Landing on Solid Land

Almost every conversation about coming to New Zealand with fellow sailors up in Tonga had involved some discussion about the notorious entry procedures an arriving boat there would be subjected to. Tales about endless forms to be filled out clashed with reports of confiscated foods, and websites and information leaflets trumped up innumerable biosecurity regulations, promising brutal and merciless punishments to those who dared to disrespect them. The lists of prohibited items to bring to the country were long and seemed deliberately vague and broad. They seemed to include just about everything aboard Aluna. We were understandably a bit jittery once safely tied to the long curved concrete Q dock at the end of the breakwater delimiting the new and shiny Opua marina. Although we had managed to eat our way through most of the fresh fruits and vegetables from Tonga, many of the other items in our galley were possible canditates for confiscation by the guardians of New Zealand’s agronomical wellbeing.

Three other yachts were tied up to the dock when we arrived so we imagined there would be bit of a wait before we would be served with our very own dose of dedicated officialdom. The rain had stopped and an intense late morning sun was brurning down at us. We happily spread out our raingear to dry and went about preparing a hearty breakast. By the time we had munched ourselves to the end of that our turn had come. A clear sign that we had entered the realm of efficiency! Mr. Biosecurity opened up a big black and extra thick garbage bag in our galley and in went our treasured peppermint and aloe vera plants with a hearty: “You knew they would have to go!”; a full jar of honey with: “We’re very jalous with our bees. They have had some tough times”; bags of tasty beans of different colors accompanied by: “There are seed borne diseases, you know!”; our rice when it was discovered to harbour two tiny specks of crawling protein, “You don’t want to keep those in here. They go into everything!”; and finally, of course, our barely half full plastic bag of trash, which from now on we would have to call rubbish. Every disappearing item was duely noted on a clipboard and the buldging bag then lifted up the companionway. Mr. Biosecurities then wanted to know if we had any souveniers from the islands, like shells, necklaces etc. and wanted to see the interior of Aluna’s other hull. Beatriz bravely stood in his way and insisted that we had no such things in our possession. He then wanted to see our bicyles and clean them of any traces of foreign dirt. But when we explained that we would have to unload our tender to be able to get to the hatch under which they were stored, he gladly accepted our insurances that they had been carefully cleaned before stowing to meet the stringent requirements. Mr. Customs was next with a muscular, almost bear-like appearance. He was only interested in having a couple forms filled out and signed and was gone way before giving us a chance to start any kind of small talk. Lastly we were honored with the visit of Mrs. Immigration. Tall and slender in a manly uniform she sat down in our cockpit, didn’t want to know anything of tea nor coffee, stared transfixed at the forms we had diligently filled in, leafed through our passports and then extracted some rubber stamps from her briefcase. Those she smudged onto an empty page of our passports, decorated their marks with her serpentine signature, then stood up with the sigh of a soul drained of its spirit by a ruthless routine and was gone. Done! That was it! That was all! We were in!

Where to go from here? We were offered a slip in the marina, but even though it was tempting to have a couple days of lush luxury comfort, the horror of living squeezed in amongst fancy yachts and clonking aluminum masts sped us by that option pretty quickly. The rest of the vast and branched out inlet seemed to be filled to the rim with all kinds of boats anchored and on moorings as far as the eye could see. We were told that towards the bottom of the bay things would get a little more quiet and that sounded like exactly what we wanted: A place to sit peacefully and get some uninterrupted sleep for a couple of days before facing the fiery dragon of car and supermarket based living on land.


And that’s precisely what we found! Once past the hordes of shiny white floating boating contraptions the basin of the Kawakawa River spread apart into two long branches and a small third one was laying just to starboard. The anchor dropped into soft mud in very shallow water. Thinking about the considerable tides along New Zealand’s coastlines I quickly envisioned Aluna sitting on a slithery brown mud flat. Not that it mattered much. A Wharrram catamaran can do such things with no problems whatsoever! Why bother? It would all happen while we were sound asleep and the bobbing and throbbing of big waves was subtly turning into a woven tapestry of sweet and subtle memories.

It wasn’t until the next day that we dared to venture ashore. We paddled Aunita back through the flurry of moored sailboats. Most of them showed various degrees of decay. It went from grosse layers of slime-green marine growth along the waterline all the way to mastless tarp-covered windowless maritime corpses. One or two did show signs of inhabitants still clinging to life. A generator was rattling on one with a row of lush green tomato plants on the foredeck. Ted from the trimaran had visited us in the early morning and he seemed a good-natured fellow. We waved to him relieving one hand briefly from the duty of paddled propulsion. Then we passed a meticulously restored steamboat, which was moored to a small floating pontoon. It glistened in the bright sunlight and told a lonesome story of people’s nostalgic longing for the past while they are enthralled in a world of remote, virtual senselessness.

We tied Alunita to the dock at Ahby’s Boat Yard, since the welcoming lady at the Q Dock had advised us that they were friendlier there than at the marina’s, less keen to impose restrictions and limit the usage of their claimed property to those who have duly bled their dues. After crossing the bustling boatyard with dozens of boats standing tall on stilts waiting to have their barnicled bellies scraped and draped with biotoxic coats, there it was, undeniably all around us: a parking lot full of shiny cars that take you where you really don’t need to go, shops with expensive items that you can clearly do without, offices with people doing things that really don’t need to be done, people wishing for things they don’t want, claiming things you can’t have, and above all pretending to be what they most certainly aren’t. A big “Ah! What exactly did we come here to do?” rushed through my veins as I looked at all the busy people. Everything had business written all over it. Gone was the joyful generosity of tropical island life. A quick stint to the local store revealed exorbitant prices for immaculately packaged food items.

Meeting up with some friends we learned what we had forgotten: To do your shopping at reasonable rates you have to hop in a metal box with rubber wheels, burn a mug or two of petrol (which is the down under name for gas). This also burns a hole on your wallet and poisons the air we breathe. Then you push your shopping cart through aisles in a giant building, which quite ironically is called “Countdown”. There you will be able to admire colorful wares you can’t afford stacked high row upon row. Soon you’ll find yourself hunting for the special deals with the big bright red stickers on it and that’s what will be on your menu for the next couple days! You are now part of the fortunate few and are basking in a rare and spiritually fulfilling priviledge termed freedom of choice!

2 Responses to “Landing on Solid Land”

  1. Jacques Says:

    I love it.

  2. Paz Says:

    You are an excellent writer and a very keen observer of the uselessness of most modern created needs!
    Un beso y grana abrazo, con mucho carino deseandoles un Feliz 2012!!!

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