Russell/Kororareka, Bay of Islands
We hear kiwi call at dusk. The male a long inhaled pipe, the female more guttural like a bull frog. We see weke everywhere, the smaller, inquisitive, dark brown kiwi cousins.
Our balcony overlooks native marsh and bush from where kiwi sounds rise. So too do lime-green balloons of the swan plant ripening to glory, shrivelling to seed. Globes of lime cotton plant-weave, perfectly round and hollow so I want to catch glow-worms and keep them inside. I am enchanted by rare magic.
The swan plant flowers feed monarch butterflies, you see them if you wait and really look, slow and large, they glide not flutter. Black-scored umber, like veins. Winged fallen autumn chestnut leaves. Monarchs have a new predator here, a wasp introduced to deal with another perceived threat to crops has found a new source of food in them.
Languid, large, gliding. Opening and closing slowly, like ideas, like thoughts forming and becoming real. Hesitant, heavy with presence, testing air for landing, settling for nectar and staying, staying. Like a poem-seed coming into thought. We need to take care of our monarchs, of our slow, poetic thoughts, too many waspish predators on the delicate winged edges of living.
Storm Winston from Fiji sliced open water bags and dumped them clattering on the roof last night. A cockerel crows in morning-clean air, a hen fusses on our deck, comes in for crumbs, delighting in a constant happy present. No foxes here.
Russell, one of the oldest places in New Zealand European time, was settled by the French before the English. Its church bears musket holes from the Maori Wars. I am glad to be the seaward side of The Bay of Islands; Paihia on the mainland is too commercial, bustling with fast food, hotels, tours, cruises, souvenirs, tourist buses and backpackers.
Even the woman in the I-Site tourist information office seemed bored of it. She was tired, hot, fed up and very snippy with us, didn’t want to think beyond the usual accommodation request. We found out about our sustainable Eco resort at Orongo Bay by ourselves. A ferry to reach Russell brings day trippers or a curling rind of road through bush, over marsh carries those who want to be here longer.
Orongo Bay oysters last night, cream and thick and fleshy, sea-strong taste. We ate at The Gables, old for here. The Gables has framed a piece of old newspaper, ‘The Auckland Times’ from 1897, found in an old, forgotten cupboard between the lining paper used to keep out draughts in clapboard houses and the dulled green wallpaper. A fragment rests beside the clipping. I recognise Schiele’s Green, the fashionable arsenic-based green in every Victorian house, in its wallpaper and clothing, gently poisoning inhabitants.
Old roses outside old buildings, settlers bringing scents of home to their new world..
We sail the next day, aboard glossy wooden Vigilant, ten of us plus Nic the captain/chef. A rolling bay, thirty five knots of gusty wind. Some sail spread. The edge of possible. I sit at the bow, showered in seaspray as we dip and roll and sway.
Rack of lamb clouds. Wind mining shafts for sunlight. Green swathes skiing down island slopes. Land littered everywhere, flakes, breaks, stacks, rocks. Air sparkling with salt.
Roberton Island where Captain James Cook moored, where we swim, the sea too cloudy for snorkelling in the lagoon pool between two hills below a shallow beach.
We sail before the wind back, dipping like a seabird into waves and dock at last at Russell…