Journal of a visit to New Zealand, via Singapore

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This page last updated: 5th December 2006.
Day 24: Katikati Map

Day 24 Day breaks over Lake Rotorua. Time to depart. Over breakfast we talk with another English couple. They are off on the float-plane this morning. Yesterday they had phoned their daughter in Devon. It was snowing there. Heiko tells us that he has had news that is has been snowing in Germany too. Here the sun is shining. Before departing we write up details of Christine's fishing trip in the log-book.

Rather than go round through Rotorua and along SH33 to Te Puke and Tauranga, we take the direct route via Ngongotaha and the Pyes Pa road to Bethlehem. This route cuts out the city of Tauranga and a toll bridge. The central section through Kaimai Mamaku Forest Park is a gravel road but easy enough to negotiate. As we descend towards the Bay of Plenty, dark clouds appear and it looks like rain ahead. It is a short distance from Bethlehem to the town of Katikati where we are meeting Catherine Mair.

Catherine is a writer of haiku and the one who instigated the Katikati Haiku Walk. In 1990 the area of land between the town centre and the Uretara Stream was a forgotten wasteland of weeds and debris. As part of a millennium project, the area was cleared and paths created together with a new footbridge which was opened on January 1st, 2000. Whilst Christine stays at Catherine's home, reading, I am given a guided tour of the walk by its creator.

The earlier rain has stopped, but to reach the start of the path from Catherine's home we have to cross a muddy field, so it is as well I am wearing boots. At various points on the pathway are boulders inscribed with haiku from contemporary writers such as Cyril Childs, William J Higginson, Patrica Prime, Alan J Summers and Michael Dylan Welch as well as translations from 18th century Japanese haijin Takebe Ayatari and Yosa Buson. In many cases there are two complimentary/contrasting boulders near to each other. Many are placed so as to reflect their immediate surroundings. Patiently hand-chiselled by Brian Beamsley, they bring the world of haiku to the gaze of the public. Walkers, if they wish, can ignore them and just enjoy the walk. Those who reflect on them can see the variety of the work and come to a realisation that haiku is not a dead poetic genre with a fixed-syllabic length.

As we walk Catherine tells me about how she came to choose the haiku used, and about the way the town co-operated, despite certain opposition, with its creation. The boulders have weathered well. After rain, water gathers in small pools on some of the lettering. We poke our fingers into one such pool. I write

	splash of water
	trickles down the stone
	finds its own pathway
It is good to be able to just sit near some of the boulders and ponder them in silence. To have a kindred spirit accompany me on the walk, is an added bonus.

By the time we return to Catherine's home, the sun is shining and Christine is ready to travel on. We drive to the small town of Waihi. Spotting a second-hand bookshop, we stop opposite, near the police-station. Some eminent-looking people in black robes, greet us warmly as we cross the road. We discover that there is a new extension to the police-station and the local Maori chiefs are here to perform the opening ceremony. With the bookstore-owner we watch the proceedings from her shop doorway.

We proceed now to our overnight stay at Bushland Park Lodge, Whangamata. Set in the Wentworth Valley, just beyond a ford, this is something of a German health spa. The car-park is a short walk from the lodge. On arrival we are greeted by Petra, who shows us into a very well-furnished set of rooms. I am able to move the car round close to the lodge while unpacking the luggage. The dinner on offer is a five-course gourmet meal. On the menu is ostrich, which we have been anxious to try having passed one or two ostrich-farms on our travels. However, we are acutely aware that we won't be able to do justice to such a meal, so opt to eat out.

[We never do get to sample ostrich-meat while in New Zealand. A weak after our return to the UK, we visit the farmers' market at Holmfirth. There we buy some ostrich-burgers from a local farmer. We find them somewhat bland, so maybe it is well we didn't have any in NZ]

In Whangamata, we drive up to the beach. I walk into town and buy some biscuits, bottles of drink and a takeaway. We eat them in the car and watch the surfers until the sun goes down. This is a popular place for surfers and a meeting place for youngsters. Out in the bay is Mayor Island. We drive up to Onemana before returning to Bushland Park. We had intended to stay out in case we might see something of the last moments of the Mir spaceship as it passes over New Zealand before its final splash down in the Pacific. In the event we just go back to the lodge and retire to our room. We read awhile before going to bed early as there are no in-room teamaking facilities nor a fire to dispel the evening chill.

Journal - Day 25 Photographs - Day 24