There was something extremely disturbing about Orewa. I couldn’t fathom why our travel contact had coaxed us to take time out to travel to this beach town, even though it was way out of our route. We hardly felt the mid-morning heat in the wake of the cool, pleasant Hauraki zephyr. My eyes popped out as I saw independent houses with their Queen Anne-style front gardens and perfect picket fences, which were a far cry from the Lego blocks-style apartment building labyrinth we hailed from. On the right, a sliver of blue and wheat brown transformed into the waters of the South Pacific, the endless strip of sand caressing the shocking white waves that hit the beach every few seconds.
It was but the beginning of a two-week holiday in New Zealand, I was 7000 miles from home, and the first town I saw was everything that back home wasn’t – naturally, I hated Orewa at first sight.
My husband and I were on our way from Auckland to the Bay of Islands when our GPS began giving us much grief by telling us to ‘stay on the Northern Motorway’. Getting tired of the vapid monotone, we switched the systems off and took a right turn at the Silverdale Exit to arrive upon this postcard of a beach town. Never before had I seen such immaculately lined-up establishments where an insurance company was sandwiched between a high-end real estate firm and an animal shelter. Broad cobblestone footpaths which looked wider than the road seemed to complement the perfectly perpendicular thoroughfares.
My gaze was, however, fixated towards the sea, my heart thudding in my chest as I alighted from the car. I tried to visualize the maps I’d pored over thousands of times. To me, the South Pacific has always been the edge of the world; an expanse of innumerable mysteries that it has soaked up throughout centuries. Kicking off my shoes and heading down to what looked like an endless strip of sand and sea felt natural, but the realization that I stood with my feet dipped in the waters of the seemingly endless South Pacific Ocean was exhilarating. I ran a hand over my hair; the sea air usually made my hair flyaway. Two southern black-backed gulls sauntered about to give us company, but I think they just wanted to get photographed, judging by the pictures we took. An older, well-meaning couple jokingly reprimanded us for taking selfies, saying that that was “no way to take pictures”. As they snapped a pretty picture of us, the high seas of the South Pacific made for the background of a lifetime.
As much as I relished the cold sea waters, I was intrigued by the cozy neighbourhoods that stood beyond the beach, which stood swathed in the shadows of the tall trees that almost hid them from view. I still hadn’t gotten over the heartbreak of stepping out of the throes of the Pacific – and would have been able to move on – if I hadn’t seen garages with boats in them. As someone who’s seen tyred vehicles being parked in garages all her life, the vision of a smaller, elegant version of the RMS Titanic appearing from a garage had my eyes popping out of my head.
As we ambled down the shaded boulevard, we were felt feeling thoroughly sorry for ourselves when the hunger pangs came calling. We breezed into the quaint Farmhouse Café and sat down to our first impromptu meal in Kiwi country. The whiff of the apple rhubarb and coffee walnut pies we were gorging on had barely settled when a breeze blew in, bringing with it the smell of freshly made Fish n’ Chips from the deli next door. Everywhere around, I saw the soul of the community. Across the road, children sprang about a small fountain happily, as an ice-cream cart went ringing by. Across the next table, braided-hair dude grinned and nodded, relishing his sandwich. The older couple from the beach passed by, wishing us luck for our journey.
I smiled, overcome.
As we swept out of Orewa, melancholy set back in. I was full from a delicious meal, my hair was maddeningly perfect, I’d finally set foot in the Pacific Ocean, and our sojourn around Kiwi Country had but just begun.
P.S.: I’m suffering from the miserable version of nostalgia, so please ignore my random rambling and do visit Orewa. For me, it is the closest version of utopia.