Ahipara Is Just Wonderful

Ahipara is just wonderful. It has a take away, a small supermarket, a liquor shop and a cafe.

The first thing I did was call Rosa. Of course, there was no answer so I just sat on a park bench and drank in small town activity.

The phone rang and my heart did a little flip as it always does when I hear her voice. We talked, we laughed, we swapped stories.

"I thought you'd deserted me," she said.

"You read too many romantic novels when you were young," I laughed. "I'll never desert you."

The phone call gives me new energy. I walked down the hill, over a bridge and up the other side, skirting the prominent hill. In times past, the iwi living here retreated to the summit when war parties appeared. They rolled rocks onto the invaders and left the bodies exposed on the hillside. It is thought to be haunted.

There is a second beach on the far side of the hill and the houses of wealthy people.

I stopped to admire an immaculate and neatly pointed dry stone wall. From behind it, an elderly man puffing on a cigarette straightened and invited me in. The whine and screech of machinery came from an open garage.

I entered. A second skinny man sat hunched over a wooden bowl at a cluttered workbench.

"Jest a minute," he said with an Irish accent.

When he was finished, he stood up and offered me a challenging stare and a handshake.

"You've been walkin' the beach, I s'pose," he said.

"Yes. I've just started the Te Araroa."

"Well, then, I t'ink you're feckin' insane!" he said.

"I'm married to an Irishwoman," I smiled. "That probably explains it."

He laughed and the ice melted.

"My name's 'Irish'," he said, handing me a lump of kauri gum as large as a football to hold. "50,000 years old, some of that stuff," he said, plucking it back from me while he led me into his house.

Shelves covered one wall, holding decorated kauri bowls, coasters, plates. Irish was a master craftsman and proud of it.

While I admired his artistry, he told me stories of the "eejits" who attempt the Te Araroa.

"They walk past here lost, lookin' for the way out of town," he said with disgust. "They're all feckin' eejits," he said, looking at me. "Includin' you!" However, his eyes twinkled.

Outside, we shook hands. He wanted his lunch break and then to get back to his beloved kauri wood.

Back in town, I went to the cafe. "The kitchen's just closed," the counter-girl said with sympathy, "But there are sandwiches."

And a surprisingly delicious sandwich it tasted when I bit into the roll containing seasoned chicken, salad, camembert and a cranberry relish.

As I finished, Mike and Becky walked past and together we went to the shop around the corner. There, I needed only methylated spirits for cooking. I paid triple the Auckland price for a bottle.

Grumbling, I went into the liquor store and bought a bottle of cold beer. Kerim, the Indian shopkeeper, joined me outside and watched with admiration as I drained half the bottle in a long, semi-delirious swallow of satisfaction.

Mike and Becky sat down and for the next hour or so, we watched small town life on a late Friday afternoon.

It was just wonderful.