Tactical Ninja - On introducing your future to your past (with bonus tourists)
Jan. 10th, 2014
09:58 am - On introducing your future to your past (with bonus tourists)
I was talking with someone the other day about the success of Gallagher (originally electric fence specialists but now doing well in automated farming). It was mentioned that this company is one of NZ's few manufacturing success stories. Well, it turns out that the folks who make my lunchbox are another. Sistema started in someone's garage, and now they distribute their products to 64 countries.
So you folks who were impressed with the idea compartmentalised lunchboxes and also the lifespan of my previous one, you could do a lot worse than supporting a kiwi enterprise by scoring yourself one. I admit I'd thought they must be imported, and was rapt to find out I was actually buying kiwi made stuff. Neato!
While we were up north, we went to the Cape. Cape Reinga being the northernmost bit of NZ that you can actually get to by road. It's not actually the northernmost bit, but close enough is good enough, and it is the spot where the two oceans (Tasman to the west, Pacific to the east) meet. There's also a lighthouse, and it's considered by Maori to be the place where the spirits of the dead travel to leave this world on their way back to Hawaiki. They jump off the very tip, climbing down the roots of the 800 year old pohutukawa tree that can be seen in the picture here, and off they go.
Thus, it has spiritual significance. I used to date a guy who worked on Te Paki Station (the northernmost station in NZ and just down the road from the Cape), and the first time I went there, it was night time. The road back then was metal, and there were no formed tracks, just a carpark and turnaround. And at night, there was nobody else there.
Now, the road is sealed all the way. There's bus parking, a toilet, drinking water, much signage, and disabled-access tracking to the lighthouse. This means many more people can visit. It makes for ambivalence in my mind. The way it's been done is fantastic, in that visitors can learn about the history and heritage of the area, along with legends and information about flora and fauna, in both English and Maori. I think it's wonderful that people who visit are exposed to stuff about one of our more well-known spiritual/historic areas. The land around the Cape is now reserve, and the assisted regeneration of native plants is great too. This probably wouldn't have been done without the money that tourists bring to the region.
[clicky to embiggen]
What you see in this picture is the turbulence where the two oceans meet in shallow water off the Cape. the lines in the ocean above are current lines formed as the waters slide past each other, easy to spot from this high up and probably chock full of skippies and various other forms of pelagic fish, up to and including black marlin and broadbill swordfish. The point where the spirits jump off is down and to the left, just over that little rise. The lighthouse is in the bottom right corner. And look, what are all those little black dots?
They are people. Loads and loads of people. There wasn't even a tour bus there that I could see, but I'd estimate that there were at least 250 people at the Cape when we were there. In one respect, it's awesome to be walking a NZ track and hearing voices speaking in many different languages around you. In another, it's frustrating to be sitting in such a beautiful spot, contemplating whatever, and having a family burst into argument 20 feet away. It's bloody hard to get into any kind of spiritual vibe when that happens, eh?
So we took one of the tracks (actually the very beginning of Te Araroa, a walking track which runs the full length of the country) and ended up on a beach which was practically deserted:
This picture is facing southwest to Cape Maria van Diemen, and also includes one of the best fishing ledges in Northland, accessible only to the dedicated and to *ahem* friends of the Te Paki staff. [steve irwin voice] Rock fishing is really dangerous kids, don't troy thees at home! [/steve irwin]
As you can see, fewer people were willing to make the trek down the steep steps to the beach in 25 degree temperatures. Don't get me wrong, the tracks are formed and well maintained - but steep. And coming back up was going to be work. But in my opinion, totally worth it to have such a beautiful example of a West Coast beach almost to ourselves.
Of course we went swimming! West Coast beaches can be dangerous, but it's pretty easy to spot the undertows and as you can see, broad shallows make for good splashing and paddling without ever getting out of your depth. I discovered it's bloody hard to do a handstand with sand shifting under your hands and water running past your face making it look like the ground is moving..
And being a bit damp made the 1km walk back up the steps much more pleasant. There were swifts nesting on the cliffs as we went past, and harrassed, hot, tourist families arguing as we reached the main track again.
There is one shop near the Cape, at Waitiki Landing 15km down the road. Pretty much everyone stops there for ice cream on the way home. I am actually surprised there isn't more tourist tat up there by now, given the amount of visitors - although I did like the wee shed that offered 'sand board hire' so you could go surf the giant dunes that are just visible to the left in that pic of Cape Maria.
Northland is one of the most depressed areas in New Zealand. Its main industry was traditionally logging native timber, and now it's mostly dairy, forestry, and tourism. A bit of orcharding and market gardening, and.. you get the picture. Even on the tourist trails, it's impossible not to notice the lack of money evident in every place that's not occupied by rich white folk having a holiday. And the Far North is one of the most isolated areas in the country. Without the money that the constant stream of tourists brings in, it'd be a lot worse, and I'm happy to see locals benefitting from this trade. But I don't think I'll ever get used to being surrounded by people at the Cape. It just feels a bit wrong.
Short aside: Taking my tribe to Northland and hanging out with Evan was a bit like introducing a new beau to your parents - you hope like hell they don't embarrass you (on both sides), that they'll get along, and that they will all see what you see in them all. For me it was tempered with my past 15 years or so of avoiding the place and its memories, and my fear that allowing my folks to figuratively see my undies would lead them to think less of me through their newfound insights into my deeper history. I'm a chameleon and some of my roots did start to show in my speech and manner while there, and I was afraid of what that would reveal and whether that would be ok.
I needn't have worried. This is why these people are my people. And I think I can now accept that Northland, with all its beauty and ugliness, is part of my origin that I needn't be embarrassed about any more.
So I guess I got my spiritual thingy after all, eh? Despite the tourists.