(This is Part 4: Community-Driven Tour 2010 New Zealand. To read these posts from the beginning, head here.)
The conference ended on Friday. As happens during these events, the energy is both exhilarating and exhausting. After two weeks of nonstop action, though, even exhilarating was exhausting!
We spent Saturday catching up on work and moving back into downtown Auckland from the luxurious resort that was our home during the conference. Starting Monday I would be teaching another 2 days of workshops – Monday at UNITEC’s campus in Auckland, and then Tuesday in Hamilton, 90 minutes south.
That left Sunday for our first rest in 2 weeks. To make that day perfect, our friend and colleague Aly McNicholl arranged a day on Waiheke Island. There we would spend time relaxing with Tim McMains – one of the founders of the Not-for-Profit Management program at UNITEC, and one of the reasons the program is the stand-out program it is. And while that makes it sound like a business day, it was anything but that.
Had we had only the ferry ride to the island and returned immediately, it would have been the nicest day. But that ride through a field of racing sailboats was only the beginning.
It was the annual Onetangi Beach Race Day on Waiheke Island – a celebration of pretty much anything you can do to compete on a beach. In that festival atmosphere, people drank beer, ate festival food (i.e. fried stuff on sticks) and watched horse races, wheelbarrow races, boat races, foot races, sand-castle competitions and truly anything else you might imagine can be done to compete on or around a beach.
After watching the results of the local-folks-in-silly-clothes contest, Tim and his partner, Zach, toured us around the island that is their home. We learned that Zach received her nickname from her brother when they were just kids, named after the cause of all things bad, enemy agent Dr. Zachary Smith from Lost in Space. The fact that we all knew who that was made us laugh even more than the source of the name itself.
Tim and Zach took us for a short hike in the Onetangi Preserve, along a rainforest trail that appears to be little used – we were the only ones there on a beautiful almost-fall afternoon. Under the protection of New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organization – Forest and Bird – we saw a sign that at first stymied us non-Kiwis:
Onetangi Pest Free Project:
Rat poison is used in this Reserve.
In New Zealand, it is likely this means one thing: Possum. The havoc caused by invasive species in general, and the possum specifically, is perhaps the most commonly understood local environmental issue across the whole country.
Possums were introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in an attempt to establish a fur industry. With no natural predators, the possum is now one of New Zealand’s most widely acknowledged environmental threats. With a current population of approximately 70 million, possums, the near-extinction of the famed Kiwi Bird has been tied to the possum, as has the actual extinction of several less famous bird species. And because they eat the new shoots on the trees, the possum is also a serious threat to New Zealand’s rainforests.
While the different approaches to eradicating the possum are argued vociferously in New Zealand, we met no one who was against eliminating them – and we were surrounded by nonprofit people all this time, environmentalists and animal lovers included! It took a while for this vegetarian to feel ok about purchasing Merino wool spun with possum hair. But understanding that it’s either eliminate the possum or continue to see the devastating elimination of native species, I was reminded, as with all things, that life is rarely black and white.
Tim and Zach then drove us to Trig Hill Reserve, to look out over fields and vineyards and kilometers upon kilometers of blue ocean meeting blue sky. The wind blew strong; a family was flying a kite, and its colorful swooping against the backdrop of that magnificent scene took my breath away.
By the end of the afternoon, we were seated at a table on Zach’s old stone porch under the watchful gaze of a two-faced sculpture and several sheep, surrounded by a cascade of lavender and rosemary. As we sipped champagne and ate watermelon, Aly and Tim treated us to an impromptu ukelele and harmonica rendition of Never On Sunday.
The day had turned into a dream being dreamed awake. Joyful. Magical. Perfect.
The wind in our faces on the ferry home, a quick dinner, then bed. Tomorrow is a huge day for us. Yes, we will be doing a workshop at UNITEC. But more than that, Dimitri will be renting a car tomorrow, to get us to Hamilton for our workshop there on Tuesday.
During rush-hour traffic in Auckland on a Monday morning, Dimitri will learn to drive on the left-hand side of the road.
To see Part 5 – Passion Like a Fire (Alarm) – Click Here
Photo Credits: Hildy and Dimitri
Interpretive Signs: Waitakare Ranges – Arataki Visitor’s Center