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On introducing your future to your past (with bonus tourists) - Tactical Ninja

Jan. 10th, 2014

09:58 am - On introducing your future to your past (with bonus tourists)

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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.

But look:


[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.

Comments:

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From:m_danson
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
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Beautiful photos. I miss the ocean.
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)
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I was amazed how natural it felt to be swimming in the sea. Here, I don't get in the water because it's really bloody cold. But up there, even if the water can get nippy, the air dries you out and you're soon warm again. I'd forgotten how nice it is..
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From:zoefruitcake
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:03 pm (UTC)
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fantastic pics, what a trip
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC)
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It really was! I am just backscrolling through your trip reports now, because it seems I missed a lot of it while on holiday. ;-)
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From:ferrouswheel
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:15 pm (UTC)
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Our holiday was bloody brilliant!
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:16 pm (UTC)
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Oats, bro.
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From:anna_en_route
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:48 pm (UTC)
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Those are some beautiful pictures.

I've always wondered if Te Araroa is going to eventually take on something like the spiritual significance of the Camino (too many people are dying while doing it solo at the moment).
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
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I'd certainly like to do it. And prior to its existence, looking off both ends of the country has been a sort of pilgrimage anyway, so I suspect that it might - but perhaps without the same international significance.
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From:bekitty
Date:January 9th, 2014 10:00 pm (UTC)
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The Boy and I visited Northland in August of last year. It was still glorious weather, despite the fact that it was winter, and the campsites and tourist spots were almost completely deserted. I found out that there are very few things in the world more laid-back than a Kiwi campsite in winter.

We only made it as far as Kaitaia that time around, but we only had three days and the Boy was doing all the driving. We're planning a return trip though!
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 10:02 pm (UTC)
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Wow. You went to Kaitaia without going to the Cape? I'm pretty sure that's the only time in the history of humanity that that's happened.

Back in the day, I used to think of Kaitaia as something of a metropolis of the north. Now, I just notice how many places there are advertising free training. ;-/
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From:crazedturkey
Date:January 9th, 2014 10:46 pm (UTC)
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So beautiful.

Although you may not be impressed its inspiring the tourist in me ;)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 11:02 pm (UTC)
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Hehe!

I don't really have a problem with tourists - I love meeting people from faraway places - but I wish there were a way of having it so the numbers were evenly spread through the years, so there weren't the crowds in summer (and the boom/bust cylces in the industry).
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From:fbhjr
Date:January 9th, 2014 10:53 pm (UTC)
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That's way cool!
Both the place and your photos of it!

I love the image of the oceans meeting!
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 11:03 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking about it, and there probably aren't that many places in the world where you can see it that easily. Maybe Cape Horn? Top of the British Isles? I've looked off South Africa and they don't have such an obvious one, probably because it's so rounded.

Hmm..
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From:meri_sielu
Date:January 9th, 2014 11:07 pm (UTC)
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What a stunning place <3
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From:tatjna
Date:January 9th, 2014 11:11 pm (UTC)
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It totally is! ;-)
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From:nessainwe
Date:January 10th, 2014 01:10 am (UTC)
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Absolutely beautiful shots :)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 10th, 2014 01:14 am (UTC)
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Y'know, I'm actually surprised how many people have said that. I guess because I grew up on Northland's west coast, I'm kind of looking at them thinking Just Another Boring Northland Beach Pic. But folks are finding them beautiful, and suddenly I'm painfully aware of the privilege of having lived somewhere that such views are commonplace.

I'm also familiar with all of Northland's ugly bits, so I guess there's that as well.
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From:meathiel
Date:January 10th, 2014 08:14 am (UTC)
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That looks lovely ... As a European one is not used to beaches without people! ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 10th, 2014 08:20 am (UTC)
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Hehe true. We do have a lot of beaches per head of population (and also land mass) around here. ;-)
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From:tatjna
Date:January 12th, 2014 07:44 pm (UTC)
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It was emotionally interesting, a bit of a roller coaster and initially baffling to both me and my companions. But ultimately it was positive. I'd recommend it, but take some of your present with you as a reminder, ok?
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From:rivet
Date:January 13th, 2014 04:32 am (UTC)
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I'm glad you found what you didn't know you were looking for <3
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From:laughingmagpie
Date:January 22nd, 2014 10:39 pm (UTC)
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I've enjoyed your trip to the North! It's one of the places I didn't get a chance to see when I visited NZ.
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