museum site in the Hokianga. The headaches would all have come my way.

We hired a car at the wharf from Waiheke Rentals. $15 an hour, or $50 a day, with fuel, insurance and everything else included in 60 cents/km. Very casual. They tossed me a key and we were on our way in a very comfortable Mazda.

ImageClaude and Gabrielle Lewenze made us very welcome. I talked to Gabrielle and her mother while the others toured the house. Then I ended up talking to Claude about lightweight concrete options while the others stretched out on the grass to bask in the sun.

Below us Graeme Hart's "farm" was dry and parched. He had drained the wetland on the advice of consultants who clearly were into fighting against the environment. Their theory of carrying more stock was having a dramatic effect on the environment. The sheep already there were dying.

ImageOn to the Ostend Primary School. Kazuko was keen to see inside a school, and Helen judged this to be as good as any as it had just been completed. If I had known earlier I could have taken her to some really exciting new schools, but this was a good choice of a typical school.

We were then close enough to Rocky Bay, so at long last we made our way to 46 Bella Vista. Elizabeth O'Flaherty was not home, but we were able to sit on the deck with the most incredible view spread out below us.

ImageDeciding to have a coffee at Stoneleigh Vineyards was a mistake. A surly waitress told us curtly that the coffee machine had been turned off for the day. With reluctance she gave us a juice, but did her best to ruin the flavour. The vineyards stretched out across the hills, but there was no magic.

Helen later rang Mr Quin, the Manager, to complain. He was very apologetic and there will be a free bottle of wine waiting for us when we return. A pity we cannot send it to Tokyo. I was thankful that we had managed to avoid all the tourist traps on our journey, apart from when we were sending them up with Lorraine and Norma.

ImageWe needed to be on the 5.35pm ferry as Clive and Chris were coming for dinner at 7.30pm so there was not enough time to do more than enjoy a leisurely drive along the northern beaches. Onetangi, Palm Beach.

With the car key dropped into the deposit box there was time for a coffee before the 5.35 boat. As we were embarking Brenda Vale was disembarking. We joked about her being professor of technology while all the laboratories had been turned into dance studios.

A lavish Japanese meal was on the table at 7.30pm but Clive and Chris failed to turn up, after Clive had had an unfortunate day. Around 9pm we gave up, and rang Anton and Corina who came around to join us for the meal although they had already eaten. The Karaka Bay instant party team. We shared Akio's wonderful sake.

ImageTuesday 14 March 2006
Karaka Bay and farewell

Akio and Kazuko were packed quickly and efficiently. Clive and Chris came over to Karaka Bay to taste the left-overs, and they went away bearing gifts. We ended up looking at photographs from my trip to Tokyo. Gave Akio a copy of my "Say yes to Tokyo" diary. All those loose ends. Books to share. Choosing paintings to take back. Helen downloading photos of the trip onto a DVD. Farewell photographs.

Off in Lisa. We went through Cornwall Park but not up to the summit, and arrived at the airport exactly at 1.30pm to everyone's surprise. Clive was waiting to welcome us. Their check in was instantaneous. No one seemed to be flying Eva. We went upstairs for a juice. A final wave after they had passed through customs and immigration, and they were on their way back to Tokyo.

ImageWe went back to Karaka Bay via Queen Street so I could pick up two films of our journey. It was the last day of my Actrix month so in the evening I downloaded images and began creating a new Item on my web page. "Akio and Kazuko in the Hokianga". The time had passed so quickly.







< Prev   Next >