New Zealand Day 5: Aqua Taxi to Nelson

[A bright day dawns] We awoke again to a pleasant day, and the steady drone of many thousands of cicadas in the nearby trees. After another good breakfast, we got our bags packed up and prepared for the trip back to "civilization." I don't think any of us really wanted to go; it didn't feel like we'd had enough time at Awaroa, but our alotted time was up. And really, with only two weeks in the country, we had to do more than just lounge at one resort, no matter how cool it was.

[This is not the Aqua Taxi you're seeking] We checked out, and tramped down to the beach. The day had turned quite bright, in contrast to the previous two days, which had been overcast and rainy. As we arrived at the beach, someone noted that it was only 10:30, and the boat we were scheduled to take was at noon. There's not a lot to do, on the beach. We ended up reading, and wandering down the strand, and being goofy.

[Sibyl inscribes a message to her mom] Sibyl took a moment to write a message to her mom, fighting an uphill battle against the malicious waves. They were doing their best to stifle her message of greeting, but in the end, she overcame their watery oppression.

[Your author] Alternating our time between watching the people on the beach and reading our various books, we passed the time until our appointed hour. When noon arrived, so did our boat. We clambered aboard and prepared for a sunny trip back to Marahau. The Taxi took an interesting route back, actually going the opposite direction at first, in order to pick up another fare at a further-north beach. Passengers secured, we evetually made our way back to the town, again passing by the seal sanctuary, brown lumps of vaguely seal-shaped fur sunning themselves on the rocks. Once again, many sea kayakers were passed.

[Aqua Taxi coming in for a landing] When we eventually arrived at Marahau, and the Aqua Taxi home base, the tide was much further in than when we'd left. We were able to ride on actual water all the way up to the boat launching ramp, where before we had found deep enough water nearly half a kilometer out in the beach.

Back to "Civilization"

Back at the car, it seemed much warmer and more arid than the rest of the day had. We piled in, and drove to a recommended cafe just up the road for lunch. It was a cafe bearing the name of the National Park we had just been staying in, and so may have been at least partially state-funded. In any case, it was an excellent restaurant, wtih a good selection of food, and even a good selection of vegetarian items.

Lunch completed, we loaded up the car again, and got on our way to Nelson, where we were to stay in a B&B for the night. The trip back to Nelson would be relatively short, since it is located about half way between Marahau, where we were, and Picton, where we'd catch the ferry back to the North Island.

Indeed, we arrived in Nelson in the late afternoon, and had located our B&B by 5 pm. We had to wait around a while for our hostess to arrive. When we were finally allowed inside, we were escorted to pleasant, if small, rooms. The room where Sibyl and I stayed had a small dormer window overlooking the park across the street where local youth spent the evening chatting around a colorfully-lit fountain (which I see by the map is called "Moller Fountain"). Our room also had what was obviously a closet converted into a tiny bathroom, complete with sink, toilet and shower.

Shall We Walk to Dinner?

We consulted the tourist brochures available at the B&B, and decided on an Indian restaurant that looked promising for dinner. Checking the map, we were clearly only a few blocks from the restaurant (and the entire restaurant district, as far as we could tell), so we decided to walk.

Passing a roundabout at the end of the road we were staying on, we continued straight. After about 10 minutes of walking, we all became increasingly aware that we really weren't in anything like a restaurant district. The buildings looked quite industrial, actually. And didn't we just pass Natalie Street? Isn't that past where we want to be?

Indeed, we had strayed from our intended route and into Nelson's automotive restoration district (Panelbeaters, as the signs proclaimed). We turned around after some consultation of the map, and headed back to where we wanted to be. Fortunately, we were only about 10 minutes away from our destination, and were quickly seated and ordering some delicious-smelling Indian fare.

Our waitress that evening was an incredibly friendly Maori woman, which got me to thinking about the situation of the Maori in New Zealand. They arrived at the island group about 500 years (I'm sure this is wrong, but it's the right order of magnitude) before the Europeans did. In 500 years, they spread to cover most of the North Island, and a good deal of the South Island.

Obviously, I have but the most superficial and cursory knowledge of how the Maori are being treated, but the impression I eventually left with was that they were roughly the equivalent of Mexican migrant workers in Oregon. They can be seen in lots of jobs that the white folks don't want -- grocery bagger, waitress, etc., but there's probably not a proportionate representation in the professional trades and offices of New Zealand.

I'm not really commenting positively or negatively on it, because I don't feel that I actually understand any of the issues involved. It was just an interesting social phenomenon to encounter. When I see situations like that in the US, I'm always close enough to them that it's hard to see whether I'm reacting objectively or emotionally.

Return to the Introduction - Go on to Day 6

Copyright © 2004 by Ian Johnston. All rights reserved.

Created by Ian Johnston. Questions? Please mail me.