By Cindy Williams @nutritionchic
Land of the Long White CloudThe greenness of New Zealand surprises me every time I return, and then I remember… green means rain. Aotearoa - The Land of the Long White Cloud - is rarely thirsty.
‘Buy a raincoat,’ my friend advised me, when after twelve years overseas I moved back to Auckland. ‘If you want to stay fit, you can’t wait for fine weather.’ That raincoat had a good workout for the year I lived there.
A Prophetic VisionMost mornings I jogged around the waterfront, past the trendy cafes of St Heliers, Kohimarama, Mission Bay and up steep steps tucked into the hillside of Bastion Point. Finally at the top, the dew laden grass dusting droplets on my shoes, I would stop to catch my breath and drink in the scene before me – islands, sea and sky - tinged in Monet tones.
Over two hundred years earlier, the Maori prophet, Titahi, stood on this same hillside and saw a vision of three nautilus shells sailing up the Auckland Harbour. He foretold they would bring both good and trouble. Several years later Captain Cook sailed up the harbour, indeed fulfilling the prophecy. The characters in ‘The Pounamu Prophecy’ are from the same tribe as Titahi, and live on the same land. They too experience the good and the trouble from the arrival of a new people.
Auckland of a hundred loversThe Maori name for Auckland is ‘Tamaki Makaurau’ or ‘Tamaki of a hundred lovers’. Situated on a fertile isthmus, where the Manakau Harbour on the west is little more than a kilometre (3/4 of a mile) from the Waitemata Harbour on the east, it was highly strategic. Tribes fought over the land until, in a move to prosper and protect themselves, the Ngati Whatua chief invited New Zealand’s first British governor to site the capital there. It was 1840.
Over the next fifty years dubious government deals whittled away their ownership of the land until all that remained was a small village at Okahu Bay. In 1951 the government burned down the houses to 'tidy up'. The novel opens with this scene.
City of VolcanoesAuckland sits on over fifty dormant volcanoes. The experts say the area could erupt again but no-one seems too worried. Across the lower slopes of these hills houses cluster, sheep graze, people picnic and stroll.
The last eruption was 600 years ago. It formed Rangitoto Island, which features on the cover of ‘The Pounamu Prophecy’. Mere describes it as she digs kumara to feed the protesters who in 1977 camped on Bastion Point for 506 days to protect their land against the government’s plan to subdivide this prime piece of real estate.
How much longer would this go on? I wiped a calloused hand across my forehead and rested my wheezing bulk on the rusty garden fork. My gaze swept across the panorama below. To my left stood the city centre – short, squat and tall sleek buildings sandwiched together, their stainless steel and glass shimmering in the afternoon heat…
Across the harbour entrance was Rangitoto Island. Like a stretched out triangle, perfectly symmetrical, it looked so close I could almost touch it. In front of the island a ferry cut a white trail through the deep blue of the harbour. A light scatter of yachts and fishing boats dotted the sea in between distant green islands of rich farmland and native bush. This was the view that the thieving government was trying to get its dirty hands on. This was why I was digging kumara in the scorching afternoon heat and not greeting the kids with pikelets and raspberry cordial when they arrived home, hot and tired after school.
Gateway to New ZealandAuckland boasts wonderful beaches, bush walks and cafes but there's so much more. Within a few hours you can be floating on a rubber tube through underground glow worm caves, rafting over waterfalls, eating corn straight from a steaming thermal hole in the ground, walking on a live volcano, or strolling along an almost deserted beach. Take your raincoat and enjoy!
About Cindy Williams
With degrees in Nutrition, Public Health and Communication Cindy has worked for many years as a dietitian for sports teams, food industry, media, and as a nutrition writer and speaker.
Her first novel, The Pounamu Prophecy, was short listed for the 2016 Caleb Prize. She is currently editing her second novel about a woman who had five husbands.
Cindy grew up in a culturally rich part of New Zealand. Now she lives in Sydney with her husband and son, writing stories of flawed women who battle injustice... and sometimes find romance.