The Rest of the Story

Well, finally a rainy day! With it a break from the pleasurable task of sanding. And some time to tell you the remainder of our re-initiation into sailing. Where did I leave you last time? Oh, that’s right: tied up to our slender hook in Tutukaka Harbor with the menace of an approaching double front upon us. The wind was howling throughout the night, throughout the next day and into the following night with sheets of rain riding happily and horizontally in it. But Friday morning awoke to sunshine and promises of gentle winds. Up went the big main sail and once out of the harbor it opened up to catch a fickle Nor’Westerly. It was forecast to turn Southwest later in the day, so we again threw some crushed dinosaur hay into the mix, especially as we got closer to the grandiose sight of the Whangarei Heads, were glassy seas confirmed that we would be bobbing up and down the still substantial northeast swell without it.

With a little bit too much confidence we rounded the headland and got slapped in the face with rather stiff headwinds. The promised Southwesterly had apparently been hiding behind the jagged crests! We didn’t need no further trouble, so quickly decided to take the big mainsail down and continue tacking into the wind with the smaller one. It was a tough two miles until we reached the channel markers guiding us like many a big tanker ship before us into the vast Whangarei Harbor. Luckily none of those big tanker ships were out and about at the time, so we could freely wander about without having to worry about traffic separation lanes. We did pass two of them docked sternly at the refinery piers in front of a multitude of round petrol reservoirs on the southern banks of the river just past the extensive sandbar that delimits the western banks of the harbor entrance. This system of sandy shallows is built from huge amounts of sediments that get swept in and out of the submerged valley twice every day to the lunar rhythm of the tides.

From the river mouth up to the town basin in the heart of downtown Whangarei it is a good 15 miles and the sun was by now close to setting. Our haul-out appointment was not until Wednesday the following week, so no need to enter too much into the entrails of civilization just yet. On the charts I had seen a nice little bay about half way up the harbor that seemed perfect for relaxing a couple days.

 

Parua Bay turned out to be the perfect choice for doing just that: a shallow expanse of protected waters with plenty of possibilities to explore the lands around it. After a quiet first night at anchor our attention turned to Motukiore Island in the lee of which we had dropped our hook. Coming into the bay I had noticed on its southern tip a bare hill with the telltale pyramidal terracing of a Maori pa, or hilltop fort.

panorama of whangarei harborLittle Alunita splashed into the green waters and we paddled to the island’s southwestern tip, where we found a sand spit extending from the island to the mainland, making it possible to walk back and forth. This terrestrial connection however was fast disappearing before our eyes, being submerged by the incoming tide. A big wooden sign above the high water mark made it clear to us, that there were no more warriors defending their communities up on the hill we were about to climb. Today the island is managed by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

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Modern man makes a big deal out of conserving the ancient traditions he has abandoned carelessly all along his stern march towards a live far from his natural origin in the illusion of comfort through isolation. He thinks that by putting the lifeless remains of his fast fading history in a jar like the yearly preserves of seasonal fruits, he will be able to extend his disjointed existence to future generations.

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Standing on top of the terraced pyramid the view was splendid, reaching far and the ability to spot any mischievous intruder long before having a chance to set fire to protective palisades on the bottom of the hill was as obvious as the lofty overview I had of the vast expanse of round reservoirs and smoke spewing chimneys inland of the sand spit at the harbor mouth, where massive amounts of the same petrol we have been carelessly burning inside the explosion chamber of our tiny outboard to be able to drive our double canoe into the winds are refined from crude liquid tars shipped half way around the globe in fragile containments across the planets oceans. From this refinery we’ve heard that the cleansed liquid fire is then pumped underground to distribution points all across this tiny nation at the bottom of the world, keeping its transportation frenzy rumbling to the menacing ticks of the ecological time bomb that this same modern man with his frivolous fancy for tradition is frantically pushing towards walls of threatening self-annihilation.

The wild warriors of the pre-European past of Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, must have felt a similar conflict within their crumbling societies, where neighbors had turned to enemies, and many times brawn ruled cruelly over milder brains, so much so that defense of material and territorial possessions became the prominent priority of man’s endeavors.

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Waking from these nightmarish reflections about my species, a gentle breeze swept across the squared platform I was standing on and a yellow headed gannet soared up the slope on rising air, circled supremely overhead and then took off towards the East, scanning the waters below it for suitable food, which quite evidently must have been put there without much effort of its part. Despite the precision and aggression of its hunting life it has not ventured yet into the abyss of systemic destruction. There must be a way that we can relearn the proper part to play in this drama of constant creation. And I have not the minor doubt that it must start somewhere in the fickle jungle of self-control.

The Maori’s palisades have proven useless; nature has removed them without a trace. I walked freely down the narrow and lightly trodden path in the knee-high grass that nowadays smoothens the angled gradient of the pa’s earthen mound. Finally, a small jump brought me across a meter-wide ditch back to the more rounded form of the naturally sculpted hill, where human hands had only dared to graze their cattle, and certainly New Zealand’s proverbial sheep, in a more recent history of European administrative efficiency, and little by little the horizon of the far beyond sank beneath the surrounding hills around the little bay, where our floating home had decided to anchor for the night.

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2 Responses to “The Rest of the Story”

  1. Beatriz Restrepo Says:

    Amazing views of Whangarei harbor!

  2. Rudy Says:

    You did not sail aluna off the edge of the world recently did you? Last word was April travel log or did I miss one or two.

    Rudy

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